As we bulldoze through the fall months and your schedule becomes more chaotic, the looming threat of your diet and exercise regimen being derailed is all too real. But you're human and it's practically un-American not to overeat on Thanksgiving. Luckily, it's not a lost cause: Exercise can deflect the devastation a week of too many calories would normally have on your body, according to a new study from the University of Michigan.
In the very small pilot study, researchers had four lean, active adults overindulge and eat 30 percent more calories than normal for seven days. During the week, participants went on with their normal exercise habits, which consisted of working out at least six days a week and logging at least 150 minutes of aerobic exercise. The researchers measured participants' glucose tolerance and amount of abdominal fat before and after the week of overeating.
Now, past research has found falling off the wagon, so to speak, for as little as one week is enough to throw off insulin sensitivity (when you're insensitive to insulin, your body struggles to digest carbs, absorb nutrients, and keep off weight.)
Turns out, exercise serves as a sort of shield. When you work out, your body is bolstered against the damaging metabolic conditions followed by a steep increase in calories; your fat tissue is actually protected from a rise in inflammation caused by a week of overeating, effectively fighting off weight gain, obesity, and cardiovascular risk.
Even so, think twice about eating your heart out for an entire week. Further research conducted by the Virginia Tech College of Agriculture and Life Sciences found a five-day long binge alters the way your muscles process nutrients. Cheating for just a day (Thanksgiving) won't hit your body so hard. Follow Your Thanksgiving Day Game Plan to Prevent Weight Gain for more day-of tips.