Nibbling on a lettuce leaf is how many slimmers try to keep their hunger pangs at bay.
But jumping on the treadmill might be more effective at keeping calorie intake under control.
Scientists found that women who created an “energy deficit” through calorie restriction – rather than working out – ate around 40 percent more at a buffet dinner than those who exercised.
The Loughborough University team discovered that levels of the “hunger hormone” ghrelin increase in women who deny themselves food – meaning the body could actually be making it harder to turn down that slice of cake.
The study, published in the journal Medicine and Science In Sports and Exercise, looked at 12 women who restricted their diets by around 836 calories before being presented with a buffet dinner. On another occasion, they burnt the same energy on a treadmill before again enjoying a buffet.
Researchers found that when they were dieting, the women ate an average of 944 calories, compared with only 660 after exercise.
Metabolism expert Dr David Stensel said the findings contradict previous studies suggesting that exercise makes people more hungry. He said: “Our findings provide a valuable contribution to the diet and exercise debate. We’ve shown that exercise does not encourage you to eat more – at least not in the hours immediately after. Our next step is to see whether this continues beyond the first day.”