By Carl Hanson

This just in from Science: Studying may cause the munchies.

Your Brain Is a Glutton

The brain is a notorious energy hog. Even before you climb out of bed in the morning, your brain is soaking up energy, taking 20 percent of the calories required for simply maintaining your body's basic functions, a.k.a your resting metabolic rate.

Put your body in motion or apply a little brain power to a task, and the brain's energy demands go up. The energy the brain needs comes in the form of blood sugar -- technically, glucose. As Scientific American explains, "when neurons in a particular brain region fire, local capillaries dilate to deliver more blood than usual, along with extra glucose and oxygen [and] once dilated blood vessels deliver extra glucose, brain cells lap it up."

Why We Binge Eat

So after working out the brain with Chemistry or Statistics, the brain understandably feels fatigued; it sends signals to the body, a request for additional calories so it can keep functioning at peak level. This is pretty much our cue to summon pizza delivery. And as The New York Times put it, "This process may partly account for the weight gain so commonly seen in college students."

Pizza and beer | Photo by Meredith

How to Avoid Binge Eating

But there may be a way to satisfy your gluttonous brain that doesn't involve binge-eating. Researchers at the University of Alabama at Birmingham found that students who exercised strenuously after studying (15 minutes of interval training on a treadmill) ate fewer calories than students who did not exercise after studying. The reason, researchers suspect, is that working out gets the blood moving, which delivers extra blood sugar to the brain. The brain feels more satiated. And you end up eating less. The study was published in Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise.

In fact, exercising before eating has a sweet doubly-whammy effect: When you're done exercising, you tend to eat fewer calories, according to the study; and the exercise itself burns up calories. More calories burned, fewer consumed -- it's a win-win. Researchers determined that after factoring in calories burned, the exercising students, as The Times reported, "consumed 200 fewer total calories after their brain workouts than the resting students."

Healthy Snacks for Brain and Body

And that's not the end of the potential winning, not if you choose your post-studying foods wisely. When you do feel the tug of hunger, reach for these healthy snacks.

Photo by BrooklynKyler

Grilled Peanut Butter and Banana Sandwich

Like a grilled cheese, only filled with melted peanut butter and warm bananas.

Microwave Popcorn

"Make your own delicious, low-fat microwave popcorn using standard popping corn and a brown paper lunch bag. It works perfectly." -- CONTORER

Dave's Ultimate Guacamole

"Didn't use a processor -- just chopped for a chunkier texture and squeezed in some lemon juice for a little extra zing. Took a whopping five minutes!" -- LBHII

Awesome Red Pepper Hummus Dip

"It's great as a dip for vegetables and crackers, or used as a spread on wraps and sandwiches." -- kymberly

Festive Nut Bowl

"So easy to make. Dried cranberries add color and a burst of tartness to the mixed nuts." -- Diane K

No Bake Chocolate Oat Bars

Cookies with peanut butter, dark chocolate, and oats -- no oven required.


More Top-Rated Recipes for Healthy Snacks


Get more cooking tips and awesome food finds.


Advertisement