If you’re like us, you go through phases with working out. You try to do it regularly, and sometimes you’ll even get on kicks where you’re jumping right out of bed every morning and straight into your yoga pants. But some days, you’re just not about that early-morning-workout life. So you think, “Oh, I’ll just go after work.” But then 5pm rolls around and you realize, “You know, these gym sweatpants also make pretty good couch sweatpants.”

woman on treadmill

But according to a new study, even if you’re feeling super drained from your day at the office, you shouldn’t skip spin class, especially if you’re prone to unhealthy snacking. You might think there’s no substitute for your beloved pretzels and goldfish crackers when you start getting those 3pm blues at work or you’re cramming for a test and need a boost, but Researchers at the University of Alabama found that exercise might work just as well.

They asked a group of 38 undergraduate students to take a graduate-level exam. Half got on a treadmill for 15 minutes after it ended, and half got to just sit and relax. Then, the researchers brought in the main reason college students agree to do just about anything: an all-you-can-eat pizza buffet. They found that students who got to relax ate an average of 100 calories more than they would have if they hadn’t had to do anything mentally challenging, and the students who worked out ate about 25 calories less than they would have if they’d just sat and chilled.

Those might not sound like huge, earth-shattering numbers, but this study certainly backs up other findings related to how exerting mental energy increases hunger and expands by offering evidence that lactate levels in the brain increase from exercise just like they do from food.

So if you’re feeling totally wiped by school or work, exercise could be an alternative to replenish your tired brain. Or at least, it might stop you from mindlessly snacking.

How do you boost your energy after using your brain all day? Tweet us your tips @BritandCo!

(Photos via Getty)