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Which is better for digestion after a big meal: taking a walk or drinking a digestif?

By Brierley Wright, November 18, 2013 - 12:01am

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No-brainer—walk it out! And that’s not just because strutting your stuff will burn some of the calories you ate. Scientists actually put both options to the test.

As its name suggests, drinking a digestif, such as brandy, is meant to help you digest your meal (for the record, an aperitif is drunk before a meal, to whet the appetite). But when researchers compared the digestive effect of digestifs (say that five times fast) to walking, walking won hands down. Pounding pavement—or hoofing it on the treadmill, which is how a small group of men were tested—sped up the rate at which food passed through the participants’ stomachs. Drinking a digestif didn’t change the rate of digestion. And, unfortunately, neither sipping nor strolling alleviated that I-need-to-unbutton-my-pants feeling after a large meal.

There are other boons to moving after a meal. A brisk walk may help curb your dessert craving: in one study, published in the journal Appetite, a 15-minute jaunt helped chocolate lovers cut their usual daily indulgence in half (from 29 grams to 16 grams, or a “fun size” candy bar quantity). Preliminary research, published this summer in Diabetes Care, on older adults at risk of developing type 2 diabetes found that a 15-minute walk after each meal tempered blood sugar spikes and lowered risk of developing diabetes. And—pardon the potty talk—being active can help alleviate constipation, a potential side effect of fiber-devoid, decadent fare.

Bottom line: Put your feet to good use this holiday season and get walking.

TAGS: Brierley Wright, Health Blog, Diet, Fitness, Health

Brierley Wright
Brierley's interest in nutrition and food come together in her position as nutrition editor at EatingWell. Brierley holds a master’s degree in Nutrition Communication from the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy at Tufts University. A Registered Dietitian, she completed her undergraduate degree at the University of Vermont.

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