Are products branded as "fitness" foods actually good for you? Perhaps in most case they are, but that's not the issue a new study reveals could be the problem with such foods if you want to stick to your diet and exercise goals.
The study authors suggest that foods that appear to show fitness-related activities or that brand themselves as a fitness food could trick people into eating more and choosing to exercise less. (Photo credit: Perry Correll/Shutterstock.com)
A study published in the Journal of Marketing Research suggests that people who eat "fitness" foods are likely to eat more of this product and actually exercise less.
"Unless a food was forbidden by their diet, branding the product as ‘fit’ increased consumption for those trying to watch their weight," study authors Joerg Koenigstorfer with Technische Universitat Munchen and Hans Baumgartner Pennsylvania State University wrote. "To make matters worse, these eaters also reduced their physical activity, apparently seeing the ‘fit’ food as a substitute for exercise."
The researchers gave study participants trail mix snacks. Some of these were branded as a "fitness" snack while others were just "trail mix." In one experiment, study participants were told to pretend as if they were given eight minutes to eat and rate the snack product. In another, they were told they could exercise on a stationary bike if they wished after the snack.
Snackers ate more of the product if it was marked as a "fitness" food and they chose to ride the bike less.
"It is important that more emphasis be placed on monitoring fitness cues in marketing," the study authors wrote. "For example, a brand could offer gym vouchers or exercise tips instead of just implying fitness via a label or image. Reminding the consumer that exercise is still necessary may help counteract the negative effect of these fitness-branded foods."