A high school friend of mine is now a certified personal trainer. He fits your typical trainer profile of ultra low body fat and six pack abs. He's even taken his fitness career to competitions and has won quite a few shows.
The last time I caught up with him, he boasted about how much he cheats on his diet. He tells me that people can't believe that he indulges in red velvet cupcakes and other high sugar delights. Curiosity got the best of me so I asked him how he's able to break the rules and still maintain a winning physique.
Although I trust his advice, I still wanted to see if this was indeed a true theory. Off I went to research. When we engage in rigorous activity, our blood sugar stores are depleted. When we eat foods high in simple sugars post workout, our body is ready to utilize it to refuel muscle tissue. Instead of being stored (as fat), the sugar is quickly digested and used appropriately.
I even stumbled upon a video that talks about a study where cyclists were divided into two groups. One group given a healthy meal post workout, the other refueled with fast food. When tests were preformed to see the impact of the meal, the researchers couldn't tell the difference in blood glucose and insulin response of healthy eating group vs the junk food group. This could also point to the fact, that after a tough workout, our body is craving the sugar and will immediately put it to good use.
This is not to say that we should always eat ice cream and cake after a workout. Ideally we should stick to healthy eating whenever possible. But, if you are going to do it, your best bet is to consume the sugar when your body needs it most. A lazy weekend of indulging in sweet snacks is a sure fire recipe for fat gain. You should also consider the level of intensity of your workout. The more intense the activity, the less "impact" the indulgence will have on your diet. Please don't go overboard, because if you consume more calories in a day than you burn, your body will still store the excess. But if done right, you can still treat yourself, like my friend does, and still remain lean.
I don't know about you, but I see this as very powerful information. Perhaps we can be a little more strategic about how we snack. Instead of eating mindlessly and paying for our actions later. Why not save your favorite dessert as a reward for your hard work and avoid the consequences?