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Exercise and Your Appetite

(Last Updated On: December 19, 2019)

3 Things to Consider Before You Eat a Huge Reward Meal 

Appetite and exercise are a funny combo…

There may be times when you finish a workout and feel like you could eat a horse, while other times the thought of a basic salad is totally unappealing.

Neither of these feelings are out of the ordinary, it just comes down to understanding how the body is responding to different types of exercise. This can keep you from derailing your hard-earned results. To plan your workout and diet regimen to be the most effective, let’s take a look at the different ways exercise can affect your appetite.

Factor #1: Time Spent Working Out

When you are working out, your body is focused on pumping your blood, carrying oxygen to your muscles and burning the calories necessary to keep you going. This means it doesn’t have the time to tell you that you are hungry.

The longer your exercise, the longer it will take your body to return to its norm and for you to feel hungry.

workout in the morningMore time spent exercising can also keep you from over-eating by serving as a simple distraction. As Keri Anderson, a nutritional coach and personal trainer at Life Time Plymouth says, “Longer exercise also suppresses your appetite in the way that it fills time you may otherwise spend mindlessly eating.”

Under most circumstances, eating when you don’t feel hungry isn’t the route you want take. However, if you are a long-distance runner, the nutrients in food will aid in your recovery. Don’t wait until your starving to get some nutrition in your body.

Consider a shake or smoothie 30-40 minutes after your workout. It’s easily digestible and will tide you over until you’re ready for a balanced meal.

Factor #2: How Intense Your Workout Is

The intensity of your workout will play a large role in how hungry you feel and when.

During a high-intensity workout your body focuses blood flow to the heart, brain and muscles. Much like during a long workout, your digestive system tends to get forgotten while these other systems take center stage. Lara Dugas, exercise physiologist and researcher at Loyola University Chicago explains, “The harder you exercise, the more blood you’re pulling away from the gut and the less hungry you’re going to feel.”

mmaOnce the blood flow returns to your digestive system, you’ll start to feel that hunger kick back in. When that happens don’t go crazy, this is a very easy way to end up overeating.

One trick is to plan your post-workout meal or snack beforehand so you don’t get carried away. Focus on nutrient-rich foods or those that are high in fiber. These will make you feel full, without necessarily being high in calories.

Factor #3: Engagement

Trying new exercise routines can have a profound impact on your body. New activities not only challenge your muscles and fitness level, but also your metabolism, hunger level and caloric output. Different types of exercise require different things of your body and therefore it must react accordingly.

If you are used to running, your body will have adjusted to the cycle of exercise and hunger that is normal for you during that activity. If you then start doing weight-training, you may find yourself to be hungrier than normal.

A new exercise regimen can make you feel tired and sore, leading you to believe that you are burning more calories than may be the case.

Tracking your exercise, calories burned and the calories that you are eating is a good way to make sure you’re keeping things balanced.

Switching up your exercise routine will also keep you engaged and excited. Research shows that people who choose their workouts, rather than having them assigned, typically eat less. Simply enjoying your workout can help you keep your eating on the right track.

It’s Not All In Your Head…But Some Of It Is

When it comes to exercise, it’s easy to focus on the body alone. Don’t forget what’s going on upstairs though. Never underestimate the power of the mind. Your mental state plays a huge role in what you feel, especially when it comes to hunger.

bodybuildingBelieve it or not, most of us don’t actually know when we’re hungry. We know the feeling of wanting to eat something, but not actually true hunger. This is combined with a very ingrained idea of the relationship between food and exercise. Most of us think that, as Anderson says, “Because of exercise, I should eat something.”

This idea that you get to eat something that’s not good for you as a reward for having done exercise is something that we see and hear everywhere. Food is a prize for working hard. This is a slippery slope. Remember to listen to your body when it comes to your hunger, not your mind. It’ll tell you what you need, without a care for prizes and rewards.

How to Treat Your Stomach Right

There are a few quick and easy ways to ensure you’re hungry before you dig in. Drink a glass of water before you eat anything. Oftentimes, what you believe is hunger is actually thirst.

Another thing you can do is rate your hunger on a scale of 1-10. You really only need to get to a 5, 6 or 7 to be satisfied. More than that and you’ll find yourself in the realm of uncomfortably overfull…we’ve all been there.

You also want to make sure you eat slowly. It takes time for food to get from your mouth to your stomach, let it get there. Allowing the food to reach your stomach will give you an accurate idea of how full you are and you’ll most likely find yourself eating less.

Exercising regularly and maintaining a healthy diet will help you reach your full potential. Making sure your diet includes when you eat, not just what you eat, will deliver the best results.


Does Exercise Make You Hungry or Suppress Your Appetite? Anna Medaris Miller; 2017

Providing Choice in Exercise Influences Food Intake at the Subsequent Meal: Beer, NJ; Dimmock JA, Jackson, B; Guelfi KJ: 2017

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