If you've stuck to a new workout routine, chances are you know what the fuss is all about: the exercise-induced endorphins, the sense of accomplishment after you crush a workout, the realization that you actually like being sweaty. But one thing that may not make you love your workout routine: that ravenous, want-to-eat-everything feeling you get after a workout.
Since weight loss is a combination of burning enough calories and eating fewer calories to create a deficit, if you're trying to drop pounds, chances are you don't exactly love the fact that you want to eat all the calories in your fridge when you've spent the last 45 minutes burning just a fraction of that. So what exactly makes you hungry after you work out, and how can you change your habits?
Why You're So Hungry After a Workout
It could be the type of workout you're doing. Studies have shown that the more intensely you exercise, the less ghrelin (the "hunger hormone") your body produces, so a long, low-intensity session could be the reason why you're ravenous. But other research in women shows that even those who exercise intensely eat more calories after exercise than those who don't work out, so this isn't the only appetite-inducing culprit. If you've just finished an intense session and still feel like downing an entire pizza, it could be dehydration. Many times our bodies mistake thirst for hunger, so if you're not adequately hydrated during a workout, you may feel superhungry afterward.
One study found that the more fit you are, the less you feel like rewarding yourself with food after a workout, so another reason why you're famished after exercise might be your body and brain haven't gotten used to your workout habit yet.
How to Prevent Disproportionate Hunger After a Workout
If you're noticing that you're eating more than you should after a workout, it can be discouraging to want to keep up with your routine. But regularly exercising at least 20 to 30 minutes a day is important for not just weight loss, but also for preventing diseases, boosting immunity, and feeling happier — which means quitting your gym routine because you may be eating a few extra calories is not a good excuse. Instead of forgoing fitness altogether, try these habits to see if they make a difference in your post-workout meal habits.
- Try doing HIIT (high-intensity interval) workouts instead of low-intensity ones; these bursts can help suppress your hunger hormone.
- Drink enough water before and during your workout; here's how to make sure you're getting enough.
- Make sure you're strength training at least three times a week; muscles boost your metabolism so you're burning more calories all day long, even when you're sitting at your desk.
- Eat a small pre-workout snack at least 30 minutes before your session so you perform better and won't deplete your body of all its energy stores.
- Have a high-carb, high-protein snack after a workout, then eat your dinner a little later. It will help build muscle and energy stores, and eating a low-calorie pre-workout snack before sitting down to a meal can prevent you from overeating when you've got a full plate in front of you.
- Stick with it. As your body adapts to your new healthy habit, you'll figure out what works for fueling it while still sticking to your weight-loss goals.