If you're exercising to lose weight, but insane hunger makes you eat more, the pounds may pile on instead of melt away. Talk about frustrating! To get a handle on your increased hunger, we've enlisted the expertise of two nutritionists — Stephanie Clarke, RD, and Willow Jarosh, RD, of C&J Nutrition.
"It's important to have the internal dialogue conversation with yourself that, unless you're training for something intense, you will be eating the same thing on days you work out versus days you don't," say Willow and Stephanie. This sets a mental precedent to avoid situations where you overeat and tell yourself that it's OK because you worked out that day or that you'll work it off later.
You can also control hunger by eating the right foods in order to feel more satisfied. They suggest filling your plate with foods that pack in a lot of volume for fewer calories. Think fruits, veggies, protein, and complex carbs like whole grains and legumes. Limit refined carbs like bread, cereal, crackers, and chips, since those are easy to mindlessly snack on and overeat. When it comes to protein, make sure you're taking in at least 20 grams for breakfast, 30 grams for lunch and dinner, and five to 10 when snacking. Fiber is also essential since it adds bulk to your meals. Aim for six to eight grams per meal and at least three grams per snack to get your daily 25 to 30 grams. And don't forget fats! Nuts, seeds, olive oil, and avocado are also important since they can add to that full feeling, but use them sparingly since they're especially high in calories per ounce. Including good-for-you foods like these will likely lead to eating less and feeling more satisfied overall.
If you're the kind of person who wants to eat all day long, eating smaller meals more often throughout the day can also prevent you from feeling starved. Stephanie and Willow's clients have also had success using hot tea as a way to have something to sip between meals and snacks that keeps them hydrated with some flavor to offer a certain level of satisfaction.
Another great tactic is to time workouts so they happen right before meals. That way you can sit down and enjoy an entire plate of food without feeling guilty. Just be sure to eat a little pre-workout snack 30 to 60 minutes or so before your workout to avoid arriving at your post-workout meal completely famished, which will likely make you want to inhale two plates of food. Eat your meal slowly and drink it with water to fill you up. And remember to listen to your body's "I'm full" signals, so you stop once you're satisfied, not stuffed, even if that means leaving some food on your plate — just save it for your next meal!