Ever finish a tough workout and feel like you could gobble up an entire Thanksgiving dinner all on your own? Hunger is an inevitable result of exercise, but when your workouts leave you feeling completely ravenous, it can be hard to control your post-workout appetite.
Unfortunately, when your eating habits are left unchecked, your fitness and weight loss goals may become compromised.
Keeping your appetite in check after a workout is no easy feat, but we talked to a few experts and asked them to share their best anti-overeating tips.
“Firstly, it is important to acknowledge hunger and to eat when you are hungry,” says Charity Dasenbrock, a certified Eating Psychology coach through the Institute for the Psychology of Eating. “Hunger is a signal from our body that needs attention. Hunger is not an enemy or something that we should control.”
Instead, first acknowledge that your body needs fuel in the form of food. Eating after exercise is necessary; the key is to focus on re-fueling with wholesome, satisfying foods.
“Eating the right way will fill you up and help your body get to that end goal of losing weight and building lean muscle,” says Scott Malin, a NASM Certified Personal Trainer and creator of the H.E.M. Ankle Rehab System. “If you do not eat enough or if you choose the wrong foods, you could be sabotaging your hard work.”
Here a few things you can do to make sure your nutrition stays on track.
Including healthy fats in your post-workout meal: Malin says that healthy fats will aid with recovery and help to build lean muscle. “The best options are some foods that contain protein and healthy fats, like a handful of nuts or a plate of beans and guacamole. The idea is to satisfy your body with the micro and macronutrients it needs most instead of consuming empty calories that will not help you recover from the workout.”
Re-hydrating right away: “Drink at least two big glasses of water after your workout,” he said. “Your body will be in serious need of water after a long, hard workout. And drinking water will help fill you up and stop some of those hunger pains." Malin strongly suggests re-hydrating only with water and recommends avoiding sodas and juice because they will only provide empty, sugar-filled calories. Eating slowly: Regardless of how hungry you are at the moment, Malin says that you should concentrate on eating your post-workout meal slowly. “Chew your food and enjoy the meal. There is a time lapse between your brain and stomach in terms of feeling full,” he explains. “Once you finish your meal, wait about ten minutes and then check in with your body. If you are still legitimately hungry, then eat a little more. But, you may be surprised to learn that your body actually feels full on a lot less food if you just give it a little time to digest.”
“Hard-to-control hunger could simply be the need to eat more calories, but it can also be a signal from our bodies that we are not giving it the overall nutrition it needs,” she explains.
She recommends making sure to consume an adequate balance of nutrients on a daily basis.
“Food is the fuel,” she said. “It sounds simple yet many individuals have a tendency to skip meals or snack in place of a meal. Implementing this tip will support your entire body; especially your adrenal function and blood sugar levels in relation to workouts.”