Post-Exercise Hunger and How to Manage Your Appetite

Managing post-exercise hunger

Have you ever completed a power-packed workout or done a lot of exercise, only to feel hungry immediately afterward? Post-exercise hunger is a common feeling because physical activity can affect your appetite, hunger levels and food intake.

According to exercise training data:

  • 10% of people eat less in response to exercise
  • 75% of people eat a little more in response to exercise
  • 15% of people eat a lot more in response to exercise

Tips for Managing Post-Exercise Hunger

The good news is that mental awareness, mindfulness, and having a strategy in place can all help you manage post-exercise hunger and make healthy decisions. Here are some tips to help you create your post-exercise hunger action plan.

1 – Tune into Your Post-Exercise Hunger Cues

After completing a workout, check in with your hunger cues using a rating scale from 1-4:

  • Level 1: You are not particularly hungry.
  • Level 2: You are hungry but not ready to eat.
  • Level 3: Your stomach is growling and starting to feel empty.
  • Level 4: You are extremely hungry.

When you finish an intense workout, it’s common to feel like your hunger level is at a 2 or a 3. This means you will need about 30 minutes after your workout for your body to wind down and for your hunger levels to adjust.

2 – Separate Thirst from Hunger

Sometimes it’s hard to tell whether you are hungry or just thirsty. Before you eat, take a long pull from your water bottle and wait 15 minutes before assessing your hunger levels again. You might find that you still want food, but not as much as you first thought.

3 – Let Go of Food Rewards

Sometimes we get stuck in the “treat yourself” mentality after doing a lot of physical activity. However, looking to food rewards can sabotage your workout. The reality is that a 40-minute aerobic workout may burn only 400 calories, and this can easily be undone by a 350-calorie muffin or a few 150-calorie cookies that you weren’t hungry for in the first place. A single episode of exercise-based reward eating is harmless enough, but when repeated often, it can turn into an unhealthy habit that affects your weight.

4 – Focus on Filling Foods

Filling foods are ones that satisfy your hunger with fewer calories. This includes foods that are high in water, fiber and protein because they take up space in your stomach and also take longer to digest, therefore keeping you full for longer. Examples of filling foods include fruits, vegetables, whole grains, beans, fish, poultry and reduced-fat dairy.

5 – Savor Your Satisfaction Signals

When you do decide to eat, take time to actually enjoy the pleasure of eating. Slow down to notice flavors, aromas and textures. Consciously chew every bite and allow your brain the 20 minutes it takes to register fullness. With practice, you might be surprised to see how much less you eat and how much more satisfied and energized you feel as a result.

For more tips on managing post-exercise hunger, view the full article from the Obesity Action Coalition’s (OAC) Weight Matters Magazine.

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