For when your stomach is an actual black hole.
You’ve been working out more and that’s great! But your stomach has become a bottomless pit and you can’t stop eating everything in sight.
Workout-related hunger is pretty common, especially as you start to exercise harder or more often. Besides being a buzzkill and making you feel endlessly hungry, it can also start to mess with your goals for workout performance, body composition, and weight management.
To understand how to feed the beast without torpedo'ing all that hard work, BuzzFeed Health reached out to Erica Giovinazzo, a registered dietician at Erica's Edge and head coach at Brick Los Angeles, and Brian St. Pierre, director of performance nutrition at Precision Nutrition.
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Your revved up appetite is actually the result of your body trying to replace lost calories.
“When you start exercising more your brain is going to tell your body that it needs more calories to replace those that were burned during your workout,” St. Pierre tells BuzzFeed Health. “That’s why a lot of people experience increased hunger as their activity level goes up.”
Your hunger throughout the day could also increase if you're working out harder, because the higher the intensity of the exercise, the more calories you're going to burn both during and after your workouts, Giovinazzo says. Here's more info on that.
The problem, of course, is that being hungry all the damn time is annoying. And depending on your goals, you may not want to replace all those lost calories — or maybe you want to replace them without creating a caloric surplus. So, here’s what you can do about that:
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Keep in mind that most people seriously overestimate the amount of food they need when they’re starving after a workout.
In general, how hungry you are is going to depend on how long it’s been since you’ve eaten, how much you ate at that time, and how your brain responds to hunger and exercise. But in many cases, St. Pierre says people will think they need much more food than they actually do and overeat because of how ridiculously hungry they feel.
“There is no exact correlation between how many calories you’ve burned and how hungry you are,” St. Pierre says. “It’s not like you worked out and burned 200 calories so you're hungry for 200 calories. The amount of food you need and are hungry for will be very different from person to person.”
He says the reason some people feel incredibly ravenous after exercising is because the amount of satiety hormones — which regulate appetite and tell you how much energy you need — drop when you're working out. Additionally, exercise uses stored-up nutrients and blood sugar, which sends a signal to your brain that your energy levels needs to be replenished. Your brain responds by increasing your hunger to fix it.
So avoid making food decisions based on what a calorie tracker tells you.
Giovinazzo says many people have a hard time reaching their fitness goals because they overestimate the calories their workout has burned — because their fitness tracker is off or because they’re relying on the readout on gym equipment like treadmills, which are never accurate — and then will eat more than usual to “replenish” the calories they haven’t actually burned.
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