Have you started exercising on a regular basis in the hopes it will help you lose weight? That’s a really great thing to do. But do you seem to feel the need to eat more now that you are exercising? If the answer to that question is “Yes! That’s what’s happening to me,” you aren’t alone. Exercise-induced munchies is a real phenomenon and can definitely derail your dieting efforts. Here’s how to not blow your diet after working out.
Recognize It Happens
Not everyone feels the urge to eat more after exercise, but it is a real issue for some people. A study published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that women who worked out intensely ate more calories immediately after working out than women who worked out less intensely. In fact, some of the women ate more calories than they burned while working out.
It’s an interesting study because it shows that overly intense exercise really can cause you to be hungrier and eat more than you need to lose weight. The remedy for this is to be cognizant of your food intake after particularly intense workouts and be smart about what (and how much) you eat.
Another reason for feeling hungry after workouts—even if you don’t exercise with a lot of intensity—is that when you work out, you burn off carbohydrates, fats, and proteins. Your body naturally wants to replenish lost nutrients and sends a signal to your brain that you are hungry.
Monitor Your Experiences
Not everyone who works out overeats afterward or even later in the day. But if you are working out regularly and eating a good, healthy diet without seeing the scale drop, you might be eating more than you realize on the days you exercise.
I’d encourage you to take notes about how hungry you feel after certain workouts. If you know that your 30 minutes of strength training in the gym revs up your appetite more than walking on the treadmill, make a note.
Then you will know to be extra careful about what you eat and how many calories you consume after strength training. After all, you don’t want to blow your diet by eating back all the calories you just burned off.
Know What Foods Fuel You Best
Not all food is created equal when it comes to refueling after exercise. Of course you could pig out on sugary cookies, but they aren’t the best choice. Instead choose foods that help you stick within your calorie allowance and fill you up.
Here’s a short list of good, low-calorie post-workout foods. Just keep your serving sizes reasonable.
- Protein shakes
- A small amount of your favorite nut butter spread on a whole wheat English muffin or small bagel
- Greek yogurt with fruit topping
- A few nuts mixed with raisins or other dried fruit
- Hummus and carrot sticks
- Chicken sandwich on whole wheat bread
- Boiled egg that you thinly slice and roll into a tortilla
Part of exercise-induced munchies may be that you are thirsty. Make sure to hydrate before, during, and after your workout. This is especially important if you are doing an intense workout. If you are just taking a stroll around the block with your dog, this probably isn’t the source of your munchies.
Keep Up a Steady Level of Activity
If you just can’t seem to get your eating under control after intense exercise, consider backing off the intensity a bit. You can achieve the same total calorie burn by working out for a shorter time and ramping up your everyday activity level.
Do simple things like walking the stairs several times a day, taking a stroll after dinner, getting up early and working in the yard before you start your day, or even walking in place while watching television.