It's common to feel a decrease in appetite while you're in the middle of your workout, but once that high-intensity session wraps up, you've likely got food on your mind.
Sometimes you'll particularly crave the foods that you're trying to cut down on too, and maybe you're wondering if all this exercise is such a good idea after all - especially if your goal is weight loss. Cravings are common after a workout, and you're not alone if you walk out of the gym thinking about snacks.
Let's take a look at some of the reasons why you experience an increase in cravings after a session. I'll also give you practical tips for what you can do to make sure you're dealing with them in a way that fuels your body but doesn't jeopardise your fat loss goals.
Why Do You Have Cravings After A Workout?
The obvious answer is calories and nutrients for energy, performance and recovery. Food is your body's fuel source. A workout uses up a higher number of calories, and your body is asking you to replenish them. In particular, moderately high-intensity exercise will use up glycogen. Glycogen is the most readily available energy source in the body. Once those glycogen stores are depleted, your body will want to restore the glycogen levels in the liver.
How To Make Good Post Workout Food Choices?
Experiencing cravings after a workout is normal. Particularly for the sort of foods that will replenish those glycogen stores. So how can you deal with these cravings in a way that supports your training goals, and isn't going to undo the excellent work that you're putting in at the gym?
#1. Drink water before, during and after exercise.
This is a simple way to make sure that you aren't mistaking thirst for hunger. Proper hydration is vital, especially after the workout has finished. While it can be tough to stop and frequently drink during an intense exercise session - not to mention uncomfortable to be skipping with a full bladder! - getting enough water after you've been sweating is essential to replenish the fluids you've lost. It's often forgotten about once the exercise has finished too, which is when you need it most.
#2. Factor in your post-workout snack ahead of time.
Making the right decision about food choices is hard enough when all the odds are in your favour, but trying to make the right choice when you're tired and hungry after working out? You may be making things harder for yourself than they need to be. Instead, try bringing the snack with you to the gym, or at least having it ready-made at home to reduce the power those cravings have on you.
#3. Plan a meal which includes protein, fats and carbs.
In an ideal world, you'll have a proper meal after your workout, not just a snack that you eat while rushing off to your next appointment. A "proper meal" is one that has a lean protein source, complex carbs and a healthy source of fats. While this isn't always possible - it does depend on when you work out - a little planning and preparation goes a long way to achieving satiety. Satiety is that feeling of feeling satisfied after a meal and is a crucial element of not overeating.
#4. Don't wait too long.
After exercise, it can be easy to get caught up in the rush of your life. You might want to shower, change, and head off to your job or home. You may even feel like your appetite is suppressed for up to an hour or so after exercise. This is normal, and it's to do with how activity impacts ghrelin - an appetite hormone that tells you that you're hungry. The problem is that if you leave it too long, you may become ravenously hungry and when you get to this point it's all too easy to make reactionary choices that are not in line with your goals.
#5. Eat mindfully.
This is a crucial element to making sure that you don't overeat at any time - regardless of whether you've worked out. In practice, that means eating without distraction (no phones or TV), ideally at a table (not your desk), and thoroughly chewing your food.
Cravings are an inevitable part of dieting. Biological processes cause them, and they're not abnormal. They are likely to be more noticeable after intense exercise. But these are a few practical steps that you can take to deal with post-workout cravings so that you make choices which align with your diet goals. If you need advice more specific to your particular situation, feel free to get in touch!
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