Help! My Workouts Make Me Too Hungry

How to recharge after exercise without overeating.

Monica Reinagel, MS, LD/N, CNS
4-minute read
Episode #346

Chau writes: “I’m a kick boxer who trains for two hours a day, five days a week. By the time I get home around 8 pm, I’m famished. Even though I ate well all day, I go crazy. I’m not trying to lose weight but I don’t like overeating—or the desperate feeling of hunger I get after a hard workout. What can I do to stave off this caveman-like hunger that occurs at the worst possible hour of the day?”

Many people (myself included) find that exercise temporarily suppresses hunger. I really dislike exercising with food in my stomach, so I am usually a little bit hungry when I begin exercising. By the time I’m done, though, I have absolutely no hunger. But this is a relatively short-lived effect.

The (Totally Unfair) Truth About Women and Exercise

The fact is that exercise eventually makes you hungry and the more intensely you exercise, the hungrier you are likely to get. This is one of the reasons that exercise alone usually fails as a weight loss strategy. In fact, women often end up more than compensating for the calories they burned through exercise through increased food intake. Infuriatingly, this does not seem to be true for men. On the other hand, women’s bodies are quicker to burn body fat during exercise than men. So, at least there’s that.

Even though exercise (alone) is not a magic bullet for weight loss, there are tons of other benefits to exercising regularly, such as cardiovascular health, reduced inflammation, better blood sugar control, reduced risk of many cancers, improved hormone balance, and so on. Exercise also has a role to play in weight loss, of course. You just also need to keep an eye on what you’re eating.

See also: 3 Tips on How to Eat Less Without Feeling Hungry

But in Chau’s case, weight loss is not the goal and it doesn’t sound as if weight gain is a problem either. The problem is that she comes home every evening feeling like she could eat the front door and everything behind it. Here are three possible explanations for that caveman-like hunger, each of which suggests a different solution.

Possibility #1: You may be overtraining. Two hours a day of intense exercise is a lot and the desperate feeling you get may be your body trying to signal you that you’re pushing yourself too hard. Most of us have to discipline ourselves to exercise. But hardcore athletes often have an opposite challenge: They have to discipline themselves to give their bodies enough time to recover.

You might want to discuss this possibility with a coach who knows your performance and might be able to spot (or rule out) other signs of overtraining. But the next possibility is perhaps more likely—and just as problematic:


About the Author

Monica Reinagel, MS, LD/N, CNS

Monica Reinagel is a board-certified licensed nutritionist, author, and the creator of one of iTunes' most highly ranked health and fitness podcasts. Her advice is regularly featured on the TODAY show, Dr. Oz, NPR, and in the nation's leading newspapers, magazines, and websites. Do you have a nutrition question? Call the Nutrition Diva listener line at 443-961-6206. Your question could be featured on the show. 

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