Help! My Workouts Make Me Too Hungry

How to recharge after exercise without overeating.

Monica Reinagel, MS, LD/N, CNS
Episode #346

Possibility #2. You’re not eating enough. Chau says she eats “well” all day prior to her workout but I’m wondering if she's eating enough. If you are neither gaining nor losing weight (outside of minor day-to-day fluctuations), it suggests that your total calorie intake is appropriate for your activity level. But maybe it’s not distributed as well as it could be.

See also: Does it Matter What Time You Eat?

You might experiment with eating more calories in the first part of the day and see whether you notice a difference—either in your workouts or in how hungry you are afterward. It could be that stoking the engine a bit more during the day means you are less depleted when you come out of your workout.

One caveat: You may still feel an urge to eat a lot in the evening simply because you’ve developed that habit. It might help to break up the pattern in other ways as well. For example, spend the evening in a different room or mix up your evening routine in some other way to avoid slipping into your habitual routine.

There’s one more possibility that occurs to me:

Possibility #3: There may not be a problem here.

Chau shared that she “doesn’t like overeating” and that she worries that her hunger—especially for carb-rich foods—seems to occur at the “worst possible hour of the day.”

Eating a good percentage of your calories at a single meal isn’t necessarily a problem. 

Now, if she’s overeating to point of severe physical discomfort, that’s a problem. If she feels she’s unable to stop eating even though it is causing negative consequences for her, that’s a problem. But if the only negative consequence is guilt for breaking some rule about not eating carbs after 8 pm, I can make this a lot easier!

Eating a good percentage of your calories at a single meal isn’t necessarily a problem. Researchers call that a restricted eating window and are finding that it might have some benefits.

Eating a good percentage of your calories in the evening also isn’t necessarily a problem. Despite what you may have read on the interwebs, calories eaten after 8pm are not converted directly into fat.

See also: What’s the Best Time of Day to Eat Carbs?

I’m not even worried if a lot of those calories are in the form of carbs! Anyone exercising hard for two hours a day has earned some carbs! And after an exercise session is probably the ideal time to eat them.

See also: What to Eat Before, During, and After a Workout

Finding What’s Best for You

Take all the magazine articles and Internet advice about diet with a grain of salt and don’t be afraid to experiment to find out what works best for you. You need to start with a solid foundation, by which I mean a nutritious, balanced, and calorie-appropriate diet. But you can play around with the size and timing and composition of your meals! See how different strategies affect your hunger and energy levels, athletic or mental performance, weight, and sleep quality. And if it’s not broke, no need to fix it!

I’d love to hear the results of any experimentation you’ve done with meal timing or composition. Post in the comments below or on the Nutrition Diva Facebook page.

See also: What Is an N-of-1 Experiment?


Comitato R, Saba A, et al. Turrini A, Arganini C, Virgili F. Sex hormones and macronutrient metabolism. Crit Rev Food Sci Nutr. 2015;55(2):227-41. 

Ebrahimi M, Rahmani-Nia F, et al. Effect of Short-term Exercise on Appetite, Energy Intake and Energy-regulating Hormones. Iran J Basic Med Sci. 2013 Jul;16(7):829-34. 

Pomerleau M, Imbeault P, et al. Parker T, Doucet E. Effects of exercise intensity on food intake and appetite in women. Am J Clin Nutr. 2004 Nov;80(5):1230-6.

Image courtesy of Shutterstock.


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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