If You're Always Hungry After Working Out And Struggle To Keep Calories In Check, You Need To Read This Article
The time between training and your next meal is the danger zone. And if you don't get your nutrition right, you could be on a highway to the danger zone. Feeling hungry after working out is common. After all, you've toiled and sweated for the last hour and you're feeling pretty beat. But this is where the gain train can get derailed.
Because you feel so ravenous, you could eat a scabby horse and not bat an eyelid.
You resort to willpower, but that lasts all of 30 seconds. And the protein shake you brought with you barely touched the sides. So you're left rifling through the cupboards, grabbing anything you can find.
In your mind, you justify this to yourself. The phrase, "I earned it" springs to mind as you attempt to rationalise your calorie indulgences once again.
But, more often than not, these uncontrolled snack scavenges take you wildly off course. No longer in a calorie deficit, but drifting towards a bonafide surplus.
So this article is here to help. To give you the tools and techniques to avoid feeling hungry after working out. Make sure you read the whole thing before your next workout, don't be tempted to skip around... Promise?
"Timing Isn't Important For Fat Loss, But It Can Be For Adherence"
Meal timing is completely irrelevant for fat loss.
Something I've said in the past. And actually, it's still true. To a large degree, when you eat matters not for fat loss. But, if you can't stick to your diet and keep veering off track, then it can become an important tool.
Let me explain.
For example, let's assume you are Intermittent Fasting. You're stuck rigidly in a 16:8 feeding window, but that's leaving a long time between meals. And for you, this is a problem. Yes, Dave in the office is getting on brilliantly with it. And he won't shut up about how he's combined Keto, Vegan, and Fasting into the "ultimate diet." But you're not Dave. And you're not some Veto Faster. For you, it's more a Vetastrophe (see what I did there).
So here's 3 things to focus on when it comes to meal timing that will help you stop feeling hungry after working out.
Train Close To A Main Meal
It might seem obvious. But you may have overlooked this one simple thing.
If you're leaving a chasm of time between training and eating a filling meal, you're creating the perfect opportunity for the hunger devil to perch on your shoulder. So, if you can, think about adjusting either the time you workout, or the time you eat.
Train first thing in the morning and that first meal of the day is likely to be pretty important, especially if you're fasting. So don't leave it too long before you tuck into a decent breakfast. After all, you'll be leaving some important gains on the gym floor, if you're not optimising your post workout nutrition.
And if you're a night owl when it comes to the gym, you have a couple of options.
- Eat a filling meal before you train and eat light afterwards (or another big meal if you have the available calories).
- Eat light prior to training and plan to have your dinner as your post workout meal.
Aim to train close to main meals. Experiment and find what approach helps you kick that hunger demon into touch.
Pick A Snacking Strategy To Avoid Feeling Hungry After Working Out
Snacking can be both friend and foe whether you're trying to lose weight or build muscle. Because overeating after working out is not a problem confined to fat loss. Overshooting calories while trying to build muscle can turn a small surplus into full-on Bulk Hogan territory.
So should you graze or abstain, when it comes to snacking?
Truth is, there's no magic answer here. It comes down to one thing.
What works for you and helps you balance calories, hunger, and long-term adherence, is the right approach.
Grazing on snacks throughout the day (as long as calories are in check) could help you feel less hungry heading into a workout. Although, if you're not tracking, I'd advise against this approach. because mindless snacking is likely to see calories spiral out of control, even if you think you've kept a lid on everything.
Your other option is have limited or no snacks during the day. Maybe you manage hunger best when you eat bigger meals during the day. Little and often, may not leave you feeling satisfied, which leads to off track overeating. And that becomes a slippery slope to calorie surplus hell.
Pick a snacking strategy that helps you adhere to your diet.
Focus On Pre And Post Workout Nutrition
When it comes to pre and post workout nutrition, shit gets confusing.
Talk of the anabolic window turns you into a crazy person as you make a beeline for a protein shake the second you finish your last rep of bicep curls. And, on top of that, the gym floor is awash with talk of pre-workout drinks, intra-workout carbs, and all manner supplements. So could this be the solution to avoid feeling hungry after working out?
The simple answer is, probably not.
In fact, it's straight-up not the answer. Rarely is the answer a supplement. But there is logic to getting your pre and post workout nutrition right.
"So what does "right" mean, Simon?"
Getting Peri-Workout Nutrition Right Helps Avoid Feeling Hungry After Working Out
Pre workout nutrition isn't confined to the 45 minutes before you train. Train in the evening and you can be fuelling for that training session throughout the day. Likewise, if you train in the morning, then your fuelling strategy starts the night before.
But, for now, let's assume you've got that part right, because we're specifically talking hunger.
45 minutes to 2 hours either side of training is a reasonable timeframe to focus on.
Where time isn't an issue, plan a regular meal a few hours before training. Assuming it's a decent size and contains protein, chances are it will be filling. And filling enough to curb huge hunger pangs post workout. Meaning that post workout nutrition could be light, ie a protein shake, which will tide you over until the next meal (while optimising the gains too).
If pre workout nutrition for you is a lot closer to training (c. 1 hour or less), opt for something lighter and faster digesting, such as a protein shake. But if hunger is an issue in the post training period, make sure you allot enough calories to that part of your day.
But What About Gastric Emptying?
Should a quizzical look have descended over your face right now, don't worry. In fact, you good probably skip onto the next section of the article.
Well, it's because this isn't a big concern.
Gastric emptying refers to the speed at which the calories you consume leave the stomach and are utilises by the body. So, in the context of post workout nutrition, you want the protein you eat or drink to leave the stomach quickly and be used by your muscles.
There's often talk about mixing protein with high GI carbs at this point, as they spike insulin, which drives protein into the muscle. It's almost as if those little amino acids have jumped aboard the insulin gain train and bought a one-way ticket to Muscle City. And in the same breath, you'll be told to minimise fat, as fat slows down gastric emptying.
All very complex and confusing, so allow me to break it down.
Point 1. Whey protein is sufficiently insulinemic. Which is the geeky terminology for saying that those amino acids don't need the help of carbs to climb aboard the insulin gain train. They can do it themselves.
Point 2. Total calories slows down gastric emptying. So a meal matched calorie for calorie has the same gastric emptying time. Essentially, it doesn't matter whether it has fat in it, or not..
Why Bring This Up?
The reason to talk gastric emptying is because you may be concerned about planning a big meal post workout, which will affect your ability to build muscle.
Firstly, this is a very niche issue that falls squarely in the minutia of nutrition. After all, if you're currently struggling to stick to calories, there are more fundamental things to focus on.
But, if this is a concern, then a protein shake post workout and a larger meal within a few hours after would be perfectly fine.
Pre and post workout nutrition can assist in ensuring you're not hungry going into training, nor left ravenously hungry after working out.
"If Your Food Choices Aren't Filling, Expect To Feel Hungry After Working Out"
Yes, calories are the most important thing to get right, but that doesn't make what you eat an unimportant nuisance.
When it comes to feeling full and avoiding hunger in general, food choices play a huge role. Because, you can certainly lose weight eating McDonald's Big Macs all day, but in terms of filling you up, they'll probably fall short of the mark. By a long stretch.
So, if you're always struggling with hunger after working out, then paying attention to what you eat is important.
Choose Higher Protein And High Volume Foods
Protein is one of the most satiating macronutrients. Therefore, eating protein with main meals and during snack times will help keep you feeling full during the day. Which means you're less likely to train at a time when you already feel quite hungry. Plus, in the post workout danger zone, a protein shake, followed by a main meal high in protein should kill hunger, stone dead.
After considering protein intake, look to more low calorie, high volume foods throughout the day. Again, with the thought of maintaining a feeling of fullness and satisfaction pre and post workout. So think, green vegetables and lower calories fruit, such as watermelon.
Ok. So hydration isn't a huge factor in hunger, but every little helps, right? Even a glass of water post training and pre-meal can help with feeling of hunger. It might have minimal impact. But it's quick and easy to do, so why the hell not?
The reason you feel hungry after working out may be as a result of your food choices within your habitual diet. Address what you eat throughout the day and you should find hunger levels improve both post workout and during the day.
Your In The "I Earned It" Mindset
"A Few Sets Of Squats Didn't Earn You A Domino's With Dough Balls And Garlic Bread"
"It's ok. I earned."
You've said it, I've said it, we've all said it. At one time or another you attempt to justify a calorie indulgence with these three immortal words. But, truth be told, you know it's not true.
Did you really earn a burger, fries, and a decadent dessert after a few hip thrusts and bicep curls?
Let's face it, weight training doesn't burn that many calories. Most of the time you're sat on your butt trying to pass the time between sets. So it's not exactly the Queen Stage of The Tour De France.
Yes, I hate to break it to you, but leg day didn't burn 10,000 calories, despite how "brutal" you thought it was, or how balls to the wall you went.
The average workout is only going to burn a couple of hundred calories at most. And these will already be factored into your calorie target, anyway. So unless you drastically change your workout routine, or add in a marathon, chances are, you didn't "earn it."
Therefore, the first step to avoid feeling hungry after working out, is to change your mindset.
Instead of trying to justify additional calories, look to other methods of controlling hunger and appetite, as well as fuelling your training adequately.
Stuck In a Habit
"Are You REALLY Hungry, Or Is It Habit?"
Your reason for overeating after training might not be driven by real feelings of hunger. It's entirely possible for you to be fuelling a habit, rather than a genuine need to eat.
So ask yourself if you're eating a large amount of food because that's what you've always done after working out, or is it because you really need to?
Maybe, your post workout shake is enough. Maybe you need to pause and question whether eating a whole packet of Oreos and a box of Krispy Kremes gets you closer, or further away from your goals. Mindfully thinking about the decision you make could change the game for you.
Are you eating out of hunger or habit. If it's habit, commit to altering your habit. If you're genuinely hungry, think about more considered decision. And save calories for this period of the day, when you need them.
Too Much Faith In Your Activity Tracker
"When It Comes To Calories Burned, It's More FitShit Than FitBit"
Activity trackers are great. And a coaches god-send when it comes to helping clients be consciously aware of their daily activity. Not to mention their ability to help keep weight loss progressing in the right direction, consistently over the long-term.
But when it comes to measuring calories burned, they suck. And borderline useless.
Like a a man who doesn't lift weights, they're not to be trusted.
So, if you have a particularly tough workout, don't assume you can eat 200 extra calories, because your tracker said so. It's lying to you, and leading you astray.
Calculate your calorie target, factoring in your planned training and stick to that number. Simply ignore what the tracker says. Obviously, if you run a mid-week marathon, you'll need a calorie adjustment. But even then, don't use the activity tracker.
Ignore activity trackers for measuring calorie burned. They're largely inaccurate
The Bottom Line On How To Avoid Feeling Hungry After Working Out
The reason you're feeling hungry after working out could be broadly characterised by low calories, poor food choices, and a meal timing approach not optimised for your lifestyle. This combination of factors could very well lead you to overeat after training and stray off track with your diet.
Feeling hungry after a workout is normal. you've exercised, trained hard (hopefully), burned some calories, and naturally feel like you need to replenish them. But uncontrolled eating in the post workout period could lead to exceeding your daily calorie target. So learning to manage hunger both during the day, and in the hours after training is important.
Focus on how and when you apportion calories during the day. If you need to, save calories for the period following a workout.
Fill your diet with nutritious, filling foods and you should find overall hunger levels diminish.
And pay close attention to your mindset. Becoming stuck in an unnecessary habit, or the "I earned it" mindset can be damaging to your progress.
Address these things and feeling hungry after a workout should be a thing of the past.
How To Get Your Hands On A Free 4 Week Beginner Training Programme
Here’s what to do next to get on the fast track to a leaner, healthier, stronger body. Simply click the link below and I’ll send you my Lean Life Kickstarter Pack. In it you’ll find a free 4 week beginner’s training programme (complete with exercise videos and a workout tracker), a guide on calculating your calories, plus so much more.
So if you want it, grab it here.
But for now, all I’ll say is… Keep living the Lean Life and I’ll see you soon.