An intense workout at the fitness center, an all-day hike, serious yard work, and an intense game of one-on-one basketball all have at least two things in common: the way they fire up your metabolism and their tendency to rev up your appetite. When you’ve just finished an intense workout, you need to eat to refuel your body, but how do you avoid then eating everything in sight (and undoing all your hard work)? Here are a few tips for combating post-workout starvation mode without sabotaging your healthy eating habits and fitness goals.
1. Eat more the rest of the day.
If you’ve under-fueled going into a workout, you’ll not only have less energy to put into your fitness gym workouts; you’ll be more ravenous than usual after you’ve finished – and more vulnerable to cravings for unhealthy foods or portions. Make sure your eating plan is keeping you fueled steadily throughout the day.
2. Eat a healthy snack before your workout.
While you probably don’t want to eat an entire meal right before working out, packing a healthy snack like a protein bar to eat on your way from work to the gym could help overcome the hunger pangs and resist the snack machine before you can make it home to your healthy dinner.
3. Rehydrate before you re-fuel.
Our bodies often mistake dehydration for hunger. It’s important to rehydrate, anyway, so grabbing your water bottle instead of a candy bar first might eliminate feelings of hunger, altogether. Most fitness experts recommend drinking at least 8 ounces of water after a workout, in addition to what you’ve had before and during your workout.
4. Plan ahead for hunger.
Knowing you’ll feel hungry after your workout, plan to have an easy, healthy snack or meal ready to go so it’s easy to stick with your nutrition plan and avoid temptation.
5. Don’t make food your reward; eat to re-fuel.
A common mindset people have is that after they workout, they “deserve” or “earned” unhealthy food choices. There’s nothing wrong with enjoying a treat now and then, but don’t underestimate the calories you’re eating, or over-estimate the calories you burned off. Use your fitness tracker to calculate what you can afford to splurge on without undoing all your hard work. There are better rewards for a good workout than food, anyway. Why not new workout clothes, a new outfit, or an active outing? Keep in mind that food is fuel. We need to re-fuel after a workout, but in a way the replenishes our bodies and prepares us for the next workout.
6. If you must give in to a craving, choose a healthier version.
Sometimes there’s just no beating the craving for pizza or ice cream after a long, hard work out or day of outdoor activity. If you must indulge, do your body a favor by choosing a healthier version of it or using portion-control. For instance, enjoy that pizza, but pile it with veggies and limit yourself to a slice or two instead of devouring the whole thing.
It’s common to turn into a ravenous creature after a hard workout, but it’s no excuse to pig out. Use these six tips to help you deal with post-workout hunger realistically and with the discipline your commitment to better health and fitness is creating.