Does exercise make you hungry? The short answer is yes. But why, after an early morning sweat sesh, do you spend all day fending off snack cravings? And what can you do about it? Let's find out.
When you exercise, your blood sugar level drops, which causes the release of the hunger hormone, ghrelin. This hormone tells your brain to signal for more food. It is also released when you haven't had much sleep, which is why you feel hungry when you're tired.
Interestingly, longer and lower intensity exercises such as jogging increase the amount of ghrelin your body releases, compared with short, high-intensity workout styles, such as HIIT.
Fitness level, gender, and weight are additional factors to the level of ghrelin in your system after exercise. If you are overweight and unfit, you are more likely to feel hungrier after you work out. Also, females tend to get hungrier post-exercise than males.
Your hunger-control tactics should start before you even hit the gym or the park. Exercise burns glycogen, the body's carbohydrate stores. When your stores have been depleted, you will begin to burn sugar in your blood. This causes a more significant dip in blood sugar levels, and consequently, more ghrelin is released.
Increase your body's glycogen reserves by eating a pre-workout snack, such as a banana and a handful of almonds, a few Medjool dates and a spoon of peanut butter, or a small bowl of oatmeal with Greek yogurt. The carbs in these snacks will raise your glycogen stores and give you an energy boost to boot, and the protein will help keep you feeling full while you exercise.
Ensure that you are adequately hydrated before, during, and after your workout. It is easy to mistake thirst for hunger.
If you still feel the need to snack more after your workout, ensure that you keep a stash of healthy snacks close so that you aren't tempted to indulge in sugary processed junk foods.
Healthy options include:
Having a store of healthy snacks available, ensuring you boost your glycogen stores pre-workout, and keeping yourself hydrated all help you manage post-workout hunger and reach your goals faster.
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