Exercising Without Overeating

The time for New Year’s resolutions is drawing near and you may be considering starting a workout routine. Good choice. Regular exercise has a host of benefits including better cardiovascular health, lowered blood glucose levels, mood elevation, and improved muscle strength and endurance.

Some say that exercise also helps curb your appetite.  Really?  Not in my world!

Though I have no hard scientific evidence that exercise tends to increase hunger rather than dampen it, I offer this: when was the last time someone told you to sit and watch TV to work up an appetite for dinner?  Yeah, that’s my point. Physical activity requires fuel which leads to hunger.

So, if you find exercise makes you want to eat more, you may find these tips helpful to keep from consuming more calories than you need.

Stay hydrated.

Sometimes, we mistake thirst signals for hunger signals, so it may be that you feel hungrier after exercise because you’re dehydrated. One way to estimate your daily fluid needs is to divide your body weight by 2. That number is a rough guide to the number of ounces you’ll need to drink per day. Also, make sure you’re adequately hydrated before you start exercising. If your exercise is particularly strenuous and/or in very hot conditions, you’ll want to boost your intake of liquids.

Make exercise the intermission to a regular meal.

To avoid consuming excess calories after exercising, divide a regular meal that you were planning to eat anyway (breakfast, lunch, or dinner) and eat half about 30 minutes before you exercise and the rest right afterwards. This strategy gives you fuel for your workout and food to look forward to.

Choose carbs and protein before and right after exercise.

Carbohydrates are the body’s main energy source. By eating carbs before and after exercising you’re less likely to get fatigued and post-exercise recovery is easier. It’s important to eat protein before and right after exercising as well. Both nutrients work together to rebuild the energy stored in muscles. High fat foods are harder to digest, so they’re not a good choice before exercise.

Make physical activity part of your daily routine.

You don’t have to do the same type of workout, but make a commitment to doing something physical for at least 30 minutes each day. Not only will you get the benefits of regular exercise, you’ll be able to anticipate and better manage any hunger spikes that might occur after exercising.

Fight the urge to splurge on sweets as a reward for exercising.

Do you eat a few cookies to reward yourself for flossing or for showing up at work on time? Of course not! When exercise is part of your daily routine, you won’t be so likely to feel working out is a special accomplishment, deserving of caloric recognition.



Ellen Stokes 5.19.17Ellen Stokes, MS, RD, LD is an award-winning video producer, director, and writer in addition to being a registered dietitian. Ellen writes and creates videos about nutrition education, food safety, menu planning, grocery shopping, and healthful cooking on a budget. Ellen has worked with organizations and companies including WebMD, the Partnership for Food Safety Education, and the University of Georgia Food Science Department. Ellen formerly worked for CNN as a writer and producer and teaches food safety and nutrition for Georgia State University. Check her out on Twitter @EllenS_RD.