Working Up a Healthy Appetite
By: Tara DelloIacono
Stomach growling after your morning workout? Whether you are training for a big race or just taking your regular exercise routine to the next level, it’s typical to feel hungry more often than usual when increasing the intensity or duration of physical activity. Since exercise burns calories, your body responds by wanting to replenish what’s been lost with food. But what if you are trying to trim down by expending more calories than you take in? Should you just ignore those pangs? Actually, no, feeling of hunger means your body is trying to tell you something. It pays to listen.
Understanding Hunger Cues
Are you craving protein? Craving chocolate? Craving a time-out?
Hunger is one of the most basic of all human cravings, and probably the easiest to identify. Stomach growls are a signal that your body’s resources are running low. This is why you should pay attention to, rather than tune out, hunger cues. You don’t want to run out of energy when you need it most. While it may seem counterproductive to eat more if your goal is weight loss, having a snack or small meal when you are hungry can give you the oomph you need to hit the trail or hop on your bike more often. Plus, it also prevents you from overeating, which can happen when you wait too long to charge up. But before you chow down, be sure to think carefully about whether you are truly hungry or simply bored or stressed. Sometimes what you are really craving is a change of scenery or a 10-minute break from your demanding day. Reading your body’s signals, and responding appropriately, is important.
Complement Increased Activity with Healthy Snacks
Snacks are a great way to help control and preempt the extra amount of hunger generated by increased physical activity. The key is to eat something both before and after you work out. A snack 30 minutes in advance not only helps boost energy levels during exercise but also works to control cravings once you’re done. Drinking a lot of water is important too, as a dehydrated body tends to overcompensate by making you feel hungrier than you really are. Nutrient-dense foods like fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean meats are best—especially choices packed with hunger-busting protein and fiber. Here are some good snack options that come in at less than 200 calories:
- 4 ounces of plain yogurt and ¼ cup granola
- Do-it-yourself trail mix (combine 1 cup whole-grain cereal with ¼ cup nuts and ¼ cup dried cranberries)
- One medium piece of fresh fruit
- A LUNA Protein bar
Finally, keep in mind that your metabolism peaks when you exercise, so the first two hours after working out offers a great window for eating a well-balanced meal. You can satisfy your hunger and help your body recover and refuel. Enjoy that meal! You’ve earned it!
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