Many of us are either truly famished or just feel like we deserve a reward after a really hard workout and end up eating rich foods and larger portions than we normally would. The end result is often eating back all or more than the calories we’ve just worked so hard to burn!
There’s nothing wrong with a small snack or a filling dinner after exercising, but before you dig in, it’s important to have a thorough understanding your body’s true nutrition needs so you don’t end up gaining weight and sabotaging your hard-earned gains.
If like me, you’re always hungry after you exercise, try working out right before a meal. Regardless of whether you ate beforehand or how many calories you burned, try scheduling your workouts before one of your main meals. That way, you can refuel with calories you would have consumed anyway, without having to add extra snacks into your day.
Try and make your workouts more fun or get me to design a program for you that will get you thinking about exercise less as a chore and more as something you do because you actually enjoy moving your body. This simple mind shift will help you eat less afterward.
In 2014, researchers at Cornell University conducted a study in which they led volunteers on a 2.25km walk, telling half of them that it was for exercise and the other half that it was a scenic stroll. The “exercise” group ate 35% more chocolate pudding for dessert than the “scenic” group. Similarly, in another experiment, volunteers were given post-walk snacks, and the “exercisers” ate 124% more calories than those who were told it was just for fun.
When you do need a snack to recover from a tough sweat session pair protein with carbs, try a 4:1 ratio of carbohydrates to protein. This will allow you to begin to replenish your energy levels and repair muscle damage resulting from the workout.
For workouts, less than an hour, keep your snack between 150 to 200 calories, try open-faced peanut butter on rye with honey, a portion of fish, a slice of chicken breast, cheese on crackers, or a handful of trail mix.
Low-fat dairy is another great recovery food with plenty of protein to help tide you over until your next meal. Refueling with dairy like low-fat chocolate milk specifically helps improve subsequent athletic performances better than traditional sports drinks.
Sometimes, overeating after exercise is more a consequence of routine than anything else. When you consistently consume a 500 calorie smoothie after you finish up at the gym, you start to get into that habit of consuming a smoothie no matter how long or intense your exercise was.
Choose different snacks for different workouts, the shorter the duration, the fewer calories you need to replenish. It’s important for weight loss and weight maintenance to get in tune with your body and learn to eat in response to hunger, versus eating in response to boredom, stress, or the idea of rewarding yourself for exercising.
Activity trackers like the Hauwei smartwatch and Apple watch have become a trendy way to estimate physical activity expenditure throughout the day. However, not all devices are accurate in estimating calorie burn during workouts. Even the most accurate trackers can still only provide an estimate of true calorie burn and it’s not smart to base your refueling strategy entirely on their calculations.
It may seem counterintuitive, but eating more throughout the day may be your ticket to consuming fewer calories overall, especially if you tend to pig out post-workout. Incorporating two to three healthy snacks throughout the day will help regulate hunger between meals, increase energy, and keep metabolism bumped up.
You may feel like you burned a million calories during your spin class, but the truth is we tend to overestimate our energy expenditure during exercise by as much as four-fold. In a study from the University of Ottawa, when volunteers were then asked to eat back all the calories they’d just burned after exercise, they tended to consume two to three times more than what they’d expended. If you are trying to lose weight remember this simple trick, energy out must always outweigh energy in.
Your number one priority after a workout should be replacing the fluids lost during a workout. Having a lot of water in the belly also reduces appetite. Try having a drink of water as soon as you finish training, being mindful that taking in too much water can cause water intoxication due to excessively low levels of salt in the body.
Talk to yourself, ask yourself if you really need to eat. You’re going to eat those calories eventually, so why not save them for your next meal when you’re really hungry?
For workouts lasting longer than two hours—like a long bike ride or a marathon training, sucking down a gel or sipping a sports drink will keep you from feeling ravenous afterward. Try to consume 30 to 60 grams of carbohydrates, that’s about 120 to 240 calories every hour after your first hour. Avoid anything with protein, since it takes longer to for the stomach to digest.
Tiger Athletic is a modern, private, appointment only gym in Sandton, Johannesburg using a rigorous, results-focused methodology we are passionate about helping you be the healthiest version of yourself, so you can lead a more fulfilling personal and professional life.
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