You're hitting the gym on a regular basis and making some gains. You feel good, you look good, and you’re setting new records and achieving your goals. But there's a problem. You feel like you could eat your way through a Happy Meal every hour. Blood sugar levels seem to be wonky and post-workout snacks don't seem to help.
There are two possible ways to help you but the right answer depends on your goal.
Would you rather not feel hunger pangs all day or be hungry all the time? I know that sounds strange, but everyone has different goals. Some people like to feel hungry after physical activity. Others restrict their calorie intake. While others are preparing for strength training or going through a bulking phase. This varies from person to person.
Individuals who have a hard time gaining weight and muscle may welcome the extra impetus to consume more food. Eating is the secret to gaining muscle in the gym. Strength training is merely a stimulus; the most significant gains are made in the kitchen.
Those who want to lose weight, on the other hand, can be distracted from achieving their goals by hunger hormones driving them to the fridge.
So I'd like to point out that being hungry all the time is not necessarily a bad thing. Maybe it's a signal to your body that you really do need to eat more. In the case of intense training and insufficient nutrition, your body will send hunger signals. Your gym performance may suffer if this hunger is not satisfied. In addition, you won't be able to fuel muscle cells properly, which could lead to a decrease in strength and muscle mass.
So don't ignore the signs but also don't go overboard and immediately react to the “feed me” signals.
Tips for dealing with hunger pangs from working out
1. Try drinking more. The body may confuse thirst with hunger. Dehydrated people often eat more than they need.
2. Try working out at different times of the day. If you find that training hard in the morning makes you overeat during the day, switch up your workout times as an experiment.
3. Change your training type, volume, and frequency. Are you doing all super high-intensity HIIT workouts? And what about daily runs of one hour or more? Some exercises naturally make us more hungry. There's plenty of evidence to show that intense exercise can suppress appetite but we all know that feeling of ravenous hunger we get when we're a lot more active during the day.
4. Talk to a nutritionist or your doctor about your diet. Are you eating lots of carbs with a high glycemic index? Both fats and proteins are satiating. Carbs have a tendency to spike blood sugar levels and then cause a drop in blood sugar levels leaving you feeling hungry soon after a meal. The keto diet has been shown to satiate and reduce cravings for food when followed correctly (high fat, moderate protein, low carb). Again, consult a medical professional before any major changes in diet.
5. The more muscle you have, the more you need to fuel those muscles. Super lean athletes with low muscle mass generally need fewer calories than even people who weigh the same but are carrying more muscle. Muscle burns more calories at rest than other tissue. This may explain your hunger pangs.
6. Eat more fiber. This ties back to the point about carb intake. High sugar carb-based foods tend to slam your body with energy quickly. Without some way of releasing this energy slowly, a spike occurs, followed by feelings of hunger. Fiber also helps slow the release of energy from food, among other benefits for the gut microbiome. Try adding more fiber to your diet and see how it affects your appetite.
7. Stop turning mealtimes into a reward for working out. While food is one of the greatest pleasures of life and should not be considered a commodity, using food as some kind of treat for a job well done is merely tricking our bodies into a feedback loop with negative consequences. Make strategic decisions before your workout about your food intake. Think strategically about the need to replenish lost calories and fuel your muscles. Don't set aside more food than you might need and stay away from sweet treats, junk food, and high-carb alternatives to high-quality vegetables, proteins, and fats.