Feeling Hungry After Exercise?

It’s a sensation many people experience one time or another…feeling hungry after exercise. Personally, there are days I feel like a bottomless pit after exercising. Other times I lose my appetite and don’t feel hungry after exercise at all. Are the calories burned exercising going to waste on those days when I do eat a lot? Am I suffering from the “reward syndrome” where I feel like I can eat more after exercising because I burned more calories than normal? These are common questions that I’ll try to address.

Feeling Hungry After Cardio

If you’re performing steady-state cardio where you jump on your favorite exercise machine and go at a low to medium intensity for 30+ minutes, it’s likely you’ve felt hungry after exercise. You’re burning calories and your body’s natural instinct is to replace that lost energy. Are you destroying your entire workout by eating more than normal after? According to a study done by the Journal of Endocrinology, you aren’t. While it was a small sample size, researchers found that even though people who did moderate-intensity cardio ate more than people who performed no exercise at all, the number of calories they burned exercising more than offset the excess calories they ate. In other words, while your appetite may be elevated after performing traditional cardio, you’ll still be generating a net caloric deficit which leads to the ultimate goal of weight loss.

Feeling Hungry After Intense Exercise

While you may feel hungry after cardio, do you feel that same hunger after intense exercise? Personally, I’m too exhausted to feel like eating after an intense workout routine. This is a common phenomenon for most people as well. What happens in this scenario is that acids build up within your body resulting in a feeling of nausea. Since most people don’t enjoy eating when they feel nauseous, the body’s natural instinct is to suppress appetite. Ultimately, once that feeling subsides, you may feel hungry because your body does eventually want to replace the lost energy. The feeling may simply be delayed and at that point, you will probably just want to have a normal-size meal.

Rewarding Yourself After Exercise

While it’s natural to feel hungry after exercise, it’s important to differentiate between increased appetite and rewarding yourself. If you’re simply eating bigger meals and going out more often because you’ve been exercising, you shouldn’t be surprised if you find that weight loss slows…or if your weight starts to increase. Stick with eating when you’re hungry and be cognizant of how much you’re eating. The reward will show up when you step on the scale.

Bottom Line

Anyone else feels hungry after exercising? If so, then try to perform the intense exercise and see if it suppresses your appetite. Otherwise, just be sure to stay hydrated and avoid too much overeating or rewarding yourself too often. Don’t use the increased hunger level as an excuse for not working out. Surprisingly, you’re better off exercising and eating more since you’ll likely generate an overall caloric deficit. Ideally, if you perform an intense workout, you’ll get the best of both worlds by burning calories without generally feeling hungry after exercise.