Feeling Hungry After Exercise | Not Your Average Fitness Tips

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 amount 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 feel hungry after exercising?  If so, then try to perform 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.

34 Responses to “Feeling Hungry After Exercise”

  • TOTALLY agree with you here. I never really thought about it but yeah, the last thing on my mind after a tough workout is chowing down.

  • geos1991:

    this is absolutely true.when i return home after my -10 minutes- sprints in hell followed by 30 minutes steady cardio the last thing i want to do is eat.. even after one hour i force myself 2 eat so as not to cannibalize any muscles.

  • All i want to do is shower and lie down after a strenuous workout not stuff my face with food, sometimes on a rare occasion I do get hungry though and listen to my body and just eat.

  • Toni:

    I used to be ravenous after running 4 miles; feeling like I could eat a horse! But not so after lifting weights, I just want a hot shower and the remote afterwards.

  • All,
    Thanks for validating what I suspected from my own experience and reading. Intense exercise does seem to be an appetite suppressant, at least right after exercising. Just another reason to work harder in the gym!
    Dave

  • Dave,

    I am usually hungry immediately after low-intensity exercise, but most of my workouts are high-intensity. I don’t feel hungry at all after these, but I do get very hungry a couple of hours later. This is when I usually have a large meal with more carbs than usual to take advantage of the “window” after intense activity when I am replenishing my glycogen stores. In general, the less active I am, the less I try to eat.

    Alykhan

  • Dave,
    I tend to workout late so I avoid hunger pangs by sleeping. I workout, go home and I’m sleeping within an hour soon after.

    However, on weekends when I get a workout I end up not eating easily for for 2 hours soon after. My hunger does not kick in until then.

    -Sam

  • Jill:

    I’m only doing low intensity workouts right now and I do feel hungry right after. It’s not I’m-so-hungry-I-can-wolf-this-down kind of hunger, though. I try to eat slowly and when I feel full, I stop.

  • geos1991:

    dave, by following yours and martin’s tips i stand at 82.5 kg being 184cm tall after only the use of intermittent fasting and some hiit workouts in 6 weeks previous w8: 89 kg.BEST condition of my life i cant fuc$$$$ believe it!!now i am going to start bulking up some muscle but those 2500-3000 calorie days look so scary, i just dont want to turn back to my obese self if something goes wrong :( and after eating almost everyday 1600 calories – 500 calories burned in cardio i see it as a radical change.Anyway,i am rly grateful to you guys it is very rare to deviate from mainstream bullshit these days but thx 2 you i am more motivated than ever and i will make sure that most people i know will get to see ur websites and acknowledge ur effort in providing quality information in comparison to “gays health” magazine and its 100000 ways to abs workout and sex techniques….

  • Alykhan,
    I generally have a big meal a few hours after intense exercise as well. Feels like a natural time to replenish nutrients.

    Sam,
    Sleeping is definitely one way to avoid hunger!

    Jill,
    Certainly a good approach…no need to go crazy and eat too many calories.

    Geos,
    Martin is more of an expert than I’ll ever be so I’m honored that you mention my mine next to his. Sounds like you’ve had some great success so far. My advice on bulking up is to take things really slow. Don’t just add 1,000 calories per day. For example, after coming off a pretty rigid diet and exercise routine, I’ve started doing Phase 1 of Visual Impact Muscle Building again. Instead of just eating whatever I feel like, I stuck with my rigid diet and slowly added calories each week. The first week I added 200 calories of peanuts every day. The second week I added a couple hundred extra calories of fruit. The third week I increase my portion size at dinner. Since then I’ve been gaining around a pound per week with no discernible fat gain. Good luck adding some muscle and feel free to ask questions along the way!

    Dave

  • Dave,
    I just did a spin class today. It was not too intense, but I was hungry as heck afterwards. I just try to down some almond butter or drink a lot of water to get over it, but that does fail sometimes!

  • Great post Dave

    For some reason I feel FAMISHED after a hard intense workout. Since I am always looking to pack on more muscle, I am not going to forgo this window of opportunity.

    However, if I am going for fat loss, I usually wait for an hour before eating.

  • Remember that often thirst is mistaken for hunger. I always make sure that when I am in a fat loss mode that I concentrate on re-hydrating myself with water. You will find that this will take away most of the hunger pains.

  • Niko,
    That’s something I preach a lot as well. Hydration is critical for a lot of reasons.
    Dave

  • I was searching on the web to find reasons why I get hungry after I workout, but it appears that people lose their appetite after doing exercises. I on the other hand am starving by the end of my workout which consist of my simple step class, abs & thighs, and balance ball (all three combined sum up to a 1.5 hr exercise) and then on other days I just run on the treadmill and do some abs (which combined is a 1hr routine). I have been doing this for the past 5 weeks and at first I lost four pounds but now I’ve gained them back and I was wondering if something is wrong with me because I end up feeling all starved by the end of my workouts….what should I do?? I am starting to feel like giving up :(

  • May,
    A lot of people lose their appetite after intense exercise. Appetite tends to increase after low/moderately intense exercise. If appetite is a problem, then perhaps you could try increasing the intensity of your workouts and see what happens. Otherwise it’s just going to take a lot of willpower to prevent overeating after your workouts. As far as weight loss in general, most people see the best results when they start and then the pace slows. Be patient and you’ll do well.
    Dave

  • High intensity exercise is one of the best appetite suppressants out there. It may not last for long, but combining HIT with other appetite suppressing methods like drinking water, fiber, cheat meals, and getting in enough nutrient dense calories, can really help control food cravings.

  • Tony,
    I’d agree with all the methods you mentioned for controlling hunger. Appetite suppressant can be one of the keys to weight loss.
    Dave

  • That’s odd I thought feeling hungry after work outs was a normal reaction. I’ve been playing soccer at a highly competitive level for quite a few years now and am always ravenous after practices or games. I went to soccer camp for a week where we were undergoing 3 vigorous practices each day and I know that we all ate as though we had never seen food before at meal times. Don’t worry too much about it just have fun.

  • Everyone’s body reacts differently. A lot of people aren’t immediately hungry after intense exercise but that hunger may come later when your body is ready to replenish nutrients.

  • it just depends on the person. you need to eat something light with carbohydrated before you work out and within 45 minutes of finishing your work out, eat something with more protein in it. this will give you the energy to work out and then the food you eat afterwards will go directly back into giving your body energy and nutrients rather than having your body store it as fat.

  • BrandonAdams:

    Shoot I want to eat an entire stable of horses after whatever I do.

  • Brandon,
    That’s no problem at all…eating after exercising is probably the best time to eat. A lot of people are just too exhausted to do it after an intense workout.
    Dave

  • i get really hungry at the end of my workouts too, and this is because you burn off the calories you eat during exercise.
    especially for you, if you’re trying to lose weight, you probably aren’t eating as much as usual, so the calories will burn quicker.
    instead of eating after working out, before you work out, eat a good serving of protein. that’ll help you burn fat and calories you don’t need, but will store and keep you full!
    hope this helps :)

  • Kera:

    Blah.. I usually eat after about.. 30minutes of my workout. I can’t help it. I always feel hungry after working out. Mum then usually has dinner ready 30min to an hour after I work out. Does that mean I’m doing something wrong?.. This week I’m doing this work out
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LPi6ZkrGCv8&feature=my_liked_videos&list=LLb1T3j0ggTDFZMpGJBUzs5g
    Followed by a 1mile walk that I do with my brother. My brother is a little heavy therefore that cardio is the best he can get right now, he also has an injury with his foot. I think I’m getting a pretty good work out, no? My fat is still going down! (:

  • Kera,
    You’re not doing anything wrong at all. That’s a pretty intense workout you’re doing and following up with a 1 mile walk is ideal. Waiting 30-60 minutes after finishing your workout is good as well. You should always do what works best for your lifestyle. Keep up the good work!
    Dave

  • Kera:

    Ah fantastic :D
    And I have a question about this food.~
    I want to make this
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Fp42edQ3dXw
    It looks so good and it seems really healthy
    However I would replace the white rice to brown rice (Or Quinoa, Idk what is healthier)
    And no ground beef, I’d probably eat half a chicken breast. I just need some sort of grain. Only grain I get usually is my ezekiel bread in the morning with my egg whites. I don’t think I’d do the sauce either. But I love bean sprouts and grains.. The reason I gained weight in the first place is I am a HUGE pasta lover. If I could, I would eat it every day lol ._. So yeah..

  • Kera,
    Here’s a somewhat similar recipe without the meat:

    http://www.nytimes.com/2011/04/15/health/nutrition/15recipehealth.html

    The problem is that a meal like this is really heavy in carbs…being a pasta lover myself, I can certainly say it’s more challenging (but not impossible) to lose weight when you eat that many carbs in one sitting. I try to limit rice, noodles, and pasta and instead focus on lean meats and green veggies. Boring, but that’s what it takes sometimes. Cheat days on the weekends help keep me sane though.

    Dave

  • Kera:

    Ah. Sounds like a fun recipe. (: And yeah.. it is a lot of carbs. Weekends are my cheat days as well. However I’m not excited for todays workout.. it’s basically cardio on cardio. Fat must come off. -_-
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WOvIKdG7AwM&list=FLb1T3j0ggTDFZMpGJBUzs5g&index=34&feature=plpp_video
    WOO HOO :DD aha. -_- Anyway. Must go workout. I’m about to die, Lol -_-

  • Kera,
    Another pretty intense workout, fun stuff! Hope you at least get a nice endorphin rush afterwards!
    Dave

  • Taree:

    Ok, so I just recently started to work out to lose weight. I do 45mins on the treadmill and 15mins cycling, then work on abs, thighs and arms. I am attempting to reduce weight significantly due to being obese. I am finding I am eating more especially after my workout which is discouraging since I am trying to lose weight. Please help! I keep getting different advise, what gives? I’ve started eating more protein. I here there is a difference between fast and slow carbs and I should try eating slow carbs with my protein throughout the day. What are slow carbs?

  • Taree,
    You describe a common problem…most people get hungrier after they start to exercise so it becomes counterproductive. More protein is good because it fills you up…same with veggies and other high fiber foods. Fast carbs are generally consider the bad ones…anything with sugar or processed. Slow carbs would be whole grain, natural. If you tend to eat a lot right after your workout, try reducing what you eat at other meals when you’re not as hungry. You can use other general tricks as well to control hunger…don’t keep any excess food around, use smaller plates to control portions, brush your teeth or chew gum, etc. Hope that helps as a starting point.
    Dave

  • Kerv:

    OMG! After working out today, I can not stop eating… and it was sort of a high intensity work out for me, since i decided to use heavier weights…i usually eat very small portions and I’m not sure if I should continue eating till i’m full, or drink water and go to bed.

  • Kerv,
    Your body is probably begging to replenish its energy stores and nutrients after a high intensity workout. Usually a good idea to give it some protein and carbs within a few hours. Next time you plan to lift, try to eat smaller portions before lifting so that you can have some more calories after.
    Dave

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