Are you exercising regularly? Good for you! Feeling hungrier since you started moving more? Not so great if you are trying to lose weight. Eating back your exercise calories (no calorie deficit) — or worse, overeating — could be preventing you from reaching your goal. If you find yourself wanting to eat more since you’ve started training but you don’t want to derail all of your weight-loss efforts, here are a few tips to help control hunger while you keep workin’ on your fitness:
1. Focus on fueling your body with quality calories.
First off, if you are truly hungry, then you should eat! But don’t forget to focus on what you eat. If you are fueling your body with empty, processed calories, you may not be able to satisfy your hunger, or at least not for very long (no matter what those Snickers commercials may lead you to believe).
Give your diet a quality check; it may be just what you need to kick cravings to the curb. Start with these eight expert nutrition rules to improve your diet. It’s also worth mentioning that if you are already fueling with mostly unprocessed, nutrient-rich food, there could be some other issues influencing your appetite that are unrelated to your workout plan — such as a lack of sleep, stress or other factors — that you might need to address.
2. Time your meals to meet your needs and schedule.
After you’ve got the what down, if you are still feeling ravenous, try tuning into when you’re eating. Some people find that eating smaller, more frequent meals throughout the day keeps hunger at bay, while others may do best with the traditional three squares. There’s no perfect formula that works for everyone, so be sure to experiment with various options to find what works best for your body, appetite and schedule. And once you’ve determined the eating schedule that fits your needs, be sure to prep and plan around it so you don’t get caught waiting too long (think: getting hangry) inbetween meals.
3. Stay hydrated.
Drinking enough water is not only crucial for a healthy body, especially if you are sweating a lot during exercise, but it’s also:
- a great appetite suppressant. One study found that drinking two 8-ounce glasses of water before meals helped subjects lose more weight.
- an energy booster — so you can push harder when it’s time to work out.
- a calorie-free, natural fluid that helps you think more clearly.
Thirst can also often be disguised as hunger, so be sure you are guzzling enough H2O throughout your day. Having a hard time reaching your daily glass goal? Check out these 20 great tips on how to make it happen.
4. Add more activity, not exercise, to your day.
Finally, if you’ve tried it all and are still really, really hungry, you may need to look at your workout plan. I’ve personally found (and so have many of my clients) that too much exercise can backfire by leaving you ravenous all day long. It only takes a few minutes to eat back all of those hard-burned calories, so don’t let the “I burned it, I earned it” excuse get you.
You may find that concentrating your workout efforts to 30–45 minutes a day may serve you better than going for an hour or more. Again, there isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach for this one either, especially if your fitness goal is to run a half-marathon, for example, but it might be worth a try if nothing else has helped your hunger. A dedicated 30-or-so-minutes of training plus more movement throughout your day — try working your way up to 10,000 daily steps — may be the formula you need to avoid eating back your exercise calories while still reaching your goals of changing your body composition and becoming healthier.