I don’t know about you, but after an intense workout I am super hungry. Not only do I feel hungry but my mind starts to convince me that after all of that hard work I deserve a special treat. After all, I have the extra room after burning off all of those calories, right? Not so fast. Research suggests that one of the biggest plateaus to weight loss is eating too much after a workout! You may be eating more calories than you previously burned off without even knowing it. If you’re spending a ton of time in the gym but aren’t feeling as though your hard work is paying off, this may be why. Check out these tips to help you avoid overeating after your workout.
Plan a meal after your workout
If you already plan on having a meal after a workout then there is nothing to feel guilty about. Decide on what you’re going to have, and even prepare it before hand if possible that way there is no excuse to reach into the freezer for the tub of ice cream!
Have a pre-workout snack
Eating a small, nutritious snack before exercise can help curb your hunger, give you the extra energy you need to perform your workout and can also help in muscle recovery. Dates are great to eat just before a workout. Not only does a small amount fill you up, but the high sugar content will give you a nice boost of energy.
Have a post-workout snack
Whether you plan on having a meal after your workout or not, a smart post-workout snack will fuel your muscles and help curb your appetite. I’m a big fan of drinking a glass of milk or chocolate milk just after a workout. It has the protein you need to refuel those muscles and to prevent extreme hunger. Low-fat/skim milk, almond milk or soy milk are all good options. In addition, milk is a much better replacement for the sugar-filled sports drinks that are out on the market.
Surround workouts with protein and carbs
This is where you do not have to go “low-carb.” Pair up carbs and protein for nutritious snacks or meals both before and after workouts, with a ratio of about 4:1 carbs to protein. A general rule of thumb: if you are going to eat 60-90 minutes before your workout, have a solid, balanced meal containing a good amount of carbs and protein; if you are going to eat only 30 minutes or less prior to working out have a small snack or easily digested liquid like a smoothie or shake. Some research suggests that higher glycemic foods, such as the “white carbs” could be advantageous right after a workout. So, if you love white rice, white potatoes, white bread, or even have a favorite kind of cereal, post-workout would be the time to eat it!
Bring a water bottle
Be sure to have a water bottle by your side during your workout to sip on. Try to also drink a lot after your workout as well. This will keep you hydrated and helps with appetite control.
Make your workout fun
Some very interesting research was done at Cornell University suggesting that the more fun your workout is the less you will eat afterwards. During this study, researchers led participants on a 1.4 mile walk. Half of the group was told the walk was exercise while the other half was told that it was a scenic stroll. The “exercise” group ate more calories and more chocolate pudding for dessert after the walk than the “fun” group did. Thus, creating a workout that you love, whether it be fitness classes, biking, hiking, swimming, etc. may make you less likely to overeat after that workout.
Don’t overestimate the calorie burn
Even though you may feel that you got a great workout in, you probably didn’t burn quite as many calories as you thought. Remember that in order to lose weight we need to be consuming fewer calories than we burn. Don’t waste all of your hard work by eating more than you burned off after your workout.
Although these tips are a great way to keep from over-indulging post workout, remember that the key to weight loss is overall healthful eating and consistent exercise. Combine that with these tips and you’ll be well on your way to reaching your weight loss goals!