Are you eating more because you go to the gym?
If you exercise regularly, you will know the feeling of intense hunger that can accompany regular high intensity workouts – that need to eat something immediately if not sooner and usually something high carbohydrate in nature to try and satisfy that relentless hunger. This may happen when you first arrive home after a long day before you have prepared dinner, or late afternoon a few hours after lunch and may seem as if you simply cannot get enough food into your system.
An unfortunate side effect of regularly training at high intensity, as is the case for cross fit fans, runners and endurance athletes is that we can easily fall into the trap of permitting ourselves to eat foods that are high in fat and calories simply because we are ‘burning it off’. While this may hold somewhat true for athletes training 3 or more hours each day, for those of us who exercise to keep slim and fit, exercising more does not mean that you can eat whatever you like, and it may be this mentality that is preventing you from reaching the goals you have set for your weight and your body.
Even when your goal is weight loss, for every extra hour of high intensity exercise you do will require you to eat an extra 100-200 calories to help optimise weight loss. Failing to do this will over time see your body burn your calories less efficiently, or result in you binge eating later in the day when your body begins to realise that you have not taken in enough calories for the amount of training you are doing. In real life terms, this will simply mean adding in an extra piece of fruit, slice of bread or tub of yoghurt to the meal before or after your workout. You will notice that doing this helps to prevent the extreme cravings that can be experienced later in the day when you have taken in insufficient calories.
Avoiding going long periods of time without food will also help the regular exerciser stay in control of their food intake and appetite. Late afternoon cravings or late night binges generally accompany the low blood glucose levels that are seen when fit individuals have not eaten for 3 or 4 hours as is the case before dinner or even late afternoon. To avoid this scenario, if you train late afternoon or early evening, you will need a substantial snack or small meal late afternoon. A piece of fruit or a snack bar will not cut it – instead try a small wrap, protein shake with fruit or nuts or a small serve of your lunch to keep you fuelled and satisfied for another 3-4 hours before dinner.
For nutritionally balanced breakfast, lunch, dinner and snack recipes, try my free Shape Me recipes here.
Finally, just because you train does not mean that you can eat numerous chocolate biscuits or ½ a block of chocolate every night and still keep your weight and body fat low. Even for active people, late afternoon or evening treats should be limited to just 100-200 calories or a single biscuit or row of chocolate and if you cannot control yourself with a whole packet or block, do not buy them. It is once you consistency reduce your calorie intake on a daily basis and avoid the extras and binges that you will finally see the changes in your body that you have been working towards.