Spring is the perfect time to set goals and begin a new training routine. And as we start to take the time to exercise we are filled with a vision of discipline, achievement, and newness. Yet there can be snags along the way. Overeating is one of those problems that comes up over and over. During a workout we are expending calories, so it completely makes sense to find ourselves extra hungry after a killer workout. And we absolutely have to replenish our nutrients in order to maintain a healthy lifestyle and receive all of the benefits of our workout.
We should find comfort in knowing that it is normal to feel hungrier on the days that we are more active. But how can we control our cravings, while refueling properly, and avoid eating more than we’ve burned? Nutrition and exercise work together to bring us to our optimal point of health and a balanced lifestyle. If we harness our food intake in a way that supports our bodies, we can avoid those crazy "post-workout cravings," avoid overeating, and achieve our fitness goals. Here are a few tips on how to achieve that balance.
1. Drink lots of water.
When we are dehydrated, our hunger sensations are triggered and during workouts we are losing water through sweat while also expelling our sodium. If we don’t rehydrate by drinking water and eating hydrating foods, we often assume the emptiness we feel from lack of hydration is hunger. Most people only drink water when they are thirsty or to wash down food. But we need to be drinking water all of the time, even when we’re not feeling an immediate craving. Sipping cool water all day eliminates bloating, soothes our muscles and organs, and also allows us to tune into our true hunger.
2. Have pre/post-workout meals.
It is important to have a small snack or meal one to two hours prior to working out. Having the proper fuel in your body will enhance your workout and will also help you avoid feeling starved afterwards. A piece of fruit with a handful of nuts is a perfect example of a healthy, energizing pre-workout snack. Within a half hour after working out, allow yourself to have a small post-workout snack. A complex carbohydrate and protein would be the ideal combination to replenish the glycogen you expelled during your workout and to heal and strengthen the muscles you’ve worked. An example of a great post-workout snack would be a Greek yogurt with a half cup of blueberries.
3. Have healthy snacking food on hand.
Always having a healthy snack with you in your bag or at your desk is a great way to avoid overeating. Especially if you’re in high exercise mode, when a craving hits, instead of running to the vending machine it helps to have a nutritious snack on hand. In order to feel more satisfied choose a high protein snack, such as a handful of nuts or a rolled up piece of organic turkey. If you feel more satiated throughout your day, by the time you are ready to sit down for a nice meal, you are a lot less likely to make an unhealthy choice or eat extra helpings.
4. Treat yourself once in a while.
Allowing yourself an indulgence once or twice during your week will truly help avoid those crazy cravings without having a negative affect on all of your hard work. It has been scientifically proven that we always crave what we can’t have. When we give ourselves the option to indulge once in a while, we shift our perspective from one that says we’re sabotaging a new program to one that allows us to truly enjoy a treat after a week of challenging workouts. When we allow ourselves a few squares of dark chocolate or a frozen yogurt we will both get what we need and have less cravings for the kinds and amounts of food we are trying to avoid!