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15 Ways To Keep That Crazy Post-Workout Hunger From Ruining Your Results

For when your stomach is an actual black hole.

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You've been working out more and that's great! But your stomach has become a bottomless pit and you can't stop eating everything in sight.

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Workout-related hunger is pretty common, especially as you start to exercise harder or more often. Besides being a buzzkill and making you feel endlessly hungry, it can also start to mess with your goals for workout performance, body composition, and weight management.

To understand how to feed the beast without torpedo'ing all that hard work, BuzzFeed Health reached out to Erica Giovinazzo, a registered dietician at Erica's Edge and head coach at Brick Los Angeles, and Brian St. Pierre, director of performance nutrition at Precision Nutrition.

Your revved up appetite is actually the result of your body trying to replace lost calories.

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"When you start exercising more your brain is going to tell your body that it needs more calories to replace those that were burned during your workout," St. Pierre tells BuzzFeed Health. "That’s why a lot of people experience increased hunger as their activity level goes up."

Your hunger throughout the day could also increase if you're working out harder, because the higher the intensity of the exercise, the more calories you're going to burn both during and after your workouts, Giovinazzo says. Here's more info on that.

The problem, of course, is that being hungry all the damn time is annoying. And depending on your goals, you may not want to replace all those lost calories — or maybe you want to replace them without creating a caloric surplus. So, here’s what you can do about that:

1. Keep in mind that most people seriously overestimate the amount of food they need when they're starving after a workout.

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In general, how hungry you are is going to depend on how long it’s been since you’ve eaten, how much you ate at that time, and how your brain responds to hunger and exercise. But in many cases, St. Pierre says people will think they need much more food than they actually do and overeat because of how ridiculously hungry they feel.

"There is no exact correlation between how many calories you’ve burned and how hungry you are," St. Pierre says. "It’s not like you worked out and burned 200 calories so you're hungry for 200 calories. The amount of food you need and are hungry for will be very different from person to person."

He says the reason some people feel incredibly ravenous after exercising is because the amount of satiety hormones — which regulate appetite and tell you how much energy you need — drop when you're working out. Additionally, exercise uses stored-up nutrients and blood sugar, which sends a signal to your brain that your energy levels needs to be replenished. Your brain responds by increasing your hunger to fix it.

2. So avoid making food decisions based on what a calorie tracker tells you.

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Giovinazzo says many people have a hard time reaching their fitness goals because they overestimate the calories their workout has burned — because their fitness tracker is off or because they’re relying on the readout on gym equipment like treadmills, which are never accurate — and then will eat more than usual to “replenish” the calories they haven’t actually burned.

3. When you do sit down to eat, slow down so that you give your body a chance to feel full.

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When you're really hungry, it's like you can't shove food in your mouth fast enough, and St. Pierre says that's because your hunger hormones are telling your brain to signal your body that you absolutely need to get food into your system RIGHT AWAY.

The thing is, it takes around 20 minutes for your brain to recognize how much food you've eaten, he says. So he recommends taking your time while eating so that your body can relay to your brain how much food you're actually taking in and help you recognize that you're starting to get full.

4. Don't wait until you're hungry AF to get food in your system.

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Giovinazzo says it's common for people to ignore their hunger until their next planned meal so they don't eat the extra calories in between. But that tends to backfire by making you even hungrier by the time that meal comes around, resulting in eating way more food than you would have if you had just grabbed a snack earlier.

She recommends keeping minimally-processed, protein-heavy snacks on hand at school, at work, and at home. That way you'll always have filling options that will get you happily to your next meal.

Here are some snack options that will actually fill you up.

5. Make sure you're eating the right amount of protein and fat so that your meals are actually filling.

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Giovinazzo says that if you're still hungry after eating a meal, it’s probably because the meal didn't have enough fat or protein in it. While carbs are important, they take much less time to digest, making it easy for you to be hungry again in a shorter period of time. Also, fat and protein promote the release of satiety hormones, which will help you feel fuller faster.

Here are some high-protein breakfasts and lunches that are tasty and easy to make.

6. Try to eat a majority of the protein on your plate first, before going for the fat and carbs.

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Protein is slow to digest, so eating protein-heavy foods will make you feel full faster and for longer, helping you avoid overeating due to your initial hunger, Giovinazzo says.

Also, if you're going to go for seconds, try to make it a second helping of the protein part of the meal for the same reasons. Giovinazzo says carbs are digested quickly, and whatever carbs aren't burned by your body will be stored as fat, which may mess with your fitness goals.

7. Make sure you're recovering from your workouts and getting enough sleep at night.

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Oftentimes when people start working out, their sleep quality takes a hit, says St. Pierre. This can happen because they start prioritizing exercise and life obligations over getting a good night of sleep or because they're not recovering effectively from their workouts, which means that muscle soreness, hunger, or dry mouth (from dehydration) keep them from getting a good night of rest.

When you’re sleeping your brain is recuperating from the day, so that it can operate the next day to its fullest potential. When you don't get enough sleep, that process doesn’t happen as effectively and that will affect your hunger, your overall appetite, the foods that you’ll want to eat, and your overall impulse control, says St. Pierre.

So make good-quality sleep your first priority. Then St. Pierre suggests recovering well by hydrating, eating enough carbs and protein, and stretching and foam-rolling your muscles.

8. Plan your workouts around your meals.

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If you're always hungriest after a workout, try to plan on exercising right before a big meal, says St. Pierre. That way, you can get in a good, well-balanced meal (good mix of fats, carbs, and protein — more on that below) right after you exercise, instead of snacking on whatever you can get your hands on until it's time to eat.

9. Or if you can't do that, at least eat something 30 minutes to an hour before and after you work out.

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Even if you're not hungry right after your workout, Giovinazzo says you should still eat a snack or a meal within 30 minutes to an hour of working out for a few reasons. Your body needs to get carbs — because you used them as energy to fuel your exercise — and protein — to help repair the damage you did to your muscles. Plus, as discussed earlier, the longer you wait to eat, the hungrier you'll get, and the less control you'll have over how much you eat and what you eat.

She says that if it's a snack, make sure it's high in carbs and protein, and if it's a meal it should be a combination of fats, protein, and carbs. Here's more info on that.

10. Trying different kinds of exercise (which require different kinds of fuel) might also reduce workout hunger.

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In some cases, you may want to evaluate whether or not your workout routine is actually having a positive effect on your life. For example, St. Pierre says oftentimes people who do cardio four days a week will eat a really high-carb diet and not get as much fat and protein-heavy foods. This can negatively affect them because carbs are not always filling and can raise blood-sugar levels, leaving them hungry all the time and making it more likely for them to be tired and groggy throughout the day.

That's why he recommends you do a more diverse workout routine, mixed with different types of exercises (yoga, weightlifting, cardio, high-intensity interval training, etc.) so you can then eat a more balanced diet, which will help you eat healthier, work out better, and recover better post-workout.

11. If you're working out for two hours or more, have a high-carb snack while you're exercising.

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This will not only help keep your body going strong throughout your workout, but it'll also help you not be starving when you're done, says Giovinazzo.

She prefers a protein shake with juice because it's easy to pack and drink while working out, but it can be anything — a banana, toast with peanut butter, etc. — as long as it's high in carbs. Here are some other snacks you can consider.

12. Save your desserts for after your workout — but don't just automatically eat one because you "deserve it."

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One of the biggest things that holds people back from seeing exercises results is the tendency to eat "reward meals" says Giovinazzo. Like when you feel more inclined to over-eat or ~treat yourself~ after working out, because you feel like you deserve it or think you can "afford" the calories. Again, this goes back to the tendency to overestimate the calories you burned during a workout.

That said, having treats in moderation is great and you shouldn't restrict yourself from the foods you enjoy, she says. But if you're going to eat sweets — such as candy or cookies — it's best to do it directly after a workout (within 30 minutes after exercising) when your body needs to refuel it's carb stores and is still burning calories from the exercise.

13. Try to keep your meals as regular and as consistent as possible.

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It can be really hard to eat a consistent diet, especially if you're always on the go and barely have time to fit a meal in let alone plan it out. But Giovinazzo says being regular with your meals and the food they consist of is important because it'll help your body work more efficiently and help you see better results from your workouts.

"If someone can meal plan and think out what they’re going to eat, whether that’s a full meal or just what foods they’re going to have and not have (rotisserie chicken vs. chicken breast from the deli), the more prepared you are for the day," she says. "And the more prepared you are, the more likely you are to make healthful, balanced choices about what you eat."

14. Don't forget to drink a lot of water. It can actually help keep you full.

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Drinking the right amount of water will help you stay full and help with hunger cues, says Giovinazzo. Plus, when you're working out more consistently, that means you're sweating more often and your body needs the extra water to keep you hydrated and help wash the lactic acid from your muscles.

15. And last but not least, remember that everyone's body is different and that some things that work for others may not work for you and vice versa.

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We're all ~unique~ so there is no absolute law on what works and what doesn't work when it comes to fitness and nutrition, says St. Pierre.

"It's all about trial and error, and experimenting with the rules and advice people give you to see what works best for your body," he says. "Maybe that means eating six small meals a day instead of three larger ones. Instead of focusing on the little things, you do whatever is going to keep you full and satisfied."

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