Feel that, the growing in your stomach after a work-out? That’s hunger, the honest-to-goodness kind, not the I’m-bored-so-I’ll-eat-ice-cream variety. It’s a good thing, and you earned it. Now, however, what you do about that hunger can make or break your weight loss goals.
The temptation, especially when minding calories, is to hang on to hunger until mealtime rolls around. Good intention, but wrong approach, says Boston-based sports nutritionist Nancy Clark. Hunger denied becomes hunger magnified.
If you get too hungry, you’ll have no desire to nibble on carrots; you’ll want carrot cake. While you may have burned off 300 to 400 calories during exercise, you can easily end up eating 500 or more calories to tame your appetite. Better to nip that hunger through strategic snacking.
Snacking after a workout does more than tame hunger: Research shows that eating the right foods helps repair muscle tissue, replenish depleted energy stores and prime you for your next exercise session.
Eating before exercise has its place, too. Your blood sugar goes on the upswing; you’ll have more energy, a better mood and get more out of your workout. Besides, exercising while hungry is just no fun, so you won’t feel inspired to keep exercising week after week.
Time it right
Whether to snack before or after a workout depends on how your schedule synchs with daily meals. If exercising first thing in the morning or after work, a pre-workout snack provides fuel for soon-to-be-working muscles. To avoid feeling full and possibly experiencing stomach cramps, allow 30-60 minutes between snacking and working out.
Post-workout, eat or drink something within about 30 minutes. Aim for about 200 calories per snack.
Choose food wisely
For a pre-workout snack: Your body quickly breaks down carbohydrates into glucose, the body’s fuel of choice. Grab fruit, grains or vegetables — something easy on the stomach.
For a post-workout snack: On the heels of exercise, your body craves carbohydrates to replenish energy stores and protein for repairing and building muscle tissue. Try apple slices with peanut butter or string cheese; fruit with greek yogurt; fruit and nuts.
With any snack, drink a tall glass or water for adequate hydration! Drink water throughout your workout, as well.
Julie Cantrell is owner of Hood River Curves.