Post exercise hunger – do you suffer?


girl with hamburger

I have been back in regular training this week. I get up  and straight into a workout first thing every day along with my husband.

Post workout he cooks up the breakfast & we sit down together.

The other morning we only had enough eggs and salmon for one person, so as the hubby has to cycle to work and the milkman would be delivering some more eggs in an hour he had the breakfast.

45 mins later I was completely ravenous, stomach was making lots of noises. I kept looking in the fridge, what could I have?  What was I allowed on my detox? I was determined not to hit the cereal so I waited until the eggs arrived & had a 3 egg omelette & salad.   Yum Yum.  It was worth holding out for.

This reminded me of the exercise & hunger issue that someone had asked me about a few weeks ago.

Post exercise hunger can be the enemy to those seeking to lose weight or to maintain  a low weight when training for an endurance event such as a 10k, marathon, Mud run.

Exercise does trigger hunger as it is seen by the body as stress so releases the stress hormone cortisol. This forces the body to go into overdrive to recover and protect itself. 

After exercise (not immediately)  your hunger hormones surge & your satiety hormones decrease so you feel ravenous. This is to try and make you you eat to replenish the lost energy and repair the broken down muscles.

Long aerobic exercise raises cortisol levels more than high intensity exercise. The body detects low energy levels that this type of exercise creates and it releases the hunger hormones so that you replace the energy used to allow the body to continue to function correctly.

And…guess what ladies

It is scientifically proven that ‘the desire to want to eat post exercise’ is worse in women than men. It is believed to be due to women’s bodies being hardwired to hold on to energy for reproduction.

It is very easy to completely over eat &  make poor food choices when hunger strikes.

The energy – exercise equation is also not easy to judge. It can take more than an hour to burn 500 calories and 2 minutes to eat them back again.

So…. do not be tempted to eat more or what you want post exercise because you believe you have burned off hundreds of calories, or because you deserve a reward for all the hard work that you have done.


There are things that you can do to help curb the hunger and prevent eating the wrong things.

1. Eat a carbohydrate & protein snack 30 mins before exercise.

Eating  before will keep your energy levels from depleting too much.

Examples of what to eat

• Small handful of nuts (about 10) with some dried fruit
• Full fat natural yoghurt & blueberries
• An apple with a teaspoon of peanut or nut butter

2. Eat a carbohydrate & protein snack  **immediately** after exercise.

Studies have shown that muscles are most receptive to refuelling (replenishing the glycogen stores) within the first 30 minutes after exercise.
Wait too long to eat and the  intense hunger can trigger overeating or poor food choices and you will reduce your bodies ability to use the carbohydrates that you do eat (not good for weight loss)

Examples of what to eat

• Recovery drinks (not sports drinks)
• Chocolate milk shake
• Smoothie made with fruit & yoghurt or protein powder.

3. 45 mins – 1 hour after exercise eat a full a regular meal with protein and carbohydrates.


So next time you have a long or intense workout make sure that you eat immediately after.

Prepare your food or parts of it in advance so that you are not tucking into the biscuits while you are cooking.

If you are still hungry after eating  you are probably not eating enough protein, water & fibre in your meal. Up the portion sizes.

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