People who weight train often encounter the same basic problem: serious hunger after a workout! If you need to figure out why you’re ravenous after your strength training, your answers are here.
1. Your body needs more energy to fix itself.
Whenever you strength train, your muscles tear on a microscopic level. The body quickly repairs these tears, forming new tissue that builds up the muscle and provides more overall strength.
The complex chemical processes related to this development don’t happen without fuel, so many people find that their appetites increase slightly in the day or two after a strength routine, when the body is at its busiest at damage control.
2. Your hormones are shifting.
Exercise intially tends to lower appetite-boosting ghrelin. Later on in the day, however, hunger hormones surge back up, according to Barry Braun, PhD, professor of kinesiology and director of the Energy Metabolism Laboratory at the University of Massachusetts.
At the same time, the hormones that signal you’re full go down. Experts think this is just the body’s way of trying to preserve homeostasis – it “knows” that you’ve just expended a bunch of energy and subsequently tries to get you to ingest more calories to keep your weight stable.
Women tend to get the post-workout munchies more than their male counterparts, which might be because they’re hardwired to preserve some fat for reproduction.
Research by David J. Stensel of Loughborough University also reveals that ghrelin doesn’t lower as much with weight training compared to cardio.
3. You have a hormone problem.
Some research suggests that people who are overweight are more resistant to the appetite-suppressing hormone leptin. If you have this resistance, you might find it a lot harder to walk out of the kitchen after training because your body isn’t able to keep other hormones such as ghrelin from getting out of hand.
4. You’re revving your metabolism.
Weightlifting is an anaerobic activity, meaning that your body doesn’t use oxygen to convert energy and uses only carbohydrates as a fuel source. Anaerobic activities increase the rate at which your body uses calories long after your workout is over (the afterburn effect). With your metabolism higher, you’re going to burn through food faster and become hungry sooner.
5. You feel entitled.
Sometimes, the idea that you’re hungry after pumping weights really is all in your head. Psychologically, you might feel like you deserve to eat a little more because of all the work you just did, so you become much more responsive to the hormonal increases that eventually drive you to the fridge.
6. You didn’t eat enough carbohydrates ahead of time.
As an anaerobic activity, weight training relies mainly on carbohydrates (glycogen), which is stored in the muscles, as an energy source.
Your muscles continue to use glycogen at high rates for up to 40 minutes after your training is over, as well, because they need to handle the excess blood that keeps pumping to them for a while.
If you don’t eat enough carbohydrates, your body will try to get you to eat to restore the glycogen stores, just so you can keep functioning.
7. You didn’t eat enough fat and protein.
Most people who weight train shy away from fat, wanting a toned, lean physique, but the reality is that fat is something that every single cell of your body uses to some degree. Along with protein, it helps you to feel full longer.
If you don’t have enough of either of these substances in your diet, your stomach empties much more quickly and cravings start to hit.
8. Your calorie cycle doesn’t match your training cycle.
Calorie cycling is a dietary method in which you alternate how many calories you eat in a day to trick the body and keep it from plateauing. For instance, if you’re shooting for an average of 1,500 calories a day, you might eat 1,000 Monday, 1,700 Tuesday and so on.
Remember, with a revved metabolism and repairs to take care of, your body will use more calories after a weight lifting session, so if you’ve got a low-calorie day set as a post-training day, your body might not be getting what it needs and might send out more hunger signals.
9. You’re weight training at the wrong time of day.
For most people, energy levels tend to slump a bit in the afternoon right around lunchtime. Yet, in today’s hectic culture, this is the exact period of time when people try to squeeze in a workout at their employer’s fitness facility or pop in an exercise video as the baby naps.
Other people try to get in their training early in the day, but at that point, they’ve used up most of their fuel from last night’s dinner. You might be seriously hungry after hitting the weights simply because you’re exercising when your energy reserves are already low.
10. You trained too long.
At a very basic level, the longer you train, the more of your energy reserves you use up. If you work at your strength routine for an extended period, therefore, you might need to eat in order to give yourself enough energy to keep going with your regular activities. Workout length also connects to hormone levels. Research shows that short-term training tends not to increase ghrelin as much.
11. You got dehydrated.
The symptoms of dehydration – for example, feeling weak – can mimic those associated with hunger. Many people eat because the saliva produced during chewing alleviates the temporary dry mouth dehydration causes.
Getting enough water also contributes to feelings of fullness. Try upping your water intake prior to your training and sipping a bit more as you exercise.
12. It’s meal time.
In the United States, people are conditioned to eat three meals a day. If you logically are trying to fit in your strength training between your meals, when you get around food again, the sight and smell of it works like the bell for Pavlov’s dogs. You perceive hunger and eat just because you’ve been trained to do so when the right aromas and images are available.