Post-workout hunger – is it normal?
July 1, 2017
Picture this, You’ve just finished an intense training session at the gym and you’re really not thinking about food, in fact, food is the last thing on your mind. You get in the car and start driving, by the time your halfway home your stomach is starting to growl and by the time you get to your front door you feel like you could literally eat anything in sight. Welcome to post-workout hunger. In those precious post-workout moments, you could potentially undo that 500 calorie burn you just achieved from your workout by eating an entire 1000+ calorie pizza, or chocolates, or both.
So why does this happen?
Your body requires a certain amount of energy, in the form of calories from food and drink, to be able to function on a day to day basis. This energy allows us to do the simple but important human functions such as moving, keeping your heart beating and providing fuel for your brain and muscles.
The amount of energy your body requires every day is dependent on 3 main factors .
Basal Metabolic Rate
Firstly, the largest part of the energy your body requires is dependent on your Basal Metabolic Rate (or metabolism) which is largely calculated by things such as your age, gender, body composition and ethnicity.
Physical Activity Level
The second factor that contributes to the amount of energy your body requires is dependant on your Physical Activity Level – people who are more physically active burn more energy and people who are more sedentary burn less.
Diet Induced Thermogenesis
Lastly, and to a lesser extent compared to the other two factors, something called Diet Induced Thermogenesis which in simple terms means how much energy your body uses to break down certain foods.
When you finish a workout, especially an intense one, your body would have burnt a significant amount of energy (or calories), with cardio-based exercise burning the most. Your body doesn’t realise this at first, because of the way your nervous system works. When we are working out, our body is in “fight or flight mode” meaning, that all our blood is sent to our muscles and away from our stomach – allowing us to use our muscles most effectively. After working out, our body enters the “rest and digest mode” and our body sends the blood back into our digestive system, giving us those hunger pangs that are all to familiar.
What it all comes down to
At the end of the day, the combination of our body switching on the “rest and digest mode” as well as having a significant amount of energy lost from our workout, our body aims to replenish the lost energy – leaving us to be ravenously hungry.
For more ideas on how to prepare yourself for these hunger pangs see our article on Post-workout fuelling: How to maximise your gains
For more individualised advice on how you can optimise your diet for exercise, book in to see our vegan sports dietitian here.