We know that exercise can spike your hunger, but you might have noticed that on some days the hunger levels are higher than the other.
While there are several factors effecting our perceived hunger such as our overall nutrition status and recovery, relative energy availability (energy available for exercise -preworkout and periworkout nutrition), sleep quality and quantity, hydration status, gender, one of the variables is exercise intensity.
A recent study compared 11 men and their hunger response to medium (6 sets at 70% 1RM till failure, 90″IO )and high (6 sets at 90% 1RM till failure, 180″ IO) intensity training.
Reported hunger levels were lower in response to medium intensity training.
The moderate-load condition induced lower subjective hunger ratings than the strength condition immediately after exercise (19.7 ± 16.6 vs 47.3 ± 27.7 mm), 30 min after exercise (33.6 ± 22.9 vs 58.5 ± 29.9 mm), and 60 min after exercise (43.8 ± 26.6 vs 67.8 ± 27.9 mm)
You can see similar response to walking. Bodybuilders have been using walking as a strategy to increase their energy expenditure while preventing increases in hunger levels for ages.
Although not well supported by research, I observed the same to be true for most hard-training women (but in some men alike). They often report huge hunger after HIIT training and high volume training, especially when they skip breakfast, eat lack of carbohydrates to recover from previous session, or after a day being active at work before hitting a gym (low relative energy availability). This eating pattern often leads to higher hunger levels compared to when they fuel properly. So if you have been having trouble losing weight while exercising, or exercising more, this is a factor that can possibly prevent you from losing fat.
While we cannot make conclusions and recommendations based on this study alone, the effects of eating for performance are well-documented.
Think about how you respond to exercise and consider the factors I outlined above. For example, my hunger is greatly suppressed after a long endurance training or short but intense HIIT sessions (which don’t burn that many calories anyway) but there are people who have the opposite response.
Even if you are not hungry after a long endurance training session, it is wise to refuel soon after exercise to start recovery your body needs and possibly prevent huge hunger spike a day later.
What can you do to suppress hunger and get the most out of your training?
For your typical sessions lasting less than an hour, a simple strategy is to make a shake containing 15g protein and 20-40g carbohydrates.
In practical terms it might be a banana with Skyr, all time America’s favourite peanut butter jelly sandwich, chocolate milk or protein bars like peanut protein bar from Bombus.
If you want to know more about how to fuel for longer session, check this post.