The link between exercise and appetite is one that has long-puzzled researchers as some people find they get even hungrier after a visit to the gym while others notice their appetite is diminished. Or you notice a long walk with your husband has you heading straight for the refrigerator when you get home, but he seems to have no interest in the leftover pizza (or vice versa). Confusing, right? If you are trying to cut calories and lose weight, this could have you questioning the value of a workout, even though we DO know that being more fit means potentially better heart health and lower blood pressure.
So what’s an exercise-determined person to do? There’s no simple solution, but you could consider the timing and duration as well as type of activities you do to see how your appetite is affected. Several studies in recent years published by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) show that the impact of exercise can vary greatly from one person to another. Part of the reason may be due to your own fitness level and general metabolic factors that vary from one person to another. And men and women don’t necessarily react in the same way as far as appetite effects even when engaging in the same type of exercise.
To keep moving AND keep calorie consumption at bay:
- Some, but not all, studies found that high-intensity interval training (HIIT) may reduce appetite. HIIT describes any workout that alternates between intense bursts of activity and fixed periods of less-intense activity. Try running as fast as you can for one minute (or taking on one of our famous hills or trails!) and then resting for one or two minutes. HIIT typically involves alternating 30 or 60 seconds of all-out effort with one to two minutes of rest, a pattern that you repeat for the 20 to 30 minutes of a workout. Just be sure to get your doctor’s okay before beginning any new fitness regimen!
- Sometimes when we think we are hungry, we are actually thirsty. As a tip, if you drink water before each meal you will feel full faster.
- Think about WHEN you exercise – some people find working out early in the morning reduces their appetite for several hours while others end up ravenous. Evening workouts may be preferable, but they won’t be very beneficial if you come home and wind up eating more than you would normally. Don’t use your workout program as an excuse to consume more calories than you need unless you’re prepared to increase your activity level too.
Only way to know what works is to try changing up your routine. Then make that the right time and the right program that both you and your appetite can live with!
Keep an eye on our “Classes and Events” section for upcoming HCM programs that could offer more insight too. For more information about understanding your hunger cues, check out what the American Council on Exercise has to say.
Learn more about the NIH study re: appetite and exercise.