Today we’re going to look at how exercise affects your appetite, and how this relates to 80% fullness.
Imagine that you’ve just finished a tough workout. Your legs feel like jelly from the squats and you can barely lift your arms, thanks to the push-ups. Or you ran for 10 km. You sweated hard enough to drench a t-shirt.
Now it’s post-workout fueling time. Surely all that butt-busting earned you a hearty meal.
Or did it?
Many people eat enough after training to completely cancel out the fat loss from exercise altogether.
All that time in the gym, down the drain.
Why “working it off” doesn’t work
But don’t take our word for it. Let’s do some math.
Let’s take a 30-year-old, 5’5″, 150 lb woman.
Her basal metabolic rate (BMR) is 1472 calories per day. BMR is the energy required just to stay alive: breathing, digestion, etc. That means she’s expending about 61 calories an hour simply lying in bed.
If she goes out and jogs for an hour, she uses 544 calories. So, she’s expended 483 more calories than she would have done just by sleeping. This is a great start.
But let’s say that after her workout, she’s hungry and goes out for lunch. She worked out, so she thinks she “earned” a Big Mac (562 calories) and fries (384 calories).
That’s 946 calories… 463 calories more than she just used for exercise.
Yep, physiology is unfair
Here’s one more problem.
While women benefit tremendously from exercise, exercise isn’t as effective at helping them lose fat as men. (Blame hormones and evolution.)
You do need exercise for leanness, fitness, and a long healthy life. But exercise can only help you if you help it, with smart and careful food choices.
If you’re struggling to lose fat despite being active, it might be time to embrace slow, mindful eating and 80% full.
(And we suggest you ignore the diet tips from your 20-year-old male workout partner.)
Change your behavior, change your body
So what can you do about this?
- Understand your own body and behavior. Do you want to eat more after exercise? Or feel like you should? Or that you earned it, regardless of whether you’re actually hungry? Maybe like you “deserve a treat” for “doing the chore” of exercise?
- Change your expectations about what exercise should do for you. Exercise won’t erase poor choices, or simply eating more than your body actually needs.
- Recognize the proper role of exercise in a fat loss program. Exercise is not as good as most people think at “burning calories”, particularly for women. Exercise is a lot more like an air traffic controller that tells nutrients where to go and what to do — aka “nutrient partitioning”.
- Understand that it’s a lot easier to eat a little bit less than to “work it off”.
- Make nutrition decisions based on YOUR physical cues and evidence. Don’t make nutrition decisions out of fear or because “everyone else does it”. Sure, you might be worried about running out of energy. Sure, other runners might “carb up”. (And sure, if you have a male partner, he might apparently get to eat “whatever he wants”.) Follow what your body actually needs, and the good principles you’ve already learned as part of PN Coaching.
- Focus on eating to 80% full at each meal, no matter how much you rocked that workout.
- Also focus on having fun in your workout, rather than making it into a dreadful chore that you then get to “compensate” for. If you’re really not enjoying physical movement, find another way to move.
Recognize that you might want and like food more when you’re active.
Your brain might try all kinds of rationalizations to encourage you to eat more. You’ll have to face a bit of extra discomfort when sticking to the 80% full plan.
That’s OK — we know you can handle it.
Here’s the good news: You can change.
Keep practicing your good habits and eating to 80%, and you’ll change your appetite.
You’ll change your expectations. And you’ll even rewire your brain and change your appetite signals.
As always, stick with a little bit of short-term discomfort and you’ll reap the rewards in the long run.
Today, if your brain clamours for a post-workout treat, remind it of your Discomfort Deal and stick to your guns.
Be alert for any rationalizations or compensations. Keep working on that 80% full — it’ll pay off!
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