Exercise can produce a voracious hunger. I know this better than most since I experienced it during my bike tour. There is a real visceral sense of hunger that comes from riding a bicycle. I’ve never experienced anything else like it. There is no question of hunger. My body tells me, “I need to eat!” There is no wishy-washy sense of maybe I’m hungry. It’s more like, “feed me now!” I’ve had similar experiences while triathlon training. Those long swims followed by a run or bike can produce a solid need to eat! Learning how to eat can be difficult in these situations when your body demands food right now!
Exercise and eating is a hot topic especially for those physically active. I have had to dramatically increase my calorie intake on my bike tour and while training intensely for triathlon. I came into training very weight and food conscious. It was very difficult to change my mindset to eat more. When I first started triathlon training I was eating far less than I should have. It took me a long time to find a good amount of food that would fuel my training and leave me feeling healthy.
There is another element of exercise and eating that is a huge pitfall. Recently, I’ve fallen into this pit as I take longer breaks from biking. My body still wants the calories, but I am not doing enough exercise to support the eating. That voracious hunger still remains, yet I am not doing enough to burn off the excess food. As a result, I have gained a bit more weight than intended on extended stays. My body felt unhealthy and sluggish!
I want to help you find a healthy relationship between exercise and eating. I want you to avoid the pitfalls I have fallen into. Exercise and eating are tough especially when you are trying to lose weight. Follow my experiences so you can find peak performance and stay healthy (you may even lose some weight).
Start with What You Know
If you try to change your exercise and eating habits at the same time, you’re bound to fall off the wagon. It’s hard enough to start a new training regime. Work on establishing that first before changing your diet. Establishing new habits takes time and you need time to establish healthy routines. Get your training regime nailed down first. If you need more help creating a fitness routine check out my comprehensive post.
If you already have a healthy diet, you likely will not need to change much. A healthy diet fuels your training. Yet, the best way to begin is to follow your hunger senses. Increased training and exercise will increase your hunger. Listen to your body. Eat when you’re hungry. Separate cravings from hunger. Before eating take some deep breaths and understand what it means to be hungry. Think of the times you were starving and grade your hunger on a scale from one to ten with ten being starving.
Integrate the Right Food to Fuel your Exercise and Eating
I’ve talked a lot about eating right in past posts to fuel your training. It’s all about eating what your body needs. Once you have a set training routine down, it’s time to establish healthy eating habits. Check out my comprehensive post on eating healthy to fuel your exercise and your health. Good health begins with eating right, so begin creating healthy habits today!
Increased exercise results in increased hunger. You’re burning more calories, so naturally, you will have to eat more. Luckily, your body will tell you this! We all have had the visceral sense of hunger that comes with increased exercise. Compare this sense of hunger to a lazy day. There is a huge difference!
You don’t have to be starving to enjoy a meal, but increased exercise will increase your hunger. Fuel up with more protein and unprocessed starches for recovery. Give your body what it needs to complete your next session. Gains are made after training, so you need to fuel your body to recover properly. Don’t make the mistake of not eating enough. You will have to eat more! Increase your starch consumption especially with low-intensity endurance efforts over 2 hours and high-intensity efforts over 1 hour. Make sure you eat a well-rounded meal 1-2 hours before and/or after training.
I made the mistake of not eating enough when I began to train for my first half ironman. I had decreased energy and output during training. It wasn’t until I increased my starch intake that I was able to meet my training demands. Don’t make the same mistake as me! Add a cupped handful of starches (whole grain and unprocessed) at 1 or 2 meals when your energy levels are low. Don’t be afraid to experiment until you find what works for you.
Avoid the Post Training Eating Pitfall
A hard training regime creates an endless hunger. As mentioned you need to feed this hunger. The problem lies when you stop training for a holiday or for recovery. You’re used to eating a lot, so your body will be used to it too. You may even justify eating more to yourself since you know you will be back in training mode soon. I found myself in this exact situation when I stopped at various cities on my bike tour. I devoured food across cities with little regard to health. As a result, I packed on a few pounds that I had to carry forward. It was nothing dramatic, but I definitely felt different. It took me a few stops to realize that this sort of eating was not worth it.
I learned I felt better when I ate healthy. I could eat and enjoy some crazy foods, but I felt so much better sticking to my established healthy diet. A treat here or there was not a big deal, but falling off the wagon was not worth it. Just because you are training more does not mean you can eat whatever you want. This may be sustainable on a crazy calorie burning bike tour, but it still makes you feel horrible in the end.
Don’t approach exercise and eating by devouring whatever you want. You may burn off all the calories with high training volumes, but the right fuel will help you perform. Follow the previous tips to fuel up right.
With lulls in training, you have to be much more mindful of your eating. Your body will get hungry, but you don’t need to eat as much as you were eating when in full-time training mode. Lulls in training demand mindful eating. Be aware of your hunger and only eat when you’re hungry. You may be hungry because you’re used to eating a lot. Lower your portions especially starches and listen to your body!
Exercise and Eat Your Way to a Healthy Life
Exercise and eating are tough. Your body may have weird cravings and you can be insatiably hungry. Lulls in training do nothing to decrease your appetite. The key is listening to your body and knowing when you are hungry. Never eat just to eat! During heavy training sessions, it is important to fuel up with the right foods. When in doubt always eat whole, unprocessed foods. These will give you the fuel you need to live healthy while dominating your training. To dominate your exercise and eating routine follow these tips:
- Start with what you know – build your training regime first
- Follow your hunger cues
- Eat a whole food sustainable diet
- Add in more starches when needed
- Stay mindful and decrease food intake when in training lulls.
Exercise and eating right is not easy. Your body can do some weird things, but when you really listen to it you can dominate your life and training. What experience do you have with eating and exercise? What do you find that works? Do you have a go-to meal plan? Let me know in the comments!
If you need more help with your eating or training I’m here to help. I’ve helped people reach their goals no matter their ability. I’ve taught people to eat right and dominate their race. Head over to my coaching page to find a plan that works for you!
Join the Fitness Crusaders to FIGHT the battle for fitness
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