“I’ve stepped up my mileage recently and I feel like I’m always hungry, even after I’ve recently eaten a meal. Is that normal? How can I avoid feeling hungry all the time?”
It’s perfectly normal to feel more hungry when you first start running or if you make increases in your mileage or running intensity, especially if you’re also trying to lose weight by cutting your calorie intake at the same time. You’re burning more calories, so your body needs to take more in.
So what can runners do to avoid feeling hungry? Here are tips on how to deal with and avoid hunger pangs, without overindulging, and hopefully lose weight in the process:
1. Eat plenty of healthy, high-fiber foods, especially vegetables.
Most high-fiber foods require more chewing, which helps to satisfy hunger. They’re also usually bulky so they fill up your stomach faster and can also delay the time it takes your stomach to empty. Also, many high-fiber foods are low in calories, so you can satisfy your hunger with fewer calories. Whole grains, fruits, and vegetables are excellent sources of fiber. These foods typically have a high water content, which also helps you feel full.
Vegetables in particular are a great option when hunger hits. They’re nutritionally dense – full of fiber, vitamins, minerals, antioxidants – and there are lots of choices, so you won’t get bored. Aim to include veggies of all different colors– white, green, yellow, orange, red, and purple – in your everyday diet.
2. Spread out your calories.
If you stick to a strict three-meals-a-day plan, you may feel extremely hungry and be tempted to overindulge by the time you eat. Eating more frequent, smaller meals helps keep you full, and will help you stay in control. Try eating five to six small meals a day instead of three large ones. Be prepared with healthy, on-the-go snacks, so you’re not tempted to eat whatever unhealthy food happens to be in front of you.
3. Drink plenty of water.
Your body may inadvertently send you a hunger signal when it’s really thirsty, especially if you have a habit of ignoring your thirst. If you’re hungry again soon after eating, drink a big glass of water and wait about 20 minutes. Your hunger may disappear.
4. Eat some nuts.
Nuts are packed with protein and fiber, both of which can help you feel satisfied. They’re also high in vitamins and minerals, so a handful of nuts is a perfect between-meals snack. Just watch your portions — nuts are high in fat.
5. Don’t keep tempting food in plain sight.
If you always have bowls of candy and other snacks within reach, you may fool yourself into thinking you’re hungry enough to indulge. Keep unhealthy snacks out of sight, and replace them with bowls of fruits and veggies.
6. Eat slowly.
It takes about 20 minutes for your brain to get the message that your stomach is full. If you eat quickly, you’ll eat extra calories while your body is figuring out whether it’s satisfied. By the time your brain realizes that you’re no longer hungry, you’ve already eaten more than you needed. You may have experienced this scenario when you’ve quickly eaten a couple plates of food to satisfy your post-long run hunger. If you eat slowly and deliberately, your brain will start sending signals to stop eating before you go overboard.
7. Choose real food and avoid the processed, refined food.
Filling up with nutrient-packed real foods, rather than the empty calories of processed foods, will keep your body happy and full.
Also see: How to Stop Eating Late at Night