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How To Tame Your Hunger

 

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It’s the runners curse, right. You ALWAYS seem to be hungry and don’t know what to do about it.

There are several types of runners that are usually ‘Hungry Like the Wolf,’ as the old Duran Duran song goes. These are runners who are (1) significantly increasing their weekly mileage,  (2) doing really long runs or (3) trying to lose weight. And if you are doing all of the above, that’s a recipe for a whole lotta hungry!

In this post I will answer some the questions you are “hungry” for (ok, bad joke).

 

Is Being Hungry Normal for Runners?
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In short, ABSOLUTELY! Due to an increased calorie burn most runners report increased hunger as the miles add up.  But everyone is different and not all runners want to take on a buffet after their long run. BTW, the buffet always wins, don’t do it. If running decreases your appetite post-workout you are in the minority.

The goal is to manage your hunger so not to become one of those HANGRY runners.  You know what I’m talking about… someone who is grumpy cause they aren’t eating enough.

 

Running, Weight Loss and Hunger
In my experience, running is the best tool for losing weight and keeping it off. However, for those wanting to lose weight, hunger is one of the most common challenges.

Those who struggle with weight eat for lots of different reasons. It could be true hunger but often it’s due to boredom, stress, or sadness (aka emotional eating). The next time you are hungry ask yourself if your urge to eat is true hunger. If not, find another way to handle your emotions besides food.

 

Running, Increased Mileage and Hunger
It makes sense that as mileage goes up so does your hunger, especially if you’re running long on the weekends. To maintain your weight, make sure to consume enough calories throughout the day to fuel your workouts.

The key is not to get a “deserves” mentality and feel like you can have that extra piece of cake or pie. If you let yourself go and eat until you are stuffed at every meal, you won’t make the progress you want.

One big tip I have for controlling hunger is to increase mileage (and your long run) slowly. This allows your body to adapt over time and you won’t feel as hungry as if you quickly ramp up mileage.

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Understanding the Hunger Scale
One of the best ways to manage hunger is through the use of the hunger scale. This is a numeric scale where you rate your hunger from 1 to 10.

The general idea is to never let yourself get to one end of the scale. You’re happy place is in the middle and if you get to a three then it’s time to eat again (stay in the blue). You will continue to eat until you feel you are at about a seven.

Remember, it takes about 20 minutes for the stomach to signal your brain that it’s full. Stopping at a seven keeps you from overdoing it. Try out the strategy and see how it works for you. With some practice you will be able to manage your hunger like a champ.

Now…if your stomach continues to rumble, assume this is physical hunger and eat another 200-300 calories and see how you feel.

Also, try the following suggestions to tame your hunger.


Never skip meals
Skipping meals is one of the worst thing you things you can do as a runner. I’d suggest you eat every 3 to 4 hours (figure out what works for you). This may sound like a lot but it’s an effective way to keep from going on a late night binge. This also allows you to eat less at one given time. Smaller portions decrease the chances of those calories being stored as fat. This also keeps your metabolism moving because if you’re not feeding yourself on a regular basis there’s a chance that your metabolism can slow.

 

Limit choices
When given more choices (especially unhealthy ones) we tend to eat more. Allow yourself just one appetizer, one side dish, one main dish, and one dessert when dining out. In your pantry at home don’t keep a variety of unhealthy snacks, just one.

Eat a Big Breakfast
Runners who start the day with a solid breakfast tend to eat less in the evening. Also, research shows that athletes who ‘backload’ their calories (ate more late at night) tend to have a higher body fat percentages. Even though they may be eating the same number of calories.


Summary
These are a few simple tips runners can use to tame their hunger. Because runners burn more calories, there is an urge to eat more to naturally maintain your weight. This compensation not only makes weight loss challenging, for many it can actually cause weight gain (but it doesn’t have to). Stay strong and resist the desire to overeat, you got this!

Now it’s your turn. Leave me a comment below and let me know one strategy you use to tame hunger.

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Learn the exact steps I used to become a 9x Ironman finisher, ultramarathoner, and Boston Qualifier. Take the guesswork out of race-day nutrition.

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