Hunger. The physical kind. (Not, like, metaphysical or spiritual or vampire or anything.)
January 7, 2009 6:42 AM   Subscribe

What does it mean that on days when I'm not exercising I'm constantly hungry?

I run every other day. For example, one day I'll run 3 miles, the next day rest, the next day run 4 miles, the next day rest, the next day 3 miles, etc. On days when I run I am not so hungry--I mean, moderately so at the normal times. On my rest days, it's like I have a hollow leg and can't get enough food in me. I presume this means that I'm not eating enough of something but I'm not sure what. I also am not sure if that presumption is accurate.

The way I eat now, as point of reference: I tend to graze throughout the day (3 meals plus 2-3 snacks between). My diet now is lots of vegetables and fruit, whole grains (oatmeal and tortillas mostly; I rarely have rice or bread); a good amount of fish, some chicken/turkey. I try to eat good fat (nuts, avocado, etc.) but my guess is I'm not getting enough of that. In general I try to eat as much unrefined and unprocessed stuff as I can.

Thoughts or feedback? Any suggestions on healthy but filling (and yummy!) snacks would be great. I don't think I've found a great way to toe the line between maxing out on calories and undoing my exercise and getting enough of what my body wants/needs.
posted by Rudy Gerner to Health & Fitness (8 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
IANA doctor, or dietician, or personal trainer, but: I'd guess this is fairly normal. Partly because exercise can be a mild appetite suppressant. Also, on the days you are not running, your body is busy recovering and building muscle.
posted by lunasol at 6:52 AM on January 7, 2009

Are you running first thing in the morning, or later? Exercise as appetite supressant only makes sense if you're running first thing.

I think you're dehydrated. I often mistake thirst, esp after a workout, for being hungry (and as a result, eat too much.) You'd be surprised how much water you lose to sweat, even when it's cold.
posted by notsnot at 7:00 AM on January 7, 2009

notsnot, I drink a ridiculous amount of herbal tea, so I don't think it's that. Also, I'm hungry on days when I've NOT worked out, not on days when I have, or immediately following workouts as your describe happens to you. So, I think it's probably not related so immediately to the loss of fluids, etc.
posted by Rudy Gerner at 7:04 AM on January 7, 2009

No, I don't think you're eating enough. On your "eat the house" days, what is it you crave? My guess would be carbs. Have you tried replacing the calories you've burned within a half hour or so after running? Or eating a little extra on running days even when you don't think you need it?

But two other questions. One, are you gaining weight? If so, you're eating calories you don't need. Two, how many calories are you actually getting and do you actually need? I would suggest tracking for a week with a program like fitday or sparkpeople, both of which you can use to generate a calorie range you *should* be eating.
posted by liketitanic at 7:33 AM on January 7, 2009

you should try to do some exercise every day and drink water (a quart or more) in two or three of the times you feel hungry on a non-major-workout day. For example: I have a very light high-protein breakfast at 7 a.m. or so before the bus, then I try to do as many push-ups as I can when I get into the office, have about 4 oz of some kind of protein source and drink one gallon of water; then I am usually fine until 5:00. then i do some more push-ups and go home and have dinner.
posted by parmanparman at 8:53 AM on January 7, 2009

This seems perfectly normal to me. IANAD, especially not a people doctor.

It's on the rest days that your body is doing the hard work of recovery, rebuilding torn muscles, replenishing glycogen stores, creating blood cells (red and white), and just generally doing the heavy lifting needed to keep you alive.

When you stress your body by running first thing in the morning, your body switches into a preservation and stress kind of state, where it does not do this (which is why exercise acts as a mild appetite suppressant). Then, when the stress is over, your body can rebuild.

If you're eating what you say you're eating, it sounds like you're doing great. If you're trying to maintain your weight (i.e., not gain or lose), then I'd just tweak your calorie intake to make sure you're replacing what you spend running + the increase that you see in your basal metabolic rate (when you exercise, your body burns more calories sitting still and sleeping than you would if you were not exercising...).

Suggestions for yummy healthy snacks: hummus (dip tortillas that you cut into sections, or raw carrots, celery, and cucumber), milkshakes or fruit smoothies, cottage cheese with either fruit, or with tomato sauce if you want a savory treat (weird but good). I think eating some whole grain bread, rice (brown), and other grains (quinoa, barley, oatmeal, couscous, etc.) would probably not be a bad idea at all. The less processed the better of course, but since you're doing that already, I don't see any problem with eating grains that people have eaten for 10,000-50,000 years.
posted by zpousman at 9:15 AM on January 7, 2009 [1 favorite]

IANAD but it sounds to me like your body needs more protein.
posted by bink at 11:57 AM on January 7, 2009 [2 favorites]

Thanks everyone. You're all more or less correct--I was just not eating enough and what I really needed, I think, are carbs and fat. I eat a lot of fish and soy so I wasn't worried about protein. But in the last few days I've made an effort to have more whole wheat bread and nut butters and I'm already feeling a LOT more sated.

I already use Sparkpeople for calorie range but I think I need to keep in mind that I need to get those calories from denser stuff, like the snacks zpousman suggested, rather than just fruits and veggies, which just don't satisfy me!

Thanks, everyone.
posted by Rudy Gerner at 7:08 AM on January 9, 2009

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