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Does Exercise Make You Hungrier?

Does Exercise Make You Hungrier?

By Sheryl Kraft

Created: 08/11/2009
Last Updated: 11/23/2009

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A reader writes:
"I recently turned 50 and decided to finally begin - and stick to - a serious exercise routine. I've been going to the gym four days a week doing 45 minutes of cardio and lifting weights. I'm so frustrated...it's been over 3 months and I've gained three pounds! What gives?"

In reading this, I realized that nowhere does she say she's also watching what she's eating. Hmm...I'm no doctor, but I wonder if she, like a lot of people I know (ahem, me) think that they can increase their caloric intake just because they're exercising - and still lose weight.

I recently began to put on a few pounds myself and couldn't really understand why. After all, I exercise faithfully and vigorously most days. And then, I realized what it was.

I was eating more, plain and simple. Taking that extra "snack" because, after all, I earned it - I worked out! But although I was exercising, it was not enough to keep those extra calories from adding up.

There's been a lot of buzz about an article that appeared last week in Time magazine about exercise and weight. The author, John Cloud, in his article " claims that a person will actually eat more when they exercise vigorously, since their appetite is increased and they lose their natural reserves of self-control. He contends that after exercising you may be more likely to trade in the stairs for the elevator and reward yourself with an extra treat.

Many medical professionals say that it's simple: don't eat more calories than you burn. And I agree. So, just because you exercise, you still have to watch what you eat, because chances are you are lulled into a false sense of how many calories your body is burning. I know I was. Not that I was eating unhealthy foods like donuts and lattes with whipped cream- my extra calories came from too much snacking on things like dried fruit and nuts - but calories are still calories, after all.

But here's what bothered me about the article: it depicts exercise as an almost hopeless cause. It just about says you shouldn't bother because, after all, it won't help you lose weight and might even make you gain some. According to the author, exercise stimulates your appetite and causes you to overeat. He writes this: After we exercise, we often crave sugary calories like those in muffins or in sports drinks like Gatorade."

Don't give up on exercise! It's still important - for a whole host of reasons; like reducing your blood pressure, , , and much more. Personally, I think it cures most ills (well, not exactly cures them, but maybe keeps them at bay).

So, what about being more hungry after you exercise?
For me, the "hunger" is definitely more psychological than physiological, a kind of reward system for a good deed. I wonder how everyone else sees this. If you exercise, tell me: do you eat more because you think exercise will negate the calories you take in? Or are you really, truly hungrier? And when you don't exercise, do you watch your calories more closely?

P.S. If you remember exercising back in your school days to the tune of click here to hear it all over again!


If I could look forward to a nice glass of chocolate milk after my workout, I might work even harder :)

A good thing to do after a work out is drink a glass of chocolate milk. It will help with the hunger. It is true that working out can make you hungry and it is true that muscle weighs more than fat. It is better to focus on the diet more then add the exercise to tone up.

Filling up on water is a good suggestion - I'm going to try that myself! Sometimes we do mistake hunger for thirst.

Thanks for your comment, Karisue.
You raise some good points. Absolutely, inches count. Loser-fit clothing is a very key indicator to how your body is changing. And eating nutritiously is key, too.


something to think about. maybe i need to try and fill up on water before i allow myself a snack after exercise. what do you think?

Muscle weighs more than fat. Working out, will help build muscle & tone your body. It is not unusual for someone to gain a little as they start getting in shape. Instead of looking at the pounds, look at inches. Are your clothes beginning to get a little looser?
Of course, you have to have eat a little more to add any physical activity in your life. This will help raise your metabolism, this is what you need to burn more calories.
As long as you eat nutritiously, & your workouts are making you feel good, seems like your on the right path.

Kristen - Thanks for writing. What a great goal to train for...good luck with your half-marathon!


Yes! I've been training for the half marathon and as my running increases, so does my appetite (especially for salty foods, not necessarily sports drinks). I believe that my body is craving what it needs to fuel my workouts, and even though I haven't lost weight I definitely feel stronger and more toned.


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