Here are some tips:
Pack a Snack
Call it the workout conundrum: The most important window for refueling is also when you’re the least hungry. “Exercise boosts the production of a feel-full hormone, called peptide YY, that temporarily dampens the appetite,” says Enette Larson-Meyer, PhD, RD, an associate professor of human nutrition at the University of Wyoming. After a few hours, though, this effect ends, and you want to inhale everything in sight. “A common mistake women make is believing they can just wait for their next meal,” Detroyer says. “By the time they sit down, they’re starving.”
If you’ve worked up a sweat for an hour or more, have a little something within 30 minutes of finishing, even if you don’t feel like it. (A gentle yoga class or 30-minute walk doesn’t require refueling.) “The ideal snack has carbs to refuel your energy stores and protein to help repair muscle tissue,” Detroyer says. Shoot for 150 to 200 calories, such as a smoothie or a stick of string cheese with a few whole wheat crackers. If you exercise for more than 90 minutes, you’ll need a more substantial, 200- to 250-calorie snack, like a turkey sandwich on whole wheat bread or a frozen waffle with peanut butter and sliced banana.
Avoid a Reward Mentality
You killed it at CrossFit this morning, so at lunch you order the french fries instead of a side salad. Ring a bell? “We feel that we’ve earned a treat or a big meal after a workout,” Larson-Meyer says. According to a study in the journal Appetite, people who simply thought about exercise dished out 52 percent more of a snack mix than those who didn’t. “The problem is that many women wind up taking in more calories than they burn,” says Lauren Antonucci, RD, a sports nutritionist and the director of Nutrition Energy in New York City. Falling into this trap is even easier when you’re training with friends; pasta dinners and post-workout brunches can create an atmosphere of indulgence.
Clutch a Water Bottle
That empty-pit feeling in your belly may not be triggered by hunger. The signs of mild dehydration, such as low energy and sleepiness, can dupe your brain into craving food. And because these signals start before you’re even thirsty, it’s important to drink water early and often during your workout.
Challenging your body with speed bursts instead of just jogging may fast-track your weight loss. Intervals not only torch more calories than steady cardio, but they may also keep your appetite in check, according to a review in the Journal of Obesity. “During vigorous exercise, your body temperature rises,” Larson-Meyer explains. “And because working muscles require more oxygen, your blood flow is diverted from the gut.” Both of these factors work to suppress hunger, she says.
Outrun Your Hunger
Do a (Calorie) Reality Check
Can’t seem to shake those final five pounds? Chances are, you’re cooking the calorie books — and it’s time for an audit. “Some women overestimate how much they burn during exercise,” says Nancy Clark, RD, the author of Nancy Clark’s Sports Nutrition Guidebook. In a study from the University of Ottawa in Canada, people who expended 200 calories during a brisk walk guessed that they had torched 825 calories and then ate an average of 557 calories afterward.
Raise the Protein Bar
Some women worry that bulking up on protein leads to, well, a bulkier physique. But getting more of the nutrient can actually help you slim down. According to one University of Washington study, people consumed an average of 441 calories fewer on days when their diet was 30 percent protein compared with when it was just 15 percent protein. “Eating protein blunts the release of ghrelin, a hormone that stimulates hunger and increases the release of peptide YY, a hormone that controls satiety,” explains Heather Leidy, PhD, RD, an assistant professor of nutrition and exercise physiology at the University of Missouri. Her research revealed that having a protein-rich breakfast can help prevent unhealthy snacking later in the day.
Eating meals that are low on the glycemic index (GI) — a measure of how quickly blood sugar spikes — can keep you from feeling ravenous. In a study published in the Journal of Nutrition, women who ate a low-GI breakfast including muesli, yogurt, and fruit three hours before an hour-long walk were 44 percent less hungry in the afternoon and torched more fat than those who started their day with cornflakes, white bread, and jam.
The Eat Sheet
Preparing for a race requires long hours, so repay your body by giving it premium fuel. “What you eat can affect your energy levels, recovery time and even injury risk,” says White.
1. Don’t go carb crazy.
“All meals should contain protein to rebuild muscles, carbs to supply energy and fat to increase endurance,” White explains. Strike a balance among whole grains, produce, and lean protein, with a bit of healthy fat as an accompaniment.
2. Time it right.
Schedule meals or snacks within two hours of exercising. “If you have a lunchtime class, have half of your sandwich beforehand and the rest of your meal afterward,” suggests Antonucci. As with any other workout, you should eat within 30 minutes of finishing.
3. Plan ahead.
If you’re running or biking for more than 90 minutes, pack some fuel — about 100 to 250 calories for each hour — says Clark. Easily digested carbs, such as raisins and dried pineapple, provide a quick dose of energy.