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3 Ways Your Appetite Changes When You Exercise

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Maintaining a healthy weight depends on two components: diet and exercise. While it’s technically possible to lose weight just by cutting down on calories, the most effective long-term strategy is to create a combined diet and exercise program. 

An important caveat: It might be tempting to embark upon a rigorous gym routine to get a toned body in no time at all. It’s simple maths, right?

Unfortunately not. Your initial momentum will fall away quickly if every workout is an ordeal. Instead, choose activities you actually enjoy. If you prefer a long walk in the sunshine to being barked at in spinning class, you do you! Exercise that’s fun and easy to fit into your schedule is far more sustainable than dragging yourself to the gym.

Exercise not only burns calories, but it can also cause appetite changes. Wild, right? Let’s find out how.

1: The Temporary High-Intensity Appetite Drop

Have you noticed that you feel less hungry after a high-intensity workout? It’s not an illusion! The phenomenon is actually just your body redirecting its attention to the most important parts of your body.

When you’re going all-out during an exercise class – on a run, while cycling, or even a really brisk walk – your body is put under far more strain than usual. In response, it prioritises blood supply to your heart, lungs, brain, and major muscles. 

When this happens, your digestive system doesn’t get a look in, because it’s not essential to survival. With a temporarily suppressed blood supply, your appetite changes – you’ll stop feeling hungry for a little while. 

That said, your appetite will return – with a vengeance! – once your body’s recovered from the workout. Then, it’s going to demand some serious energy. Avoid bingeing by choosing healthy, nutritious, and filling foods to eat after exercise. Think whole grains, lean protein, and plenty of fibre-filled veggies. Yum!

2: The Low- and Medium-Intensity Hunger Games

A high-intensity workout will give you a temporary reprieve from your appetite, but low- and medium-intensity activities tend to do the opposite. This is because your digestive system is still running normally, and receiving signals from the brain that the energy within your body is being depleted.

To combat this, make sure you eat before you exercise. Timing is important here. If you’re having a full meal beforehand, schedule it around 2-3 hours in advance. For simple snacks like fruit, lean protein, and whole grains, an hour in advance is perfect. It can also help to keep your water bottle nearby – not only does it keep you hydrated, but water can also temporarily suppress appetite. 

3: The Delicate Hormonal Balance

At the centre of every appetite equation are hormones called ghrelin and leptin. Ghrelin is the engine’s accelerator, and leptin applies the brakes. 

Exercise (particularly at high intensity levels) can temporarily suppress ghrelin, which means you’ll enjoy a brief period of reduced hunger. Leptin levels, meanwhile, can increase in these circumstances, enhancing the appetite-dampening effect.

Again, this won’t last forever, so it’s a good idea to ensure you have your post-workout replenishment sorted in advance. 

You’ve worked hard – don’t allow overeating to cancel out your efforts!

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