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Food tips, myths and facts

Are you blowing your diet after the gym?

Image credit: iStock/jacoblund

So you’ve left the gym after a enjoying a particularly good session and your stomach starts to rumble. You know you shouldn’t really have a snack or that you should at least stick to something healthy but you worked hard and are now hungry. Rather than reaching for some fruit, you treat yourself to some chocolate or a donut, which totally undermines the time you’ve spend in the gym.

Many people have the mentality that so long as they burn off the calories they’ve eaten through exercise, they can eat whatever they like. However, thinking like this can mean that you don’t see any benefit from your workouts and could actually result in you putting on weight.

Even if you’re hungry after exercise, you need to be careful about what you’re eating, staying clear of foods that are high in fat or sugar. You should always work to burn more calories than you eat, especially if you’re trying to lose weight. Completely blowing your healthy eating plan and using the gym as an excuse is not the way forward.

To help you avoid upping your calorie intake post-workout and stalling your hard work, here are our top tips to avoid eating too much after exercise:

Are you hungry or thirsty?

Sometimes it can be hard to tell if you’re hungry or just thirsty, which is a problem we face throughout the day as well as after the gym. You need to stay hydrated during exercise and replace lost fluids afterwards, so those hunger pangs may actually be your body trying to tell you that you need to drink water.

Instead of reaching for a snack, drink water to replenish your fluid levels and help you recover from your workout. If you’re still hungry after drinking, then pick up a small snack to help you feel energised. However, if your stomach has stopped rumbling, don’t eat anything just for the sake of it.

Choose a good post-workout snack

Regardless of what you might think, you don’t need to drastically refuel after working out. You also don’t need to load up on the protein to help with muscle repair. In fact, unless you’re a professional athlete or almost at bodybuilding standard, you tend to be able to give the protein shakes a miss so long as you get enough protein and carbohydrates throughout the day.

Post-workout snacks should be all about replacing what you’ve lost during your session, which is why water should be your first port of call. They also shouldn’t be high in fat or processed sugar as this can undo all your work. Believe it or not, but something simple like a banana is the ideal choice for after the gym.

Bananas provide energy in the form of natural sugars, contain a lot of fast-acting carbohydrates – which are important post-exercise – and they are chock full of potassium, which your body can lose during workouts. On top of this, they will help satisfy hunger and stop you reaching for more food.

Plan your workouts around meals

One of the best ways to avoid feeling like you need extra food after your workout is to head to the gym before a meal. While you don’t want to be feeling faint from hunger, exercising before breakfast, lunch or dinner means that you’ll be able to satisfy your hunger without changing your daily calorie intake too much.

The important thing to remember is that your meals still need to be balanced. So while that greasy pizza may seem like a good idea after the gym, you’re still much better off with one of your healthy dinners instead. You should also still drink water straight after your workout to keep your hydration levels up. This means you should ensure you get a break between drinking and eating so you can manage a full meal and not feel hungry later on.

Change your habits

You might not actually be hungry after going to the gym. Instead, grabbing a snack may just be a habit that you need to break. It’s an easy trap to fall into if your stomach started rumbling after your first few workouts, as you just start to accept having a snack as part of your gym routine, even if you don’t feel hungry.

Rather than heading to the shop straight after leaving the gym, pay attention to your body to see what it needs. If you do feel hungry, drink water and see how you feel in half an hour. If you don’t feel hungry at all, then you don’t need to replenish any calories so totally skip the snack – although still have some water.

Paying attention to your body is the best way to avoid unneeded snacks and keep your calorie intake down. This will help you avoid putting weight on even though you’re exercising regularly.

Don’t use exercise as an excuse for treats

Eating a healthy diet is easier said than done, as there are so many unhealthy treats available that can call to us. This is why many of us say that we’re having a treat because we’ve earned it at the gym, but this isn’t a great¬†mindset to get into and can lead to bad habits.

Rather than having some chocolate or cake because you’ve gone to the gym, allow yourself to enjoy a treat every now and then in order to vary your diet. Abstaining from treats completely isn’t the best way to keep your diet healthy, instead you should enjoy them in moderation.

Give yourself a treat every week without feeling guilty about it rather than justifying unhealthy food with your gym session. Not only will this help you see better results with weight management and help you stick with your diet plan, it is also a healthier way to look at food.

Using these tips could help you better manage your diet and ensure you see the best possible results from your exercise regime.

 

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