Workout Then Pigout?

mallie-shirk-2By Guest Contributer, Mallie Shirk, Registered Dietitian, Licensed Nutritionist

Workout then pigout. It is a mindset and cycle that is easy to fall into and hard to break but if you want to achieve your goals we have to delete the workout then pig-out routine.  We are all guilty of it.  We work our butt off at the gym and when we get home we stuff our faces.  Research says that this is very common so do not feel like you are the only person with this mindset.  I hear it all the time at the box and from past clients that I have worked with.  In actuality dieters who workout the most do not lose as much weight as expected usually because of the workout then pig-out routine.  At times I have felt like I had to burn at least 800 calories on some of the WODs, but in reality it may be closer to only 300.  Overcompensating with exercise is very common, especially in women.  We tend to workout hard but have a difficult time losing the pounds and this is one of the reasons why.

It is important that we keep things real.  We have to make realistic goals.  In the real world none of us can eat perfectly every day but we can try to make good choices that prevent us from wanting to pig-out.  Understanding what we may not be doing to prevent the feeling of starvation after a workout is important along with some other tips I will give you.  But what do you do when you do pig out and cheat?  What do you do when you devour the bag of chips your friend brought to the party, attack the homemade biscuits your mother made, or scarf down the pizza at the pool party?  You feel guilty and feel as though you have failed but you have to stop there and tell yourself it is going to be okay. Do not let one bad meal or one day of poor eating turn into a week or month of bad choices.

Typically after I finish a WOD I am not hungry.  The thought of food usually disgusts me and I do not want to eat, however, the most important window for refueling is usually when you are least hungry after a workout.  Our body produces a hormone that dampens the appetite after working out so this is the main reason why you are not hungry but what happens a few hours after the workout?  You probably want to inhale everything in sight!  Most of us feel that we can wait till the next meal to eat but by the time you sit down you are starving.  What do we do when we are starving?  We overeat and we are more than likely to eat foods that are high fat and high on calories.

You busted your butt at Crossfit this evening so at dinner you order the french fries instead of the side salad.  Does this sound familiar?  We feel that we deserve a treat or a big meal after we workout.  According to research, people who think about exercise eat 52% more than those who did not and therefore we usually end up consuming more calories than we burned! Let me share with you how I was once guilty of this. When I was in college and lived in Illinois I joined the local running club.  I trained for half marathons and even ran the Chicago Marathon during this time and was burning tons of calories.  I was not weightlifting at the time but I was teaching yoga several times a week. I was part of a running club that had a habit of meeting after workouts to drink several beers at a local micro-brewery or we would meet up at our favorite breakfast place after an early Saturday run.  We had the mentality that we deserved those beers or that huge stack of pancakes so our weight loss efforts were stunted or even halted by this mentality.  Some of the runners would complain of weight gain even and the reality of it all was that these habits were allowing them to consume more than they were burning in exercise.

So to avoid undoing all of the hard work you put into the box always stick with your normal portions then wait 10 to 15 minutes and help yourself to more if you are still hungry.  I would also suggest eating more salads and vegetables instead of diving into more of something else.  We tend to not eat enough salad and vegetables anyway and the fiber that these foods contain can help with satiety.  If you still feel like you need more or you are truely are hungry, treat yourself with fresh watermelon or blueberries instead of that piece of chocolate.

That feeling of emptiness in your stomach does not always mean hunger.  Dehydration can make you feel hungry and tired as well.  When you feel tired your brain can make you crave food.  Dehydration starts before you are even thirsty so you can easily be fooled into thinking that it must be hunger.  Sip 16 to 24 ounces of water 1 to 2 hours before your workout and then have another 8 ounces 15 minutes before you head out.  During your workout take a few sips every 10 minutes or so.  If you weigh yourself before an intense workout you can weigh yourself again after then for every pound you may have lost sip 16 to 24 ounces of water to rehydrate.  Overall, the idea is to consume half your bodyweight in ounces daily.  This does include the water in food so take that into consideration.

If you are still struggling then it may be time for an audit. Track your exercise and your calories in on My Fitness Pal or use a Fit Bit.  The 800 calories you thought you were burning may actually only be 400.  That popcorn you devoured at the movie last Friday was a whopping 1,000 calories.  Logging and tracking really does open your eyes and help you realize what caloric amounts really are.

Make sure you are eating enough protein.  Not all at once in a protein shake but at every meal and snack.  I am suggesting 30% of your total calories, but some of you may need more.  2g per kilogram of body weight would be the max I would suggest.  There really is no need for more than that.  Protein does not cause you to bulk up like everyone believes but it actually helps you to slim down.

Try to remember these three things:

#1 Give your body premium fuel.  Fuel to give you energy to perform well at the box, but also to maintain energy throughout the day.  When you fuel your body well you also prevent injury.  Finding the right amount of calories can be tricky so that is where I can help with individual consultations.  Nutrition is highly individualized and just because you read in some magazine that you should consume x amount of calories and protein does not mean it will work for you.   Balance your meals among whole grains, produce, and lean protein, with a bit of healthy fat. Try to eat food instead of just shakes and bars.

#2  Eat your meals and snacks within 2 hours of exercising.  Try eating half of your breakfast prior to an early workout and then finish the second half after.  Eat within 30 minutes of finishing your workout as well.

#3  Meal Plan.  If you know what and when you are eating then you are less likely to pig-out.