Do you find yourself starving after a run?
Does your stomach screams for substance following a hard workout?
Are you experiencing runner’s hunger, aka “runger”, more than often?
If so, then you are not alone. In fact, this is pretty common and happens more often than you think.
The Runger Phenomenon
Runger, which is the hunger induced by running (Running + Hunger), is very common and can be handled without much trouble.
However, this little issue can become a real problem to be taken seriously, especially if you are serious about reaching your fitness goals, be it losing weight, building healthier eating habits, or improving running performance.
Therefore, Today I decided to share with you an excellent runger management program to help run your best and make the right diet choices. By following this program, you will get the needed nutritional value without going overboard or throwing your diet plan out of balance.
1. Drink Water
Drinking plenty of water before, during (for longer runs), and after a workout will not only help you stay well hydrated and keep your body functioning at its best, but it also helps you curb your cravings and control your appetite.
In fact, the empty pit feeling in your stomach might not always be a sign of hunger. In some cases, lack of fluid intake, or dehydration, can dupe the brain into craving food. That’s why a lot of people mistake thirst for hunger, so they end eating food when in reality they need some H2O.
Plus, making sure to stay well hydrated by drinking enough water can help prevent overeating as the water fills your stomach and helps regulate your appetite.
Therefore, make sure to stay well hydrated throughout the day—especially before, during and after your runs. Drink at least 12 ounces of water after your runs to replace your fluids losses. And next time you feel strong post-run cravings, try to quench and satisfy your desire with water—even if you don’t feel thirsty.
If you are still feeling hungry, then go for a healthy snack.
Image Credit – Jason Patel via Flickr
2. Pre-run Meals
Controlling your cravings is about, most of the times, consuming the right types of food before you even head out of the door.
In fact, not only that what you consume prior to a run has a powerful effect on your running performance, but it will also contribute to how satisfied, or hungry, you feel afterward.
Consequently, to increase your performance and keep hunger at bay, you need to opt for the right kind of foods.
Here are a few helpful guidelines:
For short and easy runs, running on empty is no problem since your muscles have enough fuel for the workout in the form of glycogen.
On the other hand, for hard runs—whether it’s a long run, an interval workout, or a hill session—then you need to eat something light, at least, one to two hours before heading out of the door to give you sufficient energy for powering through your run, and preventing a steep drop in blood sugar levels afterwards.
For instance, if you are planning on a lunchtime run, have a snack, at least, two hours before heading out. And if you are running in the morning, then make sure to have a light snack prior to heading out of the door.
Some of the best pre-run choices include a banana, a handful of nuts, small energy bar low fat yogurt or a fruit smoothie.
Just keep it light and easily digestible. You don’t need a full meal; otherwise, if you eat too much before a run, then you are going to suffer from cramping, nausea, GI issues and other trouble during your run.
For endurance workouts—any session lasting for more than 90 minutes to two hours—make sure to eat on the run. Have some fuel—roughly 150 to 250 for each hour of exercise.
For more on how to eat on the run, check this post.
3. Eat for Recovery
As you already know (if you have been reading some of my posts on workout nutrition), the most critical window for refueling is the 30-minute to one hour following a run. But for some people, that’s when they are the least hungry—which is a conundrum in itself.
According to research, running increases the production of a feel-full hormone known as peptide YY that temporarily reduces appetite and makes your stomach feel full—even if you haven’t had a meal for a while.
Nevertheless, this is only temporary. After a few hours, the hormones effects subsides, and the cravings start, making you wanting to eat everything in sight.
So what should you do here?
Should you eat immediately after the run (even if you are not in the mood)? Or should you wait until the hunger kicks in?
I recommend that you don’t wait. Instead, do the wise thing and eat something, a small snack, for example, immediately following your run—even if you don’t feel hungry. Make sure your small meal includes lean protein to speed up recovery and wholegrain carbs to replenish your stores of glycogen.
Some of the best choices include tuna sandwich with a glass of milk, wholegrain bread with egg and a sliced banana. If don’t have the stomach for solid food, then try drinking your nutrition with a smoothie or a protein shake.
Then, after an hour or so (or when the mealtime comes), have a full meal that includes a good balance of complex carbs, lean protein, and healthy fats.
4. Keep a Food Diary
By keeping tabs on your daily eating habits, you will have a better understanding, and hopefully more control, over what you put into your mouth. Tracking your daily food intake will also help you determine how many calories you are taking in on a daily basis.
In fact, one of the most common mistakes I see runners make is underestimating the number of calories they take in while overestimating the number of calories they burn while running.
Keep in mind that weight loss, and weight gain, is a number game—calories in vs. calories out. Therefore, if you have always struggled with post-workout cravings or any food cravings in general, then I suggest you start keeping a food journal.
Inside this journal, do your best to list the times of the day you get the cravings, your emotional state, type of foods you are craving, and the amount (in terms of calories and serving) you had. This may seem like a lot to keep track of, but it’s really worth the trouble and sweat.
After a month or so, look back through your food journal and ask yourself if there are any clear patterns at which you experience food cravings the most or reveal the link between your mood and the amount of food you eat.
And once you get your AHA moment(s), look for healthier ways—that doesn’t involve foods—to satisfy those urges.
5. Snack Smart
Snaking the smart way can help you tame hunger between meals and reduce out-of-control bingeing at mealtime.
Plus, healthy snacking can also help you get your daily dose of vitamins and other vital nutrients.
But the key here is to opt for the right healthy snacks. Otherwise, grazing all day long on snacks with little nutritional value is counterproductive and will lead to weight gain.
Therefore, if you have strong cravings between meals, opt for low-calorie, low-fat, high-protein snacks, such as vegetables, nuts, seeds and fresh fruits.
And steer clear of refined carbohydrates and processed sugars foods, such as burgers, pizzas, and other high fat, high calories meals.
For example, try to have a banana or a bunch of almonds or dried fruits instead of a chocolate bar or a hot dog.
Plus, make sure to stock up your refrigerators, kitchen cupboards and desk drawers with healthy snacks, such as unsalted peanuts, almonds, walnuts, baby carrots and every type of vegetable and fruit there is.
6. Sleep Enough
According to research, sleep deprivation can also contribute to hunger pangs and food cravings.
In fact, if you are not logging in enough sleep hours during the night time, then you are more likely to reach for high-fat, high-calorie foods than for healthier choices such as leafy green vegetables or whole grains, according to a study from UC Berkeley,
Another study conducted at the University of Chicago, found that being sleep deprived, even for a few nights, might possibly result in a drop in the hormone leptin levels—which signals the feelings of satiety—by up to 18 percent, while increasing the production of ghrelin, what’s known as the hunger hormone that increases appetite, by roughly 30 percent.
I can go on and on about this, but I think you get the picture here: lack of sleep is super baaaaad, period.
Good news is that getting enough sleep and meeting your daily dose is one the best things you can do to build healthier eating habits. So please do yourself a favor, and try to sleep at least 7 to 8 hours during the nighttime.
Image Credit – Micar via Flickr
7. Listen to your Body
The human body is incredibly smart and they always ask for what they need. So listen to your body and give it that essential nutrient it’s screaming for.
Learn more about your cravings patterns. Use the food journal on a regular basis to help discover and unearth and detect the difference relations ship between your hunger, emotional state, diet and training choices.
Put the time and effort to decode and interpret the language your body communicates with you with and you will be on your way to conquering your cravings—all sorts of cravings for all kinds of foods and drinks.
So be honest and ask yourself whether you are really hunger or you are just trying to eat in order to satisfy an emotional need.
Keep in mind that there is actually two types of hunger, real hunger (when your body really needs the calories) and head hunger (when you are tempted by the idea of eating to satisfy some other need), therefore, making the right distinction between the two is one way to help you eat right without going overboard.
So take the time to learn the difference between the two types of hunger and learn how to deal with your emotions and underlying triggers in other ways besides breathing everything in sight.
It’s all in there. You just need to do a little digging yourself and you will find it. You will eventually discover it, sooner or later.
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