Hungry After A Workout? Here Are 10 Principles of Intuitive Eating

Hungry After A Workout? We often focus a lot on pre-run fueling to ensure we have the energy and strength to have a good run without suffering any gastrointestinal distress. With long runs, we also spend a lot of care planning our fueling and hydration strategy for each chunk of miles, ensuring that our glycogen stores stay adequately stocked to avoid “bonking” or “hitting the wall.”

But what about feeling hungry after a workout? Have you ever finished a hard workout or long run and felt an insatiable hunger for the rest of the day, even if you have a sizable post-run snack?

Sometimes, no matter how much food you eat for the rest of the day, it can feel like your appetite after running or working out is disproportionately extreme.

While this could be little more than a nuisance and an uptick in the grocery bill for some runners, if you are trying to lose weight or maintain your weight within a tight range, feeling hungry after a workout can be frustrating and worrisome in terms of derailing your weight loss goals.

Why Am I So Hungry After Working Out?

The portmanteau “hangry” has entered the common vernacular in recent years to describe feeling angry or irritable because you are so hungry. It seems like runners could easily coin their own term, “runger” to describe feeling like you have an insatiable appetite after a run.

One study noted that up to 75% of exercisers engage in compensatory eating, meaning that they increase their food intake after the workout. This study found that exercise increased the amount of food eaten and shifted food choices as well to more immediately-gratifying options. 

Endurance exercise has been shown to increase ghrelin, the hunger hormone because it appears to play a role in increasing exercise endurance and time to exhaustion. On the other hand, most studies show that exercise has little to no effect on appetite afterwards.

Some runners seem to be more prone to feeling hungry after a workout, while others tend to have the opposite experience, finding exercise to suppress their appetite. For this latter group, refuelling after a run can even be challenging because any kind of solid food, and even certain drinks, can be entirely unappealing.

The type of workout can potentially affect your appetite and the palatability of food after exercise. For example, many people feel particularly averse to food and notice some degree of appetite suppression after a hard workout, race, or any type of high-intensity training. 

Finally, some runners don’t feel hungry after a workout, but later in the day, their voracious appetite hits full force. After satisfying the hunger by eating a large snack or meal, hunger will quickly return. 

Use Hunger Signals to stop feeling hungry after Workouts

One of the most basic signals your body sends out is hunger. That familiar stomach growl lets us know it’s time to eat something. Ghrelin, the body’s hunger hormone, is produced in the pancreas and stomach lining and works to stimulate the appetite.

Eating because you’re hungry comes naturally because hunger pangs are just the body’s way of saying it needs an energy boost, ideally in the form of something nutritious.  

Whether you prefer 3 main meals a day or 6 smaller ones, never stop listening to your body telling you it’s full. If you’ve provided it with enough energy, it will let you know, usually within 20 minutes after your mealtime. Eat slowly, listen carefully and put down your knife and fork when your stomach says “enough”.

Learning to correctly interpret your body’s signalling when it’s hungry and when it’s full is extremely important. We sometimes confuse emotions, both positive and negative, or cravings with hunger signals.

Hungry After A Workout? Factors That Can Affect Your Appetite After A Workout

Although the degree to which you feel hungry after exercise does seem to be somewhat of an individual response, several factors can influence your appetite after a workout or running, including the following:

The Intensity of Your Workout

If you notice your “runger” pangs are particularly noticeable after long runs but are virtually absent after speed workouts, you’re not alone. The intensity of exercise can affect how hungry you feel after working out. 

For example, some studies show that HIIT-style workouts tend to decrease appetite while continuous endurance workouts increase post-exercise appetite.

This might actually be one reason why this style of high-intensity training may be beneficial for weight loss. 

If the workout itself not only burns calories and increases your metabolic rate (excess post-exercise oxygen consumption (EPOC)) but also reduces the number of calories you eat for the rest of the day, your caloric deficit will increase, accelerating the rate of weight loss.

It’s important to note that some studies show that long runs at a moderate intensity do not increase appetite but rather decrease appetite and relative energy intake after the workout. 

Your Sex

Interestingly, although the mechanisms of action have yet to be fully elucidated, it seems like your sex may influence your appetite and rebound caloric intake after exercise. 

Studies show that women seem to have a greater increase in appetite-stimulating hormones after a workout and tend to consume more calories relative to the amount of energy they burn while exercising compared to men.

Your Body Composition

Some evidence suggests that your body fat percentage or level of adiposity (fat tissue) can affect your sensitivity to appetite-stimulating hormones. 

Some, but not all studies, show that obese individuals are typically more sensitive to appetite-stimulating hormones and may do more compensatory eating after physical activity than leaner people.

We tend to think of body fat tissue as a bunch of inert cells, but adipose tissue is metabolic- and hormonally-active tissue that communicates with the brain by releasing hormones. 

In other words, if you carry more body fat, your desire to eat a disproportionately large number of calories after exercising isn’t necessarily just a psychological craving or “lack of willpower.” Rather, there may be an exaggerated physiological response of hunger hormones in people with more body fat that can trigger a biological drive to eat more. 

The Time of Day You Run

It may be that the time of day for your run affects your post-workout hunger and how much you end up eating over the day. 

One small study found that morning exercise increased total energy intake during the entire day by about 200 calories over baseline, whereas evening exercise seemed to reduce total daily caloric intake by about 20 calories compared to baseline. 

Your Overall Energy Balance

If you aren’t eating enough calories, you will be hungry. The body is programmed to survive, which means it doesn’t want to be in a negative energy balance (losing weight).

When your caloric intake is insufficient to support your training and overall physical activity and energy needs, your body starts burning its own muscle tissue for energy. 

This is particularly likely if you try to run on a carbohydrate-restricted diet. When glycogen stores are low, the body turns to muscle protein to supply a greater percentage of energy for exercise.

Catabolizing muscle is deleterious to your athletic performance and also reduces your metabolic rate.

Moreover, perhaps unsurprisingly, research indicates that the desire for food—both healthy food and unhealthy foods—increases with a loss of fat-free mass (muscle tissue), indicating the importance of preserving lean tissue even if you are losing weight.

What is Intuitive Eating?

Intuitive eating is when you listen to your body and the signals it’s sending you. This gentle nutrition is all about self-love. We were all born eating intuitively. Young children are a great example of this.

They eat when they’re hungry and stop when they’re full. The amount they eat changes almost every day. One day they want two servings at lunch and on the next, they’re full after just a few bites.

The older we get, the less mindful we are about food. In childhood, we learned that we had to clean our plates or behave ourselves if we wanted dessert. We learned that there are good foods and bad foods. An

nd the result of these lessons? As adults, when we eat “good” foods we feel good about ourselves. But if we eat “bad” foods, we feel guilty about it. The goal of intuitive eating is to change the way we think about food, and this can be a long learning process. 

Intuitive eating is not a diet; it’s completely the opposite. You don’t have to count calories or macronutrients and there is no meal plan. All foods are allowed. If you eat according to how you feel, you will learn to be more mindful of the signals your body is sending you.

Eat when you’re hungry, and stop when you’re full. You’ll notice what your body needs. It might be a salad, but it could also be a piece of chocolate cake. And that’s totally okay.  

The 10 Principles of Intuitive Eating 


Diets are often doomed to fail and they’re definitely not a long-term solution if you want to reach a healthy weight. Most diets eventually lead to weight gain, cravings, and feelings of guilt or failure when you don’t reach your weight goals. Intuitive eating is based on the principle that diets simply don’t work.


Hunger is not the enemy. It is your body’s way of protecting itself from starvation. We’ve all seen the advice recommending that we distract ourselves from hunger or suppress hunger pangs by drinking a large glass of water. Forget it. Eat when you’re hungry, no matter whether you ate one or four hours ago. 


Stop thinking about food as being good or bad. Everything is allowed. When you eat mindfully, you eat what you want. Be aware of flavours and the way you feel after your meal. 


This is a very important step on your road to mindful eating. The food police are thoughts that tell you to feel good or bad about yourself after you eat. Stop them in their tracks and stop punishing yourself for eating a bag of chips. 


The goal of eating is not to get full. Food should satisfy you and make you happy. Sit down and enjoy a meal with all your senses. 


What do you do when you’re stressed out or sad? Reach for chocolate, perhaps? Feeling sad, anxious, angry, or lonely is completely ok. A lot of people use food to make themselves feel better.

But keep in mind that food won’t solve any problems. Find other ways to cope with your feelings. Try a long walk, or a yoga session, call a friend or keep a mindfulness journal. There are plenty of other ways to feel good besides indulging in chocolate.


Instead of thinking about which kind of exercise burns the most calories, reflect on which activity is the most fun and makes you feel great. It doesn’t matter if it’s running, dancing, biking, or bodyweight training. If you enjoy it, you’ll stick with it. 


Choose foods that are good for your health, taste good, and make you feel good. You don’t always have to eat a perfect diet to be healthy. No food will make you sick if you eat it once or twice. It’s all about progress. 


Learn how to listen to your body’s signals when you’re full. If you eat slowly, you’ll quickly be able to feel when you’ve had enough. You haven’t cleaned your plate yet? No problem. Pack up the leftovers and eat them tomorrow instead of forcing yourself to finish. 


Remember: to thine own self be true! Accept your body and learn to love yourself. This is the most important principle of intuitive eating. 


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