DIET, EXERCISE, AND HUNGER

Exercise makes many people less hungry. Men as a group have been found to be largely immune from increased appetite after exercise, and may even become temporarily “anorexic” according to a 1994 study conducted in the U.K. by Leeds University. Previous studies at Leeds found that this suppression of appetite can last for up to two days.

Some women also experience the same appetite-suppressing effects from working out. Sara Giller, a comedienne, Bar Method teacher and desk manager at the Los Angeles studios, was heard to say recently, “Days when I exercise, I never want to eat. When I’m just working at the desk, though, I’m noshing all day.”

At the same time, many women exercisers are made somewhat more hungry by their workouts. An experiment conducted in 2007 by the U.K.-based Journal of Endrocrinology that included female subjects found that the subjects did feel hungrier after exercising, but, if left alone with food, consumed about a third fewer of the extra calories than their workout burned for them, thus achieving a caloric deficit overall.

At the other end of the spectrum there are those people whom exercise makes ravenous. This month I got an email from a Bar Method student named Andrea describing her struggle with this issue:

“I’ve been in love with the Bar Method for over a year,” Andrea wrote, “and have seen great changes in my body.…however, I feel as though my diet is all that is holding me back from seeing results… Is it normal that I feel hungrier than usual all day after doing a class? If yes, what is the best food to satisfy my post-workout hunger?…What does your daily diet look like? I would really appreciate any feedback.”

Muscle building exerciseFirst of all, for Andrea and others who run into this road-block to body-change, there is good news on the horizon. Past Bar Method students with this issue have reported to us that their appetites revert to normal after about six months of classes. It is likely that their initial hunger was being caused by rapidly increasing muscle mass, an essential component in body reshaping. (Here’s a blog I did on how the Bar Method builds and sculpts muscles.) During those first six months or so, students’ bodies also burn away a significant amount of intramuscular fat, which thereafter no longer needs to be fed. After that time, their leaner bodies are feeding muscle not fat, and their appetites revert to normal or even become a bit suppressed. Men probably don’t fall prey to exercise hunger, unless they are body-builders, because their bodies are genetically predisposed to have leaner, denser muscles than women, even without exercise.

Okay, but how do students cope with the raging hunger in the meantime? I thought about what to advise Andrea. I knew that people can learn to be okay with feeling a little hungry, but they can’t cope with feeling ravenous. Minimizing her risk of feeling famished by keeping her blood sugar level steady would be foremost. I included elements of my own eating habits and sent Andrea these tips:

• Avoid eating sweets during the first six months that you take the Bar Method. Staying away from sweetened foods will help your body burn away fat more quickly.

• Avoid eating after dinner.

• Don’t eat muffins or cookies.

• Drink water slowly. It will relax your stomach.

• When you go to bed, feel just a bit hungry but not starving.

• And of course eat reasonably healthy food.

I pressed “send” and immediately remembered that I had right at my fingertips a wealth of fantastic advice on dieting that I hadn’t included. For eight years The Bar Method has handed out an article by Consumer Reports called “The Truth About Dieting,” which is mind blowing, especially for those who’ve  gotten caught up in all the hype in the media about losing weight.  “The Truth About Dieting” is packed with eye-opening – and entertaining — scientific information on how simple changes in diet – with the help of exercise – can cause you to eat less and lose weight. Wow, I thought! This is MUST reading not just for Andrea but for anyone who’s ever wanted to take off a few pounds. The article is not available in its entirety online, so I will describe its highlights – including six tips for losing weight and keeping it off in next week’s blog.

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11 replies
  1. Rali Christo
    Rali Christo says:

    Being ravenous after workouts used to be my MO until I realized I had an eating disorder. It took years to rebalance body and mind, but the result is that I now eat whatever I want and whenever I want it without adding weight. Funny how the mind works…

    Reply
  2. Kelly
    Kelly says:

    I agree with Burr’s post, plus would add that smaller more frequent meals help me to not feel so hungry after my bar method workouts!! Love the bar method:-)

    Reply
  3. Susie
    Susie says:

    Thank you so much for posting this blog, Burr, I have been wondering about this very thing lately also. Any tips, advise, and what has worked for others, will be helpful and encouraging.

    Thanks again,

    Susie~

    Reply
  4. Rali Christo
    Rali Christo says:

    Forgot to add something – major life events totally change the way you eat. I used to eat more when stressed, even when I was no more afflicted with an eating disorder. But during my divorce several years ago, I developed anorexia, and I didn’t even know it until my psychologist mentioned that I am losing a lot of weight on a weekly basis. I immediately started an eat-regularly regime, but every now and then, during stressful times, I forget to eat. And because anorexia is sneaky – you actually have a lot of energy during episodes – it’s only when I see my face gaunter than usual that I come to my senses. So vanity saves me:)

    Reply
  5. Mimi Fleischman
    Mimi Fleischman says:

    Hi Everyone,
    We are trying to get the entire Consumer Reports article from 2002 – which doesn’t seem to be online – as a link for next week’s blog. Check back next Tuesday!
    Best,
    Mimi

    Reply
  6. Daisy
    Daisy says:

    Totally agree about the tid bit about going to sleep a bit hungry, but not ravenous! I have found if I do that consistently, I can eat a healthy balanced meal of protein, fiber, and sweets and still look awesome (don’t forget my bar method work outs!)

    Reply
  7. Harmony
    Harmony says:

    I noticed that the time of day I work out affects my appetite. If I work out early morning, I am more hungry throughout the day, but if I workout after lunch or at the end of the day, it suppresses my appetite. That gives me one more piece of information to work with when trying to balance exercise and caloric intake for overall results.

    Reply
  8. Julie Sheckman
    Julie Sheckman says:

    The Bar method had really changed the way my body looks and feels. Doing the workout 3 to 4 times a week has added muscle and cut down on the hunger. I do agree with Burr cutting out the white sugar is very important and eating healthy foods is key. At 51 years old I have never felt so good!

    P. S. Counting down the days until the new DVD’s come out!

    Reply

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