The dangers of overeating when exercising*

Tuesday, 30 June 2015, By Alex Anasson

"I run for chocolate" sums up the way many people think about the relationship between food and exercise. Who hasn't pictured the delicious treat waiting for them after a workout, for example? But what happens when our exercise routines cause us to consistently overeat? Many of us typically associate a regular fitness practice with healthier eating choices and maybe even a lean, toned body, but the relationship between working out and overeating has both body and mind roots that may surprise you.

 

Have you heard the old adage-" I need to eat more to replenish my muscle stores"? Yes you do need to eat to replenish your body-but there is -more often that not- no need to eat more, just maybe look at the timing and type of food you eat around your training.

But can exercise make us eat more than we truly need?

For every 10 calories we burn, we're expected to crave at least three-a biological compensation mechanism that ensures we remain properly fueled. But some people tend to overcompensate for the number of calories lost through physical activity and exercise-improved metabolic rate, consuming eleven or more calories for every ten burned.

 

In many cases, it's reward psychology at play, You see this more with beginners who aren't internally motivated to exercise; they simply don't love it. Newer people, for whom an activity itself isn't rewarding, may choose to reward themselves with a food treat-eating more than they normally would, or eating foods they'd otherwise avoid.

 

For certain people, challenging exercise can cause activity in the brain regions responsible for food reward and craving. That said, the more lean you become and the more accustomed your body grows to regular workouts, the less powerful those urges may feel. Studies investigating the brain activity of fitter, leaner people show their food-reward centers respond less aggressively to images of tasty food. That leads researchers to believe that while upping physical activity may initially provoke urges to indulge, over time those urges subside as healthier habits become normal.

 

Whether you're working out or not, you never want to be completely starving at any point in the day. When that happens, we tend to eat a lot more than we normally would-mainly because eating is as much mental as it is physical. Being ravenous makes us eat faster, leading us to miss out on satiety cues which normally take 15 minutes or more to kick in.

 

Some tips to help? Eat more mindfully (try putting down the fork a few times during your meal or chewing a little longer), portion out your meal like you would if you weren't famished (chances are, the amount you normally eat should still satisfy you), and stand up mid-meal if you can (sometimes we don't register how full we are until we get up from the table). Hunger is the body's way of asking to be refueled, so don't ignore a rumbling stomach.

 

Try to tune in to the difference between physical hunger and the emotional desire to eat, and hang in there as you learn to accommodate new habits. Opting for more fruits and veggies will promote feelings of fullness, and staying fueled and hydrated throughout each day could stave off binges.

 

When it comes to getting a handle on emotional eating, it's worth remembering that forcing ourselves to do workouts so torturous that we look to food treats as rewards will likely only fuel an unhealthy cycle of emotional overeating. So, ensure your exercise is an activity you enjoy doing. Once we get fitter and exercise becomes its own reward, the physical and emotional need to overeat falls by the wayside.

*Disclaimer: Individual results vary based on agreed goals. Click here for details.

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