Updated: Dec 23, 2020
I have recently been asked this by so many cyclists. They complain that when they finish a time trial, sportive or epic Zwift session, they want to immediately head to the kitchen and eat everything in sight. And most of the time, they do. If this is you, you are probably asking: what do I do to stop, especially if I’m trying to lose weight!?
From my experience as a practitioner, once I have sat with athletes and gone through the necessary assessments, start to finish, the results tend to speak a lot of truth. Below, I have listed some answers as to why athletes are finding that they’re so hungry or eating too much post training:
- Not eating enough e.g. restricting too many calories at other times
- Poor hydration strategies
- Heavy reliance on supplements
- Poor nutritional knowledge e.g. assumed faddy diets would work or misled by unlicensed/unregistered ‘nutritionists’
- Lack of food preparation/forward planning
- Lifestyle factors: family/work commitments
- Financial restrictions
Mic drop…I know what you’re thinking, you probably paused on the ‘not eating enough calories?’. How does that even make sense, Jason? You’re absolutely right. We all know that to lose weight, we have to be in a calorie deficit. However, if you’re restricting your calories too much, and not eating enough throughout the day to reflect your objectives, whilst still fuelling for lifestyle, health and performance aspects, you may find that come post training your body is trying to make up for missed opportunities. It’ll flick into survival mode and before you know it, damn it, I had another snaccident!
Naturally, how you feel post exercise will be a reflection of the events leading up to your session. How great has energy expenditure been on the lead up to your session? What nutrients have been consumed, when and how much? How intense was the training session? These are questions you should be asking yourself when you’re starting to feel like eating everything after your session.
Another question I am often asked is: Why do I crave sugar post-exercise? Again, this will be a reflection of the events leading up to your session. If you’ve used carbohydrates as your primary fuel (fuelling moderate to high intense exercise), your body will want and need to replenish its lost energy. Searching for sugary foods post exercise is a natural response and it’s important that you don’t criticise yourself for feeling like this.
Jason, you’ve still not answered the question. You’re right, so what can be done?
The truth is, there is no one size fits all answer. Resolving this aspect of performance nutrition will be highly individualised, like most aspects of performance nutrition. Depending on the complexity of the issues, it will likely require assessments, 1-2-1 coaching from a registered nutritionist/dietitian, time, patience and the willingness to set and form new habits and establish a behaviour change.
However, there are some ideas I would encourage you to consider when wanting to harness/master your post session refuelling:
- Plan ahead: this includes thinking about when and where your meals are coming from for the day. Have a plan of what you want to eat and prepare it in advance. The duration/intensity of your session will depend on nutrient breakdown but look to consume a balanced meal, packed with nutrients (veggies!) If you avoid winging it you’re less likely to end up with your head stuck in the fridge with a mouthful of chocolate, whilst pouring a glass of wine or cracking open a beer, contemplating whether to ring the local Chinese….and then hitting the f%$k it button and ordering one anyway.
- Choose a post exercise snack: and I don’t mean a ‘snaccident’: Prepare a small, nutritious snack to have post exercise. A lot of research suggests consuming milk post exercise is beneficial because of its ergogenic properties. It contains both carbohydrates and protein. Co-ingesting these nutrients can further promote recovery rates by stimulating muscle protein synthesis and contributing to glycogen re-synthesis. It also contains electrolytes to help you begin rehydrating.
- Trial and error – things don’t always work first time round. Use your training sessions to practise new approaches/strategies to mastering your post-exercise refuelling. If it does work, excellent, if not, reflect, evaluate, reassess and go again with a new approach.
- Contact a registered nutritionist/dietitian! This is not a plug, but if today’s blog particularly resonated with you and you’re still stuck, consider reaching out and seeing what can be done to help you with this issue. Remember, it’s not a forever service and will likely be an investment you wish you had made months ago!
If you have made it this far, thanks so much for taking the time to read my blog. I hope you’ve managed to take something away from it. If you do want to work together and want to find out more information, don’t hesitate to get in touch.