Hunger during HIIT workouts

Hunger during HIIT workouts
August 29, 2019 Marisa Michael

What have you heard about hunger and exercise? Are you supposed to eat before exercise? Should you exercise fasted?  

Read on for some answers regarding hunger and exercise!

What does it mean to have hunger after a high intensity interval workout?

If you have hunger after your HIIT workout, that’s normal! Hunger is just your body’s way of saying you need to fuel it. To manage hunger after a workout, be sure to eat as soon as possible. Include a balanced meal with carbs, protein, and fats. Aim for about 20-30 grams of high-quality protein. Something like a turkey sandwich plus a fruit smoothie or a quinoa bowl with veggies and tofu offers a variety of nutrients.

Should I eat during my workout if I am hungry? Or just ignore it?

If you have breakthrough hunger during your workout, this means you are probably under-fueling beforehand. During your interval training, you may experience weakness, shakiness, extreme hunger, fatigue, irritability, or headaches. This is a sign you need to eat prior to your workout. If you have about 30-60 minutes before your training session, eat a quickly-digesting carb such as a white mini-bagel, pretzels, fruit juice, or sports gummies. This will get into your bloodstream quickly to fuel your workout and not leave your stomach heavy.

If you are trying to lose weight, but feel extra hungry after a HIIT workout, should you still do it?

Absolutely!¬†If your goal is weight loss, HIIT can still be a part of your workout routine even if it causes hunger. In order for weight loss to occur, you need to be in a calorie deficit. HIIT workouts usually demand higher energy needs–so it’s one way to promote that calorie deficit. Fueling the HIIT workout properly can help you make it an effective one that builds more fitness. Eating after you workout helps you recover, build fitness, and build and repair muscles. Don’t shortchange yourself by under-fueling your workouts! Ignoring hunger can lead to lost fitness gains and overeating later on. Be cautious with trying to lose weight–many people don’t need to, and would be healthy at their current weight with just adding some activity and gentle nutrition changes in their life.

Why do I feel hungrier after a HIIT workout?

More research needs¬†to be done, but ¬†leptin levels may play a role. Leptin is a hormone that makes you feel full–does not stimulate appetite. It is decreased after HIIT workouts. Leptin is also lower in those with less body fat. So if you are a really lean person doing HIIT workouts, you likely feel hungry because you have less leptin–meaning, your body knows it needs more food and is thus secreting a hormone to stimulate the appetite. Leptin is decreased if overall energy (calorie) intake is too low. It’s a way for the body to preserve itself and get the calories it needs.

If I am hungry during a workout, what should I do?

If the hunger isn’t overwhelming, and you don’t have any signs of low blood sugar (such as weakness, shakiness, dizziness, headaches, or nausea), I would recommend finishing the workout if you can keep the quality of the workout high without eating during it. Otherwise, if your hunger is interfering with your workout, or you are not hitting your goals for the workout due to fatigue, take a break to drink some sports drink with carbohydrate in it, sports gummies or chews, or a quickly-digesting carbohydrate such as pretzels. It’s a good idea to eat BEFORE a workout if you consistently feel hungry DURING it. Eat simple carbs about 30-60 minutes prior to your workout, and you’ll feel much better and be able to see meaningful fitness gains.

~This is general information only and is not intended as medical advice. Always check with your doctor before undergoing any diet, exercise, or lifestyle change.

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