Kara Ghiringhelli, Department of Public Health
Kara Ghiringhelli is a Nutrition Education Specialist at DPH
There has been a buzz floating around recently about how exercise may cause you to gain weight. I’d like to take an opportunity to go against this buzz.
The fact of the matter is, yes, you can gain weight when you exercise, without question. When you exercise, you burn calories. This is what we want to do, right? But since you are burning calories, you come out of your workouts feeling hungry. It is what you do with that post-workout hunger that can cause you to gain weight.
For those who gain weight, most often it is due to eating more calories than what you burned during your workout. This often happens for one of three reasons:
- We are hungry and don’t have a planned post-workout snack or meal handy
- We worked out so hard today that we feel like we deserve those chocolate kisses
- We worked out. We can give ourselves permission to be ‘bad’ so even though I planned to eat my whole wheat crackers with lowfat cheese, I’m going to grab a Big Mac instead
Although I truly believe in rewarding yourself, you don’t want to ruin your progress by eating too much. And by all means, you shouldn’t avoid exercising because of this potential to gain weight. Exercise has far too many benefits to stop working out. And exercise does burn calories! It can be an excellent method for losing weight. My advice—consider you post-workout eating routines carefully and stick to them! In fact, start a journal of your exercise and eating routines. By writing things down, you are holding yourself accountable for what you are putting in your mouth. After all, who wants to write in their journal that after their 45-minute spin class they went across the street and got a chocolate donut?
Here are some tips to fuel up post-workout and avoid gaining weight:
1. Water, water, water. Hydrate yourself. You don’t need the extra calories that come with energy/sports drinks unless you are exercising for long extended periods of time. Most often the number of calories that are found in these drinks, end up being more calories than what you burned off in the first place.
2. Have a plan. By having a post-workout snack or meal planned out and prepared, you are more likely to not overeat or choose foods that may not be a healthy choice. After a good workout, your body is hungry, so be prepared.
3. Eat slowly. Enjoy your food after a nice workout. You deserve it! By taking your time, you avoid the tendency to overeat.
4. Choose foods that are well-rounded as these foods will keep you satisfied for a longer period of time. Choose foods that have carbohydrates, protein, and a little fat. Some suggestions include: ½ cup lowfat cottage cheese with carrot sticks, half of a turkey breast sandwich on whole wheat bread with mustard, spinach and tomato, or 1 tablespoon of peanut butter with apple slices.
Do you have any tips on how to avoid overeating after a good workout? We’d love to hear from you!