Ask The RDN: Why You Should Fuel Even If You’re Not Hungry

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The scenario is all too familiar among runners: You just finished a long run and are on a runner’s high.  You know you should get in some food to replenish your body all of those miles you just ran, but the thought of it makes you ill.  You decide to just wait and listen for your hunger cues to guide you towards your next meal.

While well-intentioned, the problem with this approach is that over time, it can lead to large, within day energy deficits, especially if you are doing multiple hard workouts and long runs during a week.   If the trend continues and the hole grows larger, it can be hard to dig your way out, leaving you at higher risk for injury and illness.

Unfortunately, when doing longer or harder bouts of running, our bodies aren’t helping us win the fueling game.  Afterwards, there is a decrease in the production of ghrelin, our hunger hormone.   So what should you do?

Since you may not be able to rely on your hunger to help you post long run or workout, you’ll need to have a plan of attack.

#1) Timing: Whether you are hungry or not, it’s best to get something in post long run or workout within 30 minutes-2 hr after you finish.

#2) Drink Your Nutrition: One of the easiest ways to get something in without an appetite is to drink your nutrition.  After finishing, whip up a smoothie and sip on it slowly for the next few hours.

#3) Increase Your Nutrient Dense Foods: Let’s face it, we need to try and get the most bang for our buck nutrition-wise when we lack an appetite.  Focusing on including foods that pack a nutrition punch in a smaller volume of food can help.  Avocados, nut butters, seeds, oats, and oils can all be added to what you can stomach and bulk up the nutrition.  For instance, if you are making a smoothie, adding additional avocado and nut butter can greatly increase the calories and nutrition you are getting from it.

#4) Focus on Smaller Meals: You don’t have to have a large meal post run.  You may need to schedule them in, but focusing on smaller balanced snacks on days where it is tough to consume nutrition can be less overwhelming than forcing down a meal.

#5) Eat your Favorite Foods: If ice cream sounds good, eat it!  It sounds silly, but too many runners restrict their favorite foods in pursuit of particular running or weight loss goals.  Focusing on the foods that sound appealing on the days where you aren’t hungry, might be one of the only ways you can get your calories in.

#6) Don’t Underestimate the Day After: If you are doing a shorter day the day after a workout or long run, don’t restrict if you are hungry!  Take advantage of that day to add in an extra meal or snack to take advantage of refueling your body.

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