Exercise, food and weight gain

As I was checking my email this morning, I came across one from Runner’s World (I’m on their mailing list) and clicked the link to a response from “Ask the Sports Dietician” on the Time Magazine article entitled “Why Exercise Won’t Make You Thin” which were both interesting reads. So I thought I would give you my take on it.

Basically, the author of the Time article states that while exercise is important and many Americans do it, it can also stimulate hunger which then leads us to eat more, which basically undoes the exercise we just put in to lose weight. He says “…like many other people, I get hungry after I exercise, so I often eat more on the days I work out than on the days I don’t. Could exercise actually be keeping me from losing weight?”

I feel like I’ve been in this same boat myself. Especially when I was a more serious runner, I would eat and eat and eat because the last thing I wanted was to “bonk” during a race or suffer from dehydration, carb depletion or any of the other horror stories I’d heard from experienced runners. Even after I backed off of my training, I somehow adopted the mentality that I had to work out everyday and burn a certain amount of calories per day in order to keep my weight under control because I knew how many calories I had to eat each day.

Turns out…as I have been exercising less the past couple of weeks, I have been less hungry and my weight is back under control. This also comes as a result of eating less sugar which has made me feel better overall. I’ve also come to appreciate the value of rest. At a time when I was putting in hour plus workouts at the gym and running/walking multiple times in one day, I was actually gaining weight! And I was tired and sore a lot of the time. And my meals never seemed to satisfy me which is why I would spend a lot of nights in the kitchen raiding through the pantry. So I think there might be at least some merit to this author’s discussion. But I think the blogger from Runner’s World is right to offer some solutions to exercise-induced hunger and find a balance between your activity and your eating habits.

I’d have to say it should be more like “Why Exercise ALONE Won’t Make You Thin.” There, that’s better.

As the author mentions, there is also the “reward” part of this, when we have a really great workout and decide that we “deserve” a special treat for being so “good.” I have seen this quite a bit in my experience. It’s something I’ve even been guilty of from time to time, especially as a runner (hello huge Panera bagels after races).

My family and I used to walk at the mall on Saturday mornings but as soon as we were done, we stopped at Starbuck’s (inside the mall) and while I ordered a coffee of some sort, another family member would get a pastry or other baked good from the case, which totally undoes the walk we just took. If walking for 45 minutes burns 300 calories and then you eat a Reduced-Fat Cinnamon Swirl Coffee Cake at 290 calories (and 34 grams of sugar!), you’ve pretty much used it up. The walk was still good for your cardiovascular health, your muscles and bones but your treat took away it’s opportunity to contribute to any possible weight loss.

I’m happy to say that since the weather warmed up, we haven’t been walking at the mall much and when we have, everyone has pretty much been sticking to water or iced tea to rehydrate instead of useless calories from baked goods. However, as the Fall and Winter weather are ahead of us and we again have to retreat inside, will everyone be able to maintain this will power? I hope so.

Anyway, I hope you will read the above articles and make these determinations for yourself. It is important that we all find what works best for our own individual and unique bodies and maintain a balance so that both exercise and food are helping us reach our goals instead of becoming a hindrance.

Happy Thursday!

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About Sarah Frankel

I am 29 years old and a resident of Louisville, Kentucky. I've been married to my husband Josh for 6 years and we have a 5 year old beagle named Suzie. Four years ago, I changed my eating and exercise habits, dropping 70 pounds and gaining an entirely new life. I took up running in September 2007 and became vegan in October 2009. I am constantly striving to improve my life so that I can live it to the fullest! I hope you will join me on my life journey.

Posted on September 3, 2009, in articles and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 6 Comments.

  1. I read that article too. Really hit home for me.

  2. I feel like this article was written for me! I workout like CRAZY and sometimes get discouraged when I see the scale moving up instead of down…I need to be more diligent with my food intake.

  3. Hi Sarah- first time commenter here! Thanks for the link to the Runners blog page and the Time article. I’m so mixed about it, but I agree with you, I’m more hungry when I train more.

    Some of your experiences when you trained more sounded like me- if you want to check out a post I did on Overtraining, perhaps it would relate to you? I feel that I dip in and out of overtraining (and thus, overeating) all the time! Thanks for the post.

    Deb

  1. Pingback: 900 posts « See Sarah Eat

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