Working out means working up an appetite. The obvious reason for being hungry after a workout is due to burning a bunch of calories so your body needs more.
According to Heather Milton, M.S., senior exercise physiologist at NYU Langone’s Sports Performance Center, most workouts contain some component of glycogen burning – glycogen is the body’s stored source of carbohydrates. So during a workout, when your glycogen stores decline, your body starts to utilize more of the sugar in your blood for energy. As a result, your brain starts getting signals that it’s time to refill and mostly this is the time when we crave unhealthy things like carbohydrates or sweets to compensate for the loss in blood sugar level.
Each of the craving whether it’s for fast food, chips or a bar of chocolate, it may indicate what our body requires at that specific time. When we crave unhealthy or strange foods, it’s a indication that something is missing from our diets or we are deficient for certain essential nutrients.
We bring to you the four most common cravings and the nutrients that may be lacking from your body.
1. If Your Body Craves Salt
After an intense workout session, like boxing or a HIIT regimen, you will feel like eating something salty, mainly chips. Craving salt may be partly due to being dehydrated. This is because during the workout, you lose a lot of water and your body gets dehydrated. When dehydrated, the body loses water, electrolytes, and salt, and by ingesting salt, water retention can be increased. If you need to increase your electrolytes, coconut water is an excellent option, just make sure you go for an unflavored variety without any added sugar or preservatives.
2. If Your Body Craves Fats
When you want to indulge in fried foods or other oily options, it may be a sign that you have an essential fatty acid deficiency. Our bodies require fat to survive, so if you restrict it too much, you’ll get cravings. Avoid saturated and trans-fats present in foods like french fries, margarine, and packaged chips and cookies. Instead opt for good quality fats and oils like salmon, avocado, nuts and nut butter, olive oil, coconut milk, coconut oil, and flax seed. However, if you have a severe craving for fries, then replace fried potato fries with oven-baked sweet potato fries. These fries drizzled with olive oil are a good substitute for regular fries as they absorb less oil and you get additional nutrients from the yams.
3. If Your Body Craves Sugar
If you are dying for a bar of chocolate after an intense workout it means that you need carbohydrates. Our bodies convert carbohydrates into glucose, which gives us energy. These cravings occur often in the middle of the afternoon when energy is at its lowest. Chocolate or sugar in the form of other sweets will give you a rush of glucose and then a sugar crash. These sweets can lead to increase sugar level of the body that adds to other health issues. Try having oatmeal, couscous, or hummus instead to keep your energy level high and make the effect last longer with the additional fiber.
4. If Your Body Craves Proteins
You must have had that post-exercise feeling, when you just want a rare steak or a beef burger. It’s not surprising that craving for red meat is an indication of iron deficiency, which can lead to fatigue, lowered immune health and overall weakness. The best thing you can eat after a workout is a balanced combination of carbs and protein, but this balance mainly depends on your body type and the type of workout you’ve completed. Those performing more rigorous workouts will most likely need more calories post-workout than those completing less vigorous workouts. Red meat may have adverse side effects so replace your craving with fish, beans, spinach, nuts, and legumes.
It’s also important to note that whenever building a meal plan for yourself, you need to look at your total daily intake of calories, protein, fat, and carbs to make sure your specific needs are being met.