I certainly can’t be the only one that has found that they are sometimes ravenous on rest days. Logically, you’d think that because you’re expending less calories, you’d naturally be less hungry. What gives?

To answer this question, we’re going to have to take a step back and look at our energy intake on exercise days. On exercise days, you may find that you’re less hungry because exercise can suppress hunger. This could be because of blood redistributing from the GI tract to the extremities and also because of changes in hormone levels. Because of this suppressed hunger, athletes are often way under eating on days when they have very high calorie needs. This tends to especially be the case if someone is using exercise for weight loss such as training for a marathon.

If you fail to meet high energy demands on exercising days, your body may signal for you to eat more the following few days to make up for this under fuelling. This increased appetite despite less calorie expenditure is completely normal. It’s your body’s attempt of trying to make up for this inadequate calorie intake. To prevent this, avoid putting your body in an extreme calorie deficit on days when you are exercising. Specifically focus on getting adequate calorie intake in the periods immediately surrounding exercise.

As I mentioned at the beginning, it’s more often the athletes that are trying to lose weight that are more likely to drastically under fuel on hard training days. However, this is likely backlashing and making it harder for them to reach their body composition goals. Research show that those that spend more time in periods of negative energy balance have a decreased metabolism. This reduction in metabolism is the body trying to conserve energy, when too large a calorie deficit has been created. A study looking at runners and gymnasts found that athletes that spent more time in an energy deficit had higher body fat percentages than athletes with less time in an energy deficit. If your trying to lose weight, the periods surrounding exercise is not the time to try to limit your calorie intake.

If you do feel hungrier on rest days, don’t panic, you likely didn’t eat enough the day prior. Listen to your body. If your body is requesting fuel then it needs it.  Don’t try to suppress your appetite, but rather honour your hunger. Your body is asking for fuel for a reason!

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Categories: Megan Kuikman

Megan Kuikman

Hello! I’m Megan Kuikman. I’m a Registered Dietitian with specialized training in sports nutrition. My goal is to help athletes and active individuals achieve a healthy attitude towards health, training, and food. I empower athletes to fuel properly for training in order to restore their health and enhance performance. You can get in touch with me at: hello@megankuikmanRD.ca


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