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I'm a 20-something running my way through Denver.

2012 Races

Denver Rock n' Roll Half Marathon (9-22) Bear Chase Trail Half Marathon (9-30)

Taming the Hunger Monster

One of the biggest challenges when you are training for an endurance event is finding a balance of eating enough to fuel your exercise, but not eating everything in sight.  If you don’t eat enough you won’t have the energy for a good workout.  If you eat too much, you may gain weight.

You can also experience increased hunger when you start a workout routine for the first time. 

During half marathon training, my hunger usually is under control.  But since I’ve been upping my cardio to an hour every day the hunger monster has started to rear its ugly head.  Plus with my schedule I have been doing a lot of back to back runs.  Today I ran 5 miles outside, and in combination with yesterday’s 10, I was famished by the time I came home from work. 

Since I am still trying to lose a few pounds, I try these strategies to make sure I’m not eating too many calories:

  1. Drink lots of water.  Sometimes I confuse thirst for hunger.  I try to refill a glass of water throughout the day to avoid this.  Plus, that makes me get up for bathroom breaks more often (and time away from the computer is always a good thing).
  2. Up the protein.  Protein fills me up much more than carbs.  For meals, I almost include eggs, beans or tofu.  High protein snacks include: hard-boiled eggs, string cheese and hummus.  IMG_1617
  3. Keep a stash of fruit nearby.   Fruit is a great way to get fill up your stomach without adding on too many calories.  I have at least 2 servings a day. 
  4. Turn veggies into snacks.  Just like #3, vegetables are a low calorie way to fill up.  If I get home and I’m starving, I snack on vegetables while I cook dinner.  My favorite raw vegetables to snack on are carrots, pepper strips and cucumbers.  I personally do like many other raw veggies, so I often steam (broccoli) or roast some vegetables, put them in tupperware and take them to work for a snack.  IMG_1618
  5. Track your eats.  I’m still counting points on Weight Watchers, which really helps me make sure I’m not overeating.  (I’ll post an update about WW later this week).  In past training cycles I’ve used Daily Plate to make sure I’m in an ideal calorie range. 

Keep in mind I have to focus on #3 and #4 since I’m trying to lose weight.  If you are not worried about that, enjoy eating back all those extra calories you burn!

When you are training, how do you tame your “hunger monster?”

12 comments to Taming the Hunger Monster

  • When I’m in marathon training I definitely eat more and generally I am totally fine with it. I don’t think it has any dramatic or lasting effects on my size/weight. But at the same time I try to make sure that I’m eating more because I’m actually more hungry and not because I’m telling myself I “deserve” more treats because I ran so much (definitely not solid logic!) Your ideas seem much more realistic and smart than restricting calories – I could definitely use to eat fruits and veggies more consistently. That’s awesome that you are able to stay on track with your weight loss goals while you work toward your training goals!

  • I know exactly what you mean. Every marathon training cycle I’ve gained about 3 pounds because I’m so hungry all the time. I didn’t mind that because I used to lose it immediately after the marathon, but this cycle I’m trying to lose weight while training. Its tough and I have to track everything or I go off course. These are some great tips!

  • It’s definitely hard, especially after a really intense workout when everything looks like delicious food and you (well, I) can easily put away 800+ calories in no time. Your tips are all great, and I use all of them – love dailyplate!

  • Jen

    Great tips, Liz! The hunger monster is so evil! I was training for endurance events constantly for a year and a half. Now that I’m not, it’s amazing how much less food I eat. I guess our bodies are smart and know when we need to eat more- and fewer- calories :)

  • I definitely have been dealing with the hunger monster these days! It took me a few weeks to realize what was going on, but once it dawned on me that my metabolism was raging because I had upped my workouts I was good to go. Now I bring lots of veggies to work with me to snack on in the afternoon because that’s usually when the hunger hits me the most. I also eat a piece of fruit every day on my drive home now too. I think the biggest trick for me will be backing off/eating less when I’m done training these events!

  • oooh that hunger monster! he is after me this week!!

  • Balancing exercise with hunger levels is SO hard for me! I’ve been struggling with being so hungry but not wanting to do it after my long runs. I think you have a great list of tips with most of the things I try to do on there, too!

  • amy

    I just eat all. the. time. I can’t stop and get really, really cranky if I don’t eat enough. Protein and water are huge in satiating it at all. I also find that eating smaller things frequently is preferable to huge meals only a few times a day.

    Great post!

  • I’ve been so hungry after my 15-miler on Sunday, so I definitely know what you are talking about! I don’t really do anything special to tame my hunger monster–I just up the number of servings in each food group: 3-4 servings of vegetables becomes 4-5, 2 servings of protein becomes 3, etc.

  • It is so hard for me to control how much I eat during marathon training! I usually don’t worry about it that much, because my focus is more on making sure I’ve eating enough to get through my runs, but I definitely don’t lose weight during training. I find that it’s much easier when I’m running recreationally and also incorporating strength training into my workouts. I think your strategies are good ones though. Sometimes I have to remind myself to focus more on upping my intake of vegetables, instead of just reaching for the carbs when I want a snack.

  • Great advice, Liz! The hunger monster can be so difficult to tame! During my first marathon training cycle, I honestly felt crazy. I was always hungry and trying to figure out the best way to fill up, fuel workouts, and feel satisfied. I did gain a couple pounds in the process. This time around, I feel a bit better. I think my body is a little bit more efficient and I have found what works for me. Eating enough protein is definitely key for me. I never reach for protein-rich foods, so I must strategically include them in my meals and snacks. I also try to remember to eat plenty of fruits and veggies. They definitely keep my immune system in check and help me stay full. It’s great that you are able to maintain a balanced diet to fuel workouts, while achieving your weight loss goals.

  • Kim

    These are great tips, I need to print them out and post them next to my computer! I’m also trying to lose weight as well, so I’m trying to fill up on veggies and good foods and avoid crap! What I find to be the biggest challenge is fitting in workouts and not falling off the wagon when I’m really busy. When I work late, or I have a ton going on I tend to get less sleep, then eat bad food and work out less…such a vicious cycle!

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