ASK A TRAINER: 'What Can I Do if Exercise Makes Me Really Hungry?'
"I have been a very active person most my life; I played four sports in high school. I had to stop running and actually exercising altogether last year because I had knee surgery. I finished physical therapy and am back to my old, active self now. I try to take two to four classes at my gym each week and I do strength weights and abs with a trainer twice a week. I gained some weight when I was recovering from surgery and I've lost most of it but since I started exercising again I've noticed that I'm always hungry. They say you should listen to your body so maybe it has something to do with getting older. How can I lose the last few pounds and keep the weight off and stay as active as I am without feeling like I'm starving?" - Terry M., Farmingdale, NY
First off, Terry, I want to congratulate you for getting back on the horse after working through your injury. I have a specialization in corrective exercise and, as a result, have worked with a number of clients returning to the gym post-surgery and the work involved in rebuilding strength, stabilization, endurance and range of motion is not only physically challenging but can be psychologically daunting. I hope you can appreciate how impressive your progress has been thus far.
It's not surprising that you're experiencing a marked increase in appetite as you have shifted from being more or less sedentary to full throttle in a relatively short period of time. Almost anyone will experience an increase in appetite when they drastically change the intensity of the fitness regimen, even if you are already in excellent shape. They do say you should listen to your body but your body might not simply be telling you need more food; it might actually be telling you it needs more of certain things in order to fuel your workouts and repair and rebuild during your non-exercising hours. You want to make sure that you are giving your body what it needs; plenty of lean protein, complex carbs, vegetables, some (but not too much) healthy fat, an adequate amount of fiber and a lot of water. If you are trying to lose those last few pounds you are going to need to create a calorie deficit by taking in fewer calories than you expend but the good news is the types of foods I mentioned tend to pack the most pound-for-pound (pun intended) caloric punch in terms of the way to get the most out of your allotted calories for the day.