Lots of people are majorly motivated to exercise because they want to lose some weight. It is true that most wight loss happens in the kitchen not the gym but it can help. You certainly don’t want to let the ravenous hunger that can happen after a workout to derail you. So what is runger (aka the runchies)? It’s a special kind of hunger that happens after a workout that is at least equal to or greater than that that comes after skipping a meal you really needed to have. It can have lots of of side effects like leading to overeating, making you super cranky or in my case the bloating and insomnia that comes with overindulging. There are lots of strategies to deal with it if you need some help read on!
Acknowledge that it is a thing
When I found out about the term runger my mind was blown as in ‘so that is a real thing’ sort of way. If you don’t know about it you can’t make a plan to deal with it and you’re more likely to cave to it. If it’s something you really struggle with now you can search for other solutions beyond here now that you know the name. Runger is classically a side effect of running or other typically strenuous exercises. Really it can happen after any sort of exercise and it’s just a normal part of the human condition. But classically it’s more likely after cardio type workouts. I don’t think its ever happened to me after yoga class! So now that you know what it is let’s make a plan to deal with it.
Have a snack ready
Probably the easiest thing to do is have a healthy snack ready and be prepared after your workout. Cut up some fruit or veggies, have a granola bar at the ready (although those seem to go to nowhere) or some dried fruit or nuts all ready to go. But… this is pretty basic it might also be insufficient to deal with actual intense runger so let’s get onto the next tip.
Track how it works for you
The intense hunger you feel after exercise is similar but different for everyone. It isn’t something that I necessarily have to make a plan for since losing weight is definitely not my goal. But… the way it works for me I do still have to be aware of it sometimes because if I don’t I can end up uncomfortable and overfull by the end of the day and having a hard time sleeping. It might hit as soon as you stop working out or like me it creeps in over the next hour or so. For some once they eat something that’s it the cravings are satiated. For me the hunger pretty much stays with me for the rest of the day. Notice how long after your workout and what workouts make you feel insanely hungry, does a meal kill it is one food over another more effective than others in ending it. For me I’m not usually struck by runger unless I’m at around 16 km or over an hour and a half of running. Speed contributes but not that significantly. I tend to be snacky so even though I’ve just finished dinner I’m reaching for fruit then chips, followed by fro yo and then maybe some crackers. Instead of eating several servings of each I recognize that I’ve already eaten a huge dinner and I just have a taste of each. Once you realize how runger hits you then you can make a plan to deal with it!
Sweat right before meal time
One of the best options is to sneak your workout in right before you’re about to eat any way. This can really work for every meal of the day. Hit the gym before breakfast, run first and then eat on your lunch break and ideally get someone else to cook while you go for a ride. If you find that you need some more energy for your workout you could have a go to snack to fuel your exercise. Even first thing in the morning coffee usually does it for me but if it’s going to be a longer, very early run I might eat a tablespoon of peanut butter, don’t judge me! But usually I’ll bring some raisins with me to eat as I go. Usually I won’t fuel a run unless it is a lot longer than 10 k but I might take some in on an 8k run if it’s first thing in the morning. By scheduling your workouts and your meals together as a unit you can usually defeat the runger easily. If weight loss is your goal remember to stick to the meal plan, still fuel adequately, but remember being extra hungry after is totally normal.
Capitalize on healthy cravings
No matter your plan to deal with runchies, whether you want to lose weight or not capitalize on the hunger and go for nutrient dense ‘healthy’ foods over ‘junk’ foods. You know how when you’re super hungry rather than just a little snacky everything you put in your mouth tastes amazing! So why shove potato chips in when some carrots or whole wheat pasta will taste just as good in this moment. There are a few meals we eat around here that honey isn’t super excited about let’s just say. Things like chickpeas in tomato sauce and lentils in general. But… if I make sure lunch that day is on time and there aren’t snacks available that afternoon he swears in the moment it’s not that bad. So if you feel like you really are starving take it as an opportunity to eat something super healthy that you wouldn’t usually reach for. Hot tip: chick peas that have been hydrated overnight in the fridge are a great easy, healthy snack option.
Drink something (warm)
Oftentimes when we feel hungry we are actually or mostly just thirsty. Even if that’s not the case chugging a glass of water will fill you up and potentially get you over the hunger hump. I find drinking water or lemonade doesn’t really help all that much with hunger but a hot cup of coffee or tea feels satisfying like a hug from the inside. If you’ve eaten your post workout meal, had your healthy snack and the runger just won’t quit make yourself a hot cup of tea.
Exercise later in the day
If this is a really big issue for you and it’s leading the things like consistent overeating, getting hangry and derailing your progress overall then try to schedule your workouts later in the day. This is in no way a magic bullet for how you feel you just spend less time feeling miserable, cranky and hungry in the day. It can be harder to find time later in the day to workout since it’s often a busier time to say nothing of motivation at the end of the day. Even if you can’t do this forever scheduling your longer or harder workouts towards the end of the day at the start of your fitness journey can help with the transition to following a meal plan.
If you are looking to shed some pounds check out these posts:
- Little changes add to big pounds lost
- Are you on a diet that’s doomed to fail
- The science of ketosis
- The science of diets
- Science of weight loss plateaus
- How to finally lose weight this year: no BS
- The myth of 1200 calories
- What the hell is Noom
In a busy training season I actually struggle to keep weight on but I still watch the level to which I indulge after a run for other reasons. I also like to keep treat foods as treats and not shovel in a whole bag of something terrible just because I’m really hungry. Do you get rungry? How long of a workout does it take to give you runger? What’s your favorite tip for dealing with the runchies? Leave it in the comments below!