Should you just eat when your tummy lets you know or should you establish a regular eating timetable for your meals and snacks? Can listening to the body’s signals really prevent feeling hungry after workouts? How does the menstruation cycle affect nutritional choices?
Learn about reading your body’s hunger signals to know when to eat, how the 10 principles of intuitive eating can help, and how the menstruation cycle affects nutrition so you can have a more balanced approach to holistic nutrition.
Using Hunger Signals to Stop Feeling Hungry After Workouts
One of the most basic signals your body sends out is one for hunger. That familiar stomach growl lets us know it’s time to eat something. Ghrelin, the body’s hunger hormone, is produced in the pancreas and stomach lining and works to stimulate the appetite.
Eating because you’re hungry comes naturally because hunger pangs are just the body’s way of saying it needs an energy boost, ideally in the form of something nutritious.
Whether you prefer 3 main meals a day or 6 smaller ones, never stop listening to your body telling you it’s full. If you’ve provided it with enough energy, it will let you know, usually within 20 minutes after your mealtime. Eat slowly, listen carefully and put down your knife and fork when your stomach says “enough”.
Learning to correctly interpret your body signaling when it’s hungry and when it’s full is extremely important. We sometimes confuse emotions, both positive and negative, or cravings with hunger signals.
Eat Before You’re Hungry to Avoid Being Hungry After Workouts
Do you wait to eat until your appetite is so big you’d eat pretty much anything? Bad plan — this usually results in overeating. When our blood sugar drops fairly low, we tend to grab any and all food we can get our hands on. This is obviously less than ideal when you’re trying to lose weight.
For people suffering from blood sugar issues, such as diabetes, this extreme drop in blood sugar can be particularly dangerous.
The argument for an eating schedule
The debate rages on: 3 larger meals a day or 6 smaller ones? Sticking to a timetable helps many people avoid feelings of extreme hunger. This, in turn, can reduce the risk of overeating or emotional binge eating. A meta-analysis of 15 studies on the relationship between eating frequency and weight loss showed that smaller, more regular meals can help weight loss efforts.
The argument against scheduled meal times
If you’re rigid about eating at a certain hour, you might begin eating out of habit instead of hunger. This means you’re taking in calories even if your body isn’t asking you for them, which can lead to weight gain instead of loss. Additionally, there are a lot of people who just aren’t comfortable with a strict eating schedule. For some people, paying more attention to the timing means paying less attention to the natural hunger signals, or ignoring them all together.
Using the 10 Principles of Intuitive Eating to Avoid Feeling Hungry After Workouts
Imagine a world in which you could forget dieting and calorie counting and still reach your healthy weight. With intuitive eating you can eat what you want, without rules or forbidden foods. You learn how to practice mindful eating and listen to your body telling you when to eat and when you’re full.
What is intuitive eating?
Intuitive eating is when you listen to your body and the signals it’s sending you. This gentle nutrition is all about self love. The model for intuitive eating was developed in 1995 by two dieticians in California, Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch.
We were all born eating intuitively. Young children are a great example of this. They eat when they’re hungry and stop when they’re full. The amount they eat changes almost every day. One day they want two servings at lunch and on the next they’re full after just a few bites.
The older we get, the less mindful we are about food. In childhood we learned that we had to clean our plate or behave ourselves if we wanted dessert. We learned that there are good foods and bad foods. And the result of these lessons? As adults, when we eat “good” foods we feel good about ourselves. But if we eat “bad” foods, we feel guilty about it. The goal of intuitive eating is to change the way we think about food, and this can be a long learning process.
Intuitive eating is not a diet; it’s completely the opposite. You don’t have to count calories or macronutrients and there is no meal plan. All foods are allowed. If you eat according to how you feel, you will learn to be more mindful of the signals your body is sending you. Eat when you’re hungry, stop when you’re full. You’ll notice what your body needs. It might be a salad, but it could also be a piece of chocolate cake. And that’s totally okay.
7 Benefits of Intuitive Eating
There are hundreds of studies documenting the benefits of intuitive eating. For example, a review article from Cambridge University Press on the link between health indicators and intuitive eating found found “consistent associations between intuitive eating and both lower BMI and better psychological health.” A 2006 metastudy in Journal of Counseling Psychology found that intuitive eating positively correlated with wellbeing while also negatively correlating with unhealthy body image issues. Moreover, intuitive eating has been linked to:
- More self confidence
- Healthier body image
- Greater well-being
- Positive impact on mental health
- Reduced rate of eating disorders
- Higher “good” cholesterol (HDL)
- Lower triglycerides
Learn to listen to your body
Have you been counting calories with an app for years or tried a million different diets? It’s easy to feel overwhelmed when all the rules are gone and you can eat whatever you want…try to listen to your body. Ask yourself what you need at the moment. It takes some practice to understand the signs.
The 10 Principles of Intuitive Eating
Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch explain the ten principles of intuitive eating in their book, Intuitive Eating: A Revolutionary Program that Works.
1. Reject the diet mentality
Diets are often doomed to fail and they’re definitely not a long-term solution if you want to reach a healthy weight. Most diets eventually lead to weight gain, cravings, and feelings of guilt or failure when you don’t reach your weight goals.(ƒ1) Intuitive eating is based on the principle that diets simply don’t work.
2. Honor your hunger
Hunger is not the enemy. It is your body’s way of protecting itself from starvation. We’ve all seen the advice recommending that we distract ourselves from hunger or suppress hunger pangs by drinking a large glass of water. Forget it. Eat when you’re hungry, no matter whether you ate one or four hours ago.
Signs of hunger:
- Growling stomach
- Inability to focus
- Mood swings
3. Make peace with food
Stop thinking about food as being good or bad. Everything is allowed. When you eat mindfully, you eat what you want. Be aware of flavors and the way you feel after your meal.
- Did it taste good?
- Am I full?
- How does my body feel after eating?
You’ll see, intuitive eating will get easier with practice.
4. Challenge the food police
This is a very important step on your road to mindful eating. The food police are those thoughts you have that tell you to feel good or bad about yourself after you eat. Stop them in their tracks and stop punishing yourself for eating a bag of chips.
5. Discover the satisfaction factor
The goal of eating is not to get full. Food should satisfy you and make you happy. Sit down and enjoy a meal with all your senses.
6. Feel your fullness
Learn how to listen to the signals your body is sending you when you’re full. If you eat slowly, you’ll quickly be able to feel when you’ve had enough. You haven’t cleaned your plate yet? No problem. Pack up the leftovers and eat them tomorrow instead of forcing yourself to finish.
Signs of fullness:
- Feeling pleasantly full
- Signs of hunger disappear
- Appetite is reduced
7. Cope with your emotions with kindness
What do you do when you’re stressed out or sad? Reach for chocolate, perhaps? It’s completely ok to feel sad, anxious, angry, or lonely. A lot of people use food to make themselves feel better.(2) But keep in mind that food won’t solve any problems. Find other ways to cope with your feelings. Try a long walk, a yoga session, call a friend, or keep a mindfulness journal. There are plenty of other ways to feel good besides indulging in chocolate.
8. Respect your body
Remember: to thine own self be true! Accept your body and learn to love yourself. This is the most important principle of intuitive eating.
9. Movement – feel the difference
Instead of thinking about which kind of exercise burns the most calories, reflect on which activity is the most fun and makes you feel great. It doesn’t matter if it’s running, dancing, biking, or bodyweight training. If you enjoy it, you’ll stick with it.
10. Honor your health – gentle nutrition
Choose foods that are good for your health, taste good, and make you feel good. You don’t always have to eat a perfect diet to be healthy. There’s no food that will make you sick if you eat it once or twice. It’s all about progress.
How To Adjust Your Nutrition Based On Your Hormonal Cycle
The menstrual cycle is split into four different phases and is governed by hormones; the main two being estrogen and progesterone. The menstrual cycle impacts how your body processes and uses nutrition. Consider changing up your nutritional choices to align better with your cycle.
This is counted as day 1 of your cycle and when you experience your bleed. If you have light spotting prior to your cycle do not count those days. Spotting may indicate a progesterone insufficiency which you may want to discuss with your doctor if trying to conceive.
This is when hormones are at their lowest and you may experience feelings of fatigue, emotional, anxiety and you may experience menstrual pain.
Ways to manage this phase with nutrition:
- Make sure you eat regular meals to support energy
- Balancing blood sugar levels is the best way to support energy levels. You can do this by swapping refined carbohydrates for complex wholegrains
- Ensure you have a good source of protein at each meal
- Menstrual pain may be alleviated with magnesium (learn why magnesium is great for all athletes). You can either supplement or soak in a bath with magnesium flakes. If supplementing, look for the most gentle forms, such as magnesium glycinate.
- Check out this post for the best sources of magnesium
Your body is preparing for ovulation, and by the end of this phase, estrogen levels are most dominant. This causes your endometrium to thicken in preparation for the potential implantation of a fertilized egg.
The increase of estrogen may make you more energetic, motivated, outgoing and have lighter moods.
If you feel exhausted in this phase, you may want to consider having your iron levels checked, especially if you have heavy bleeds.
Ways to manage this phase:
- Try seed cycling, where you consume different seeds at different phases of your cycle. You may benefit from eating 2-4 tablespoons of ground flax and pumpkin seeds in the follicular and ovulatory phases. These seeds may help you naturally increase your estrogen levels. The pumpkin seeds contain zinc which may support progesterone production needed for the luteal phase.
- Including healthy fats in your diet also supports this phase. Healthy fats can be found in wild salmon, extra virgin olive oil, avocados etc. Learn more about healthy fats.
Within this phase, your estrogen levels have peaked in your body’s hormonal push towards ovulation. You may find your mood is elevated, you’re more productive, and you have an increased libido
As estrogen peaks, you may find that you have less appetite. To ensure you are still getting all the nutrients you need, focus on light foods such as smoothies, soups or stews–depending on the season. Ensure that you always have a protein source to balance blood sugar levels. Adding collagen powders to smoothies is great because it doesn’t have the additives of many protein powders.
After ovulation, your estrogen levels drop dramatically, and this can impact your mood and energy levels. Low mood, headaches, digestive problems, acne and sugar cravings are common PMS (Premenstrual syndrome) symptoms.
PMS may be exacerbated by systemic inflammation, which increases inflammatory markers known as cytokines. Eliminating refined sugar–found in refined foods such as cakes, biscuits, and white bread–can positively affect inflammation. Increasing your omegas 3s found in oily fish, nuts, and seeds can also help fight inflammation. Removing any processed foods, eating whole grains and increasing antioxidants found in fruits and vegetables can also help. Reducing red meat to once a week and consuming lean white meat such as chicken, turkey, or fish can also help reduce inflammation.
Try eating a handful of berries a day – going organic wherever possible since there is also a link between PMS and histamine-containing foods. Reducing dairy, alcohol, bone broth, and fermented foods around this phase may also have a positive impact.
As your estrogen levels drop, your progesterone levels begin to increase as this hormone is essential for sustaining any potential pregnancy.
However, due to the slowing down effect of progesterone, your digestive system may feel very sluggish. You may experience feelings of constipation around that time. This is when ensuring you are eating enough dietary fiber is important. The majority of the population doesn’t eat enough of the recommended daily amount of 30g a day. If experiencing constipation, try eating one or two kiwis a day. Fiber is abundantly found in all fruits, vegetables and legumes.
Seed cycling in this phase involves eating 2-4 tablespoons of sunflower and sesame seeds. It is thought that the zinc and vitamin E found in the seeds helps stimulate the production of progesterone.
Head to adidas Training for workouts suited for any energy level!
Keeping yourself nourished should be a natural process, not one full of forced rules and regulations. Both timing-based and instinctually-based methods can aid in weight loss.
|Maddy Weaver (She/Her) contributed to the section on menstruation nutrition for this post. She is a qualified Registered Nutritional Therapist BSc, BANT, CNHC specializing in female health with a strong focus on fertility. Her work with clients stems from a passionate belief that nutrition directly has a positive impact on one’s hormonal health. Combining this with her work as a Yoga and Fitness Professional, Weaver credits a balanced lifestyle as the key to physical and emotional health and happiness.|
The information provided in this blog post is for guidance purposes only, and does not substitute for professional medical advice. You should always consult a medical professional or healthcare provider if you’re seeking medical advice.