Read read below from Vicki (Acacia Health) who also writes for the Australian Triathlete magazine. What ever your sport or training, your diet plays a big role in achieving your goals.

The more I exercise, the more weight I lose, right? 

Well, not always! The body is a complicated beast, and sometime we need to make conscious decisions to ensure the kilos don’t go creep on as we rev up our exercise programs.

All to often I hear the complaint of unexpected weight gain following the commencement of or an increase in exercise. Surely this is not meant to happen! Shouldn’t I be losing the pudding with more exercise? Oh, the body is a complicated thing and wouldn’t it be nice if things were really that simple!

Unfortunately along with increased movement/exercise comes increased nutrient and calorie requirements and your body’s way of getting you to meet these requirements is to make you hungry! For some people finding a balance is simple, for others (and I’m referring to the majority here) a little analysing, planning and testing of various diet strategies and then making a few tweaks to your intake can lead you down a path of more desirable results in regards to your weight and hunger.

Food acaciaIf you struggle with increased hunger since starting or increasing your exercise program, here are mytop three tips to get back on track:

1.   Keep a food diary

A food diary is an excellent tool for increasing your awareness regarding what goes into your mouth (and body) every day. Too often we are guilty of mindless eating – a bite or two of your hubby’s sandwich, a spoonful of a friend’s dessert or picking on your toddler’s leftover pasta – it all adds up over the day and before you know it your calorie intake has shot through the roof. Keeping a food diary is often frowned upon for it’s tedious nature however it certainly has a role to play in circumstances such as these. Tips for keeping a food diary include:

  • Don’t wait until the end of the day to record what you have eaten. The sooner you can put pen to paper the better. Studies indicate that we are generally not too good at recalling what we have eaten – the longer you wait to write down food consumed the less accurate you will be.
  • Be as specific as possible i.e. instead of simply writing ‘salad sandwich’ include all components specifying bread type and size, butter and/or other condiments, cheese and salad veggies. A white bread sandwich made with supermarket bread spread with butter and including just cheese and lettuce is very different from a wholegrain sourdough sandwich with lettuce, tomato, cucumber, beetroot, sprouts, avocado and chicken! This information can be particularly useful if you would like to take things a step further and visit a dietitian.
  • Don’t forget to include all fluid consumed – calories in fluids are a lot easier to consume than in food and they add up quickly.

2.   Adequate protein intake and sufficient fat

Macronutrient imbalance is one of the most common reasons why people suffer from hunger pangs. Many of us focus on carbohydrates in our diet way too much and sometimes this is to the detriment of protein and fat. A study recently published in the American Journal of clinical nutrition stated that “Protein generally increases satiety to a greater extend than carbohydrate and may facilitate a reduction in overall energy (calorie) consumption”. Besides satiety a higher protein diet is associated with many other physiological benefits that have been related to enhanced weight loss and better weight management in the long term. I would suggest including a serve of good quality protein (lean meat, fish, chicken, tofu, eggs, beans, legumes) at most meals and snacks. It is a lot harder to overeat protein than it is to overeat carbohydrate. If feeling hungry at a particular meal or snack increase your protein serve rather than carbohydrate.

Many of us have grown up in an era that has literally been conditioned to ‘fear fat’! Let it be told that fat is not the enemy. Including fat in your diet is an essential component of keeping you lean and adequately satisfied. Add avocado to salad and sandwiches, snack on nuts and seeds or add them to your morning fruit and yoghurt, use olive oil or flaxseed oil drizzled over salads and veggies and add LSA (ground linseed sunflower seeds and almonds) or flaxseed meal to a smoothie. These additions will not only add flavour, texture and variety to your food but will dramatically reduce those hunger pangs and potential cravings later in the day.

3.   Adequate sleep

Numerous studies over the years have been able to demonstrate that sufficient sleep is an integral part of energy metabolism. Sleep has been shown to play a key role relating to changes in both hunger and satiety hormones. Insufficient sleep basically leads to increased overall food intake as a physiological adaptation to provide energy needed to sustain additional wakefulness. Women in particular have been shown to demonstrate reduced dietary restraint when they have had inadequate sleep. The good news here is that studies have shown that those who transition from insufficient sleep to sufficient sleep generally decrease overall energy (calorie) intake, especially of fats and carbohydrates and weight loss results.

Other areas that you may like to investigate or consider when it comes to your weight and related hunger are:

  • Your hydration state – a chronic state of dehydration has been shown to cause an increase calorie consumption
  • Skipping meals and snacks – consistent food intake that is fairly predictable may be a helpful strategy to get you on track
  • Finally, is your overall calorie intake actually adequate to meet your daily requirements? All too often I see individuals adding exercise into their schedule without changing diet and then wonder why they are raiding the fridge at 9pm at night!

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