Does running really make you hungrier?


In case you hadn’t noticed, I took a week and a half off of running. Seriously, if you’re going to do that, the tail end of winter is the perfect time. I was feeling a little run down initially, plus I have no big running goals at the moment. I kept myself active in other ways, and quite frankly, I didn’t even miss running.

Something strange happened when I started to run again
I got hungrier. Immediately. I was only adding in short, easy, 2 mile runs! Before that I was dabbling just a bit in intermittent fasting, which I’ve done on and off for the last year (can’t really say that I notice much difference when I do it).

Staying active without running I found I wasn’t nearly as hungry. I would wake up and I simply wasn’t hungry. I wasn’t bingeing the night before, either. I just didn’t feel the need to eat immediately so I didn’t.

That very first 2 mile run? I woke up the next morning hungry. Seriously? This is obviously just my observation and decidedly unscientific.

According to this post from Popsugar (read the entire post here):

Studies have shown that the more intensely you exercise, the less ghrelin (the “hunger hormone”) your body produces, so a long, low-intensity session could be the reason why you’re ravenous. But other research in women shows that even those who exercise intensely eat more calories after exercise than those who don’t work out, so this isn’t the only appetite-inducing culprit. If you’ve just finished an intense session and still feel like downing an entire pizza, it could be dehydration.

The thing that I find really odd is that I was already exercising. In fact, I was doing PITT28 — a HITT/Pilates hybrid from Blogilates — and I would wake up the next morning not feeling hungry. The minute I started to run, though, I felt hungry on waking — not necessarily after my run, though. I knew I didn’t need to “refuel” for 2 easy miles.

Runner’s World has a slightly different take on the rungries here:

Carbohydrates are essential for re-fueling glycogen stores that become depleted on long runs. Long runs call for supplements, like Gu’s or gels, which are loaded with sugar. They cause a spike in our blood sugar, which we need on the run, but what goes up must come down. As blood sugar levels plummet, we take another supplement and the up, down, up, down creates a blood sugar roller coaster. It gets us through the long miles but it’s important to stabilize blood sugar levels as soon as you can. Eating the proper nutrition helps you gain control over your blood sugar. A long run affects your blood sugar for some time afterwards because your body remains in high gear for several hours post-run, causing blood sugar levels to continue to drop even though you are not exercising. 

And they also talk about one of my favorite fueling strategies and why you might want to try it:

Another strategy for leveling out blood sugar levels is to try taking smaller amounts of your run nutrition at more frequent intervals on your long runs. For example, take a half or one third of a packet at a time rather than the entire packet. This will give you the energy you need but smaller doses may help you avoid big spikes or falls in your blood sugar, making it easier for you to level out when you finish your run. 

None of this explains why I could happily put off breakfast while not running, but suddenly really needed it the day after a short, easy run. Did I really need a snack post run? Did I not drink enough? Or is it just all mental? I truly have no idea.

Sugar in the evening = hard to fall asleep?

Now about that sleep thing
Another interesting thing I noticed was that I was in general sleeping very well in the days prior to starting to run again. I felt more rested than I had in a while. Oddly enough I didn’t sleep as well after I added running back in (despite being active in other ways while not running).

Runner’s World touches on the benefits of an early morning run to your sleep in this post here:

. . . the take-away message from a small study that was conducted at Appalachian State University in North Carolina, in which 20 adults on separate days did a moderate, 30-minute workout at 7 a.m., 1 p.m., or 7 p.m. Researchers then monitored the participants’ sleep on each of the nights following those differently timed workouts.

Compared to when they’d done afternoon or evening workouts, the participants woke significantly fewer times during the night when they’d exercised at 7 a.m. They also spent less time in REM sleep after the morning workout. REM sleep is the phase during which the bulk of vividly recalled dreams occur, and is considered the lightest phase of sleep. Many people wake briefly after a bout of REM sleep.

According to in this post here:

It used to be thought that working out vigorously too close to bedtime was a no-no for everyone, because it may over-stimulate the body. But it turns out that exercising at night doesn’t interfere with everyone’s sleep—it depends on the individual. So if you find that physical activity in the evening revs you up too much, do it earlier in the day. But if you find that the opposite is true—maybe you come home so exhausted that you plop down on the bed and fall asleep quickly—then, by all means, keep on doing what you’re doing!

Was it when I ate? What I ate? This was something else I found just very odd. Yes, my runs were typically in the afternoon. They were nowhere close to my bedtime — I already know that running in the early evening can make it hard for me to fall asleep. There was nothing really new there, though. But here are some more interesting findings from a post at here:

The data showed that eating less fiber, more saturated fat and more sugar throughout the day was linked with participants getting lighter, less restorative sleep, with more awakenings throughout the night.

While sugar is my drug of choice, I’m careful about it (most days). I typically eat a very high fiber diet. Although I did have an aha moment: I treated myself to a bakery cupcake. I had it after dinner. I have no idea how much fat/sugar was in it, but no doubt lots. I had trouble falling asleep that night (although slept okay once I did fall asleep).

Perhaps when I choose to indulge in something like that again, it won’t be after dinner. Or maybe the next time I have trouble falling asleep I’ll ponder whether or not it was a sugary treat after dinner that was the culprit — normally I don’t have trouble falling asleep, it’s usually waking up too early and not being able to go back to sleep.

One night after I started to run again — I woke up around 3 am and wasn’t able to fall asleep again.

It makes sense to me, though — sugar can equal energy (GU, anyone?). I’m not quite sure how it’s taken me this long to put the two together, and the jury is still out, but I’ll be more mindful of this going forward.

I didn’t really come up with any answers here, I was just curious and started to dig further. It’s been a long time since I took off more than a few days from running, and I noticed these changes immediately. I just want to share, and to see if I could figure it out.

Of course there was a day this week I had some trouble falling asleep and there was definitely no high fat, high sugar treat — there are other causes of insomnia, but this is still something I’ll be keeping an eye on now.

Do you ever notice a correlation with poor sleep and certain foods?

How do you sleep if you run too close to your normal bedtime?

Ever noticed a change in hunger levels when not running?

I am linking up with:

35 thoughts on “Does running really make you hungrier?

  1. Exactly the opposite. I have been taking many days off from running and I am definitely hungrier when I don’t run.

    I can skip dinner after a run or eat a light one. If I don’t run I am starving.

    Go figure.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. My guess is you use running to keep yourself occupied/work off feelings. For instance, many people eat from boredom—I know I do.

      Then again you always say you’re ravenous after long runs & often they suppress my appetite. We’re all different.


      1. It’s all mental. Food is a reward for finishing a run. More a desire than a need. And it’s not immediate.

        You can find research for both. Just like everything else.

        Food for thought. Lol.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. I guess that’s a conversation you need to have with the chiro next week. Can you defer to next year? Or drop to a shorter distance? I’m sure it was expensive, though, so deferring if an option would probably be better.

        If your chiro thinks you can do it & you have faith in her & take it easy if need be . . . you might have your answer.


      3. You know me. I’ll do the race. Hope I don’t regret it. Too much money spent. If I DNS any races, It’ll be the local ones.

        Liked by 1 person

    1. Running at night can effect my sleep & I know it can make me hungrier too, because I end up eating at times.

      I seriously don’t feel as though I get any benefits from IF at all. Then again, you’re also doing Keto so that’s actually 2 variables. You’re lucky they work for you!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I don’t find myself hungrier when I run. When I have had a particularly intense strength session or CrossFit, the following day, I am ravenous! It’s crazy.

    Since menopause, sleep has been tough for me. I can’t identify any foods that affect sleep for me.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I had trouble falling asleep last night — nothing surgary. Or anything else I can really id. Maybe the small protein bar before bed. Not a lot of sugar but still sweet tasting. Who really knows?

      That’s really interesting that CrossFit makes you so hungry but then again there’s a cardio component to that, too. I swear swimming is the worst!


  3. I’m always hungry after any intense workout, not just running. But I feel like i turn into a different person during marathon training, especially after doing a long run. I’m always so hungry!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I only had a few runs longer than 13 miles last year, but they were also so incredibly hot & humid. Still, I did end up gaining weight. Probably just gave myself permission for too many sweets.


  4. Im the opposite. I am not hungry at all on days I run, even on my longer 10+ mile running days. I run at 5am and don’t really get hungry and have my first meal until 2-3pm. On days I don’t run I am soooooo hungry. Odd.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. We are obviously all so different! I can go either way with long runs — not hungry or really hungry. But even if I’m not hungry, I know I need to eat something or I’ll get ravenous.


  5. This is all so interesting. Regarding sleep, I sleep so much better on days that I run. And I’m always hungry, so it’s hard to tell if it’s that that makes my stomach growl. 🙂

    As a side note, I think you may have mentioned something that may saved my marathon running life. I tend to get “dizzy spells” late in a long race, which can turn into asthma (weird, I know) if I try to keep running through them. After my last race, my husband suggested that it might be due to fueling. Which got me to thinking about what I think of my hypoglycemia in my regular life. If I go too long without eating (like two hours!!!) I get shaky, sweaty, and my brain doesn’t function well. Could this be what’s happening on the run? Anyway, long story, obviously, but the idea of taking just small doses of gel or other fuel during a long race got me to thinking. Maybe this will help. Thanks.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I hope eating smaller & more frequently does help! I remember my first half, Vegas, which was of course also strange being a night race. So hard to fuel for.

      I hadn’t adapted the eat small frequently strategy, that was still years away. I was a GU girl back then. And I remember getting dizzy around mile 10. Keep in mind it also took me over 3 hours . . . Luckily I had a HS Waffle with me in addition to the GUs & that did the trick.


  6. I’ve definitely noticed I’m hungrier when I’m running! I took 4 weeks off earlier this year and am running again now and can definitely tell the difference. Alcohol and sugar definitely lead to me sleeping less. I try to limit those but I’m not always successful 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  7. I have taking a running hiatus since Christmas and I noticed that I am JUST AS hungry as I have been (maybe even more so) than when I run. I would usually run right after school, and then come home, get cleaned up, and make dinner. I guess I didn’t have time to snack. Now I come home from school and snack right away , and it doesn’t have to be a quick snack because I’m not going anywhere…haha.

    I do notice that I sleep better when I run! -M

    Liked by 1 person

  8. I have been doing the fasted-cardio routine for so long (almost two years?) that I don’t feel hungry until about 9:00 most mornings (which is about three hours past any workouts). That’s if it’s a week day and I’m at work. If I do a long run (8+ miles), though, I can practically eat the kitchen table and that would be after fueling prior to the run.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. I’m not typically a brunch person in general, but I always hear about post-run brunch. When in Lauderdale we decided ro go and I was craving conch fritters. Wasn’t even hungry for them in the end – although that was partially the heat
    I can put a hurt in all you can eat sushi a few hours after a long run though

    Liked by 1 person

    1. The heat will definitely make me not hungry. Which is why I usually insist on a room with a fridge/microwave if at all possible so I can take it back with me & eat it later!

      I can definitely suck down some sushi, but OTOH, I really can’t afford to. We almost had some sushi in Savannah at one point but in the end we didn’t.


      1. This is why I love my all you can eat joint. It’s not cheap, per se, but I can chow down without damage. I only go once or twice a month so I can make the money work

        Liked by 1 person

  10. How interesting. I have a weird thing where if I run up to about 13 miles I want a nice lunch type meal after, but after 14+ I really lose my appetite – Ive accommodated that by having a second breakfast when I get home then a few snacky bits then a main meal in the evening. The day after, though, I’m ravenous!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. If you’re ravenous the next day, you probably didn’t eat enough to recover on the day of the run. I get how that can be hard, though!

      I swing both ways, getting really hungry after a long run or losing my appetite altogether. No rhyme or reason.

      Liked by 1 person

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