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.
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 Sleep.org 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 nbcnews.com 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?
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