Eating a healthy snack or meal after exercise is like refueling a car with an empty gas tank. Some people, however, are not hungry after a workout. If that's your case, you may be dealing with an underlying problem, like chronic stress or overtraining.
Overtraining Might Be the Culprit
Many people follow the mantra "go hard or go home" when it comes to exercise. In some cases, this approach may affect their appetite and increase injury risk. According to the Hospital for Specialty Surgery (HSS), working out too hard for too long without allowing sufficient recovery time (a phenomenon called "overtraining") may cause you to lose your appetite after a workout.
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Not only are people who overtrain not hungry after a workout, but they may experience a variety of other symptoms. The HSS states that individuals who work out at an unhealthy level typically have unusually sore muscles afterward and may find themselves unable to participate in previously enjoyable fitness activities.
If you don't get hungry after a workout, overtraining or stress might be the cause. Your hormone levels may play a role too.
Fatigue, depression, decreased motivation, anger and sleep problems are also common. Furthermore, people who overtrain may experience unusually high blood pressure, constipation or diarrhea.
If you experience this condition, consider working with a nutritionist or fitness coach. He or she can design a workout that lets you meet your fitness goals without putting your health at risk.
Read more: Foods to Aid Appetite Loss
Check Your Hormone Levels
If you finish a workout and don't feel hungry afterward, the culprit may be your body's hormone levels. The stomach and large intestine secrete a substance called ghrelin, which stimulates appetite and triggers hunger, according to the Endocrine Society. The human body also produces a hormone called peptide YY, which has the opposite effect on hunger, suppressing appetite.
Certain types of workouts may actually cause more peptide YY to be secreted while simultaneously leading to more ghrelin being absorbed. The net effect of this hormonal shift can leave you not feeling hungry after a workout. As reported by Michigan State University, individuals who choose high-intensity cardio activities like running or biking may see a surge in peptide YY.
The same may happen during high-intensity interval training, which involves short bursts of intense exercise followed by rest, and other intense activities. Participating in aerobic exercise, in which a continuous activity is performed at a lower intensity for longer periods, may not lead to the same increase in peptide YY levels, and thus, it may not suppress your appetite afterward.
Don’t Get Stressed Out
Many people turn to exercise to help them beat the stress they experience in everyday life. While working out is a great way to relieve tension, the stress you're trying to eliminate might be contributing to your lack of hunger.
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As reported by the Cleveland Clinic, the stress you experience throughout the day has a direct impact on your overall hunger levels. This is because of a hormone called cortisol. When exposed to stress, the body secretes cortisol to elicit the so-called "fight-or-flight" response.
While many people react to this stressed state with emotional eating, not everyone's stress response is the same. In some cases, people ignore their body's hunger cues or simply don't feel the need to eat.
Regular exercise may help lower the anxiety you experience throughout the day. However, going into a workout with too much stress may cause you to lose track of your appetite and "forget" you are hungry afterward.
To prevent going into your workout stressed, the Cleveland Clinic suggests closing your eyes and practicing deep breathing for five minutes before you start. Also, it's important to make sure you get enough sleep each night. Sleep deprivation may further increase your cortisol levels and affect appetite.