Do you find yourself digging into a few too many cookies or bakery treats later in the day? Most food cravings occur in the late afternoon or evening, and often night time snacking is just a habit people get into. Some people feel they are entitled to eat at the end of a hard day or they haven’t eaten enough during the day and end up ravenous.
What happens after training when you are hungry and find yourself driving past a coffee shop with a grumbling stomach and low energy? “I’ll have chocolate chunk cookie please.” Obviously not the best choice for fuel or recovery.
Why do we get food cravings? There are a number of theories, here are a few:
Our body telling us we are lacking a nutrient
Psychological reaction to mood or stress
To increase levels of ‘feel good’ brain chemicals like serotonin and endorphins
Response to low blood sugar
Response to environment – smell pizza, crave pizza
To keep your energy levels stable, and to optimise your training with well planned nutrition, try these strategies:
Take time to distinguish between physiological hunger and psychological hunger. Ask yourself “Am I really hungry?”
Eat every 3-4 hours to keep energy levels stable and prevent getting overly hungry. Check out some great snack recipes here.
Choose a healthy substitute. It you crave ice cream, try frozen or plain yogurt.
Build your core meals with at least 3 of the 4 food groups. This is a good way to make sure you are taking in a variety of foods and not leaving your body craving for more.
Get off the low-carb band wagon – you’ll end up craving them! For a refresher on how much carbohydrate you need see here
Be it chocolate cake or nachos; include a portion of your favourite food once a week to prevent cravings and overindulgence.
Avoid situations that trigger cravings. If walking by a bakery on the way to work has you craving a Danish, choose a different route.
If chocolate is your vice, have a small piece of high quality chocolate a few times week.
A registered dietitian is a great resource for developing individual nutrition strategies – see SportMedBC’s directory of practitioners here.
Dana Lis, Sport Dietitian