Yes, Exercise Does Make You Hungry

By Jim F

2496-RUNNING.jpgMany people believe that exercising leaves you feeling hungry.

Some take it further claiming that you end up eating more – thus negating any calorie deficit from the exercise.

So what is the truth?

What Does the Research Say?

Researchers in the UK have concluded that exercise does indeed make you hungry – but the overall result will still give you a calorie deficit.Scientists point out that in the past people believed intense exercise could lead to overeating, which would cancel out any potential effects on weight-loss.

But the new study shows exercise may help alter people’s appetite, aid in weight-loss, and prevent further weight gain.

The Study Simplified

For the study, published in the Journal of Endocrinology, researchers put 12 volunteers – 6 men and 6 women – through the following steps:

  1. Ate the same breakfast.
  2. Wait for an hour.
  3. One group did 60 minutes of stationary cycling (at 65% max heart rate). The other group did nothing.
  4. Wait for an hour.
  5. Everyone enjoyed an all-you-can-eat buffet.

The Results

The exercising group consumed 913 Calories at the buffet. The non-exercising group ate 762 Calories. However, during exercise, the first group burned 492 Calories compared to 197 Calories.

The net result: the exercisers ultimately took in around 144 less Calories.

Note that during and immediately after exercise volunteers reported they felt less hungry – and the appetite suppressing hormones PYY, GLP-1 and PP were increased.

In addition to hormones, previous studies have shown appetite regulation is a complex process also involving the gastrointestinal tract and both the central and autonomic nervous systems.

Is Exercise Necessary?

According to the World Health Organization, exercise is essential for maintaining good health; reducing risk of high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, diabetes, depression, and colon and breast cancer.

The American Heart Association (AHA) recommends adults get at least 30 minutes of moderate to vigorous aerobic activity on most days of the week; hitting a maximum heart rate of 50% to 85%.

If it’s hard to find the time, the AHA suggests breaking up your exercise into two shorter sessions.

Do you think exercise makes a difference in the amount of weight a person can lose?

Image credit: Alain Limoges


  1. Alyssa

    I do a total of 30 minutes of an intense brisk walking 4 Hours after breakfast in the Morning on most days and by Lunchtime I overeat on something healthy with Cookies and Cream Muscle Milk Liquid Protein Shake. I do not eat dinner but I have a betime snack an hour before I go to bed.

    For breakfast, I have 4 Golden Oat Belvita
    Breakfast Biscuits; 1 Quaker Maple and Brown Sugar Instant Oatmeal, 1/2 of a banana and a Pro Series Intense Vanilla Muscle Milk Liquid Protein Shake and 9 cups of water.

    What is the cause of these cravings and overeating by lunch time?

  2. John paul mooney

    I have been lifting wieghts now for 4 months I have lost around a stone and a half .I have recently started a food plan which means I eat every 2-3 hours but I have never felt hunger like it I’m constantly hungry is this a good or bad thing? I try to eat plenty of protein but yet I am still hungry is this my metabolism?

    • Ted

      Yes, hunger is a good sign that your metabolism is revved up.

    • Aidan

      Hi John Paul. I would say this is most certainly a very good sign in your situation, as you are working out. Your body is firing full cylinders! Also, when you weight train it increases the amount of calories you will burn while resting because lean muscle mass is very calorie demanding. When I do weights I’m a hungry-horris, but the results are always good even if I am eating more.

      Another thing related to cardio (not sure if you’ve been doing this) is that you have an ‘after burn’ if it’s hit a certain level of intensity for say…..25 mins. You continue to burn calories up to an hour after you have stopped. Needless to say this will be another form of calorie demand.

      It’s pretty much why so many men and women are using weights as part of an effective weekly workout plan. Thankfully….gone are the days where women (in particular) avoided weights for fear of bulking, and modern science can teach us about the incredible effects of combining both cardio and weights to become a calorie burning machine.

  3. Tash

    I recently got a bike when my treadmill broke. When I was using the treadmill along with strength training I was not hungry all the time. Since I have been using the bike with strenght training it’s like I constantly have that nagging feeling in my stomach like I need to eat. The first 2 days it happened no matter what I ate (and I ate everything) it would not go away, but I figuered if I keep eating like that the weight would eventually catch up w me. Now I just make sure I eat regular meals and live with the nagging feeling in my stomach once I am not gaining weight.

  4. Sparrow

    This is why dieting is not enough.. in fact, dieting isn’t even really necessary to lose weight. I’ve lost weight while maintaining my sometimes gluttonous drinking and eating habits (wine, beer, etc..) and walking for an hour a few times a week. Mind you, I did cut out a lot of the beer and wine and stick to hard liquor — which still packs the cal.

    • Aidan

      “…in fact, dieting isn’t even really necessary to lose weight.”

      So long as you burn more calories than you consume you will lose weight. The results are often what are referred to in the world of fitness as ‘Skinny Fat’. You’re skinnier and lighter, but you’re not in shape.

      If someone wants to look toned and in shape, both the correct diet / eating plan and exercise are imperative.

  5. Sparrow

    Exercise will, in the long run, suppress your appetite. It has something to do with your metabolism. If you exercise regularly you will notice a smaller appetite within a week or a few weeks (not right away). Drinking green tea will also help. I read that if you exercise, your metabolism gets higher, and as a result the body uses nutrients more productively.. so you need less food to do the job, and you get hungry less often. On top of that, when you exercise you drink a lot of fluid, which helps fill you up too.

  6. zthrust

    I looked up this article because I had an interesting phenomenon I never really explored during my weight loss.

    So before I tell everyone about my somewhat strange weight loss techniques let me just say. I went from 320lbs to 250 lbs (mind you I am 6’4 in height) in the course of a year (yes, it’s a long time) and 28% body fat to 5% body fat within the same range. I gained a lot of muscle.

    My workout consisted of a very consistent weekly rotation of weight lifting of my entire body on a 4 day split. I would also run for an hour 3 times a week and do yoga two times a week. To some this may seem like an intense workout and ill be honest, when I started there were many weeks I couldn’t complete the workout I had scheduled for myself. I worked up to being able to do more and more as time passed.

    The point I’m trying to make here is that during this transition I ate more than I ever ate previously in my life. I’m not one for counting calories but I have in the past and I’d wager my regular diet these days includes about 6,000 – 10,000 calories a day.

    The major difference from my fat days is what I eat. Lean meats, organic fruits and veggies, peppers, spices, home made juices/shakes, tofu and other delicious feel good food. I wait until I’m hungry to eat and I eat until I’m not hungry anymore. (never stuffed, unless it’s a holiday!)

    I suppose my point is this. How much you eat is largely irrelevant, you don’t need to suffer and be hungry. If you want to truly change your body and not simply lose weight (be it fat, muscle, water weight, etc), if you want that model body focus on foods and activities that raise your BMR. Focus on making your body stronger almost as if you are going through physical therapy after a car accident or something. Retrain your body into strength (Ladies too!) and flexibility (of which Yoga is perfect for both) and you can eat as much as you want.

    It will be the slowest diet you’ve ever engaged in, but it will also be the most fun, the most enjoyable, and it will make you FEEL great. No suffering.

    Just my 2 cents.

  7. Dr Diamond

    You must eat less depends what your objectives are ? if you wan to lose 1 pound of fat you must reduce your intake by 3500 calories .

  8. leighanna b

    i feel totally the same! I have NO appetite after running. I have to make myself eat!

  9. Brittany

    ps I used to hate when people would ask me that! I used to be a vegan, because I thought protein/any foods besides veggies would make me bulky. In the end I now eat every food group, count my calories, and eat healthy lean meats, and no I didn’t all of the sudden become crazy bulky, before I was probably getting bulky from consuming too much, not meat. (but of course I usually weigh out my meat now to only have 2-4 oz @ a meal & i usually eat 6 meals a day every 2-3 hours. this should stop your hunger. with a goal of consuming 1200 calories, so 200 calorie meals. Also, from running I did feel that my legs started to get pretty bulky though, I usually run about a half hour/3 miles. I heard this goes away when you start running longer distances.. Any advice for me to get past the initial bulkiness of short distances?

    • Jane

      Brittany —

      Please be careful! You sound like you’re bordering on orthorexia or anorexia. It is OK to eat when you are working out. You are NOT bulky, I promise you.

  10. Brittany

    candy, did you eat enough protein?

  11. Brittany

    yumm cucumber with hot sauce! I love making up the crazzy combos but they actually work. what kind of hot sauce do you use? Also what is oolong tea? i find teas do work to stop hunger but i tend to get sick of them easily..