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. Brittany

    nutiva hemp protein + fiber. I’m not going to say it has an amazing taste, but I like to add some cacoa (can get in local health sections) or you could add cocoa- Cacoa has a higher percent of fiber. I add some to my oatmeal, and I love it. But remember it’s not for everyone…

  2. Candy

    I am 14 and I just started running a day ago. I run one mile, and I’m starting to strve all day. Im just so hungry, i cant help but eating like crazy so i might stop my excesise even thoughi stared yesterday,

  3. PCF

    Thanks, I like your comment and it helps me/answers what I’m researching; why I’m eating more now that I’ve started working out. I hope that after a couple of weeks that like you, I’ll switch from just being hungry/eating more, to eating better. 🙂

  4. Anita

    I have also noticed that since I started taking cinnamon capsules it helps to control my appetite. I still eat enough to nourish my body with what it needs pre and post workouts but the cinnamon I think helps keep my blood sugar in balance hens less craving sugar and carbs. I also make sure and eat foods that have a low glycemic index, it’s about not elevating your blood sugar because that can become a vicious cycle. Just a thought.

  5. Anita

    I’ve recently started eating quinoa. I think it’s a perfect snack for right before bed as it’s almost a perfect food; high in protein, low in sat. fat, and contains ALL of the essential amino acids necessary to build muscle. I buy it as hot cereal that can be prepared in 90 seconds. Did I mention it’s high in fiber so it’s filling. It’s definitely an acquired taste but a great snack after working out and before bed.

  6. Rachel Tamagoyaki

    I run everyday, and I get really hungry. I do control my portions of food very well to what my doctor tells me to do. I am no fan of pain of hunger though. What helps me, is that sometimes, I’ll just get a cucumber and some hot sauce (I crave spicy foods mostly on average), and it makes me feel like I still have the good life. Then because I have burned so many calories, I understand and accept that hunger is because of lost calories. So after that I will have a combination of black tea with Oolong tea. Sometimes other teas like Ginger helps me alot. I drink it hot, and it eases the pain in my stomach from all the hunger. If I really can’t stand it, then I’ll get the biggest bowl of salad with little dressing as possible, and stuff my face with it. Then my belly is full, and full of fresh vegetables that help my digestive system. I still lose weight, so I still win.

  7. muckNitUP

    I’m glad to see others are concerned about hunger after a workout. Initially I also had a problem with late night munchies after a workout day. Then after awhile of ignoring these urges my body was no longer hungry at night(simple enough). Just have a full dinner and drink plenty of water, remember sometimes your body isn’t hungry just dehydrated. One last tip, go to sleep if it’s late and your hungry(common sense).

    A little persistence and perserverance always pays off. Don’t ever feel guilty for exercising!

  8. m3mc

    Thanks for the interesting post on the comparison of calorie consumption. In my case, I work out late at night after work (8-10 p.m.) and I always get extremely hungry after my workout + hot bath. I tend to snack on fruits, sometimes bread or other carbs that I can find at home, but then I get guilty because I feel that I wouldn’t have eaten so late at night if it wasn’t for the exercise I did. Do you have any tips or suggestions?

  9. William

    Why did these researchers not measure ghrelin – the appetite stimulating peptide?

  10. Lloyd

    You know, I’m NEVER hungry right after a workout, whether it’s cardio or stretgh training (and most of my cardio incorporates some sort of resistance training). I definitely notice the loss of appetite more after long bouts of intense cardio though more so than strength training. No matter what though I force myself to eat something (even if it’s just a protein shake and a banana) so that I don’t go all haywire later on and start eating like a madman.

    The day AFTER a hard workout is a different story. I’m usually extremely hungry in the morning. I just make sure that I have plenty of food around that’s good for me. It’s a lot easier to justify binging on carrots and yogurt than on egg McMuffins :). Being hungry (legitimately hungry, not just craving something) is a good thing. It means your body’s working and needs more food to sustain itself.

  11. tamil

    I definitely get hungry and eat quite a lot after exercising

    coffee does same thing

    its the stress hormone cortisol

  12. Kilo verme

    I think working out sort of makes me not as hungry. After a 9 mile run, I feel very “high” for about 4 hours afterward and I don’t feel too hungry. I also don’t know about everyone else, but when I work out, I watch what I eat a little more because I don’t want to undo what I’ve done that day.

  13. song

    This seems to explain the nausea !

  14. Dub
    This seems to explain the nausea !

  15. moon

    it sems that running is the only excercise that has significant appetite suppressing effects. I am guessing because of the intensity and that way that your body is metabolizing with increased oxygen intake over a prolonged period of time. I find that when I run long distance, I am barely hungry for an entire day, even if I started the run slightly hungry.

  16. Alex

    This post is really awesome. Finally i get to have real proofs and facts to talk about healthy weight loss through exercise!

  17. Tara (the original one)

    I’ve discovered an ingenious way of getting round this problem – eat before exercise, not after. This means eating a substantial meal that leaves you comfortably full, and then once you work out, you have fuel to run on. Sometimes you think, ‘oh I’ll just eat after the exercise, its only been 3 hours since I last ate something, blah blah’. But exercising on an empty stomach slows down your metabolism dramatically – its your body’s way of conserving fat. Not only that, it makes your blood sugar levels low and so makes you want to eat carb-laden food.

    So try it, eat a normal sized meal, wait 30 mins and then exercise, you won’t even crave a thing.

  18. RaggedyAngst

    I was curious about the person who said she (he?) drank a protein shake. I’m a moderately active exerciser (I bike about 24 miles a day — commute) and a lazy cook. As a strict vegetarian, I’m convinced I don’t get enough protein. I tend to go for salads and such, but I don’t always have nuts or beans to add. So I’m looking for a low-cal, high-protein and fiber shake that’s veggie. And isn’t utterly foul. Any thoughts, anyone?

  19. top weight loss site

    Exercises like running and basketball do not make me hurry but lifting weights does.

  20. Quito

    Heather said:

    I think of an hour as the minimum, usually (not on race day). 🙂

    ^_^ Me too… there’s a lot of us exercise fanatics reading this blog.

  21. MARCIA


  22. Michelle

    when i’ve exercised, right now i’m laid up with tendon surgery on my ankle, I would be hungry after i worked out. I always grabbed a protein shake that seemed to calm the shakes and i didn’t binge on all the bad carbs. I read protein is good for after exercsing, no clue where.

  23. Heather

    Quito said:
    The article is interesting… this was a carefully-run study.

    Quito said:
    None were exercise fanatics (in that none of them did more than 1 hour of moderate or intense exercise every day). […]

    lol over an hour is fanatic?

    Don’t the new recommendations suggest anyone who has lost weight do 90 minutes of moderate to intense activity most days of the week?

    I think of an hour as the minimum, usually (not on race day). 🙂

    Just interesting perspective difference I noticed.

  24. Mia_para_me

    after i exercise i ALWAYS be come rediculously hungry… craving carbs (bad ones), sugars, and warm liquids (hot coco or sugar saturated tea? coffee). it dosent matter the length of my exercise session either- be it a 20 minute wake-up or a 4.5 hour long conciense clearer- food always ensues- ultimatlty becoming a binge and thus the reprocutiuons of that will follow as well. for me it’s best to just not eat for a few hours prior and then run to bed and sleep asap so i dont eat afterwards.

  25. Margot

    I’ve always noticed this about myself!!! nice to see it verified.

  26. Dr.J

    Quito said:
    So, in fact, this thread could also be called No, Exercise Doesn’t Make You Hungry But You’ll Eat More Anyway.[…]


  27. Quito

    Dr.J. said:

    Actually what surprises me the most in this study is that these people wanted to eat almost 1000 cal. only 3 hours after eating breakfast!

    Good point! At least one non-exerciser had a 1,014 calorie lunch. But, the subjects were between 21 and 30 years old; my grad students seem to be able to eat an unbounded amount of pizza at any time of the day ^_^

    I forgot to mention in my long posting above: I was surprised that the BBC misinterpreted the results of the study. They led off the story with:

    Thanks to these hormones, active people feel less hungry immediately after exercise, and this carries through to their next meal, experiments suggest.

    While one hormone remains elevated, lack of hunger did not. By the time lunch arrived, both groups reported the same amount of hunger (and the same variance – that is, both groups disagreed the same amount as to how hungry they were).

    So, in fact, this thread could also be called No, Exercise Doesn’t Make You Hungry But You’ll Eat More Anyway.

  28. Dr.J

    Actually what surprises me the most in this study is that these people wanted to eat almost 1000 cal. only 3 hours after eating breakfast! Oh yeah, after a significant workout which raises body temperature my appetite is decreased and my understanding is that after a lower intensity workout like lap swimming one’s appetite in increased.

  29. Quito

    The article is interesting… this was a carefully-run study.

    • The 12 participants were healthy, young individuals with normal weights (BMI 22.0 +/- 3.2) and great eating habits. None were exercise fanatics (in that none of them did more than 1 hour of moderate or intense exercise every day).
    • They did the test twice (on two different days), and randomly assigned participants to the exerciser set each time. Crossover studies are great.
    • They computed intensity based on age estimated maximal heart rate, which is quite inaccurate. But, given that the volunteers were young, the error would be small. One hour at 65% level is not super tough, but not a snoozer either. They warmed up for 2 minutes, and then alternated 17 minute spins with 3 minute breaks to consume the hour.
    • The buffet meal wasn’t like going to Las Vegas! They ate in individual booths. They were presented with lots of food – 4,100 calories – sandwiches, salad, fruit, cake, cookies, potato chips, yoghurt, mayonnaise and mustard. They chose the foods by asking each participant to rank a list of food in terms of preference to eat. The buffets were made up of the second and third choices rated by each subject.
    • The exercisers weren’t hungry while spinning away (no surprise there!) Afterwards, their hunger increased rapidly, but over the hour between exercise and lunch, their hunger raised only to the level of the control group. This is consistent with the plasma levels of most of the hormones, except for one (pancreatic polypeptide, whose role is not well understood), which remained elevated.

    In any case, I think that it’s hard to generalize their results to our experiences reported above. When I bikeride, I go out for several hours and alternate long climbs with descents. Heather running 13+ miles is undoubtedly more intense, and I’m guessing from Spectra’s descriptions of herself, her 9 mile runs take an hour but are significantly more intense. Nate said he burned 1,000 calories during his gym sessions, which is more than 3 times what the exercisers burned during their hour of exercise.

    The authors were most surprised by the fact that the two groups reported the same level of hunger – born out by most of the hormones – but ate different amounts anyway. And, the amount extra eaten by the exercisers was less than the amount expended. It wasn’t a huge difference – about the amount of a can of cola. The authors think – but couldn’t prove – that the exercisers ate more because they thought something like “well, I just worked out, so let me have a bit more”.

    They raised an interesting question: could the combinations of hormones – PYY, GLP-1 and PP – that are raised during exercise have a large enough effect that they provide a pharmacological explanation for exercise-induced anorexia.

  30. Laura

    I’m a stop-and-start dieter (yeah, I know, it’s bad). But I recently put two and two together. I would always do the “all or nothing” approach. “I’m going to start dieting AND start exercising today”, and I would increase my activity, but cut back on eating. Consequently, by noon, I’d be STARVING, and would eat anything and everything I could get my hands on. Then I’d consider myself a failure, and quit both.

    This time, I started exercising without changing anything in my diet. A week or two later, I noticed that I wasn’t eating less, I was eating differently. I was adding fruit, veggies, or v8 juice to meals. I was snacking on nuts and cheese instead of cookies and cakes.

    So I’m in the camp that says that more exercise means a larger appetite, but my body seems to be craving better stuff lately, so I guess I can eat “more”, but because it’s better stuff, I’m actually eating “less”. (although I will never give up my dark chocolate…)

  31. alma

    I often do not feel hungry after a workout,but when I do, what are some good suggestions for a snack, besides water? anyone?

  32. Weight Loss Easily

    If you control well,exercise can make you strongger,otherwise,you will be fatter…

  33. Anushka

    I too get very hungry after a hard workout. The key is to discipline yourself to eat the right foods at the right time. For instance, eating carbs after lifting weights is okay; eating carbs before bed is not. I take a supply of “good” foods with me to work, so that I don’t have to raid the vending machine.

  34. mia

    Spectra said:
    I think working out sort of makes me not as hungry. After a 9 mile run, I feel very “high” for about 4 hours afterward and I don’t feel too hungry. I also don’t know about everyone else, but when I work out, I watch what I eat a little more because I don’t want to undo what I’ve done that day.[…]

    this is me also. i feel like if i eat junk or over-eat then the time i’ve spent working out hard from 4.30am was pretty pointless. technically, i suppose it isn’t but i still feel that way. i actually feel a lot worse though if i over-eat on a day that i do less exercise.

  35. Diet Reviews

    I noticed that since I began working out that I have been eating more, and yet my stomach has been getting flatter. So I believe the UK research, completely.

  36. Quito

    I’ve trained myself to eat some on longer runs. I’m a big fan of GU rushes. Zing!

    But, yes, biking, swimming, squash, and weight lifting give me an appetite, and running suppresses it.

  37. Heather

    Bicycling and weight training make me hungry… but oddly enough,
    running suppresses my appetite. If I run 13+ miles, I can hardly eat– I have to force myself eat within an hour, or I absolutely can’t eat without feeling sick.

  38. Spectra

    I think working out sort of makes me not as hungry. After a 9 mile run, I feel very “high” for about 4 hours afterward and I don’t feel too hungry. I also don’t know about everyone else, but when I work out, I watch what I eat a little more because I don’t want to undo what I’ve done that day.

  39. Nate Cavanaugh

    Sounds like I need to get a nice bottle of PYY, GLP-1 and PP 😉

    Actually, I’ve been wondering about this myself the past few days, since I’ve hit the gym on a regular basis again, and have been noticing that I feel starving for most of the day, and I was wondering if 1000 calories burned at the gym helped compensate for the extra food I ate, or if I just needed to suck it up and try not to hate my life 🙂

    Either way, great post.

  40. Jilly

    Hmmm, I have always noticed a queasy feeling in my stomach all day after exercising. Am I just abnormal to not want to eat more? Or do other people share my symptom?