In the Loop

News and views from across Mayo Clinic

September 16, 2014

Tips for avoiding the post-workout pig-out

By In the Loop

kicking760Fitness is a numbers game. Whether it’s heart-rate or calories burned or sit-ups done, it’s tough to talk about fitness without doing a little math. A recent story from gave us even more numbers to add to the tally. And while we may have started reading the story because we thought it said, “11 ways to stop working out after overeating,” we learned that “11 Ways to Stop Overeating after Exercising” provides some good advice from Mayo wellness dietitian Emily Brown. Brown, a former professional runner, says you have to understand your body’s nutrition needs to avoid doing things that negate your best efforts.

Here are some tips:

  • Work out right before a meal. Hit the gym before you head home for the day. That way you’re consuming calories you would have consumed anyway.
  • Make your workout fun. A 2014 Cornell University study cited in the article found that volunteers who were led on a 1.4-mile “walk” ate more afterward than those told it was a “scenic stroll.” They ate 35% more chocolate pudding, in fact. (We’re familiar with that math.)
  • Pair protein and carbs. If you need to eat after a tough workout, Brown recommends a 4:1 ratio of carbohydrates to protein. “This will allow you to begin to replenish your energy levels and repair muscle damage,” she tells
  • Get milk. Studies have shown that refueling with dairy, specifically low-fat chocolate milk, can improve subsequent athletic performances better than traditional sports drinks.
  • Stop eating out of habit. Sometimes, post-workout overeating is due more to routine more than hunger. “When you consistently consume a 500-calorie smoothie after you finish up at the gym, you start to get into that habit,” says Brown. She recommends different snacks for different workouts — shorter duration, fewer calories.
  • Don’t overestimate. Most overestimate their energy expenditure during exercise. One way to prevent this, according to, is to wear a heart-rate monitor. However, if the heart-rate monitor says you burned 600 calories, that’s not an excuse head to Dairy Queen. “If you are trying to lose weight, you will need to consume fewer calories than you expend,” Brown says.
  • Drink water as soon as you’re done. Replacing fluids you lost during a workout should be your first priority, post-workout. According to the article “Five Tips to Maximizing Your Workout,” you should drink water before and during workouts as well.
  • Refuel along the way. For workouts lasting longer than two hours — like a long bike ride or a marathon training run — sucking down a gel or sipping a sports drink will keep you from eating everything in your path afterwards.

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Tags: Community, Emily Brown, Fitness, Nutrition

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