This week, we’re delving into the topic of ‘why your appetite is lying to you’.
Within a training week, athletes will most likely consume on average 35 meals and snacks combined, totaling 1,820 eating occasions every single year.This gives us a huge opportunity to maximize gains, recovery, fuelling, immune function, injury rehabilitation, cognitive function and general well being.
Now, that’s a tonne of opportunities to improve. However, athletes with very high training demands are terrible at this. Endurance folk, you’re the main culprit here – you simply don’t eat enough to meet your body’s demands. Why is this? Large calorie demands require large amounts of food. Go figure.
Therefore, the food bulk and fibre content associated with high carb diets unfortunately have appetite suppressing properties – Meaning that you get full more quickly and can’t finish your meal. In return, your calorie intake is too low and you won’t be meeting the bodies demands which hugely compromises everything mentioned above.
Knowing this, hunger is not a good cue to work off.
To unleash the nerd in the room; blunted hunger cues are caused by post exercise elevated levels of appetite suppressing hormones (PYY, GLP-1 and PP). Think about it, when you’ve done a mega hard session, do you feel like eating? Well, do this day in, day out and you’ll be timbuktu’d pretty fucking soon.
This was also shown by Stubbs et al (2004) when they confined young lads in a room for 7 days with or without hard training (Cycle ~840kcal expenditure). When they were told to eat based on hunger levels, they ate pretty much the same amount on rest and training days. This was shown to consequently reduce calorie intake by ~10kcal/kg/FFM per day – Practically speaking, this is ~700kcal per day for a typical endurance sized athlete. More interestingly, those who followed a higher carb diet actually underrate by ~1,000kcal.
This is why meal planning for athletes is very important as it will dictate when and how much to eat in order to cope with energy demands. Sometimes, you’re just shit at eating, so you need to be told. For these folks, they almost have to force-feed themselves with calories otherwise they’re health and performance will deteriorate very, very fast.
For optimal performance and health, we need to meet our body’s demands. Period.