How to: Curb Pre-Lunch Hunger - Total Women's Cycling

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Training & Nutrition

How to: Curb Pre-Lunch Hunger

Always reaching for a snack by 10am? A few things to look out for...

There are some people out there who just aren’t hungry in the morning – and they tend to find it hard to eat enough to give them energy for their early rides. We’ve got advice for those people here – but at TWC we’ve got to admit that we’re kind of on the other end of the scale.

Whilst some find it hard to muster up the desire to eat in the morning, others find themselves peckish all through the AM, right up until lunch. A healthy appetite is a symptom of an active lifestyle, and if you’ve burned a load of calories on your morning ride then of course you’re going to need to eat up to replace them. However, if you feel you just can’t shake the hunger, there may be another reason you’re reaching for the snack draw.

Here are a few potential causes for your morning hunger that have nothing to do with actually needing calories…

Eat the right breakfast

This is probably the most common cause of needing a second breakfast: the first one didn’t do the job.

Common breakfast choices in the UK include cereal, porridge, and toast – all high carbohydrate choices. Cereal is probably the worst, as more often than not it’s loaded with sugar that spikes you’re insulin levels and leaves you flat an hour later. Porridge is an excellent choice, but it’s best with an added protein source – we’d always make it with milk, and might add some Greek yoghurt and nuts or nut butter for an extra kick. If we’ve been riding hard, a scoop of protein powder thoroughly mixed in wouldn’t go amiss either.

If you’re after staying fullest for longest, the best breakfast we could recommend would be scrambled eggs on toast, with avocado, spinach and tomatoes – that ticks off protein, carbs, good fat and some extra nutrients. Check out Katy Kurd’s Power Brekkie recipe for ideas. 

Drink up

People who are trying to lose weight are often told to have a big glass of water before snacking – and that’s because sometimes when you think you’re hungry, you’re actually just thirsty.

Both thirst and hunger are regulated by the hypothalamus, and sometimes the two can become confused – so it is worth drinking up before you break out the snacks.

Sleep more

Not getting enough sleep results in fatigue. Fatigue is a lack of energy. Food provides energy. We understand your body’s logic, but unfortunately no amount of calories are going to make up for a lack of sleep.

Today, there’s not much you can do about it, other than try to up your caffeine to hold off the tired until bedtime. However, you can of course avoid this in the future by getting enough shut-eye.

It’s recommended you aim for about 7 to 8 hours sleep a night, though you’ll notice many pro cyclists aim for more like 9 to 10 – the more you’re riding, the more recovery time your body needs. Regardless, 5 to 6 is generally not enough.

Identify PMS

A lot of women report feeling hungry before their period – and science tells us this is down to an increase in progesterone, and thus in appetite. As well as the physical increase in appetite, the hormonal change can bring on irritability, stress, and even depression – which are all linked to comfort eating.

There’s a few ways of dealing with this. A recent study showed that the effects of hormonal changes can be quietened with an increase in serotonin – which can be triggered by a small sweet treat – such as a couple of squares of dark chocolate. Though it’s often not what you feel like, exercise also prompts the release of endorphins, which will also make you feel better emotionally and less likely to binge. In terms of the physical increase in hunger, increasing your protein uptake could also help to curb the excess.

Interesting, some studies have shown that whilst women do generally eat more in the two weeks leading up to their period, their metabolism also increases – only by about 4% but that’s enough to need an extra snack – so if you’re feeling a bit hungrier, it might just be that you’re actually burning more.

Finally – a lot of women report bloating in the pre-menstrual phase. Up to four pounds, which is well over a kilogram, is not an unheard of amount to gain just through water retention. This can be frustrating, and can lead you to try to cut calories to get back to your ‘normal’ weight. This isn’t going to make you feel better, so instead try to limit the water retention by cutting back on salt, drinking lots of water and eating plenty of high water content fruit and veg. It’s frustrating, but it will pass, and there’s no point beating yourself up over something largely out of your control.

Avoid boredom eating

Is your work not stimulating you? Are you not enjoying your day job? Is the view out the window not exciting enough? Boredom can often lead us to grab a snack, just to give us something to do.

Tempting as it is to get up and make some crumpets with peanut butter and jam (no, just us?!) your body might not need those calories. If you think you might just be imagining hunger pangs due to having little else to focus on, get up and make a cup of (ideally herbal – we don’t want to give you a caffeine addiction) tea, pop some music on… or if you’re not at a desk and free as a bird – go ride!

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Health Hits: 7 Foods You Need In Your Kitchen Cupboard

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