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When I pick up a new type of intense sport or when I train significantly more than usually during the course of a week, my body reacts with insatiable hunger. I usually consume about 2000 to 2500 calories per day, mostly protein and carbs. During those hunger periods I could easily eat 4 big meals during the day (3500 to 4000 calories) and still be hungry when I go to bed. That is definitely more than I burn, even with increased activity.

How should I handle that? Should I simply listen to my body and eat until the hunger is gone or is my body overreacting to the challenge and I should stop eating after a certain point? I do not want to lose or gain weight, my goal is to stay fit and healthy.

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Do you eat the carbs + protein for a meal, or separately? –  Chris S Oct 17 '11 at 18:08
    
I usually combine them, with the exception of protein shakes, which I consume about 3 or 4 times a week, when I feel I didn't get enough proteins with normal food. –  Demento Oct 17 '11 at 19:40
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up vote 7 down vote accepted

Intense training, particularly training that increases your strength (and consequently your muscles) not only burns a lot of calories, but your body requires more just to recover. When I train I use a heart rate monitor, and while it isn't perfect it does give me a good indication of the number of calories I burned during the training session. On average I burn about 1000-1200 Calories during the training session. If I cut out the assistance exercises and conditioning I'm still burning over 600 Calories. That's just the deficit I racked up during the training time. Assuming my BMR is 2400 Calories/day for the easy math, my body is only burning 100 Calories at rest. That's 500 more Calories on a light training day than I normally would burn.

Protein is an essential part of recovery, as it helps your muscles rebuild and make themselves bigger/stronger. However, it is also very thermogenic--which means it requires more energy to digest. Don't forget that your muscles still need energy. Energy can come from both fat and carbs. Mix it up.

So let's say your intense training session has you burning 1500 Calories and takes you 90 minutes. Let's also say you are burning 2400 Calories a day, partly because the math is easier, and partly because there isn't a big difference in hourly Calorie consumption with a slightly smaller number. In an hour and a half your body will have burned 150 Calories at rest. However, in the same amount of time you burned another 1350 Calories you otherwise wouldn't have. That makes your total Calorie expenditure for the day 3750 Calories (the net from exercise + the BMR). We haven't even factored in your normal activity level to adjust the BMR to what your body would need to maintain it's current weight. Nor have we factored in what your body needs to recover from that training.

In short, eat up on training days. As long as you have your required amount of protein in the day, fill in the remaining Calories you need with what you like. The body will be remarkably tolerant of Carbs and fats after intense training sessions.

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Btw BMR isn't the same as caloric maintenance and you are using both terms interchangeably. BMR refers to how many calories you burn at rest. Caloric maintenance is how many calories you burn during the day - including exercise. I know it sounds like nitpicking but it can be confusing to others and lead to confusing calculations. It's definitely true you burn more calories on training days vs off days. For further reading: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Harris-Benedict_equation –  mike Oct 13 '11 at 16:23
    
@mike do you mean RMR? –  Chris S Oct 17 '11 at 18:29
    
I was referring to BMR. RMR is the version that is "normalized" for your activity. My BMR is roughly 2400 Calories/day or so. Basically if I slept for 24 hours straight, I would still burn 2400 Calories (plus). I'm a lot more active than that, but the nature of my activity doesn't fall nicely in the Harris-Benedict_equation multipliers. What I outlined above is more similar to real world measured numbers for me. –  Berin Loritsch Oct 17 '11 at 19:05
    
@ChrisS no I mean BMR. Anyway, both are very closely related to each other. –  mike Oct 17 '11 at 19:16
    
@Mike ok but BMR is calories burnt for the entire day including sleep, and RMR is simply when you're awake. The Harris Benedict equation is also quite outdated, a 2002 study shows (for 31-60) kg x 11.6 x 879 is more accurate, if you're interested. –  Chris S Oct 17 '11 at 20:53
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Don't be a Masochist

Your body is responding to increased demands by trying to make itself stronger. It needs food to do so. Don't waste your opportunity by starving yourself. Eat. Eat food. Eat milk and meat and eggs and butter and potatoes. Stop worrying about calories and feed your starving body.

"Mostly protein and carbs"

It's possible that you remain hungry because you're not eating enough fats. Fats are satiating; many sources of carbs are not. Cover a salad in olive oil, don't be afraid of a marbled steak, put some butter on it, and stop with the 2% milk.

A more detailed description of your diet would be helpful. Have you tried keeping a food diary?

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Your body is over-reacting.

The reaction is in the right direction in that you DO need more calories. But going on a binge because your body feels like it isn't the right answer. You should be eating more since probably 2000-2500 calories isn't sufficient for someone trying to maintain their weight and exercises vigorously. Your maintenance is probably more around 2800-3200 (depending on your height/weight/activity level). So you should be eating more in that range if you want to maintain your weight.

Also make sure to actually weigh out and measure your food so you actually hit 2-2500. A lot of people think they are eating a certain amount of calories but either over or underestimate by a significant margin. If you eat around 3k and still have significant hunger problems then you either do need even more calories or the food you are eating isn't very satiating. I definitely would echo eating more fat, although you really won't need more than 30% of your total calories.

It's also essential not to over-eat since a big surplus can result in an increase in bodyfat. What's most likely happening with you is a pattern of undereating for several days then having a unintentional 'refeed' day where you eat a big surplus. That holds you over for a couple more days before you get really hungry again. So just increasing your calorie intake overall will get you out of this pattern.

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