There’s a 99%, if not 100% chance that you’ve been in this situation before – you finish a workout, you’re starving, and somehow before you know it you end up eating a large fully loaded sandwich.
You tell yourself, you earned it— because you just worked out! But on the contrary. “Many people rationalize pigging out on unhealthy food after a workout by telling themselves that they deserve it,” says James Ward, R.D., author of The Cruise Control Diet.
While refueling after you sweat is a great idea, it’s easy to undo all of your hard work if you overeat. Luckily, Ward says there are ways to prevent these post-workout binges.
1. Plan Ahead
If you know you’re meeting your friends for brunch after your workout, pick out what you’re going to have ahead of time, says Ward. That way, you won’t be choosing with your exercise goggles on—and you’ll be more likely to order healthy food for yourself. “If you psych yourself up for what can be a delicious and healthy meal before you even start working out, you’re more likely to stick to your plan afterward because you’ve already committed to it,” says Ward.
2. Have a Snack Before You Workout
If you go to the gym or on a run when you’re already hungry, then you’ll be even hungrier once you finish. That, coupled with your potential to rationalize a fully-loaded sandwich situation, will make you way more likely to binge. Ward’s suggestion: Have a snack with healthy fat, protein, and carbs to keep you satisfied post-sweat session. “I tell my patients to have either a piece of fruit and a handful of almonds or a KIND dark chocolate nuts and sea salt bar,” he says. “You can also try baked black bean chips and a wedge of Laughing Cow cheese for a healthy combo of protein and fiber.”
3. Talk Yourself Out of It
This one is fairly simple: All you have to do is think back to your time at the gym and remember how hard you worked. “Then, ask yourself: ‘Why would I want to blow all of that hard work?'” suggests Ward. “You just spent time doing something good for your body. Why sabotage it?” Sounds almost too easy, but sometimes, all it takes is a bit of self-talk to conquer your inner over-snacker.
4. Choose Healthier Versions of Whatever You’re Craving
There’s nothing wrong with wanting to house a fully loaded sandwich or a piece of pizza after your workout. And if you just can’t not indulge, order wisely, suggests Ward. Ask for your sandwich scooped out if you really, really, really want one, and add more vegetables or mustard instead of mayo for a healthier yet tasty condiment. Or if you want fries, get sweet potato fries to pack in more fiber and decrease your serving size. Craving pizza? Order a whole-wheat slice with veggies to make it worth your while. You get the idea.