Got Runger? How to Manage Running and Hunger

Updated:

If you’re new to running or you’ve recently been running longer distances, you may notice that you’re suddenly much more ravenous than usual. This phenomenon has a name—runger, which is running plus hunger. It’s similar to being hangry!

If you’re suffering from it, you’re not alone. This is a common occurrence, and it can make your run—or the aftermath—quite unpleasant, plus it can hamper any attempts at weight loss.

The good news is that runger can be handled easily if you know how. Let’s look at what causes it and how you can alleviate runger.

What Is Runger and How Does It Happen?

Runger happens when your body is expending much more energy than normal, but you’re still eating roughly the same, so it’s not getting the fuel it needs. It happens most often during or after long runs.

You burn between 10 and 15 calories per minute when running, depending on your body composition. This means running for 30 minutes can burn between 300 and 450 calories.

To lose weight, you need to eat fewer calories than you burn. But your body requires nutrients for recovery, so if you’re eating too few calories, you may be struck with runger after a long or hard run.

This is your body’s way of telling you it needs more nutrition than you currently give it. Remember, calories and nutrients don’t only go towards exercise. Your body needs nutrients to perform all the underlying processes keeping you alive, so if you’re inadvertently undereating, your body will tell you about it.

You may also be eating a diet that’s low in nutrients. In some cases, runger may be due to dehydration or hormonal changes, but in most cases, it’s simply due to not eating enough to support your body through this level of exercise.

Symptoms & Side Effects of Runger

Hunger isn’t the only symptom that can show up when you’re suffering from runger. Here are some warning signs to look out for.

Moodiness

When your body isn’t getting the nutrition it needs, it can affect your mood. Did you know that close to 90 percent of serotonin—the happy chemical—is produced in the gut? Moodiness is a common side effect of runger, as you don’t feel your best.

Fatigue

Unusual fatigue can also accompany runger. This is because your body isn’t getting enough nutrients to fill up your glycogen stores in the muscles, so your body may run out of energy halfway through your exercise or even during the day.

Binge Eating

It can be easy to binge eat when you feel starving after a run. Instead of having a moderate, healthy post-run meal, you may be overeating and going for junk food without realizing it. This can also happen throughout the day, not just immediately after a run.

Weight Gain

Binge eating and poor food choices can lead to you gaining weight, even though you may be running religiously throughout the week. In turn, this can lead to demotivation as well as poorer performance.

How to Avoid or Control Runger

Runger doesn’t have to happen every time you run. A few small changes can help you to avoid it, which means you can work more effectively towards your goals while being happy and comfortable!

Fuel Up Before Your Run

Running on an empty stomach can lead to runger. If you run early in the morning before breakfast, your body may have no glycogen stored in the muscles. In this case, it usually draws on fat stores for energy, but this works less well than glycogen.

The key is to fuel up before you go on a run. You don’t need to have a big breakfast, but eating a piece of fruit like a banana or a bowl of oats can give your body the energy it needs to see you through the run easily.

Fuel During Your Run

If you’re going for a long run, it’s wise to take some fuel with you to replenish along the way. You should have some easily-absorbable carbohydrates every 45 minutes to an hour.

The best way to ingest these is to try energy gels or chews. They’re easy to carry and very easy to take without interrupting your run, but they can significantly help boost your energy levels and prevent runger later on.

Eat Smartly After Your Run

When you get back after your run, have a healthy post-run meal. It may be tempting to eat a slice of pizza—after all, you just burned 300 to 400 calories—but giving your body healthy nutrients means it can recover faster and more effectively.

You may also find that eating a moderate-sized meal rather than a large meal after your run feels better. Your hunger should be satiated, and you won’t feel overly full.

Your meal after your run should contain some healthy carbohydrates to fuel your body and some protein to help repair the muscles during recovery.

Drink Before You Snack

Hunger is a normal part of life, but so is thirst. These two feelings are regulated in the same part of the brain, and we often assume we’re hungry when dehydrated.

When you start to feel hungry, have a drink of water first. If you’re still hungry 15 minutes later, then you can have a healthy snack. But in some cases, you’ll realize that you were thirsty all along.

Take a Nap

Another interesting fact is that the same hormones get released in your body when you’re stressed, as when your blood sugar is low. This could be contributing if you’re having a particularly stressful time at work or at home.

If high-stress levels could be a factor in you feeling hungry, you may simply need a quick walk, a nap, or to reframe your mind instead of food.

Eat Quality Foods

Poor nutrition can account for runger much of the time. If your diet is filled with takeout and candy, there’s a high chance that you aren’t getting all the nutrients you need. This means no matter how much you eat; your body will still be starving!

Switching to a clean diet can make a huge difference. You’ll stay fuller for longer because your body will use the nutrients properly.

Count Your Calories

Counting your calories can help you ensure that you’re eating enough and yet still staying in a deficit if you want to lose weight.

You can use a calorie calculator like this one to work out how many calories you need per day, including your basal metabolic rate—how many you need just to keep your body alive and working—and your exercise calories on top of that.

Photo of author

AUTHOR

Ben is an avid road and trail runner, and has completed multiple marathons and ultras. A former running store owner, he now shares his knowledge and experience writing these articles.