Why You Should Never Reward Yourself With Food After A Work Out.

You’ve just done a 30 minute spin class, you’re sweating like a P-I-G and you’ve got a serious case of the munchies, so what’s it gonna be…

The banana you bunged in your gym bag that’s now looking a little bit worse for wear and starting to smell as bad as you,


That whopping big slice of chocolate fudge cake that’s totally giving you those ‘eat me’ eyes in the gym cafe?

Let’s be honest, it’s all about the cake right?!

But, take a look at these stats and you might think twice before making that choice in future:

A supermarket 450g chocolate fudge cake contains roughly…wait for it…


And yes, OK, I know you’re not exactly going to trough down the whole cake (well, I presume you’re not!), but divide that into the recommended serving of 6 slices and that’s still 285 calories.

Guess what the banana comes out at…just 89 calories, meaning you could save yourself a whopping 200 calories by simply having a word with yourself!

But there’s more…

What about if we took a look at how long you’d have to exercise for to work those calories off –

To burn off the calories in that slice of chocolate fudge cake, with it’s moist fat laden sponge and it’s rich sugar laden double chocolate frosting you’re going to need to do 30 minutes worth of cardio.

Woah, so hang on a sec let’s think about this for a minute – that 30 minute spin class has all just been for nothing. 30 minutes of pure torture destroyed in…well…less than 5 minutes!

So, why do we do it?

Well there are many different reasons, but perhaps one of the most common is –


I’m guilty of it myself and I’m sure many of you out there are also guilty of it too, but using food as a reward is simply not healthy and it is a habit that needs to stop if you are serious about leading a healthy lifestyle.

There are two different types of ‘rewarders’ and if you’re really unlucky you might even find you’re a little bit of both:

  1. The Promiser – To motivate yourself to do exercise in the first place, you feel you need to promise yourself a treat at the end. For example, ‘If I go for a run I’ll be allowed some choccy biscuits with my morning cuppa’.
  2.  The Deserver – You’re pretty good at getting out there and doing the exercise, but afterwards you are overcome with the feeling that you’ve earnt a treat and that you deserve to eat something a little bit naughty because, well, you’ve just burnt a load of calories off, haven’t you!?

food-treatThis reward mentality is often the very same reason as to why people don’t end up losing weight, even though they are working out up to 4 or 5 times a week. The number of calories consumed in that post-workout treat tends to be higher than the calories burnt in the workout; making the workout completely null and void.

So, what can you do to snap yourself out of this reward mentality?

Top Tips to Break the Reward Habit

Firstly, and definitely most importantly, is to stop viewing food as a reward. If we strip it right back and ask ourselves the question ‘what is food?’, the simple answer is that it is fuel. Food is fuel for the body and quite simply – the better the fuel, the better the performance. Instead of thinking about what you feel you deserve to eat, think about what your body needs to eat in order to be and work at it’s best.

It’s certainly not that slice of chocolate fudge cake is it?

Quality not Quantity

Don’t feel as though you’re settling for second best by only having an apple as a snack. If you’re having an apple, make it the very best apple you can buy – I personally LOVE a Pink Lady! Or why not mix it up a bit and have some berries instead of an apple; berries somehow feel more exotic than an apple and may feel more mentally satisfying. No matter how hungry you feel post-workout, just remember that you don’t need to eat lots, you just need to eat well!

Thirst First

Nine times out of ten, when you think you’re hungry what you’re actually experiencing is thirst, so make sure that you are drinking plenty of fluids. Yep, our brains confuse the early signs of dehydration; low energy, sleepiness, moodiness (ummm hello hanger!); with feelings of hunger, meaning we all too often scoff our faces when we don’t actually need to.

are-you-thirstyThe average person can lose between 24 to 48 ounces of sweat for every hour of intense exercise they do, meaning they need to replenish the body’s water supply by drinking plenty of water before, during and after a workout. Make sure you always have a water bottle filled with fresh water with you whenever you work out and remember to drink small, frequent sips from it throughout.

If you do feel hungry after exercise, try drinking lots of water first and then waiting for 20 minutes before asking yourself whether you are hungry. Chances are any feelings of hunger will have subsided, but if not then go grab yourself something healthy to eat from your gym bag.

Don’t Skip Meals!

Some people believe that if they skip meals and then exercise on an empty stomach, they’ll end up burning more calories and therefore lose more weight. And whilst to some extent true this is true, what they don’t think about is the fact that they won’t be working out as hard, as efficient and for as long as they would’ve done had they fuelled their body properly beforehand, and it is this that will see the best results. When we’re really hungry all rationality goes out of the window and whereas something like a piece of fruit may have ordinarily seemed appealing, it doesn’t quite cut the mustard when you feel as though you’re sooooo hungry you could chew your own arm off! So, instead of skipping breakfast before heading out to the gym, take the time to have something that will prepare your body for the workout it is just about to do. Something like a bowl of porridge, eggs, homemade granola with yogurt or, if you’re really rushing, a banana are all great breakfast choices. Believe me, if you feed your body correctly it will most certainly thank you for it.

Stop Trying to Figure it Out

weight-obsessionIt’s so easy to become obsessed with number crunching every last little crumb that enters our bodies, but it really isn’t a healthy and sustainable way to live. If you’re eating a healthy, balanced diet full of fresh fruit, vegetables, protein and carbs, and try to avoid consuming as little processed foods, sugars and alcohol as possible then you really shouldn’t need to worry about the calorie content of your food. Likewise when you exercise, don’t become fixated with the number of calories you’ve burnt.

Instead focus on how you feel when you exercise. Did you have fun? Was it a challenge? Do you feel stronger? Were you faster? How do you feel afterwards?

Switch your Routine

Habits are hard things to break, but one trick you can try is to play around with the structure of your daily routine. By changing the time of your workout, for instance moving it from morning to evening, it may be enough to stop that reward mentality from kicking in. You could also try moving your workout to a time before one of your main meals. This means that when you’ve finished exercising, and you are proper starving, you can sit down to a more substantial meal rather than grabbing a snack. If you think this could work for you, just remember to have your meal prepped and ready for you so that you don’t fall into the trap of grazing whilst making a meal – seriously you can end up eating so much this way!

Also, don’t forget to eat something before you workout, leaving enough time for it to be digested properly before starting. It shouldn’t be anything too big, a banana is good, but you need to make sure you have enough fuel inside you to power through your workout and this should also help to reign in some of those hunger pangs afterwards as well!

What Should I Eat?

There are obviously some foods that are better than others when it comes to deciding what to eat before and after a workout. For a more detailed look at these foods have a read of our article ‘The Best Pre and Post Workout Snacks‘, but for now here are our top foodie tips:

  • Protein is great for repairing and growing muscle so things like cooked chicken and fish are ideal.
  • Avocado – come on…who doesn’t love an avo!
  • A handful of nuts – we love Pecans the best!
  • Peanut butter – hands up if you’re a peanut butter addict.
  • Oats are amazing at restoring energy so why not bake up a batch of healthy flapjacks. We’ve got loads of great recipes for you to try over on our recipe page, or if you think you’ve got the best recipe ever, then why not share it with us in our #FlapjackFriday feature. Email your recipe and a photo of your creation to info@artofhealthyliving.com and we’ll share it on our site.
  • Energy balls – they’re not called that for nothing ya know.
  • Hummus and Oatcakes.
  • Advent Calendar chocolate – the healthy stuff mind! We’ve got this fab calendar from MyProtein, which has a small protein packed dark chocolate disc behind each door. It’s the perfect size for a post-workout pick me up and guaranteed to keep you going until your next mealtime.

my protein advent calendar

We’d love to hear what you think, so please get in touch!

You can comment and follow us on:

Or leave us a friendly comment below ?

More from Becky Stafferton
Is Shift Work affecting your Health?
In todays busy 24 hour society there is an ever increasing demand for services,...
Read More
Join the Conversation


Leave a comment
Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *