Controlled Eating - Learn the Difference Between Hunger & Appetite

Controlled Eating

Boost your Bodybuilding Success with Appetite Control

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A lot of people are drawn to the gym and to bodybuilding because they have issues to work out in their lives. Whether the guys grew up underweight and weak, or the girls were teased relentlessly over an extra 20 or 30 pounds, most people join a gym with a certain amount of bag-gage. You may not hear about such problems in the many amateur interviews where almost all subjects claim they were athletic wonder-children endowed with the best genetics and coordination. The truth is, many of these folks were far from perfect and didn't achieve nearly the glowing results they claim, but saying bodybuilding was just the next natural step in a long chain of physical realizations makes for a good story. I mean, who really wants to admit to having been a fat kid who was never picked for teams because he or she lacked any athletic ability. Many got into bodybuilding to prove to the world they aren't the losers people took them for.

Besides this kind of baggage everyone has different habits, ideas and values about food and eating. Since success in bodybuilding comes from approximately 65 percent diet and 35 percent workouts, novice competitors should all be on the same page in the matter of getting stage ready. The problem is, few are. Most people don't have a clue about consistent healthy eating to maintain an aesthetically pleasing physique.

The issue is not so much about discipline, though that can be significant for some people. After all, if you've never been on a restricted eating plan for any length of time, you'll have difficulty with it at first. Many struggle continuously. The biggest problem overall is not knowing which foods to eat, and how and when to eat them, as well as how the body works with regard to hunger, exercise and hormones.

The most successful people in bodybuilding know their bodies and honor them. They are in tune not only with how their own unique body responds to food and how it uses food during exercise, but also with how they can best use those bits of wisdom to their own advantage come contest time. Nutrition isn't rocket science, but then again, it's a good deal more complicated to figure out than many other phenomena in this world, particularly when people are completely in the dark about how these factors interconnect and work, both for and against them.

Even a matter as simple as the difference between appetite and hunger can throw the average person off kilter. People eat for two reasons: either because they are hungry or because they have an appetite for a specific food. The two sensations are not synonymous, however, and knowing the difference can ward off a good deal of unnecessary eating.

Hunger is the need for food, a physical reaction brought about by chemical changes in the body that signal your body is experiencing a low level of glucose hours after eating your last meal. It's a protective mechanism that your body cannot bypass to make sure it gets the fuel it needs to survive and function well.

Appetite is the desire for food. Rather than being a protective mechanism, it is a sensory or psychological reaction to some kind of food stimulus by way of either smell or sight. It stimulates an involuntary physical process that includes salivating, stomach contractions, and an actual sense of hunger. But this reaction is not hunger. It's a conditioned response to foods.

The distinction is important to a bodybuilder because the very act of eating can make or break a competitor, especially if he has no sense of the difference between appetite and hunger. Knowing how to read the physical signs of hunger and distinguish them from appetite is half the battle. Although as humans we will repeatedly have cravings for various foods throughout the course of our life, knowing how to interpret the signs is the first step in abstaining from mindless or destructive eating - a skill successful bodybuilders are very good at.

Hormonal peaks and valleys can often mimic hunger or appetite or both, and cause a competitor to want to eat more. Not having the desire to eat much of anything can also be a problem as a result of chemical changes at various times of the year. Both problems can obviously be detrimental to the progress and ultimate success of a competitor because either can affect the results one gets during pre contest preparation.

Environment, medications, climate and how much one exercises can also affect the amount one wants to eat. For instance, you're more likely to feel hungry in cool places than in warm ones. You are also likely to want more calorie-dense foods in colder climes because your body believes it needs to store fat. Likewise, when the weather is cold, your body processes food more quickly to provide a more efficient fuel supply. The stomach empties faster, and hunger pangs can be more frequent than in warmer climates.

If you're stressed, you may notice a desire to eat more or less. People going through relationship problems tend to err on one side or the other. So do people who have lost their job and don't know where their next dollar may be coming from. Certain prescription drugs can also mimic the stress effect by causing the body to react in unaccustomed ways, such as overeating or under eating. Drugs can cause problems either way. Antidepressants, antihistamines, diuretics and tranquilizers (including Nubain) will often cause people to eat more food, though the reaction depends upon the individual. Antibiotics, anticancer agents, blood pressure meds, diet pills, antifungal agents and antiseizure meds often cause people to eat far less than normal, though that reaction too can vary from person to person.

What about those people whose signals always cross, and for whom food is a big issue? Many bodybuilders and fitness athletes do have a checkered past with regard to eating and food, and come into the sport hoping the rigidity and discipline will cure them of their ailments and abnormalities. Usually, however, the gym experience only exacerbates the problem and causes more negative progression within an addiction cycle.

Eating disorders aren't as uncommon as you might think, and they don't affect only women. They affect men too. Bulimia and compulsive overeating are big problems in our sport, the antithesis of health and fitness. Outsiders may be shocked to learn such fit-looking men and women aren't always well with themselves and their eating habits, but discussing the problem is better than sweeping it under the proverbial rug.

Now, not everyone who fails to get ripped for a competition has an eating disorder. He or she may simply lack the discipline or desire to get into the kind of condition required to win. All sorts of head trips having to do with failure and success frustrate competitors. We can't easily judge from the outside what's going on with someone who seems unable to get his act together.

Bodybuilding sets up a tendency of many people to binge on food once the competition diet is over. This feast-or-famine kind of practice challenges a great many solid constitutions and causes people to ruin their good efforts, sometimes within as short a span as a week. I've seen people gain back virtually all the weight they've lost within the first week. Granted, much of it is water since the body can't suck 25 pounds back on that fast. However, if the binge eating doesn't stop, the weight gain is going to become 25 pounds of fat fairly quickly.

The human body isn't designed for repeated stuffing and dilation of the stomach, nor for starving and shrinking it. Still, these practices occur because of the inability of people to balance their true hunger and energy needs with all their many anxieties, hormonal and chemical changes, and bodybuilding goals.

Log Your Hunger

One way to begin learning how to put all the pieces together and coordinate them in a way that makes sense, while educating yourself on the ways that eating can make or break your bodybuilding success, is to keep a log or journal of all the foods you crave and have an appetite for, as opposed to all the times you're hungry. Hunger, remember, is indicated by hunger-pang noises (stomach growling) and lower blood sugar. You just feel drained and ready to eat. The signals for appetite are more subtle. Stomach juices may flow when stimulated by a memory of eating a particular food, brought on by a scent of it. You may, for example, begin salivating while thinking of eating a freshly baked apple pie. Use this log to record your sensations during the day. It can be a pocket size that you carry with you for a quick note whenever the urge strikes.

Using this log, you may begin to see how your current diet affects you and when and why you become hungry. Your log of appetite cravings and feelings of desire for food can tell you what sights or smells set you off in that direction. Sometimes just looking at a food magazine full of holiday desserts can trigger destructive cravings.

Red Light / Green Light

Develop a system where you can begin to slowly filter foods that are dangerous for you in terms of binge eating or blowing a diet. One simple method I like to use is the symbol of a traffic light by which you identify green, yellow and red groups of foods.

If you know, for instance, that Krispy Kreme donuts (a favorite of Lee Priest) set you off in the direction of bingeing and cause you to tumble off whatever food plan you're currently following, they probably should go on your red list - i.e. the list of foods you don't even have any contact with, at least during a competition diet. Perhaps you can't eat those foods at any time during the year if you want to avoid weeks-long eating binges. Yellow foods are proceed-with-caution (only on a cheat day and in small amounts) kinds of foods. Green foods, such as chicken breasts, steak, broccoli and baked yam are foods you can safely eat without risking a craving to have more and more of them.

Eat Only When Hungry

For some people food and appetite are just that powerful. I've known more than a few bodybuilders who fit this scenario. The next step, if you don't know how to modulate food, is to eat only when hungry. Sounds logical, and you may think you do it now, but after keeping a log, you may see that you often don't eat when hungry. You may eat a lot during those times when appetite strikes. The trick is to eat small meals so that you are hungry more than three times per day. Also, make sure to include a protein, a vegetable carbohydrate, and a small amount of fat with each meal. In two meals have a vegetable carbohydrate and a small amount of a starch carbohydrate on the same plate. Other meals will include just veggie carbs. Training yourself to eat only when hungry is a very powerful habit-making process. Do it long enough and you'll instinctively know when you're hungry and when you're merely craving foods.

I know this advice may not apply to those people who don't eat enough or often enough, but it's a great way to start for someone who overeats or never gets ripped because he has no idea how to plan to eat food. Such folks have to create hunger. The best way to do that is to eat small meals so that you don't have a full stomach for hours on end. Perhaps one reason why some people do not eat often enough is that they don't process food as rapidly because the stomach doesn't empty within a short period of time. If that's the case, don't overload the stomach in one meal. Over a few weeks' time getting hungry may be easier.

Foods to Choose:

Protein: tuna, eggs, steak, turkey, chicken, crab, shrimp, lobster, whey, tofu

Veggie carbs: broccoli, lettuce, cauliflower, green beans, spinach

Starch carbs: potato, yam, rice, pasta, bread, squash, beet roots, beans (navy, black)

Fats: walnuts, olive oil, flax oil, almonds, peanut and almond butters, butter

The best possible way to deal with hunger and appetite is to learn how to recognize your body's many signs and what they mean. If you're hungry, eat healthful food in moderate amounts that make maintaining a good eating schedule and a healthy bodyweight possible. Above all remember that no one is perfect. Sometimes giving in to your appetite is okay, but only when your eating is carefully planned. You can reduce your feelings of guilt about that appetite slip by adjusting your calories over the next few days and doing some extra cardio.




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