Finally, it’s your rest day; one of the days every week you take to let your body heal after a tough week of physical activity.
There’s one thing that’s changing about your body, though, and it isn’t how it looks. It’s that empty feeling in your stomach; you’ll have breakfast, but an hour later, you’re feeling hungry again. Maybe some things that used to fill you up no longer leave you satiated.
Maybe you went out for drinks the night before – it’s fine to admit it; just because you pole doesn’t mean you want to give up girl’s night out – so of course your body is going to try to replace all the minerals and nutrients it lost, especially if it was a crazy night. That…doesn’t explain the days where you haven’t had alcohol – or maybe you just don’t drink at all – then why are you feeling hungry so often?
The quick and simple answer to it all is: your metabolism is speeding up because you’re placing a higher energy demand on your body. Give it the fuel it needs!
The first thing is to realize that being hungry is healthy; hunger is your body’s “low gas” light that clicks on when you need to stop and fuel up. Fortunately, you won’t end up broken down somewhere as your body has a bit more of a tolerance for low ‘fuel’. Our bodies have a way of getting fuel when we run on low.
Unfortunately, however, that involves the body breaking itself down for nutrients – and it likes to break down muscle first before anything else. Since muscles are what help us move, give us strength, and help stabilize our bodies, we kind of rely on them to do everything and anything; whether it’s pole dancing, running, weightlifting, or even simply movements like getting out of a chair.
What does this mean?
Well, to be able to do what we want to do, especially when it comes to things that require honed strength like pole dancing, we need to make sure our bodies don’t eat themselves because we didn’t fuel them up with enough (proper) nutrition.
Am I Really Hungry?
Admittedly, it can be hard sometimes to discern the difference between being hungry and having a craving, especially with supermarkets and restaurants populating cities. It can be tempting to sit down with some popcorn while watching a movie, even if you just had a filling dinner. But, how do you tell the difference?
Well, let’s go over a few core concepts when it comes to digestion, sleep, fats, sugars, and fat.
In general, your body knows how to handle itself. Developing that body awareness will help you understand
when you’re hungry and when you are just craving food. Of course, hunger is controlled by a combination of several hormones within the body and brain, and depending on what and when you’re eating, this can be thrown out of whack. Furthermore, though it varies by individual, it takes your body around 20 minutes to feel full, even if your stomach is physically full.
To help regulate your eating habits, try eating snacks and frequent small meals throughout the day, rather than a one or two large meals. Remember, it’s okay to eat when you’re hungry; you don’t have to wait for it to be a specific time of day!
Eating slower will also help you feel full faster, as your body has more time to catch up to itself during the meal. Eating slower also has the benefit of making the meal more mindful, and you’ll enjoy the taste more if you take the time to enjoy different flavors.
Sleep aids in the regulation of almost everything in the body, including the processes controlling hunger. A lack of good sleep one night might leave you feeling hungrier than usual the next day, and several days of little sleep can make it a chronic occurrence. Of course, if your sleep schedule is off, then it’s easy to get into the habit of eating more (or less) than you really need or eating irregularly. Not getting the sleep your body needs makes you more likely to crave unhealthy foods high in bad fats and sugars.
There are two types of sugars: natural sugars and refined sugars. In all forms, sugar is a simple carbohydrate that the body converts into glucose and uses as fuel or energy.
Natural sugars are found in all foods we eat, from fruits (fructose) to dairy products like milk and cheese (lactose) and in many vegetables as sucrose. The “starch” in starchy foods are polysaccharides – long chains of glucose molecules. These sugars are fine for you because the foods they come with have nutritional value.
Refined sugars come from sugar cane or sugar beets, which are then processed to extract the sugar and turn it into the crystalline, white sugar we are all accustomed to seeing. The reason why processed food or sugary pastries are typically so bad for your body is because there is added “empty” calories and sugars to mimic flavor, but it has little nutritional value.
Of course, your body quickly and easily breaks down sugars, which means eating something high in sugars will leave you feeling hungry quicker, but it is quick fuel when you’re in a pinch. Natural sugars will be better fuel than refined sugars because you’re providing your body with easy nutrients on top of quick fuel.
Let’s get this out in the open first: not all fat is bad. In fact, good fats are incredibly important for your overall health, including regulating heart health and muscle movement.
There are two main types of good fats. The first is monounsaturated fats, found in olive oil, avocados, and most nuts. The second type is polyunsaturated fats, which are essential fats that your body can’t make so you have to get them from the foods you eat. You may have heard these fats referred to as omega-3 fatty acids or even omega-6 fatty acids. Good sources of these fats are salmon, sardines, flaxseed, walnuts, and soybean oil (unhydrogenated.)
Saturated fats are in a grey area, where it’s not necessarily bad for you, but too much can tip the cholesterol scales towards the more harmful LDL cholesterol, especially if you have or are at risk for heart troubles. These are commonly found in red meats, cheeses, and commercially prepared baked goods.
You’ll want to avoid trans fats, which include harmful LDL cholesterol levels and lowers your beneficial HDL cholesterol. Many processed and pre-made foods have trans fats as it is a byproduct of a process called hydrogenation – this process helps turn healthy oils into solids and prevent them from becoming rancid.
Fat isn’t as quickly processed as sugar, but it can still leave you feeling hungry quickly, especially if that is the main thing in your stomach. Fat “takes up less space” than protein or carbs because it’s a lot higher in calories.
Of course, if you think about fat, you’re going to have questions about body fat, too. The percentage of body fat each of us needs varies on an individual basis. We’re not even going to talk about a BMI formula because it’s BS all around.
Just to keep you alive (not healthy) the bare minimum is around 2-4% for males and 10-12% for females. Bruce Lee’s body fat was estimated between 1-2% and many sources suspect that is the biggest contributor to his death. Professional Olympic athlete females are recommended to be in the 14-20% body fat range, and males within 6-13%. Even then, those percentages are so low because these athletes have so much muscle.
As you get stronger, pole more often, and place greater demands on your body, your metabolic rate will go up. Your metabolic rate determines how fast you process food, which means the more fuel your body needs, the faster it’ll burn what you add. Every person has their own baseline metabolic rate; in fact, the medical term for this is your Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR). This is the rate at which your body uses energy while resting to keep vital functions going, such as breathing and staying warm.
What this means is: even if you keep a food log, track every single calorie you eat and burn, get the basic amount needed to stay alive, your body can be burning fuel faster than you are eating.
FUN FACT: since everyone’s body is different, there is no definitive number of calories you should eat based on weight, height, age, and so on. The FDA says that the average person should eat 2,000 calories a day, sure, you see this on every nutrition label. This is because they thought that the actual value they got – 2,350 calories – is too hard to remember, so they rounded it down to 2,000. If you’re counting calories to the 2,000 number, you’re restricting your body to a calorie deficit.
What Should I Do?
Staying full is a tricky skill to master, especially if you’re not familiar with nutrition and how the body works. If you make the effort, however, you can learn more about micronutrition and how to listen to your body and intuitively know when and what you need. Making sure you are eating enough and eating properly should be one in the same. Below are a few things which can help you achieve your own balance starting out:
- Find Out How Much You Need and Of What
Based on your height, weight, and age, it is pretty easy to figure out a decent estimate of how much you should eat. Although it’s not an absolute, it’s a good place to start. When you know that, then figure out how much of it should come from protein, fat, and carbs. 1 gram of protein or a gram of carbs both have 4 calories, and a gram of fat has 9 calories. For an average build person, 30% of your calories should come from protein, 30% from fat, and 40% from carbs. If you have a larger frame, you may want fewer carbs and more protein and fat, and if you are smaller, you can lower the fat and have more carbs. The 30-30-40 ratio is a pretty good guideline.
Then, you’ll need to make sure you factor in how many calories you burn. If you are dancing all day every day, you’ll be going through a lot of calories, which you need to replenish. With all the smartwear that tracks your activity, it has gotten a lot easier to figure out how much you burn and need to replace. For example, if you go through 300 calories walking throughout the day and if you want to maintain your weight, you better get those 300 calories back from food.
- Make Healthier Eating Choices
It’s not that hard, and it’s not that bad. Eating healthy can be delightful and flavorful if you learn how to do it. If you don’t want to think about it, though, at least make an effort to cut out foods that are bad for you. Of course it’s impossible in today’s world to completely avoid certain things, but by cutting back on them you’re bound to see great improvement in your hunger, energy levels, strength, sleep quality, and many other things.Try to avoid refined sugars, too much salt, and highly processed foods. These are all things that go through your body quickly without providing a lot of nutrition. Instead, get the 30% of your calories through protein, and get enough dietary fiber. Both fiber and protein require a lot of time for your body to process, so you won’t get hungry as frequently and you’ll feel full.Drinking plenty of water helps as well. Studies have found that some adults confuse the feeling of hunger with the feeling of being thirsty. Even if you don’t confuse the two, having a glass of water can fill you up a bit, satiating dehydration signals that felt like hunger. If you’re not sure whether you’re dehydrated or hungry, have an apple. Apples are light, give you something to bite and chew, and are full of water.
- Practice Mindfulness and Stress Less
Stress can make you hungry, reduce your metabolism, and lower your overall health and mood. It’s easier said than done, but this is important to every aspect of your life.
One thing which shouldn’t be stressed over is eating. Keeping track of calories, and what you eat is great, but it shouldn’t become your life. A sweet treat now and then won’t kill you, nor will a fast food burger. It’s fine to not eat your goal ratio of protein, fat, and carbs every single day – if anything, it’s near impossible to hit the ratio exactly. Even having a slice of pizza or some ice cream won’t “mess up” your daily ratio, they can easily be a part of it. The point is to enjoy life, not rigidly restrict it, and the same can be said about your food.
So, it’s Sunday, you ate the cleanest diet all week, and you’re still feeling hungry after breakfast. It’s a normal thing to feel hungry. Maybe you can have some water, or maybe an apple. But having a day off from meticulously tracking your diet on your day off from exercise isn’t bad. If that slice of pizza sounds like the best thing to cure the hangover, and as long as it doesn’t become an entire pizza, why not? So listen to your body, eat enough and eat well, but make sure to love yourself.
Sometimes after pole days, the soreness and exhaustion is too much and you wake up feeling groggy and out of sorts. Your body is lagging behind, trying to catch up to all the activity! While this is normal to some degree, you could use a pick-me-up.
If you’re in need of an immediate pick-me-up, make some eggs, which are rich in protein. Each egg contains about 6g of protein, and your body can only process about ~20g of protein at one time. Cook it in healthy oils to get your omega-3 fatty acids in and see how you feel.
You can also try complete macro and micronutrient solutions like Soylent and blend it in with your chocolate-banana and peanut butter smoothie.
You can also try bulletproof coffee or tea, whichever you drink in the morning. This is a great way to give your body delicious, healthy fats. Brew 8-oz of your beverage and add 2 tbsp unsalted butter, and 2 tbsp organic coconut oil (or MCT oil.) You can add 1 tbsp of cream if desired, but it may change the taste. Don’t worry – it sounds weird and gross, but it’s surprisingly delightful, especially on a groggy day.