I vividly remember when I first began craving fruit during a workout: I was 14 and trying out for the field hockey team. It was blisteringly hot that day, and as I tried to prove myself on the field, I couldn’t stop dreaming about a post-workout smoothie. I wanted something cold, of course, but I also wanted the fruit specifically. I didn’t have one specific type of produce in mind. Banana, mango, strawberry, orange juice — any combination would do. I just wanted a post-workout fruit pick-me-up, ideally as soon as I walked off the field.
I continued to desperately crave fruit during my sweatiest workouts, and my post-field-hockey smoothie run became a long-standing tradition of mine (the local Robeks’s employees loved me). Even today, if I go for a run on a hot day, I’m daydreaming about fruit, juice, and smoothies by mile five. The more I sweat, the stronger the craving.
I typically pay attention to my food cravings, and this one has always interested me because of how consistent it is — and how universal it seems to be. I’ve talked to many people who also dream of fruit during intense workouts, which made me suspect that the craving is trying to tell us something about our bodies — I just didn’t know what. So, I polled a few dietitians to find out what might be behind exercise-induced fruit cravings.
Why Do I Crave Fruit After Working Out?
If you’re craving fruit during a workout, it can be a sign of a couple of things:
- Your body needs carbohydrates. When you’re working out (especially if it’s a cardio-intensive activity, like running or cycling), your body is running on glucose from carbohydrates, says Julia Denison, MS, LDN, a registered dietitian who specializes in sports nutrition. “If you are lacking enough carbohydrates to properly fuel your workout, your body will recognize this and crave what it needs,” Denison tells POPSUGAR. Fruit just so happens to be a good source of carbohydrates “that our bodies can easily digest and use for energy,” notes registered dietitian Marissa Meshulam, MS, CDN, of MPM Nutrition. Hence, the cravings.
- You’re dehydrated. Besides being a good source of carbs, many fruits are full of water as well, Meshulam says. “We tend to lose a lot of water during exercise via sweat, and given that fruit is filled with water (and natural electrolytes), it is a great way to replenish carbs, electrolytes, and water [at the same time],” she explains.
- You have low blood sugar. “A craving during your workout is your body’s way of saying you have not eaten enough,” says Justine Chan, CDE, a registered dietitian. Being underfueled can lead to low blood sugar. Other signs of this include developing a headache during your workout or starting to feel dizzy, shaky, or nauseous — all red flags that it’s time to pause your workout, take a break, and get some water and a snack.
The easy solution to a strong fruit craving is, well, to eat fruit once you’ve finished working out, which has always been my strategy. (You may want to avoid eating fruit in the middle of a workout, though, because its fiber content could upset your stomach.) But Denison also suggests tweaking your routine a little to see if one of the factors above is playing into your cravings. Most importantly, make sure to fuel up properly before you start working out. “This means eating a full meal a few hours before your workout and consuming a snack high in carbohydrates around 30 minutes before working out,” she says. Also consider making an effort to stay hydrated throughout the day.
After your workout, however, feel free to eat fruit if you still want it. “Fruit can be an awesome choice as part of your post-workout snack,” Denison says, explaining that it helps replenish your stores of glycogen (the energy your body makes from the glucose in carbohydrates). She also suggests including some protein with your fruit, “such as peanut butter, cottage cheese, or yogurt,” to help rebuild your muscles. You should also drink water right after your workout in case you’re dehydrated, Chan says.
Of course, not everyone craves fruit while working out. “Some people experience salt or sugar craving post-workout,” Meshulam points out. But any craving could clue you in to something your body needs. If you want something salty, for instance, it likely means you lost a large amount of salt via your sweat, so you should replenish with some sodium in addition to fluids. Try “a few crackers or salt on your mango,” Meshulam suggests. If you’re craving something sweet, “it likely means you need to replenish your glycogen stores — and fruit is a great way to do so,” she says.
To sum it up, feel free to grab some fruit after a workout to satisfy your craving. Just make sure to pair it with some water and protein to fully refuel your body. And in general, try to pay attention to what your body is telling you while you exercise. While not every craving has to be taken seriously, some of them may offer a window into your general well-being.