Intuitive Eating and Exercise Guide

Combining intuitive eating and exercise not only gets better results but also develops more complete life-enhancing habits. However, can you still get fit with intuitive eating?

In general, you can get fit with intuitive eating because it allows you to reduce food intake, without stressing out about calories. Integrating an exercise routine while doing intuitive eating helps to improve your fitness, burn extra fat and lower your appetite levels.

It also helps to increase your physical intelligence and mental toughness, which are all integrated parts of well-being. In this article, we will look beyond the calories and explain why exercise and intuitive eating should be a regular part of your lifestyle.

Intuitive Eating and Strength Training

Adding regular strength training while doing intuitive eating helps to increase lean muscle mass and metabolism. Having more muscle mass increases energy expenditure and metabolic rate, which helps to burn more calories and suppress your appetite.

Does weight lifting suppress appetite? Lifting weights and strength training does suppress appetite because they lower the circulating concentration of acylated ghrelin, PYY, GLP-1, and PP. Strength training has also a profound impact to enhance post-meal satiety, which facilitates negative energy balance.

In other words, simply by adding regular exercise to your intuitive eating practice not only helps to burn more calories and get fit, but also decrease overall food consumption.

Can you gain muscle with intuitive eating?

In general, you can gain muscle with intuitive eating, as long as you eat plenty of protein-rich foods and implement strength training with progressive overload. High protein and exercise stimulate muscle protein synthesis and enhance hypertrophy.

Why is building muscle mass important in intuitive eating? Building muscle mass is important in intuitive eating because it helps to maintain a high metabolism, provides more energy, and lowers glucose levels. Higher muscle mass not only helps to maintain better results but also prevents metabolic problems.

Intuitive eating often promotes the concept of eating whatever you want, as long as you eat when you hungry and you stop when satisfied. The goal of this concept is to reduce food restrain and don’t look at foods as “good” or “bad” based on the calorie count.

Which is true. In fact, multiple studies have shown that dietary restrain doesn’t work as expected over a long period of time when it comes to weight loss or weight management (Schaumberg, 2016).

However, to build muscle mass, this concept needs to be modified because to bulk up on muscle you need to get enough proteins, regardless if you’re eating intuitively or not. Not enough proteins over the long term will lead to lower muscle mass and metabolism (Carbone, 2019).

I personally believe that a lot of attention goes on fat loss and calorie deficit, but not enough on building and maintaining muscle mass. Muscle mass goes beyond the ability to locomote:

  • Muscle is the metabolic regulator. This is the largest side for glucose disposal and impacts the metabolic balance in the body.
  • Muscle gives stability. The more muscle tissue one has, it immediately lowers the risk of falling and injury.
  • Muscle improves recovery. It also speeds up the rehab process after the injury or incident.
  • Muscle helps with longevity. Higher muscle mass is associated with lower cortisol, lower stress, high growth hormone, and higher testosterone levels.

Simply adding plenty of proteins to the meals can help no only to build muscle mass, but also to maintain strength. In addition, doing strength training with progressive overload, where you slowly increase the volume of training will ensure you’re getting the best results.

Can you get abs with intuitive eating?

Generally, you can get abs with intuitive eating, as long as you follow the guidance. Eating when hungry and stop eating when no longer hungry reduces food intake and improves body composition. Adding proteins and working out will help to maintain lean muscle mass and display six-pack abs.

Getting abs also requires higher hunger tolerance because to get visible abs, you need to reduce your body fat below 10-14%. Without counting calories and measuring food portions, it can be hard for some people.

“Eating less”, “eat when hungry” or “stop eating when no longer hungry” are all subjective measures. To get abs while doing intuitive eating requires excellent self-awareness and body awareness.

Intuitive Eating and Physical Activity

Physical activity, as a regular part of your daily lifestyle, works seamlessly with intuitive eating because they both enhance proprioception and interception ability. They both integrate to develop strong physical intelligence and body awareness.

What are proprioception and interoception? Proprioception is the sensory information that you’re getting about the position of your body in the space (walking on the sand, having a straight posture). Interoception is the sensory information about the signals that happen inside of the body (hunger, fullness).

What is physical intelligence? Physical intelligence is the measure of mastering self-awareness. It is the ability to not only perceive senses (hunger, stress) but also being able to interpret them, understand why they happen, and intelligently respond to them, rather than react.

In other words, it’s the combination of your proprioception and interception. It’s the ability to know when you’re in the heat of the moment because you haven’t eaten or you’re stressed out, and be able to post-pone any emotional reactions.

Regular physical activity combined with intuitive eating helps us to understand and actively manage our physiology. Neurotransmitters and hormones often dictate how we feel, think and behave, so being able to manage and sense them create better results.

Why physical intelligence is important in intuitive eating?

Physical intelligence is important in intuitive eating because it influences our behaviors, thoughts, emotions judgments, and decisions. Having a strong physical intelligence helps not only to recognize hunger, satiety, or fullness but also to have a proactive attitude towards them.

On the other hand, people who react to situations feel overwhelmed, rely on automatic behaviors during problems, and don’t take responsibility for their actions.

Is physical activity important in intuitive eating? Physical activity is important in intuitive eating because it shapes physical strength, creates mental toughness, stability, and reactive thinking. It also helps to build resilience and the ability to bounce back from setbacks.

  • It prevents reactive thinking when things “don’t work”
  • It prevents from being unfocused
  • It prevents from jumping from one fad diet into another,
  • It prevents from being influenced by late-night infomercials or trendy supplement

Basically, it helps to make wise decisions, especially when you’re under stress. It helps to stay resilient, manage the things you can control, and understand how to have it all together when things get out of control.

Intuitive Eating and Fitness

Adding a fitness training routine to your intuitive eating practice is important because physical strength helps you to build the ability to recover better from stress. It also increases the mental toughness and self-discipline that helps to stay focused.

What is mental toughness? In general, mental toughness is the ability to consistently persist in a given practice, despite its outcome or temporary failure. It is the ability to tolerate stress, discomfort and endure doing things that you don’t want to do.

Why mental toughness is important with intuitive eating? Mental toughness is especially important for people who start with intuitive eating and transition from different diet models. The main component of intuitive eating is knowing when you’re physically hungry or when you’re satisfied. This is a skill that needs to be practiced over and over.

And for people who’ve never relied on listening to their hunger cues such a change requires time and effort to learn those skills. That’s why being mentally tough can help to pass the obstacles and breaking through challenging situations.

Not being able to endure can lead to doubt, uncertainty, overeating, and weight gain. I’m not gonna cover here the methods to overcome overeating and weight gain in intuitive eating. I’ve already covered that in “intuitive eating and weight gain“, which I recommended you read.


Intuitive eating is an interconnected discipline that involves the ability to “sense” your body cues but it shouldn’t be looked at as the ticket to the free-town where you eat whatever you want because in the long term it can have an impact on your lean body weight.

Adding more protein to the diet and doing regular exercise can help not only to burn more calories, but also maintain lean muscle mass.

Michal Sieroslawski

Michal is an exercise physiologist (MSc) and a veteran endurance athlete. He loves to experiment and share his successes and failures to help busy men and women who want to lose weight.

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