Reasons why you are always hungry
Hunger is your body’s natural cue that it needs more or better nutrients.
When you are hungry, your stomach may ‘growl’ and feel empty, or you may get a headache, feel irritable or be unable to concentrate.
Most people can go several hours between meals before feeling hungry again, though this isn’t the case for everyone. There are several possible explanations for why someone may feel hungry again soon after they eat, including a diet that lacks protein, fat or fibre, as well as excessive stress, sugar consumption or dehydration.
Let’s look at a couple of reasons why you always feel hungry:
You are not drinking enough water
Proper hydration is incredibly important for your overall health. Drinking enough water has several health benefits, including promoting brain and heart health and optimizing exercise performance. Additionally, water keeps your skin and digestive system healthy.
Water is also quite filling and has the potential to reduce appetite when consumed before meals.
In one study, 14 people who drank two cups of water before a meal ate almost 600 fewer calories than those who didn’t drink any water.
Feelings of thirst can be mistaken for feelings of hunger. If you’re always hungry, it may be helpful to drink a glass or two of water to find out if you are just thirsty.
To ensure you’re properly hydrated, simply drink a glass of water every hour. Always have a water bottle with you and order a glass of water before you order any other beverage. We recommend 2 -2.5 litres per day.
You are stressed
Excess stress is known to increase appetite.
This is mostly due to its effects on increasing levels of cortisol, a hormone that has been shown to promote hunger and food cravings. For this reason, you might find that you are always hungry if you experience frequent stress.
In one study, 59 women who were exposed to stress consumed more calories throughout the day and ate significantly more sweet foods than women who were not stressed.
Another study compared the eating habits of 350 young girls. Those with higher stress levels were more likely to overeat than those with lower levels of stress. The stressed girls also reported higher intakes of unhealthy snacks like chips and cookies.
There are many strategies you can use to reduce your stress levels. See more information on stress here.
You are not sleeping enough
Getting adequate sleep is extremely important for your health.
Sleep is required for the proper functioning of your brain and immune system, and it is associated with a lower risk of several chronic illnesses, including heart disease and cancer.
Additionally, getting enough sleep can help control appetite, as it helps regulate ghrelin, the appetite-stimulating hormone. Lack of sleep leads to higher ghrelin levels, which is why you eat more calories when you are sleep deprived.
In one study, 15 people who were sleep deprived for only one night reported being significantly more hungry and chose 14 per cent larger portion sizes, compared to a group that slept for eight hours.
To keep your hunger levels under control, it is generally recommended to get at least seven hours of uninterrupted sleep each night.
See more information on sleep here.
You are eating too many refined carbs
Refined carbs have been processed and stripped of their fibre, vitamins and minerals.
One of the most popular sources of refined carbs is white flour, which is found in many grain-based foods like bread and pasta or used as fillers in fat-free products (leading to gluten intolerance). Foods such as soda, candy and baked goods, which are made with processed sugars, are also considered to be refined carbs.
Since refined carbs lack quality fibre, your body digests them very quickly. This is a major reason why you may be hungry frequently, as they do not promote significant feelings of fullness.
Furthermore, eating refined carbs may lead to rapid spikes in your blood sugar. This leads to increased levels of insulin, a hormone responsible for transporting sugar into your cells.
When a lot of insulin is released at once in response to high blood sugar, it works by quickly removing sugar from your blood, which may lead to a sudden drop in blood sugar levels.
Low blood sugar levels signal to your body that it needs more food, which is another reason why you may feel hungry often if refined carbs are a regular part of your diet.
To reduce your refined carb intake, simply replace them with healthier, whole foods like vegetables, fruit, legumes and whole grains. These foods are rich in fibre, which is helpful for keeping hunger under control.
Your diet is low in healthy fat
Fat plays a key role in keeping you full.
This is partly due to its slow gastrointestinal transit time, meaning that it takes longer for you to digest and remains in your stomach for a long period of time.
One study including 270 obese adults found that those who followed a low-fat diet had significant increases in cravings for carbs and preferences for high-sugar foods, compared to a group that consumed a low-carb diet.
Furthermore, those in the low-fat group reported more feelings of hunger than the group that followed a low-carb eating pattern.
There are many healthy, fatty foods that you can include in your diet. Certain types of fats, such as unsaturated fats and omega-3-6-9 fatty acids, have been studied the most for their impact on reducing appetite.
Omega fatty acids are found in fatty fish like salmon, tuna and mackerel. You can also get omegas from plant-based foods, such as walnuts and flaxseeds. Some other sources of healthy, high-fat foods include avocados, olive oil, eggs and full-fat Greek yogurt.
You’re not eating enough quality protein
Consuming enough protein (plant or animal based) is important for appetite control.
Protein has hunger-reducing properties that may help you automatically consume fewer calories during the day. It works by increasing the production of hormones that signal fullness and reducing the levels of hormones that stimulate hunger. Due to these effects, you may feel hungry frequently if you’re not eating enough protein.
In one study, 14 overweight men who consumed 25 per cent of their calories from protein for 12 weeks experienced a 50 per cent reduction in their desire for late-night snacking, compared to a group that consumed less protein.
Additionally, those with a higher protein intake reported greater fullness throughout the day and fewer obsessive thoughts about food.
Many different foods, animal and plant based, are high in protein, so it is not difficult to get enough of it through your diet. Including a source of protein in every meal, like eggs, beans, lean meat, lentils, seeds or nuts, can help prevent excessive hunger.
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Judith Coulson is a Certified Corporate Wellness Specialist, Positive Psychology, Nutrition & Lifestyle Coach, working with individuals, executive teams, schools and companies. She is studying MSc Applied Positive Psychology and Coaching Psychology at UEL.