Hunger

Nutrition
Nutrition

Don’t be afraid to dine out. Learn how to navigate and make smart choices that align with your health goals.

Image for Why you’re always feeling hungry: 9 reasons from a nutritionist

Why you’re always feeling hungry: 9 reasons from a nutritionist

Sometimes, it can feel difficult to interpret why you feel hungry all the time, especially if hunger strikes soon after you’ve eaten. This can be particularly frustrating when you’re making a conscious effort to choose healthier foods or manage your weight. If this all sounds familiar, know that you’re not alone There are many possible reasons that could be causing you to have an increased appetite or seemingly insatiable hunger. What you eat and drink may be the main culprit because of the effect they have on your glucose. Although stress, sleep, exercise, and other lifestyle factors can also contribute to feeling hungry more often. Types of hunger Physical hunger is straightforward: hunger cues arise, and when you eat, the feeling resolves. Hunger is commonly signalled by a growling stomach, but may also feel like low energy, inability to focus, light-headedness, or dizziness. This type of hunger is initiated by a physiological need for energy, which increases the hormone ghrelin in the bloodstream, a messenger that signals you feel hungry and need to eat. In simple terms, your body is nearing “E” and the light switches on to notify you to refuel. But humans are complex and live in dynamic environments where you may not “feel” hungry or realise that your body is signalling hunger and needs food. Likewise, you eat for reasons other than physical hunger. Hedonic hunger, on the other hand, is the term used for hunger without a caloric need. (1) This may arise from habits, boredom, or your environment. This is often the reason for feeling hungry frequently. Connection between glucose and hunger Glucose and hunger are tightly intertwined. When glucose levels dip, this is one of the main reasons for true physical hunger. However, a glucose spike, followed by a drop, can cue the same feeling of hunger when you don’t need the calories. Meals or snacks that are carb-heavy or sugar-laden can rapidly raise your glucose levels in your blood, followed by a large surge in insulin, which often causes a huge glucose crash. Rapid glucose swings (or low glucose) may leave you experiencing the tell-tale signs of a crash: fatigue, irritability, and, you guessed it, hunger — even after eating a big meal. 9 reasons why you feel hungry all the time 1. You're not eating enough If your goal is to lose weight, don’t slash your calorie intake too low, or undereat during weekdays to then overeat on weekends during planned “cheat days.” If you’re experimenting with ways to steady your glucose, you may be tempted to cut out carbs and sugar, but decreasing calories too far without consuming enough healthy fats and protein can not only leave you feeling hungry, but also hinder your progress. While you might experience hunger when eating in an intentional calorie deficit, you may need to experiment with your meals and snacks to find what keeps you satisfied while staying on track. Gradual weight loss is feasible through a small calorie reduction of 20%, or around 500 calories a day, although this will depend on the person. Make sure you fill up with protein, healthy fats, and fibrous vegetables to help with satiety. 2. You're active Working out increases your need for energy. Certain types of exercise like higher-intensity workouts or harder efforts can blunt your appetite for a short period of time immediately afterwards, but then come back with a vengeance. This is simply your muscles asking for more fuel. If you exercise regularly, you may notice that you need to eat more at meals or eat more frequently than others around you who aren’t as active, and this is normal. To ensure you're recovering and refueling after workouts, consume a balance of protein, fats, complex carbs, and rehydrate with fluids. 3. You're missing the mark on protein Protein is satiating, meaning you’ll feel more satisfied for longer after eating more of this important macronutrient. If you feel hungry soon after meals, crave sweets in the afternoon, or need dessert after dinner, you may not be eating enough protein. Prioritise protein with all meals and snacks, aiming for at least 30 grams of protein at meals and at least 15 grams of protein at snacks, up to a daily goal of 1.5-2.0 grams of protein per kilogram of ideal body weight. This would be 105-140 grams of protein daily for a 70 kg individual. In the morning, break the fast with 30 grams of protein at your first meal, and observe if your hunger stays at bay (and steadies your glucose). 4. You're not getting enough sleep Research shows that people eat more following periods of sleeping less. (2) Staying up late may result in snacking to try to stay awake, and short sleep durations of less than 6 hours can leave you feeling hungrier than if you got enough shuteye. Inadequate sleep has been shown to alter the appetite regulating hormones leptin and ghrelin. (3) 5. You're fearing fat Like protein, fat is extremely satiating. There is no need to fear healthy fats like nuts, seeds, avocado, nut butters, and plant oils such as olive and coconut oil (refined vegetable oils like those in high-calorie snack foods should be limited). Adding healthy fats to your diet will keep you fuller for longer, help to steady glucose, and curb hunger. Mix almond butter into morning oatmeal, dress a salad with olive oil and lemon juice, snack on olives and cheese, or add mixed nuts and seeds to Greek yoghurt. 6. You're forgetting fibre Fibre is filling because it slows digestion, causing food to remain in your stomach for longer. Since fibre isn’t digested but is passed through your GI tract, it fills you up for fewer calories and delays the rise in glucose from your meal. Low-fibre carbohydrates (such as candies, cakes, biscuits, chips, pretzels, desserts) are typically high in simple sugars, which causes rapid rises in glucose. Not getting enough fibre or eating lower fibre foods that are high in sugars and cause a crash could be why you feel hungry. Some fibre-rich foods include raspberries, almonds, avocado, chia seeds, and beans. 7. You're stressed out Stress causes a rise in the stress hormone cortisol, which elevates glucose. This can leave you feeling hungry and reaching for sugary and high-carb comfort foods. While these foods may resolve physical hunger, it doesn’t curb feeling stressed. Sure, you may feel happy after eating certain foods, but this can be short-lived as it’s just appeasing the reward centres in your brain, especially if you reach for ultra-processed foods with a lot of sugar and carbs. (4) Plus, eating sugar-laden processed foods spikes your glucose, leading to a crash and perpetuating the cravings for more high-carb comfort foods. Instead, plan for three stress-reducing tactics you can implement when you’re stressed out and craving comfort food. For example, breathing exercises, taking a 10-minute walk outside, or writing down five things you’re grateful for. 8. Your environment isn't helpful The power of suggestion is strong. Studies show you eat more of what is in front of you, which can either help or hinder your nutrition. (5) How is your environment set up? Try clearing your kitchen countertops of snacks and treats and leave only a fruit bowl. In your fridge and cupboards, make the healthy choice the easy choice by placing cut vegetables, nuts and seeds, low-sugar yoghurt, lean jerky, and other healthy foods front and centre. 9. Your menstrual cycle Women of reproductive age may notice differences in hunger levels throughout their normal menstrual cycle. Specifically, in the luteal phase (second half of cycle around days 14-28), hormones are naturally higher, which can influence hunger and cravings for sweet, carbohydrate-rich foods. (6) Females of perimenopausal age may also notice differences in appetite regulation, due to changing levels of estrogen. (7) Prioritise protein and fill up on healthy fats to work with your physiology instead of against it. Managing feeling hungry all the time If you feel like you’re hungry all the time, check the above list and see if any of the reasons apply to you. The best way to satisfy hunger is to eat, and different meals and snacks will have a unique impact on your hunger. It’s best to test out several different food combos to see which choices curb your hunger the best and leave you truly satisfied and satiated. A balanced approach that combines plenty of vegetables, lean protein, and healthy fats will keep you fuller and steady your glucose. Devices like the Lingo biosensor can also help you assess your feelings of hunger and make the best choices for your unique physiology. Lingo is a continuous glucose monitor (CGM) that connects to your smartphone and pairs with a coaching app to help you establish healthy habits. Lingo gives you a window into your glucose responses to the foods you eat and can help you make the best choices for not only your hunger, but also your overall metabolic health with real time coaching. A final note from Lingo Decoding your feelings of hunger isn’t always so straightforward and requires understanding your body's cues, assessing your lifestyle habits, and recognising the impact your choices have. Even if you’re building healthier habits or trying to lose weight, you don’t need to remain hungry. Instead, focus on eating enough protein, fibre, and healthy fats, managing stress, and building additional healthy habits that work for you. Systems like Lingo, which use a continuous glucose monitor, can also give you a window into your glucose levels to help you understand why you might be experiencing frequent hunger.

 
Image for Simple solutions to manage hunger

Simple solutions to manage hunger

When working to maintain a healthy lifestyle, sometimes hunger can be hard to curb.  But with the right planning, you'll be in the driver's seat and back in control. Plan ahead One of the best ways to manage your hunger is to plan ahead. This means having high-protein, high-fibre snacks and meals readily available to combat hunger when it comes. When you are hungry and your glucose is low, you are more likely to want sugary, high-carb foods. Balance Your Meals For dinner, build the perfect glucose-friendly plate. What does that look like? It’s simple maths: a quarter protein, a quarter carbohydrate (whole grains or starchy vegetables like potatoes, corn, beetroot and squash), and half non-starchy vegetables (like spinach, broccoli, asparagus and tomatoes). Make enough to have healthy leftovers the next day. Drink plenty of water Sometimes, when you feel hungry, you might just be thirsty. Drinking water can help you reduce your urge to snack on unhealthy foods. As a starting point, try to drink at least eight glasses of water per day. If you want to add some flavour to your water, you can infuse it with fruit or herbs, like lemon or mint. (1) Take Time Out  Check in with yourself and ask, “is this hunger or something else?”. In other words, are you stressed, bored, frustrated, or tired? If your hunger is tied to low energy levels and a dip in glucose, follow the Fundamentals and refuel. If your hunger is actually something else, try to change things up. Get up and go on a walk, read a book, or listen to some music until the feelings pass. This gives you space to think more clearly and make better decisions about your food choices.

 

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