It’s 10:00 am and all of a sudden, your stomach is growling. You think to yourself, I had breakfast not that long ago, how can I already be hungry? Or maybe it’s 1:00 pm, you just finished your lunch, and you’re hungry again. If you’ve ever gotten back from a meal to find yourself already feeling like you need more, you may be wondering if there’s something wrong with your metabolism. However, it’s more likely your hunger pains are resurfacing because of one of the following reasons:
- You’re not eating enough protein or fiber. Both protein and fiber play a role in reducing your appetite and keeping you full, which will help you automatically consume fewer calories during the day.
- You’re not eating enough. It may sound obvious, but if you exercise a lot, are very active, or are dieting, you may not be meeting your daily caloric needs.
- You’re eating too many refined carbs. Refined carbs have been processed and stripped of their fiber, vitamins, and minerals. Since refined carbs lack fiber, your body digests them very quickly. This is a major reason why you may be feeling hungry despite having just eaten.
- You’re dehydrated. Many of us are familiar with the afternoon slump or the feeling of just wanting something to “snack on.” Oftentimes, we just need to hydrate. A study published in the Journal Physiology and Behavior found people respond inappropriately to body signals 62% of the time, confusing hunger and thirst. While hydration shouldn’t be used to “mask” hunger, it is important to make sure you are hydrated so you’re not mistaking thirst for hunger.
- You’re not getting enough sleep. Sleep plays a significant role in regulating hormones, which may contribute to increased feelings of hunger. Short sleep duration is linked with elevated levels of ghrelin, a hormone that stimulates appetite, and decreased levels of leptin, a satiety hormone. That means when you’re short on sleep, you’re more likely to feel hungry and crave sugary foods.
- You’re over-stressed. When the body is in a constant state of stress, cortisol (aka the stress hormone) rises, which can trigger an increased appetite. Furthermore, stress eating usually causes people to reach for refined carbs and sugary items, which won’t keep you full or satiated for very long.
- You’re PMS’ing. Menstruation can be another hormonal shift that may cause a temporary increase in appetite and cravings, both related to increased feelings of fatigue and an uptick in energy needs.
- Your diet is low in 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. Additionally, eating fat may lead to the release of various fullness-promoting hormones. There are many healthy, high-fat foods that you can include in your diet such as nuts, avocados, and fatty fish such as salmon.
Overall, it’s important to listen to your body and what it’s telling you. Excessive hunger is a sign that your body needs more food, however it’s important to remember hunger can also manifest as fatigue, the inability to concentrate, feeling dizzy or always thinking about food. If you feel hungry often, it may be beneficial to assess your diet and lifestyle to determine if there are changes you can make to help you feel fueled and energized all day long.
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