8 Reasons You May Feel Constantly Hungry
Hunger is often perceived as a negative feeling, and some people view it as a continuous inconvenience. However, being hungry is as innate as needing the toilet or yawning and is your body’s way of signalling to you that it needs something. Hunger is a vital biological signal. To know what this means, you must understand the autonomic nervous system (ANS). The ANS system is made up of the sympathetic nervous system (SNS) and the parasympathetic nervous system (PNS). The SNS is in control of the body’s perception of threat and induces the ‘fight or flight’ response. On the other hand, the PNS’s role is to calm the body and bring it back down to a balanced state.
For the ANS and SNS to function correctly, our bodies want and need to spend time in the ‘rest and digest’ function. During this time, our blood pressure decreases, heart rate lowers, and gastrointestinal peristalsis rises, meaning you can absorb and digest nutrients and produce energy stores for future use.
When our bodies can spend time in this mode, there is a decrease in the feeling of the need to eat regularly. Many people find that when eating smaller meals more often, they feel more energised and at their best. However, if you find that you are always hungry, consider some of these reasons listed below:
You’re Not Eating Enough Protein or Fiber
Getting the essential number of macronutrients in our diets is necessary for bodily functions to process adequately – This includes protein, carbs and fats. Not all calories have the same impact on hunger. While carbohydrates are great for a quick energy boost, your body is quickly able to convert this into glucose and the faster your blood sugar rises, the faster it falls, resulting in hunger. Eating like this too often can cause insulin resistance where your body is unable to use the glucose in cells effectively due to building a resistance. To sustain reduced appetite and energy, protein, fat and fiber are essential. A study published in Nutrition Journal found high-protein snacks resulted in a decrease in hunger, and participants were satisfied for longer. It is generally regarded that foods high in protein and fiber are most active at generating satiety due to the breakdown and release of nutrients from these foods.
You’re Not Eating Enough
If you are reducing calories for weight loss, highly active or genetically have a higher metabolism, the reason behind you feeling hungry all the time may be a result of you not eating enough. If your one of these people, your body may be lacking the nutritional values it requires to function sufficiently, and real hunger is a sign your body needs more energy. This doesn’t always have to be a rumbling stomach and could manifest as fatigue, an inability to concentrate, feeling lightheaded and continuously thinking about food. To help with this, try avoiding ignoring your body’s natural hunger cues and consult with a dietician who can help you identify areas to improve your diet.
Being Distracted While Eating
Busy schedules can lead to having to eat while walking, talking, driving or just generally being distracted. However, if a high proportion of your meals are rushed, your body has a difficult time acknowledging fullness. A study comparing the difference of fullness between distracted eaters and non-distracted ones found that the non-distracted participants described a decrease in their desire to finish their entire plate of food. While the distracted participants were more likely to complete their plate of food. Not only can mindful eating help you feel satiated, but it has also been linked to reduced food cravings and emotional eating.
Eating Too Quickly
A further reason as to why your body may not be able to identify that it is full is if you’re rushing through your meals and snacks. Eating quickly makes it difficult for your body to register satiety as it takes around 20 minutes after eating for your body to register it is full. You should make it a priority to slow down. If it’s common for you to consume meals and snacks swiftly, try giving yourself a certain amount of time to finish your meals. Adding sips of water between bites can help you slow down and try to reflect on your body’s fullness level with each bite.
Your Hormones Are Out of Balance
Hormones play a vital role in your autonomic nervous system, and if your body is in a constant state of stress, it can lead to your cortisol levels rising. This rise can trigger an increased appetite. Additionally, easting caused by stress usually causes people to reach for foods that are high in carbohydrates and sugar, which will not keep you full for long.
Another hormonal shift that can influence being hungry is menstruation, which can result in a temporary spike in appetite and cravings. These can both cause increased feelings of fatigue and a decrease in energy needs.
Try to take part in some activities that help reduce stress other than eating such as exercise, reading, cuddling a pet etc.
You’re Burning a Lot of Energy
If you are exercising at high intensities or for longer durations more frequently than it can cause a mismatch of energy levels. Your appetite is likely to increase as your body uses more calories for energy than it used to. Similarly, life changes, such as pregnancy and childbirth, may also lead to increased energy needs and appetites.
Being Dehydrated Can Make You Hungry
Being dehydrated, especially during the afternoon, can cause a significant slump in energy and an increased feeling of hunger and want to snack. Usually, the remedy for this is drinking more water to rehydrate.
If you have recently had a meal and start to feel hungry again, try drinking some water. However, if you have tried this and hunger persists, then you’re probably at a state of true hunger and choosing a protein-rich snack may help satisfy your cravings for longer.
You’re Not Getting Enough Sleep
Getting the right amount of sleep required for your bodily functions is essential for regulating hormones which we already know plays a big part in hunger. Getting small amounts of sleep is linked to elevated levels of ghrelin, a hormone that controls appetite and reduced levels of leptin, a satiety hormone. This means that if you lack a lengthy amount of sleep, you will feel hungrier and more likely to crave sugary foods. Focus on establishing healthy sleep habits, including avoiding alcohol and hefty dinners before bed and leaving technology such as your phone in different rooms and avoid using it an hour before bed.
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By Ella Orrock