Ever have days when you are always hungry? Sometimes it’s easy to blame your diet. Maybe you aren’t eating enough, or you ate too little protein, fat, and fiber so your tank feels empty. In other cases, there are less obvious reasons why your hunger is out of whack. Here are four things to consider for why you always feel hungry with easy ways to fix them.
You Need to Ease Stress
Fight-or-flight is the body’s natural release of the hormones epinephrine and cortisol during stressful situations or danger. This coping mechanism typically ebbs and flows as you encounter stress, but when it’s constant and doesn’t dissipate, a bigger problem arises. During ongoing stress, cortisol levels remain elevated leading to an increased appetite and cravings for high-fat, high-calorie foods like those with added sugars.
The fix: Strive to manage the daily stressors in your life through meditation, physical activity, stretching and other stress management techniques. On particularly stressful days, try to get an adequate amount of rest and eat meals that are balanced with nutritious carbohydrates, protein, and fat to keep hunger at bay.
Not only does a lack of sleep zap your energy, productivity, and mood, it can also ramp up hunger. This is because inadequate sleep disrupts the balance of key hormones that signal you to eat or to stop eating. When unbalanced, levels of the hormone, ghrelin, that triggers hunger increases. Meanwhile, levels of the hormone, leptin, that triggers satiety, decreases.
The fix: Experts recommend that adults get at least seven to nine hours of sleep each night. While not possible all the time, strive to achieve this much rest as often as you can. Further, recognize that a poor night’s sleep may be the cause of your increased hunger and make healthful food choices that deliver longer-lasting energy and satisfaction in such situations.
You Forget to Stay Hydrated
Even slight dehydration can make you think you’re hungry, but chances are it’s just your body signaling for fluid intake. Staying properly hydrated can prevent these confusing cues, helping you to stay focused and energized throughout the day.
The fix: Carry a reusable bottle or keep a glass in view as a reminder to sip water or non-calorie containing drinks regularly throughout the day. You also get water from food, so include water-rich fruits and veggies like berries, leafy greens, grapes and peppers in your meals and snacks for an added hydration boost.
You Need Better Fuel
The most obvious reason for nagging hunger pangs is that you simply need to eat. Poor habits like skipping meals, overdoing it with added sugars and eating meals that lack balance from nutrient-rich carbs, protein and fat wreak havoc on your blood sugar levels. All of these factors can lead you to feel uncontrollably hungry, weak and empty.
The fix: Prioritize regular mealtimes by planning them into your schedule. Sure, life’s hectic, but being short on time isn’t a reason to sacrifice good nutrition or your overall well-being. Strive for maximum appetite satisfaction and optimal nutrition. Build meals around fiber-rich carbohydrates like whole grains, fruits, veggies and beans. Select protein such as chicken, fish, eggs, nuts and nut butters. Other good sources of protein include dairy products and “healthy” fats like nuts, seeds, oils, and avocado. Nutritious foods like these take longer to digest and keep blood sugar levels steady without spikes or crashes so your hunger is kept at bay.
Beth Stark, RDN, LDN is a PA-based nutrition and culinary communications consultant at Beth Stark Nutrition. She’s also written about Gut Health She’s also written about Gut Health Focus: Low FODMAP Diet and 5 Everyday Foods that Nourish Your Gut.