Why Am I Always Hungry? And What to do About it?

what to do when you're always hungry

 Article at a glance

  • Through exercising you burn more calories as your appetite level decreases. 
  • Things like taking coffee, being stress free and eating small portions can minimize your hunger levels. 
  • Poor lifestyle like taking too much alcohol, lack of sleep, and stress can trigger hunger. 

 

Hunger is the way your body senses that it requires additional food – it’s the natural cue. Each time you feel hungry, your stomach may rumble as it feels empty, or you may experience headaches, get angry, or lack focus.  

The majority of people can go for some hours after meals before hunger strikes them again, though it may differ from person to person. 

This may happen for several reasons, including consuming foods that do not contain protein, fibre, fat and even going through too much stress or dehydration. 

This article looks at some causes of extreme hunger and some science-based ways to reduce excessive hunger and appetite. 

 

So what is hunger? And how can I control it?  

unhealthy eating

If we know what causes the signals of hunger, being full, and appetite, we can then learn how to control it better! Controlling your appetite has phenomenal benefits for the body and mind!!  

Hunger is a normal sensation caused by a part of your brain called the hypothalamus, your blood sugar (glucose) level, how empty your stomach and intestines are, and certain hormone levels in your body. 

The feeling of being full, or fullness is a feeling of being satisfied. Your stomach sends signals to your brain that it is full and doesn’t need more food. Normally, this feeling causes you to stop eating and not think about food again for several hours (unless you’re a Labrador)! Fullness is partly controlled by the hypothalamus, your blood sugar, and having food in your system in either your stomach or intestines. 

There are two hormones responsible for hunger and the feeling of satiety (or fullness) – they are ghrelin which is the “hunger hormone” and also leptin which is the “fullness hormone”. So what makes you feel full, and stops you eating is a really just a re-balance of hormones. When you have eaten, ghrelin levels decrease, and leptin levels increase – this sends a signal to your brain that tells you to stop eating. How cool is our body… am I right? 

Lastly, your appetite is your desire for foods or drinks, usually after seeing, smelling, or thinking about food. Even after you feel full, your appetite can make you want to keep eating. It can also stop you from eating even though you are hungry – if something ruins your appetite. This might happen when you are stressed out or feeling sick.  [1]

Reasons why you are hungry 

Not sleeping enough 

not getting enough sleep

Getting enough sleep is very vital for your well-being. Getting enough sleep ensures your brain works perfectly and your immune system is high. Adequate sleep also ensures you're not at risk of getting various chronic ailments, including heart disease and cancer. [2]

Enough sleep helps in managing your appetite and helps control ghrelin (your hunger hormone). Sleep deprivation increases ghrelin levels and may cause you to feel hungrier. [3] A study where 15 people had less sleep for a night showed them getting hungrier and had 14% excess quantities than those who had an 8-hour sleep. With enough sleep, your leptin (hormone that encourages signs of fullness) levels will increase. By getting eight hours of smooth sleep, you can manage your hunger levels. [4] 

Eating poor quality foods 

unhealthy processed foods

Consuming poor quality foods like refined carbs (Foods that have been processed and lacks fibre, vitamins, and minerals) may cause an upsurge in hunger. Foods made from processed sugars such as soda, candy, and baked foods also fall under refined carbs. 

Our bodies digest refined carbs very fast because they lack fibre. Therefore, you may get hungry more often if you eat a lot of refined carbs, as they don't encourage a feeling of satisfaction. If you regularly consume refined foods, your blood sugar may be down, signalling your body that you require more food, making you feel hungry. [5]  

Instead of consuming refined carbs, simply take healthier whole foods like fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and legumes. These foods contain more carbs and are rich in fibre, which helps manage hunger.  

Exercising a lot 

too much exercise

People who exercise often burn plenty of calories. 

Research indicates that people who perform intensive workouts occasionally have a high metabolism rate compared to those who exercise less or those who don't exercise at all. A study shows that women who performed vigorous exercises daily for 16 days burned 33% more calories the entire day than those who never exercised and 15% more calories than average exercisers. The same applies to men. [6]  

Though most studies indicate that exercise is good for reducing appetite, other studies show that long-term exercisers often have larger appetites compared to those that do not exercise. [7]

You can avoid extreme hunger after exercise by consuming more food to improve your workouts. It is much better if you eat foods rich in fiber, fats, and protein. Another way is by minimising the time you spend working out or reduce the intensity of your workouts. [8]

Drinking a lot of alcohol 

too much alcohol

 

Alcohol is known for its alcohol arousing effects. Research has proved that alcohol may obstruct appetite-reducing hormones like leptin, more so when taken during or after meals.  This may make you feel hungry most of the time if you take excess alcohol.  [9]

Research found out that 26 individuals who took one standard Aussie drink (30 ml) of alcohol with meals consumed 30% more calories than people who did not take alcohol. Alcohol can make you hungry and also impair some sections of your brain that manages self-control and decision-making. [10]

There’s unfortunately no good news about this – alcohol stimulates hunger – so if weight gain is a problem for you because of eating too much – you need to cut down on your alcohol consumption.  

 

Low mood 

low mood

Mood might be one of the causes to consistent hunger. People who suffer from depression and anxiety may not have appropriate levels of serotonin, which is a feel-good hormone, and consuming relaxing foods like pasta and bread can improve the levels. You rarely hear of carrot sticks and celery being a coping mechanism with overeating.  

The shame is that this coping mechanism can spiral and make things even worse, as poor diets don’t offer good nutrients which doesn’t give your body the chance to make healthy brain chemicals in the amounts needed – and the problem of low mood worsens.   

 

Too much stress 

too much stess

 

When you’re overly stressed, you have a lot of cortisol (your stress hormone) in your body which promotes hunger and food cravings. Cortisol automatically tells your brain that you're hungry.  

Therefore you may feel hungry when you are stressed, even though you do not need to eat – so it’s always good to keep your stress In check. (11)  

There are many strategies that help you reduce your stress levels, like exercise, meditation, deep breathing, or supplements like ashwagandha, rhodiola rosea, or superfood blends like Savvy.  

Ways to Reduce Hunger and appetite 

how to reduce hunger

To gain some control over your hunger, which will ultimately achieve benefits for your body and brain, there are many things you can do.  

Remember that not all weight loss diets, or diets in general are going to work – and sometimes make the problem worse – so instead remember these tips below as they’ve been proven by science, unlike many diets we all know of.  

Below are eleven scientifically proven ways to decrease extreme hunger and appetite: 

  • Eat plenty of protein 
  • Drink coffee 
  • Consume solid foods (salad) over liquid foods (protein shake) 
  • Drink lots of water 
  • Consume food mindfully (take the time to sit down and enjoy your meal) 
  • Incorporate spices in your meals (spice it up with ginger, chilli and more)  
  • Eat dark chocolate more than milk/white chocolate (if you have to have a treat)  
  • Use smaller plates to eat 
  • Exercise a lot  
  • Get plenty of sleep 
  • Manage that stress  

Final thoughts 

Hunger is a natural and important signal which shouldn’t be ignored.  

Always being hungry is a result of imbalanced hunger hormones which may occur due to numerous reasons such as diet and different lifestyle choices. If you consume foods that do not contain fibre, fat, or protein, which stimulates fullness and minimises appetite, you may constantly feel hungry. If you lack enough sleep or have too much stress, you may experience extreme hunger as well. 

If you are concerned that you are always hungry, there are numerous things you can do in order to address the excessive ghrelin production!  

Happy eating!  

References: 

[1] Hunger, Fullness, and Appetite Signals

[2] Sleep: A Health Imperative

[3] Impact of sleep and sleep loss on glucose homeostasis and appetite regulation

[4] Acute sleep deprivation increases portion size and affects food choice in young men

[5] Starches, Sugars and Obesity

[6] The effect of an incremental increase in exercise on appetite, eating behaviour and energy balance in lean men and women feeding ad libitum

[7] Appetite control and energy balance: impact of exercise

[8] Effects of exercise intensity on food intake and appetite in women

[9] Alcohol, appetite and energy balance: is alcohol intake a risk factor for obesity?

[10] Alcohol, Appetite and Loss of Restraint

[11] Stress may add bite to appetite in women: a laboratory study of stress-induced cortisol and eating behavior