Why Are We Always Hungry?

Umar Khurshid

When you’re hungry, your stomach may “growl” and feel empty, or you may get a headache, feel irritable or be unable to concentrate.

Most people can go several hours between meals before feeling hungry again, though this isn’t the case for everyone. There are several possible explanations for this, including a diet that lacks protein, fat or fiber, as well as excessive stress or dehydration.

Following are some of the reasons for excessive hunger.

You’re Not Eating Enough Protein

Protein has hunger-reducing properties that may help you automatically consume fewer calories during the day. It works by increasing the production of hormones that signal fullness and reducing the levels of hormones that stimulate hunger.

Due to these effects, you may feel hungry frequently if you’re not eating enough protein.

In one study, 14 overweight men who consumed 25% of their calories from protein for 12 weeks experienced a 50% reduction in their desire for late-night snacking, compared to a group that consumed less protein.

Additionally, those with a higher protein intake reported greater fullness throughout the day and fewer obsessive thoughts about food.

Many different foods are high in protein, so it is not difficult to get enough of it through your diet. Including a source of protein in every meal can help prevent excessive hunger.

Animal products, such as meat, poultry, fish and eggs, contain high amounts of protein.

It is also found in some dairy products, including milk and yogurt, as well as a few plant-based foods like legumes, nuts, seeds and whole grains.

Summary: Protein plays an important role in appetite control by regulating your hunger hormones. For this reason, you may feel hungry frequently if you don’t eat enough of it.

You’re Not Sleeping Enough

Sleep is required for the proper functioning of your brain and immune system, and it is associated with a lower risk of several chronic illnesses, including heart disease and cancer.

Additionally, sleeping enough is a factor in controlling appetite, as it helps regulate ghrelin, the appetite-stimulating hormone. Lack of sleep leads to higher ghrelin levels, which is why you may feel hungrier when you are sleep deprived.

In one study, 15 people who were sleep deprived for only one night reported being significantly more hungry and chose 14% larger portion sizes, compared to a group that slept for eight hours.

Getting enough sleep also helps ensure adequate levels of leptin, which is a hormone that promotes feelings of fullness.

To keep your hunger levels under control, it is generally recommended to get at least eight hours of uninterrupted sleep each night.

Summary: Sleep deprivation is known to cause fluctuations in your hunger hormone levels and may leave you feeling hungry more frequently.

You’re Eating Too Many Refined Carbs

One of the most popular sources of refined carbs is white flour, which is found in many grain-based foods like bread and pasta. Foods such as soda, candy and baked goods, which are made with processed sugars, are also considered to be refined carbs.

Since refined carbs lack filling fiber, your body digests them very quickly. This is a major reason why you may be hungry frequently if you eat a lot of refined carbs, as they do not promote significant feelings of fullness.

Furthermore, eating refined carbs may lead to rapid spikes in your blood sugar. This leads to increased levels of insulin, a hormone responsible for transporting sugar into your cells.

When a lot of insulin is released at once in response to high blood sugar, it works by quickly removing sugar from your blood, which may lead to a sudden drop in blood sugar levels.

Low blood sugar levels signal your body that it needs more food, which is another reason why you may feel hungry often if refined carbs are a regular part of your diet.

To reduce your refined carb intake, simply replace them with healthier, whole foods like vegetables, fruit, legumes and whole grains. These foods are still high in carbs, but they are rich in fiber, which is helpful for keeping hunger under control.

Summary: Refined carbs lack fiber and cause blood sugar fluctuations, which are the primary reasons why eating too many of them may leave you feeling hungry.

Your Diet Is Low in Fat

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.

For these reasons, you may feel frequent hunger if your diet is low in fat.

One study including 270 obese adults found that those who followed a low-fat diet had significant increases in cravings for carbs and preferences for high-sugar foods, compared to a group that consumed a low-carb diet.

Furthermore, those in the low-fat group reported more feelings of hunger than the group that followed a low-carb eating pattern.

There are many healthy, high-fat foods that you can include in your diet to increase your fat intake. Certain types of fats, such as medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs) and omega-3 fatty acids, have been studied the most for their impact on reducing appetite.

The richest food source of MCT is coconut oil, while omega-3 fatty acids are found in fatty fish like salmon, tuna and mackerel. You can also get omega-3s from plant-based foods, such as walnuts and flaxseeds.

Some other sources of healthy, high-fat foods include avocados, olive oil, eggs and full-fat yogurt.

SUMMARY: You may feel hungry often if you don’t eat enough fat. That’s because fat plays a role in slowing digestion and increasing the production of fullness-promoting hormones.

You’re Not Drinking Enough Water

Drinking enough water has several health benefits, including promoting brain and heart health and optimizing exercise performance. Additionally, water keeps your skin and digestive system healthy.

Water is also quite filling and has the potential to reduce appetite when consumed before meals.

In one study, 14 people who drank two cups of water before a meal ate almost 600 fewer calories than those who didn’t drink any water.

Due to water’s role in keeping you full, you may find that you feel hungry frequently if you’re not drinking enough of it.

Feelings of thirst can be mistaken for feelings of hunger. If you’re always hungry, it may be helpful to drink a glass or two of water to find out if you are just thirsty.

To ensure you’re properly hydrated, simply drink water when you feel thirsty. Eating lots of water-rich foods, including fruits and vegetables, will also contribute to your hydration needs.

SUMMARY: You may always be hungry if you’re not drinking enough water. That’s because it has appetite-reducing properties. Additionally, it is possible that you are mistaking feelings of thirst for feelings of hunger.

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