Health & nutrition insights.
Why Are You Hangry?
ARE YOU HANGRY? Listen up!
Follow this link to listen to our Practical Nutrition Podcast episode on this topic: https://spotifyanchor-web.app.link/e/fiJlpbenpBb
We often hear clients talk about how they feel like they are always hungry, sometimes leading to being “hangry”! Today, we are going to review some problems that can arise with getting hangry, some simple reasons as to WHY you might be feeling this way and what we can do to change it! But first, let’s define what “hunger” actually is.
What the HECK is hunger?
Hunger is a physiological feeling of discomfort that arises when your body needs nourishment. It is the body’s way of signaling that it requires food to meet its energy needs. Hunger is controlled by a complex system involving various hormones and signals in the body. When you haven’t eaten for a certain period or your blood sugar levels drop, your body releases a hormone called ghrelin, often referred to as the “hunger hormone.” Ghrelin signals your brain that it’s time to eat, and you begin to experience hunger sensations. Hunger serves as a survival mechanism, ensuring that your body receives the nutrients and energy it requires to function properly. It motivates you to consume food, helping to maintain your body’s homeostasis. This hunger cue is something that we do not want to ignore, even if society tells us we should (yes, there are people and diets that exist that tell you to ignore your hunger).
When we ignore these cues, there are some evident problems that can arise when we get overly hungry.. Some of the things that can happen include:
- Overeating. This can lead to feeling overly full, excessive calorie intake, body fat gain, etc.
- Poor food choices. When hunger becomes intense, you may be more likely to reach for convenient, processed, or high-calorie foods that provide quick energy but lack essential nutrients.
- Blood sugar instability. If we become extremely hungry, then overeat on sugary or high-carbohydrate foods, it can lead to rapid spikes and drops in blood sugar. This causes energy crashes and further hunger cravings. Often we look for “quick and convenient foods” to help, but they are high in sugar/carbs, further exacerbating the issues.
- Mood changes and irritability. Hunger can affect your mood and emotions. When you’re extremely hungry, you may experience irritability, mood swings, and increased stress levels (we have all been there).
- Disrupted sleep: Intense hunger can interfere with sleep patterns. If you go to bed hungry, it may be difficult to fall asleep or stay asleep, leading to poor sleep quality and daytime fatigue.
- Nutrient deficiencies: When you’re consistently over hungry, your body may not receive the necessary nutrients it needs to function optimally due to poor food choices. This can lead to deficiencies in essential vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients (it is very possible to consistently over eat and be NUTRIENT deficient).
- Slowed metabolism: Prolonged periods of extreme hunger can signal to your body to slow down its metabolic rate to conserve energy. This can make it harder to maintain or achieve a healthy weight.
One thing is for certain… It’s very important to listen to your body’s hunger cues and nourish it appropriately with balanced meals and snacks throughout the day. Now that it’s established that we don’t want to get to the “hangry” point, let’s talk about reasons as to WHY you may be getting overly hungry and what to do about it!
- Not eating enough. If you consistently consume too few calories than your body needs, it can lead to increased hunger. Make sure you know how much fuel you need in a day based on your RMR, activity, body composition, goals, etc. Talk to a dietitian!
- Lack of nutrient density. Consuming meals that lack sufficient nutrients such as fiber, protein, healthy fats, etc. can leave you feeling hungry. Include a balance of macros and incorporate WHOLE/NUTRIENT DENSE foods
- Meals are imbalanced and timing is off. Consuming meals that are heavily focused on carbs without enough protein, healthy fat and fiber can lead to a rapid rise and fall of blood sugar. This can trigger hunger quickly. Aim for balanced meals with a variety of food groups to help fuel your body. With balance, be sure to focus on your timing as well. Don’t wait too long between meals and snacks to eat. Fuel your body regularly and have healthy items readily available.
- Not enough fiber. A diet low in fiber can lead to increased hunger. Fiber helps to slow digestion and promotes fullness. Include whole grains, fruits/vegetables and legumes to stay full.
- You aren’t drinking enough. Not drinking enough fluid (aka being dehydrated) can be mistaken for hunger. Make sure you are drinking enough throughout the day (roughly ½ weight in ounces daily of water)
- Lack of Sleep. Poor sleep quality can disrupt the hormonal balance that regulates hunger and satiety. It can lead to an increase in appetite-stimulating hormones and a decrease in hormones that signal fullness. Prioritizing good sleep hygiene and aiming for 7-9 hours of quality sleep per night can help regulate hunger levels.
- Emotions. Stress, boredom, or emotional factors can trigger feelings of hunger or the desire to eat. Emotional eating is a common response to certain emotions, and it can contribute to frequent feelings of hunger. Finding alternative coping mechanisms for managing emotions, such as engaging in relaxation techniques or seeking support from others, can be helpful.
- Medical Conditions or Medications: Certain medical conditions or medications can affect hunger and appetite. Conditions like diabetes, thyroid disorders, hormonal imbalances, or medications such as corticosteroids may impact hunger levels. If you suspect an underlying medical issue or think it’s medication related, talk to your doctor!
If you’re consistently experiencing excessive hunger that is interfering with your daily life or goals, talk to a registered dietitian and let us help you navigate it. We can help you identify any underlying causes and develop a personalized plan to address your specific needs!