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5 Reasons You Feel Hungry *All* *The* *Time* (and What to Do)

August 8, 2021
Photo Credit: Lea Jones

Have you ever gone through a period of time when you feel hungry all the time? Maybe you’re ravenous in the middle of the night, wake up with hunger pangs first thing in the morning, or feel like you’re ready to eat again… right after a big meal. Whatever the case, that big appetite is actually more common than you might think. 

Here’s what to know how about how hunger signaling works, the habits that may be throwing you off track, and what to do regain balance.

How Hunger Signaling Works

There are two main hormones to know about when it comes to hunger: ghrelin and letpin. Ghrelin, which is triggered when your stomach is empty, makes you feel hungry. Leptin, which is known as the “satiety” hormone, does the opposite. It inhibits hunger when our bodies have met their energy requirements. The balance between these hormones is delicate and can easily be knocked out of whack.

5 Reasons You Might Have a Big Appetite

1. You’re doing too much cardio.

Cardio exercises, like running, walking ,and biking have many benefits, including preserving heart health, burning calories, and improving your mood. But doing an excessive amount of cardio can leave you opening the fridge a thousand times a day. Why? A long cardio session depletes your glycogen stores, which your body will be anxious to replenish. This causes serious hunger. 

What to do: Try reducing the duration or the frequency of your cardio sessions. You can replace them with something anaerobic like yoga or pilates if you still want to work out — and see how you feel.

2. You’re not eating enough carbs.

For some, a low-carb or keto diet is a magic bullet for weight loss, increased energy, and improved mood. For others, it can backfire, causing leptin levels to drop too much. This essentially signals to your body that you’re starving. So, even though you’re eating plenty of calories in the form of healthy fats and protein, you just can’t quell your hunger.

What to do: Try carb cycling. This involves sporadically increasing your intake of healthy carbs to increase leptin and reassure your body that it’s not starving. 

3. You’re eating too many carbs.

Another important hormone involved in hunger is insulin. When we eat carbohydrate-rich foods, they can cause a spike in blood sugar; this causes your body to release insulin, which has the important job of stabilizing blood sugar by leading the sugar into our cells, where it can be used for energy.  

This process is a natural part of how our bodies digest food, but it can go awry when we overdo it on carbs. This exhausts insulin, which means our blood sugar levels remain elevated, and our cells don’t get the energy they need. This, in turn, causes us to feel extremely hungry, despite the fact that we’re eating plenty of food.

What to do: Try limiting yourself to three meals a day and watching your carbohydrate intake. 

4. You’re eating artificial sweeteners.

Speaking of blood sugar, many people try to support healthy insulin levels by choosing artificial sweeteners. This might seem like a good idea  is great in theory, but studies suggest that consuming artificial sweeteners can make you feel hungry and cause you to eat more.

How does this happen? According to researchers at the University of Sydney, there’s a part of the brain that integrates sweet sensations with energy content. This means that when you eat something sweet, your brain expects sugar — real sugar, which is full of energy. When it doesn’t get the expected response for a period of time, the brain will recalibrate and trigger an increase in hunger.

What to do: Try cutting out artificial sweeteners for a while to see if your brain is playing this not-so-fun trick on you.

5. You’re stressed out.

Stress can cause your appetite to shut down, but it can also make you feel ravenous. What’s worse, many people crave foods that are high in sugar. This may be caused by elevated cortisol, insulin, and ghrelin — or some combination.

What to do: Step away from the cookie/ice cream/chips. We know it’s not the same thing, but a simple breathing technique might help you chill out and control your hunger.





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