Are you trying to lose weight, yet always finding yourself hungry and unsatisfied? If you’re in this situation, weight loss can seem almost impossible.
Fortunately, there is probably a fairly simple explanation for why you’re hungry.
In this article, I’ll breakdown some of the likely reasons that you’re experiencing unmanageable hunger in addition to some steps you can take to fix the problem and get back on the right track.
You’re Constantly Restricting Calories
A primary reason that you feel hungry all of the time is because you’re constantly restricting calories.
Interestingly, there are many different mechanisms in the body which regulate when and to what the extent you get hungry. Input from brain regions such as the hypothalamus and pituitary gland and even cells within the digestive tract all play a primary role in hunger.
One factor in particular is the hunger hormone known as ghrelin.
Ghrelin is a hormone that is secreted by cells within the digestive tract in response to when you normally eat. This hormone’s main function is one of survival in that, when secreted, it creates intense feelings of hunger causing your to search for and acquire food.
For most individuals, ghrelin is typically released just prior to when you normally eat and then, upon eating, declines fairly rapidly. However with chronic restriction of calories, the levels of ghrelin released actually increase.
In fact, one study showed that after just 3 months of dieting, subjects showed significant increases in ghrelin secretion at all observed time points throughout the day. This means that subjects had higher ghrelin levels and thus felt hungrier all day (1, 2).
Because of these large spikes in hunger hormones and the tendency to overeat, we use advanced calorie cycling techniques to protect your hormones while losing fat.
You’re Eating Sporadically
Following on from the last point, if you’re eating sporadically with no schedule, this could result in excess ghrelin secretion, making you hungrier, more often.
This is largely because ghrelin secreting cells, known as oxyntic cells, actually work on a circadian rhythm (3).
A circadian rhythm is much like your sleep-wake cycle in that you wake and sleep at similar times. Interestingly, the cells that secrete the hunger hormone ghrelin also have their own rhythm according to when you normally eat.
For example, most people have a schedule of when they eat breakfast, lunch and dinner. According to the schedule, these ghrelin secreting cells secrete the hormone just prior to when you normally eat. That’s why usually you can expect to be hungry around normal eating times.
When you eat according to this schedule, your eating response can typically be managed. However, if you begin to eat away from this schedule, it causes these cells to secrete ghrelin sporadically, making you hungry at strange times and often to a greater extent than usual.
If you find that you are hungry all the time yet eat sporadically, it’s a good idea to attempt to eat on a set schedule per day.
Eating at similar times every day will allow these cells to be trained according to your schedule, allowing for moderate and predictable ghrelin secretion rather than large, sporadic secretions that can’t be managed.
You’re Training Too Much For Your Calorie Intake
Training too much while consuming too few calories is an issue I often see with many of my clients.
You have a goal of losing body weight so you begin exercising while simultaneously reducing calories. While doing so can lead to meaningful weight loss, there is, however, a possibility that you’re training too much, not eating enough and pushing it all a little too far.
When attempting to diet, your goal is to create a negative energy balance, meaning you consume fewer calories than you expend.
If your goal is to reduce calories by 500 calories a day, doing so through diet alone is certainly acceptable. However, if you begin throwing exercise on top of that, it’s entirely possible that you’re burning 500 + calories solely from exercise.
Altogether, this can equate to you resulting in having a 1000-calorie deficit every day. Now, for a large male who uses over 3000 calories a day this may be ok, equating to around 33%, or 1/3, of their total calorie intake. However, it becomes far more of an issue for a smaller female who only burns 1500 calories per day – you can see this is a significant reduction equating to 66% or 2/3.
While reducing total calories is imperative for weight loss, having too great a deficit, from exercise and diet combined, can significantly impact weight loss. Your own calorie reduction must be in context to your own metabolism and calorie expenditure.
If you find yourself in this situation, I suggest having a short dieting break and then starting back again at a slightly more sensible dieting level. If you want done-for-you 7 day carb cycling diet plans tailored to your metabolism, eliminating the guesswork and risk, you can download them here.
You’re Not Focusing On Satiating Foods
While calories are the most important aspect of weight loss, satiating foods are the key to managing hunger.
Unfortunately, many people aren’t focusing on foods which help to reduce appetite such as protein and fiber.
When you’re constantly consuming refined and processed foods, which are high in sugar content, this leads to large and rapid increases in the hormone insulin. This hormone acts to remove blood glucose from the blood, which is also a regulator of hunger.
When blood glucose is high, a signal is sent to the brain that energy availability is high. This means that your body won’t release a hunger response in order for you to eat.
However, when blood glucose is rapidly reduced due to a large insulin spike, then misleading signals can be sent to the brain, resulting in intense feelings of hunger. Focusing on foods that act to reduce hunger, while promoting more manageable insulin spikes, is essential for regulating hunger.
Foods such as lean protein actually allow for reduced hunger. Due to their structure, proteins are quite difficult to be broken down and digested. This means that food exits the stomach more slowly, resulting in greater feelings of satisfaction (4, 5, 6).
Additionally, fibrous foods like vegetables also act to reduce hunger. Fiber absorbs water and forms a gel in the digestive tract, which slows the travel of food, increasing hunger. Also, there is even evidence to suggest that certain fibers send direct signals to the brain, reducing hunger (7, 8, 9).
If you find yourself in this situation, I suggest increasing both your protein and fiber intake. Not to mention, doing so will likely allow you to reduce calorie intake and even improve muscle mass (8, 10).
You can learn more about the best low calorie foods in this article.
You’re Eating The Wrong Breakfast
Eating the wrong breakfast is closely connected with many of the other reasons in this article.
Unfortunately, a common breakfast consists of high carbohydrates such as a bagel or cereal, coupled with fairly low protein. This presents an issue since you’re inducing insulin spikes with little appetite suppression first thing in your day.
As mentioned earlier, insulin can lead to rapid drops in blood glucose, leading to increased feelings of hunger.
If you’re regularly consuming carbohydrate-heavy breakfasts, I suggest opting for proteins such as eggs, yogurt, cottage cheese, lean meats and even milk. Doing so will allow for greater consumption of satiating proteins, reducing hunger.
Reasons You’re Always Hungry (And How To Fix It)
Trying to lose weight is often coupled with intense hunger, which can cause many people to quit before they reach their goals.
Fortunately, if you’re attempting to lose weight, there are usually simple reasons for being hungrier than usual. Using the fixes suggested should reduce hunger and put you in a position of continued progress.
If you want to learn more about hunger, get informed on the science and facts by reading up on the two key hunger hormones, Leptin and Ghrelin.
- Lutter, M., Sakata, I., Osborne-Lawrence, S., Rovinsky, S. A., Anderson, J. G., Jung, S., … & Zigman, J. M. (2008). The orexigenic hormone ghrelin defends against depressive symptoms of chronic stress. Nature neuroscience, 11(7), 752-753.
- Cummings, D. E., Weigle, D. S., Frayo, R. S., Breen, P. A., Ma, M. K., Dellinger, E. P., & Purnell, J. Q. (2002). Plasma ghrelin levels after diet-induced weight loss or gastric bypass surgery. New England Journal of Medicine, 346(21), 1623-1630.
- Lesauter, J., Hoque, N., Weintraub, M., Pfaff, D. W., & Silver, R. (2009). Stomach ghrelin-secreting cells as food-entrainable circadian clocks. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 106(32), 13582-13587. doi:10.1073/pnas.0906426106
- Veldhorst, M., Smeets, A. J. P. G., Soenen, S., Hochstenbach-Waelen, A., Hursel, R., Diepvens, K., … & Westerterp-Plantenga, M. (2008). Protein-induced satiety: effects and mechanisms of different proteins. Physiology & behavior, 94(2), 300-307.
- Halton, T. L., & Hu, F. B. (2004). The effects of high protein diets on thermogenesis, satiety and weight loss: a critical review. Journal of the American College of Nutrition, 23(5), 373-385.
- Tieland, M., Dirks, M. L., van der Zwaluw, N., Verdijk, L. B., van de Rest, O., de Groot, L. C., & van Loon, L. J. (2012). Protein supplementation increases muscle mass gain during prolonged resistance-type exercise training in frail elderly people: a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial. Journal of the American Medical Directors Association, 13(8), 713-719.
- Bolton, R. P., Heaton, K. W., & Burroughs, L. F. (1981). The role of dietary fiber in satiety, glucose, and insulin: studies with fruit and fruit juice. The American journal of clinical nutrition, 34(2), 211-217.
- Cho, S. S., Case, I. L., & Nishi, S. (2009). Fiber and Satiety. Weight Control and Slimming Ingredients in Food Technology, 227.
- Lefranc-Millot, C., Macioce, V., Guérin-Deremaux, L., Lee, A. W., & Cho, S. S. (2012). Fiber and Satiety. Dietary Fiber and Health, 83.
- Pennings, B., Groen, B., de Lange, A., Gijsen, A. P., Zorenc, A. H., Senden, J. M., & van Loon, L. J. (2012). Amino acid absorption and subsequent muscle protein accretion following graded intakes of whey protein in elderly men. American Journal of Physiology-Endocrinology and Metabolism, 302(8), E992-E999.