Just eaten yet still feeling peckish? You may have devoured a large meal AND snacks, but sometimes the stomach feels like a bottomless pit and no amount of food will fill it up. Don't panic! There are plenty of reasonable explanations behind your endless hunger that can be easily addressed.
Most of the time, the answer to ‘why am I always hungry?' is down to a lacking diet. Ensure you get enough protein, fat and fibre in your meals to help you feel full and stop you reaching for unhealthy snacks. Try one of our filling food swaps to keep your appetite under control.
We've all asked ‘why am I always hungry?' at some point; it's a fairly common problem and nothing to be embarrassed about. Whether it's a diet of deprivation, hormones gone haywire or even a social media addiction, we've discovered some common and some unusual culprits behind your insatiable appetite.
Find the answers with our guide to why you're always feeling hungry...
1. You're not getting enough sleep
This is one of the most common responses to ‘why am I always hungry?'. Depriving your body of sleep results in high levels of ghrelin (the hunger hormone) and low levels of leptin (the satiety hormone). In addition, a fatigued brain craves energy, which is most readily available in sugary carbohydrates - that explains why you're reaching for the biscuit tin.
Here are 24 ways to get a good night's sleep. (opens in new tab)
2. You're dehydrated
When you're dehydrated, the hypothalamus - the part of the brain that regulates appetite and thirst - gets confused, so you might feel hungry when actually what you need is to quench your thirst. Try drinking a glass of water when the hunger pangs set in and see if you still feel hungry after 20 minutes.
3. You're eating to wrong type of carbohydrates
The types of carbohydrates you eat have a direct impact on your energy levels. Refined carbohydrates in white pasta, rice and bread, biscuits and cakes give you a quick sugar rush followed by a crash, leaving you with an intense hunger for more. Eating complex carbohydrates, found in wholegrains, fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds, release sugar more steadily into the bloodstream, giving you sustainable energy.
4. You're not eating enough protein or fat
Don't forget to pair your complex carbs with lean proteins and healthy fats. These macronutrients increase satiety and suppress the appetite. Try adding yoghurt, eggs, olive oil, avocados, nuts or seeds to meals to help you feel fuller for longer.
5. Your alcohol consumption
Not only does alcohol lower your blood sugar and leptin levels, but drinking increases the likelihood of you making poor food choices. If you are drinking, ensure you eat beforehand, and alternate with glasses of water - these will also help prevent a nasty hangover.
6. You're eating too quickly
If you're accustomed to wolfing down your lunch, take note - chewing helps your brain register than you've eaten. Inhaling your food without even tasting it means you'll be more likely to snack later on. Take time and savour every bite of what you're eating, and wait 20 minutes after you've finished before reaching for seconds - that's how long it takes for the fullness signal to reach the brain.
Read 6 Steps To Mindful Eating
7. You're leaving too big a gap in-between meals
You may think eating less frequently throughout the day will help with weight loss, but in doing so you'll probably sabotage your weight loss efforts. Going for too long without food and the body produces more ghrelin, increasing your appetite so when you do finally eat, you're more likely to binge. Try not to go longer than 4 hours without food.
8. You're stressed
Feeling perpetually stressed can increase levels of adrenaline and cortisol. After being in a fight-or-flight state, the body tricks the system into thinking it needs energy. Lowering your stress levels through exercise (opens in new tab) or meditation can help keep the hunger pangs at bay.
9. You're spending too much time on Instagram
Instagram, Pinterest, cookery shows, cookbooks...these can all be your diet downfall. Poring over images of delicious-looking food is enough to make you hungry, even if you're not. We've all felt that craving set in during an episode on Masterchef, and there's science to back it up - a 2012 study published in the Obesity journal found that just looking at food increased levels of ghrelin.
10. You've got a fast metabolism
The lucky few blessed with a fast metabolism simply burn more calories in a day (between 100-400) than the average person, so they may need an extra meal just to meet their body's energy requirements.
11. Your hormones are imbalanced
Aside from PMS or early pregnancy (both of which are notorious for increasing your hunger), there are other hormonal imbalances that could be making you peckish. Hyperthyroidism - having an overactive thyroid gland - causes the body's vital functions to speed up, which means you burn energy quickly. Hypoglycaemia - low blood sugar - and diabetes can also increase your hunger. If you suspect you have any of these issues, speak to your doctor.
12. Your medication
Some antidepressants and medications for allergies and asthma can affect appetite. If you're concerned, speak to your doctor about alternatives.
13. You're not eating enough
Some restrictive low-calorie eating plans leave your body deprived of essential vitamins and minerals. Increase your intake of healthy fats and fibre from fruit and veg to keep you full without ruining your diet.
14. You're eating sweetners
New research has found that sugar substitues could be leading to an increase in appetite. A study conducted on fruit flies and mice found prolonged exposure to a diet high in substitue sugar can result in an increased appetite. Lead researcher Greg Neely says that artificial sweetners alter the brain's food reward pathways and the brain sends signals in a bid for more calories to be consumed, as a result the animals tested on responded by eating more. The use of artificial sweetners as a diet aid may be couterproductive after all. Although researchers say further studies are needed to say whether this is the same in humans.
5 Filling Food Swaps
Sweet breakfast cereal Porridge topped with berries, nuts and seeds
Does eating cereal for breakfast leave you feeling ravenous come mid-morning? Try wholegrain oats topped with delicious fibre-rich berries and nuts or seeds for a boost of protein and fat.
Yoghurt Greek yoghurt
Greek yoghurt can contain up to twice the amount of protein as plain yoghurt, as well as providing you with 20% of your calcium intake in one serving.
White rice Cauliflower rice
This staple of the Paleo diet (opens in new tab) has much more fibre than white rice, and for only a fraction of the calories. Try boiling/steaming/microwaving cauliflower florets for a few minutes, then blitzing in the food processor for a healthy and filling alternative to white rice.
If you're in need of a crunchy snack, then opt for vitamin E-rich almonds. Although they're high in fat, crisps made from white potato covered in salt are likely to leave you feeling hungry and craving something sweet afterwards.
Smoothie An apple
Packing your juice with as much fruit as possible may seem like the healthy choice, but by losing the fibre content of the fruit, fructose hits the bloodstream much quicker, resulting in a blood sugar crash. Opt instead for a whole piece of fruit like an apple, which is full of pectin, a source of dietary fibre that increases satiety.
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