Why am I always hungry?
November 21, 2020
You’re ravenously hungry. Again. So hungry that you can’t concentrate. All you can hear is the snack drawer calling your name, even though you just ate.
So what is behind these constant food cravings? While rare medical conditions can cause insatiable hunger, for most of us it comes back to normal biological responses to the food we eat.
In this post, we’ll outline the science behind hunger and the steps you can take to reach your health goals without feeling hungry all the time.
Calorie restriction makes you hungry
It may seem obvious, but one of the main reasons you may feel hungry all the time is because you simply aren’t eating enough food.
When you go on a restrictive diet that severely limits your calorie intake, your body realizes that you aren’t eating enough and might be at risk of starvation if it goes on for too long. So it uses all of its internal systems to try and get you to find and eat more food.
One way it does this is by using hormones - your body’s signaling molecules.
Probably the most important of these is ghrelin, the ‘hunger hormone’ produced by your stomach when it’s empty. Ghrelin travels through your bloodstream and eventually ends up in your brain, which interprets its presence as hunger.
Ghrelin is your stomach’s way of sitting on your shoulder and whispering that it’s time to eat. When you don’t give in, more ghrelin is produced and the whisper turns into a shout.
Ghrelin production is also linked to your internal body clock, so you might notice that your hunger pangs are most apparent at the times of day when you usually eat.
So if you decide to skip your regular afternoon snack in the name of calorie restriction, you can expect the ghrelin gremlin to sit on your shoulder and complain loudly.
At ZOE, we don’t believe in counting calories. Rather than focusing on the external cue of calories, we encourage nourishment and abundance as you discover the foods that are best for your body.
Your blood sugar levels can impact hunger
How hungry you feel isn’t just about how much you eat. Research shows that how hungry we feel often doesn’t correlate with our levels of hunger hormones, so something else must be at play.
It turns out that your blood sugar levels and how they change in response to the food you eat are crucial in determining how hungry you feel.
In our PREDICT studies, we measured the blood sugar responses of over a thousand individuals after eating set meals and their own food at home. We also asked them to report how hungry they felt throughout the day.
Our results clearly showed that when people experienced dips in blood sugar levels, they felt more hungry, and as a result, their calorie intake increased at the next meal and over the next 24 hours.
These blood sugar dips are usually caused by unhealthy responses to food, characterized by blood sugar levels rapidly increasing and then crashing to below normal levels.
This blood sugar rollercoaster makes you feel tired and hungry a few hours after a meal, despite having eaten ‘enough.’
Importantly, our studies have shown that the foods that cause these unhealthy responses are different for everyone because we all have a unique biology.
Feel satisfied as you get your biology on your side
The good news is that you don’t have to be a slave to your cravings or your blood sugar levels.
Choosing the foods that suit your unique metabolism can help you avoid blood sugar spikes and crashes, so you can stay satisfied after eating, continue to make good food choices, and achieve a healthy weight without feeling hungry all the time.
ZOE’s unique at-home test helps you understand your unique biology, including sensitivity to dietary inflammation and insights into your gut microbiome, to provide personalized insights into thousands of foods that are right for you.
In our clinical study of people following the ZOE program lost 6lbs in 4 weeks, 97% without feeling hungry.
Here’s why you might feel hungry all the time
- Not eating enough can spark the production of hormones like the ‘hunger hormone’ ghrelin, which make you feel hungry
- Our PREDICT studies have shown that your unique responses to food are a vital part of how hungry you feel
- Foods that cause unhealthy blood sugar spikes and crashes can leave you feeling more hungry
- The ZOE program works with your body, not against it, by recommending foods that are best for you biology
Find out more:
- PREDICT: The world's largest in-depth nutritional research program in the world - ZOE
- Human postprandial responses to food and potential for precision nutrition - Nature Medicine
- Effect of Postprandial Glucose Dips on Hunger and Energy Intake in 1102 Subjects in US and UK: The PREDICT 1 Study - Current Developments in Nutrition
- Why a blood sugar crash may be to blame for that dreaded mid-afternoon slump - ZOE
- Hormonal Regulators of Appetite - International Journal of Pediatric Endocrinology