5 Reasons You Always Feel Hungry
Have you ever asked yourself why even after a hearty meal you are still tempted to raid the fridge? Or why you just can’t stay away from the biscuit tin at work? Head nutritionist Shona Wilkinson reveals why many of us have the urge to overindulge…
1. Too many carbs
Eating a carbohydrate-heavy meal the night before can be a reason for feeling hungry the next day, even after eating! When we eat lots of carbohydrates in one sitting, they are absorbed quickly into the body as sugars. This spike of sugars in our blood (glucose in particular) causes a surge of insulin to be released, the hormone that stimulates our cells to take up glucose. As all the sugar is quickly removed from the blood, this triggers hunger and more carbohydrate cravings. You might even wake up with cravings in the night if this happens.
To avoid this happening, it’s best to avoid refined carbohydrates and instead choose meals containing a moderate amount of unrefined carbohydrates (think sweet potatoes, brown rice or quinoa). Combine them with a good portion of protein, such as a piece of fish or chicken, and a big serving of non-starchy vegetables such as broccoli or other green veg. This will allow those carbohydrates to be digested and absorbed more slowly, keep you fuller for longer and won’t cause the surge of insulin that makes your blood sugar drop.
2. Get some shut-eye
Not getting enough sleep may have a direct effect on how hungry we feel and how much we eat. Short sleep duration has been found to reduce levels of a hormone called leptin, which inhibits hunger, and increases levels of the hormone ghrelin, which stimulates hunger. This is one reason why poor sleep may lead to weight gain.
Magnesium is needed to relax our muscles, which in turn can help us fall into a peaceful sleep. To ensure you’re getting enough Magnesium, try Quest Vitamins Synergistic Magnesium (£10.69, revital.co.uk).
3. You’re dehydrated
Sometimes thirst can actually be mistaken for hunger. We feel like we’re craving something and interpret this as hunger, when actually all we need is a glass or two of water. “Water is also needed in order for our cells to make use of the nutrients in the food we eat; and lack of nutrient availability causes our body to crave more food. This is another reason to make sure you’re drinking water throughout the day and not just when this craving strikes.
Drinking water between meals also generally makes us feel fuller and can help to manage our appetite. It’s important, however, not to drink lots of water immediately before, during or after a meal: this dilutes the digestive juices and can have a negative impact on our digestion.
4. You’re getting your period
It’s been found that a woman’s appetite and food intake increases during the second half of their menstrual cycle, ie after ovulation and in the lead-up to menstruation. To help balance your blood sugar levels and manage these cravings, it’s essential to focus on eating protein-containing foods with each meal (fish, meat, eggs, pulses, nuts and seeds), and minimise your intake of processed and refined carbohydrates and sugars. It’s also known that caffeine and alcohol can have a significant effect on hormone balance too, and so these should be kept to a minimum. To help beat those cravings try Quest’s Equigluco tablets (£13.29, revital.co.uk), which contain chromium, magnesium, vitamin B6 and green coffee bean extract. This is ideal alongside a good-quality women’s multivitamin and mineral supplement – both can be taken throughout the month and not just before your period.
5. You’re eating for two
It makes sense that appetite and calorie needs increase during pregnancy – after all, you’re eating to make a baby, you don’t need to fight against it! However, it is more important than ever to make healthy choices at this time. This means eating real, wholesome foods and avoiding processed and refined foods and too many sugary treats. Keep your kitchen stocked with nourishing foods and prepare healthy snacks in advance when you can. Eating nutrient-rich, whole foods will help to satisfy your body’s (and your growing baby’s) needs and make you less likely to overeat too.