Hunger is your body’s natural cue that it needs more food.
While feeling hungry is a normal sign from your body that it’s time to eat again, it’s not fun to constantly feel hungry, especially if you’ve just finished a meal.
That may be a sign you’re not eating enough or not eating the right combinations of foods.
When you’re hungry, your stomach may “growl” and feel empty, or you may get a headache, feel irritable, or be unable to concentrate.
There are several possible explanations for why you may constantly want to eat. It could be that your diet lacks protein, fat, or fiber, as well as excessive stress or dehydration.
Feeling constantly hungry is a common issue that may have to do with your food choices. A good place to start is understanding how different foods impact your feelings of fullness.
In this article, we give a list of evidence-based methods that a person can use to suppress their appetite:
1. You’re not eating enough protein
It is important to consume enough protein when it comes to appetite control.
Protein has hunger-reducing properties that may help you automatically consume fewer calories during the day. Protein works wonders by increasing the production of hormones that signal fullness and reducing the levels of hormones that stimulate hunger.
If you are a late-night snacker then this study will be of interest. Fourteen overweight men who consumed 25% of their calories from protein for 12 weeks experienced a 50% reduction in their desire for late-night snacking, compared with a group that consumed less protein.
In addition, those with a higher protein intake reported greater fullness throughout the day and fewer obsessive thoughts about food.
There are animal and plant based foods that are high in protein.
Animal sources of protein are: meat, poultry, fish, and eggs.
Plant-based sources of protein can be found in dairy or goat’s sheep’s products such as milk, cheese, yogurt, kefir, pulses (beans, lentils), nuts, seeds, whole grains, tofu, tempeh and seitan.
2. You’re not sleeping enough
Adequate sleep helps with hormonal balance. That keeps your heart healthy, reduces stress, and helps keep blood sugar consistent.
It also reduces stress, prevents inflammation, and helps control weight.
Research suggests that people who sleep less are more likely to be overweight or obese.
Poor sleep appears to disrupt the balance of ghrelin (hunger stimulating hormone) and leptin (hunger suppression hormone). These are hormones that control appetite.
If you want to lose or maintain weight, don't forget that good sleep is part of the equation. To keep your hunger levels well managed, it’s generally recommended to get at least 8 hours of uninterrupted sleep each night.
3. You’re eating too many refined carbs
White flour and the products made with it, is one of the most common sources of refined carbohydrates.
Refined carbs are products like bread, pasta, sweets, pastries, cookies, cakes and other baked goods. Most of these processed foods are made with refined, processed sugars as well.
These types of refined products lack fibre, and do not promote significant feelings of satiation. (Research Study)
Refined carbs digest quickly, lead to spikes in glucose levels, and consequently can leave you tired, and hungry. "That's why a bowl of oatmeal [which is rich in fibre] will probably hold you over to your next meal longer than a bowl of Rice Krispies [which is a refined carb], even if the calories are the same.
To reduce your refined carb intake, simply replace them with nutrient-rich, whole foods like vegetables, fruit, legumes, and whole grains.
These foods are still high in carbs, but they are rich in fiber, which helps keep hunger well managed (Research Study)
4. Your diet is low in fat
Fat plays a key role in keeping you full. One of the main reasons is that it takes longer for you to digest it and it remains in your stomach for a longer period of time. Eating healthy sources of fat may lead to the release of various fullness-promoting hormones (Research Study)
One study including 270 adults with obesity found that those who followed a low fat diet had significant increases in cravings for carbs and preferences for high-sugar foods, compared with a group that consumed a low carb diet (Research Study)
Furthermore, those in the low fat group reported more feelings of hunger than the group that followed a low carb eating pattern (Research Study)
Healthy sources of high fat foods are: coconut oil, fatty fish like wild-caught salmon, tuna, sardines, walnuts, nuts and seeds, avocados, olive oil, eggs and full fat yogurt.
5. You’re not drinking enough water
Proper hydration is incredibly important for your overall health.
Drinking enough water keeps your brain and heart healthy, optimising exercise performance, keeps your skin healthy and combats constipation.
Water is also quite filling and has the potential to reduce appetite when consumed before meals (Research Study).
One study found that drinking 2 cups of water before a meal, ate almost 600 fewer calories than those who didn’t drink any water.
Feelings of thirst can be mistaken for feelings of hunger. If you’re always hungry, it may help to drink a glass or two of water to find out if you’re just thirsty (Research Study)
6. Your diet lacks fiber
Consuming lots of high fiber foods helps keep hunger well managed. High fiber foods slow your stomach’s emptying rate and take longer to digest than low fiber foods (Research Study)
Additionally, a high fiber intake influences the release of appetite-reducing hormones and the production of short-chain fatty acids, which have been shown to have fullness-promoting effects (Research Study)
Studies have found that soluble fiber, or fiber that dissolves in water, is more filling than insoluble fiber (Research Study)
Many different foods, such as oatmeal, flaxseeds, sweet potatoes, oranges, and Brussels sprouts, are excellent sources of soluble fiber.
Not only does a high fiber diet help reduce hunger, but it’s also associated with several other health benefits, such as a reduced risk of heart disease, diabetes, and obesity (Research Study)
Women should try to eat at least 21 to 25 grams of fiber a day, while men should aim for 30 to 38 grams a day.
Note that The Hadza, a hunter-gatherer group in northeast Tanzania for example, typically take in approximately 100 grams of fiber per day, about five times more than an American adult usually gets.
Fiber contributes to strong microbiome health, helps us avoid blood sugar spikes and makes us feel full on fewer calories.
7. You eat while you’re distracted
If you live a busy lifestyle, you may often eat while you are distracted.
Several studies have shown that those who engage in distracted eating are hungrier than those who avoid distractions during mealtimes (Research Study)
In one study, 88 women were instructed to eat either while distracted or sitting in silence. Those who were distracted were less full and had a significantly greater desire to eat more throughout the day, compared with the non-distracted eaters (Research Study)
To avoid distracted eating, you can try practicing mindfulness, minimizing screen time, and silencing your electronic devices. This will allow you to sit down and taste your food, helping you better recognize your body’s fullness signals.
8. You exercise a lot
You can prevent excessive hunger from exercise simply by eating more to fuel your workouts. It is most helpful to increase your intake of filling foods that are high in fiber, protein, and healthy fats.
Another solution is to cut back on the time you spend exercising or reduce the intensity of your workouts.
It’s important to note that this mostly applies to those who are avid athletes and work out frequently at a high intensity or for long periods.
If you exercise moderately, you probably don’t need to increase your calorie intake.
9. You’re drinking too much alcohol
Alcohol is well known for its appetite-stimulating effects (Research Study)
One study showed that alcohol inhibits the hormone leptin which reduces appetite, hence explaining why you may feel hungrier if you drink too much alcohol (Research Study)
Other studies have shown that you may end up eating 300 more calories even if you only drink 40ml of alcohol. With 10ml there was no influence to eating more.
Drinking alcohol also influences your appetite for the day after by eating 10% more calories throughout the entire day, and more likely to consume large amounts of high fat and salty foods - most probably to help with a hangover !
To reduce the hunger-inducing effects of alcohol, it’s best to consume it moderately or avoid it completely (Research Study).
10. You drink your calories
If you consume a lot of liquid foods, such as smoothies, meal replacement shakes, and soups, you may be hungrier more often than you would be if you ate more solid foods.
One major reason for this is that liquids pass through your stomach more quickly than solid foods do and your brain hasn’t had enough time to process signals of fullness.
In addition liquid foods don’t trigger the appetite suppressing hormones compared to solid foods.
I am a huge smoothie fan as I believe you can get a lot of nutrient dense foods in one meal. One solution I have found for this issue is by adding high fibre foods to my smoothies like chickpeas, baby spinach leaves and raw carrots.
In general, to prevent frequent hunger, it may help to focus on incorporating more solid, whole foods into your diet or add more fibre rich foods to your shakes and soups.
11. You’re overly stressed
Excess stress is known to increase appetite.
The main reason for this are the effects of cortisol, the stress hormone. This hormone has been shown to promote hunger and food cravings.
For this reason, you might find that you are always hungry if you experience frequent stress.
In one study, 59 women who were exposed to stress consumed more calories throughout the day and ate significantly sweeter foods than women who were not stressed (Research Study)
There are many de-stressing techniques that can help you feel calm and at peace. Some common ones include exercise and deep breathing, Tai Chi, Yoga and Journaling.
12. You’re taking certain medications
Several medications may increase your appetite as a side effect.
The most common appetite-inducing medications include antipsychotics, anti-depressants, corticosteroids and anti-seizure drugs. (Research Study)
If you suspect that medications are the cause of your frequent hunger, it may help to talk with your doctor about other treatment options.
There may be alternative medications that don’t make you hungry.
13. You eat too fast
Several studies have shown that fast eaters have greater appetites and a tendency to overeat at meals, compared with slow eaters.
They are also more likely to have obesity or excess weight.
Eating slowly gives you more time to chew your food better, and gives your body and brain more time to release anti-hunger hormones and convey fullness signals (Research Study)
14. You have a medical condition
Frequent hunger may be a symptom of disease. Common diseases are diabetes and hyperthyroidism.
Hypoglycemia, or low blood sugar levels, may also increase your hunger levels. Your blood sugar levels may fall if you haven’t eaten for a while, an effect that may be exacerbated by a diet high in refined carbs and sugar (Research Study).
Other conditions such as depression, anxiety and premenstrual syndrome also happen to increase your appetite and cause over-eating as mentioned in this study.
It is important to talk to your doctor to receive a proper diagnosis and treatment options.
Excessive hunger is a sign that your body needs more food.
It’s often a result of imbalanced hunger hormones, which may occur for a variety of reasons, including inadequate diet and certain lifestyle habits.
Barbara is a qualified nutritionist offering Health, Nutrition & Lifestyle Counseling. She gives Healthy weight loss advice and promotes the Mediterranean diet. She is the author of the Med Life Diet - creating healthy lifestyle habits and attitudes for life !