By: Sarah Schlichter, MPH, RDN
It is normal for our hunger signals (a.k.a. a biological need) to vary by day, depending on the situation, life stage, and environment we are in. But if you feel like you are constantly hungry and never satisfied, it may be worth exploring more.
Keep reading for the common reasons you may be experiencing constant hunger.
1. You’re Undereating
We all have different nutritional needs. Whether you’re reducing your food intake for weight loss, increasing your exercise or just have a fast metabolism, constant hunger may be a signal that your body needs more food. It’s important to note that hunger can manifest in other ways aside from just a rumbling stomach; headaches and an inability to concentrate are also signs of hunger.
If you find yourself constantly thinking about food, you’re likely not eating enough. It may be worth keeping a food journal for a short period of time and making notes of when you find yourself hungry. It can also be helpful to meet with a registered dietitian to discuss your personalized nutrition needs and goals.
2. You're Not Getting Enough Protein
While not getting enough calories in general will leave you always feeling hungry, not getting an appropriate distribution of calories and macronutrients can also lead to constant hunger. Not all calories will have the same impact on satiety and satisfaction. For example, carbohydrates are most efficient for providing quick and lasting energy, while fat can impart flavor and satiety. Protein, especially, is known for its effects on satiety.
It’s recommended to get 20-30g of protein at each meal, as well as 10-15g or protein in snacks to help with satiety. Finishing your exercise session with a post-workout shake that contains Vital Proteins Collagen Whey is an easy way to up your protein intake.
RELATED: What Health Coach Carly Beyar Eats in a Day
3. You're Skimping on Sleep
You may be thinking that sleep has no impact on hunger levels, but research tells us otherwise. Sleep has a large impact on our hormone regulation, and unbalanced hormones can lead to increased feelings of hunger. Insufficient sleep is linked with increased levels of ghrelin, a hunger hormone that stimulates appetite. Skimping on sleep is also linked with a decreased level of our satiety hormone, leptin.
Furthermore, insufficient sleep also manifests as cravings for more sweetened foods and beverages because they provide quick energy. If you find yourself constantly craving sweeter foods, it may be worth evaluating your sleep hygiene, as sleep deprivation can have other effects on health as well.
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4. You're Constantly Stressed
Short-term elevations of cortisol, our stress hormone, are normal. However, when our bodies are constantly living in a state of chaos and stress, it can wreak havoc on our quality of life. Stress doesn’t always have to refer to big things, such as a move or job change. Not sleeping enough, feeling anxious, and even symptoms of emotional stress can affect immunity, digestion, cardiovascular health and appetite.
To help manage stress, try to include time for social activities, rest, and joyful movement. Mindful activities like yoga and meditation have been shown to help reduce the stress response as well. [Editor note: We like taking a Vital Proteins Zen Collagen Shot for a little R&R!]
Lastly, there may be other medical reasons for constant hunger, such as a side effect of medications or an overactive thyroid. If you are still experiencing constant hunger after incorporating some of these lifestyle changes, consider meeting with your healthcare provider.