If you've ever wondered 'why am I always so hungry?' then know that you are far from alone. No doubt, you're a part of Generation Graze.
In a time-poor, schedule-loaded society it would seem that something’s gotta give – and, in Britain, particularly for Millennials, that something has been a traditional sit-down meal. Mintel recently revealed that 37% of you choose snacks over a proper meal at least once a week and hands up who can remember the last time they took a full one-hour lunch break? Precisely.
So, why are you hungry after eating so much? How do you stop those feelings of constant hunger? And is it normal to get hungry every hour?
We went to the top, to find out whether blowing your monthly salary on snacks is, nutritionally, okay to do, or whether there might be a healthier alternative.
Read on for hunger-halting tips – your body and bank balance will thank you for it.
Why am I always hungry? 5 things that might be at play
1/ You’re not eating enough
Sounds obvious but it’s not simply a case of eating the NHS-recommended 2,000 calories a day. An active commute, active job, heavy training schedule, your height and hormones are all factors that could cause you to burn more than the average person – and therefore need to eat more, to compensate.
Equally, when people are actively trying to lose weight, a common mistake for them is to eat too little.
‘This causes the body to produce hormones to encourage you to eat more to correct the deficit,’ says registered dietitian and sports nutritionist Laura Clark. ‘Low-carb diets, in particular, can cause people to pick the wrong sorts of carbs – those with added fat or too much added sugar – that lead to spikes, hunger pangs and create a viscous circle.’
And, we all know what feeling hungry can lead to. Chocolate chip muffins, packets of crisps and a can of Diet Coke.
‘Being proactive and planning ahead and snacking before we feel too hungry enables us to control portions and appetite a little better and usually leads to us make healthier food choices as a result,’ Clark says.
2/ You’re on medication
Medications such as anti-depressants and anti-psychotics can cause a drive in hunger, whilst conditions such as leptin receptor deficiency can also override the normal status quo, causing you to eat and eat because you constantly feel hungry.
3/ You’re training too hard
Hunger is often triggered when you are not meeting your fuel needs properly. So, if you’ve smashed out 10km running into work (615 calories), managed to squeeze in a lunch-time yoga sesh (180 calories), or have spin (740 calories) scheduled in after work, you will need to replace the fuel you burn, afterwards.
‘The key is to regulate your blood glucose levels,’ says Clark.
‘So, if you graze just on carb foods, you will be missing out on protein. Protein is a nutrient that helps you to feel full so it's important to include it regularly throughout the day.
Also consider the glycaemic index (GI) of your snacks as this refers to how quickly or slowly a food containing carbohydrate is broken down and released as simple glucose into the bloodstream.
High GI foods are broken down more quickly, leading to spikes in blood glucose levels. If we constantly have spikes in our blood sugar, it can make us feel hungry.’
4/ You’re eating too much sugar
Remember that stat about 54% of women snacking twice a day? Well, four-fifths (84%) of those women instantly feel guilty about doing it. Which means, feeling unnecessarily crappy a lot of the time.
One way of reducing this stat is to ensure you’re not hot-footing it to the chocolate counter of the corner shop every time you get the munchies.
‘People have different responses to hunger and fullness,’ says Clark. ‘This is because our gut hormones control these sensations and levels of gut hormones are different for different people.
'Protein, for example, helps to turn these gut hormones on, raising levels so you can get signals from your brain that you are full and have had enough.
'Eating highly refined foods, lacking in protein or fibre, will take longer to influence our appetite hormones – so you will end up eating more before you get the signals that you feel full.’
5/ You’re not choosing nutritionally balanced snacks
That ideal healthy eating dinner plate balance of protein, vegetables and healthy fats is pretty much habit but who has time to consider ratios when it comes to designing their perfect pre-presentation snack?
‘If we graze, we are not necessarily getting the right balance of nutrients across the day to keep hunger at bay,’ says Clark. ‘We are providing a temporary fix making blood glucose levels more erratic and prone to falling quickly, which, in itself, will trigger hunger.’
So, what does she recommend? ‘Snacks containing protein and fibre will help to regulate our blood glucose levels. Combining whole grains with protein or protein with healthy fats are ideal combinations.’
- Oatcakes with low-fat cream cheese
- Apple with peanut butter
- A handful of almonds with a handful of sweet and salty popcorn
- Edamame beans
- Flavoured chickpea snacks