We all have those days when you feel ravenous again by 11am, despite having eaten a full breakfast two hours before. But if those unexplained hunger pangs or cravings are happening on a regular basis, it could be time to re-evaluate your diet and routine.
Hunger levels are not just linked to how much you're eating. They're also linked to the kinds of food you choose, if you're drinking enough water, how you're feeling mentally and countless other things.
Here are a few of the reasons you might be feeling hungry even with a belly full of food.
1. You're dehydrated
Lack of H2O is one of the main causes of unexplained 'hunger' pangs. When we're dehydrated, our hypothalmus – the part of the brain that regulates appetite and thirst – can get confused, meaning our need for water is processed as a need for food. Next time you feel hungry even after eating, try drinking some water and waiting 15-20 minutes. You may find the feeling passes.
2. You’re not sleeping enough
A bad night’s sleep or a complete lack of sleep can leave us feeling foggy and fatigued. As a result our body craves sugar as a quick energy boost. Work towards getting 7 to 8 hours of restful sleep a night, but if that’s not possible at least have non-sugary snack alternatives on hand for emergencies.
3. You need more protein in your diet
Protein-packed food like lean meat, eggs and whole grains are not just important for energy and muscle repair. They also help to balance blood sugar levels, keep us feeling full and satisfied, and require more energy to digest than fat or carbohydrates. So swap tomorrow morning’s slice of toast for an omelette packed with yummy veg.
4. You need more healthy fats, too
Dieters tend to balk at the very mention of “fat” but some level of fat is needed for a balanced diet. Look for heart-healthy options like avocado, nuts, seeds and oils to improve energy levels and leave you feeling more satisfied after eating.
5. You skip breakfast
Even those of us with the best intentions can end up accidentally skipping breakfast simply because our morning is too busy to even think about stopping. Skipping meals can cause an increase in the production of ghrelin, the hormone that controls appetite. In short, if you skip breakfast, you’re more likely to overeat at lunch. Aim to eat something within an hour of waking up, even if that means prepping the night before.