Hunger … a feeling that everyone is familiar with.
A factor that you may blame for your lack of results when it comes to improving body composition.
Being too hungry to stick to your plan…
Giving into temptations because you can’t control your appetite or food cravings…
All of which are very real reasons for why it can be hard to stick to your plan.
However, if you understand hunger and what affects your appetite on any give day … you’ll be more successful and see better results long-term.
It's important to understand that hunger isn't necessarily a bad thing.
In fact, hunger serves a very important purpose for you as a Human. Food is literally what your body uses for energy. If you go without food for several hours, your body will trigger a response.
The response triggers our brain when it senses a change in the available nutrients in your body.
As well as sensing a shift in a specific set of hormones…
This response is known as hunger.
Hunger reminds you that you need some fuel, which comes in the form of food!
There are many hormones that play a role in your hunger response.
The biggest 3 being leptin, ghrelin, and Insulin.
Leptin is your satiety hormone which lets your body know when it is full. It signals that you now have enough energy, and it cuts off the feeling of hunger.
Ghrelin releases when you do not have enough energy or have what you may refer to as an empty stomach. It signals the hunger response.
Insulin handles taking the energy from our food and storing it, usually in our muscles or as body fat.
It's the release of these hormones that influence hunger, fullness ... and your body’s ability to use food as energy.
Hunger and appetite are often grouped together ... and many think they are the same thing.
Hunger is a physiological response the body uses to signal when we need fuel.
Appetite is the desire to eat … not the physiological NEED to eat.
Appetite and hunger are two separate feelings.
You can experience satiety and fullness while still having an appetite.
Increases in appetite (even when full) can happen for a variety of reasons.
Social factors such as being around someone who is eating ... or even seeing someone eat out of the corner of your eye can spark an increase in appetite. This can happen even if you are full, right after a meal.
Physiological factors like specific illness or disease can cause a spike in appetite.
This can be seen in Type 2 Diabetics that have issues with the hormone, insulin.
This affects the signals that are sent to the brain in response to hunger and appetite.
Boredom or eating due to being anxious or even depressed can lead to rapid changes in appetite as well.
Something as simple as catching a whiff of fresh baked cookies can trigger your appetite ... even if you just ate a 5- course meal.
I am sure you can relate to one, if not all these factors when it comes to appetite.
How do you fight your appetite and cravings?
Safe to say that you have struggled with cravings at one point or another. That is something we all deal with.
It is your appetite that can trigger these cravings … even making you think you are hungry when you are not.
There are ways to fight these cravings … which all can be very effective.
These simple tips can make accomplishing your fitness goals much easier.
Eat Dense, Nutrient Rich Foods For Your Meals – These are foods that fill you up! Foods that are dense and rich in nutrients can help signal earlier release of your “full” hormone ... Leptin. Fruits and veggies are the main foods that fall into this category.
Eat Protein With Your Meals – Protein packed foods also help signal “fullness” to your brain ... and can prevent overeating! They can help you feel satisfied for a longer period of time.
Drink Plenty Of Water – We know water is important for a variety of reasons ... but did you know you can mistake hunger for thirst? Next time you feel as if you are hungry or carving something … drink a big ole’ glass of water and see if that helps. Drinking water before, during and after your meals will help control appetite as well.
Do Not Let Yourself Get Too Hungry – Waiting until you want to eat your own arm off before having a meal is not ideal. You will be much more likely to overdo it. Having smaller meals, every 2-3 hours can help you avoid that “starving” feeling ... and you will be much less likely to stuff yourself!
Improve Your Sleep – Sleep is important for everything … including controlling your appetite. Poor sleep has been linked to poor Leptin production. Meaning you will literally have more issues with cravings and appetite ... even when your body does not need the fuel.
Plan for your Cravings – If you know there is a certain time you get cravings such as nights or weekends … plan for this! Make your other meals a bit smaller to account for the extra calories ... or have a cheat day programmed into your nutrition plan for something to look forward too! You can even look into making a healthier version of sweet or salty treats to fight those cravings!
Utilize Supplements – There are products designed to fight cravings and appetite. When paired with the tips above … these can be a GAME CHANGER when it comes to staying on track.
So, in summary ... Hunger is necessary response your body uses to signal when you need to give yourself energy in the form of food.
Hunger is signaled when you are low on energy and when certain hunger hormones fluctuate.
Hunger and appetite are often grouped together and referred to as the same thing. … when they are actually very different.
Your appetite is influenced by many factors. These include your social environment, physiological factors ... and even by something as simple as you being “bored”.
There are ways to find out if you are actually hungry or if your appetite is trying to fool you.
There are also tips as well as supplements you can use to fight your appetite and cravings in order to stay on track ... and continue to push towards your fitness goals.
***This post was written by Andrew Lynn, who has a Bachelor's in Science Nutrition and Dietetics. He is also a NASM Certified Personal Trainer and NASM Certified Fitness Nutrition Specialist.