Why Am I So Hungry

Published
Why Am I So Hungry
Portrait of secretary working at hospital reception

Many readers are interested in the following topic: Why Am I Always Hungry. We are happy to note, that our authors have already studied the modern research about the topic you are interested in. Based on the information provided in the latest medical digests, modern research and surveys, we provide extensive answer. Keep reading to find out more.

European Journal of Clinical Nutrition: “Drinking water with a meal: a simple method of coping with feelings of hunger, satiety and desire to eat.”

8 Reasons You’re Always Hungry

woman in refrigerator looking for food to eat

Your stomach is growling in the middle of a Zoom meeting — again. While using mute may keep others from hearing your hunger pains, it can be frustrating to feel hungry all the time.

Cleveland Clinic is a non-profit academic medical center. Advertising on our site helps support our mission. We do not endorse non-Cleveland Clinic products or services. Policy

Being constantly hungry can be caused by lack of protein, fiber and fat in your diet. Not getting enough sleep or being stressed can also affect your appetite. Registered dietitian Julia Zumpano, RD, talks about why you may constantly feel hungry and how certain foods can help you feel full for longer.

Why you’re feeling hungry all the time

Hunger typically sets in after two hours from the last time you’ve eaten a meal.

“You’re actually feeling physical signs of hunger, so your stomach is growling, your energy is dropping,” says Zumpano. “You might also feel a little low on energy, maybe jittery.”

On the other hand, emotional hunger doesn’t show any physical signs. This is when you might have cravings for certain foods. Zumpano estimates that about 90% of us engage in emotional eating.

“If you’re saying, ‘I want chocolate. I want a bag of chips,’ that’s not hunger,” says Zumpano. “Usually, you’re searching for food and food doesn’t satisfy because you’re feeding an emotional hunger.”

You’re not eating enough protein

Protein is one of the three macronutrients your body needs (carbohydrates and fats being the other two) to give you energy. When used together in a meal, they can help fuel your body and keep you feeling full.

For example, a meal heavy on carbs will cause your sugar to spike and then decrease leading to hunger.

“When you include protein with a complex carbohydrate, it slows down the rate of glucose. This means you’ll have a gradual increase and then a gradual decrease, which makes you feel more settled and satisfied,” says Zumpano.

And think beyond meat when looking for protein to add to your meals. Vegetables, dairy products like yogurt, milk and cheese, eggs, fish, beans, tofu, seeds and nuts all have protein.

You’re not sleeping well

If you’re not getting the recommended seven to nine hours of sleep a day, it can lead to weight gain. Sleep helps regulate ghrelin, an appetite-stimulating hormone. Not getting enough sleep increases gherlin, leading you to feel hungry when you’re actually in need of sleep.

“Sleep is ideal to get your body system to heal and regenerate,” says Zumpano. “So if you can’t get sleep throughout the night, taking a short nap or even just resting your body can help.”

You’re eating refined carbs

Watch out for foods made with refined carbs like white flour or white rice (and yes, foods like candy and baked goods contain refined carbs).

Those ingredients have been processed and lose many of their nutrients and fiber. Eating too many refined carbs doesn’t leave you feeling full for long. In fact, it spikes your blood sugar and then when it drops, you’re hungry again.

“We tend to crave carbs and sugar because every time we have a little bit, our energy level rises. So when you’re tired, you’re using your food to create energy as opposed to your natural sources of energy,” says Zumpano.

Your diet is low in fat

Adding foods that are high in omega-3 fatty acids like salmon, tuna, sardines, walnuts or flaxseed can help with your appetite.

But if you’re lacking healthy fat in your diet, it can lead to craving carbs and foods high in sugar. So consider that balance of what you eat — it all goes back to needing those three macronutrients to feel full and satisfied.

“Those macronutrients are designed so that we need all three,” says Zumpano. “It’s just slightly increasing your healthy fats to the point where you feel that level of satiety.”

Your diet needs more fiber

Fiber is so good for so many reasons. But when it comes to hunger, look for foods high in fiber like fruits, vegetables, lentils, beans and oats to help release appetite-reducing hormones.

“Fiber expands in your belly,” says Zumpano. “It stimulates that feeling of being full earlier.”

You’re eating while distracted

Popping open a bag of chips while bingeing Netflix may sound like an ideal Friday night for some but try to be more mindful of how much food you’re consuming while following plot lines.

“Mindless eating is when you don’t realize what and how much you’re eating,” says Zumpano. “You know in your subconscious that you did eat, but it’s almost like discounting that meal. Your brain doesn’t register that you’ve eaten.”

To avoid mindless eating, portion control is essential. Zumpano suggests portioning out the appropriate amount of snacks before watching TV, driving or even scrolling on your phone.

You’re not drinking enough water

Many of us feel like we’re hungry when in fact we’re just thirsty. But before you slug down that fourth cup of coffee, consider that your large caramel latte with whipped cream is dehydrating you (not to mention adding unnecessary calories).

On the other hand, drinking water throughout the day will keep you hydrated and potentially stave off hunger.

“You could be thirsty and not understand the difference,” says Zumpano. “It’s recommended that you drink 64 ounces of water per day.”

You’re stressed

A lot of us will turn to food when we’re stressed out — reaching for that bag of cookies when we’re up against a deadline instead of dealing with the source of our emotions.

“Find a means to relieve the stress without using food to do it,” suggests Zumpano. “Find something you enjoy and if you become stressed in the middle of your day, step away from your desk for five minutes, go outside, get some fresh air.”

She also suggests using deep breathing or box breathing to naturally calm yourself. Even taking a hot bath, painting your nails, reading or knitting can help alleviate stress.

“You don’t want to ignore the emotion, but you want to resolve it with something other than food,” Zumpano says.

Is it OK to always be hungry?

Your body relies on food for energy, so it’s normal to feel hungry if you don’t eat for a few hours.

But if hunger is something you deal with on a regular basis, some people might benefit from eating every two to three hours and then having a small snack — and by snack, Zumpano means foods like a boiled egg with a cheese stick, whole-grain, low-salt crackers with cheese or an apple with peanut butter.

“Look for whole food options that have complete carbs, fiber and protein,” she says.

Cleveland Clinic is a non-profit academic medical center. Advertising on our site helps support our mission. We do not endorse non-Cleveland Clinic products or services. Policy

Why Am I Always Hungry?

Why Am I So Hungry

Your body relies on food for energy, so it’s normal to feel hungry if you don’t eat for a few hours. But if your stomach has a constant rumble, even after a meal, something could be going on with your health.

The medical term for extreme hunger is polyphagia. If you feel hungry all the time, see your doctor.

Several things can cause hunger.

1. Diabetes

Your body turns the sugar in food into fuel called glucose. But when you have diabetes, glucose can’t reach your cells. Your body pees it out instead and tells you to eat more.

People who have type 1 diabetes, in particular, may eat large amounts of food and still lose weight.

In addition to a spike in your appetite, symptoms of diabetes may include:

  • Extreme thirst
  • The need to pee more often
  • Weight loss you can’t explain
  • Blurry vision
  • Cuts and bruises that take a long time to heal
  • Tingling or pain in your hands or feet
  • Fatigue

2. Low Blood Sugar

Hypoglycemia is what you have when the glucose in your body drops to very low levels. It’s a common concern for people with diabetes, but other health problems can cause it, too. They include hepatitis, kidney disorders, neuroendocrine tumors in your pancreas (insulinomas), and problems with your adrenal or pituitary glands.

In severe cases, people with hypoglycemia may seem drunk. They may slur their words and have trouble walking. Other symptoms can include:

  • Anxiety
  • Feeling like your heart is skipping a beat
  • Pale skin
  • Shaking
  • Sweating
  • Tingling around the mouth

3. Lack of Sleep

Not getting enough rest can affect the hormones in your body that control hunger. People who are sleep-deprived have a bigger appetite and find it harder to feel full. You’re also more likely to crave high-fat, high-calorie foods when you’re tired.

Other effects of sleep deprivation include:

  • A hard time staying alert
  • Change in mood
  • Clumsiness
  • More accidents
  • Trouble staying awake during the day
  • Weight gain

4. Stress

When you’re anxious or tense, your body releases a hormone called cortisol. This amps up your feeling of hunger.

Many people under stress also crave foods high in sugar, fat, or both. It may be your body’s attempt to “shut off” the part of your brain that causes you to worry.

Other symptoms include:

  • Angry outbursts
  • Fatigue
  • Headache
  • Sleep problems
  • Upset stomach

5. Diet

Not all foods fill you up the same way. The ones that curb hunger best are high in protein — like lean meats, fish, or dairy products — or high in fiber. Good sources of fiber are fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and beans.

Healthy fats like those found in nuts, fish, and sunflower oil can lower your cholesterol levels. They’re key to a balanced diet and can help you feel satisfied after you eat.

Pastries, white bread, many packaged meals, and fast foods lack these nutrients but are high in fat and unhealthy carbs. If you eat a lot of these, you could find yourself hungry again soon after a meal. You may eat more than you should.

You might feel fuller after a meal if you take more time to chew and enjoy your food, rather than eating it quickly. It can also help to pay attention to what’s on your plate instead of the TV or your phone.

6. Medication

Some drugs can make you want to eat more than usual. Antihistamines, which treat allergies, are known for this, as are antidepressants called SSRIs, steroids, some diabetes medicines, and antipsychotic drugs.

If you’ve gained weight since you started a medication, the medicine could be making you feel hungry. Talk to you doctor to find out what other drugs might work for you.

7. Pregnancy

Many moms-to-be notice a huge leap in appetite. This is your body’s way of making sure the baby gets enough nutrients to grow.

Most women gain between 4 and 6 pounds during the first 3 months (your doctor will call this the first trimester) and then 1 pound a week during the second and third.

Other signs that you might be pregnant are:

  • A missed period
  • The need to pee often
  • Upset stomach
  • Sore breasts or breasts that get bigger

8. Thyroid Problems

The thyroid is a butterfly-shaped gland in your neck. It makes hormones that control the rate at which every organ in your body works. If your thyroid is working too hard, you could have hyperthyroidism.

Besides an enlarged thyroid gland, other signs of the problem are:

  • Fast pulse
  • Feeling nervous
  • More sweat than normal
  • Muscle weakness
  • Thirst even after drinking

9. Diet Soda

Many people drink sugar-free soda to cut back on calories or lose weight. But the fake sugar in these drinks tells your brain to expect calories it can use for fuel. When your body doesn’t get any, it turns on your “hunger switch” and tells you to get calories from food instead.

If diet soda is making you hungry, you may also notice:

  • Headaches
  • Sugar cravings
  • Weight gain

10. Dehydration

Are you hungry or just thirsty? You can’t always tell the difference in the signals you get from your body.

Other signs of dehydration include:

  • Dizziness
  • Feeling tired
  • Peeing less often or having dark-colored pee

Some research shows that if you have a glass of water before or during a meal, you might feel full on fewer calories.

11. How Much You Exercise

Your body burns calories for fuel when you work out. This leads to a boost in your metabolism, the process by which your body uses energy. In some people, that can set off an increase in hunger.

Show Sources

Aldrich, N. Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior, May-June 2013.

American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology: “Antihistamines and Weight Gain.”

American Academy of Family Physicians: “Eating During Pregnancy.”

American Diabetes Association: “Diabetes Symptoms.”

American Sleep Association: “Sleep Deprivation — What is Sleep Deprivation?”

Chambers, L. Trends in Food Science and Technology, February 2015.

Cleveland Clinic: “Am I Pregnant?”

Coffin, C. Canadian Journal of Gastroenterology, April 2006.

Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance: “Emotional Eating: Causes, Prevention, Treatment and Resources.”

Harvard Health Publications: “Why stress causes people to overeat,” “Could it be my thyroid?”

Harvard T. H. Chan School of Public Health: “Artificial Sweeteners,” “Fiber,” “Sleep: Waking Up to Sleep’s Role in Weight Control,” “Carbohydrates.”

Mayo Clinic: “Diabetes symptoms: When diabetes symptoms are a concern,” “Stress Management,” “Depression (major depressive episode),” “Hypoglycemia,” “Allergy medications: Know your options,” “Dehydration.”

University of Chicago Medicine & Biological Sciences/Science Life: “Sleep loss boosts hunger and unhealthy food choices.”

UC San Diego Health: “Wide Effect: Drugs That Promote Weight Gain.”

University of Rochester Medical Center: “When Your Weight Gain Is Caused By Medicine.”

Van Den Eeden, S. Neurology, October 1994.

Yang, Q. Yale Journal of Biology and Medicine, June 2010.

Kaiser Permanente: “All about fats: The good and the bad.”

British Nutrition Foundation: “Understanding satiety: Feeling full after a meal.”

Physiology & Behavior: “Hunger and Thirst: Issues in measurement and prediction of eating and drinking.”

Obesity: “Pre-meal water consumption reduces meal energy intake in older but not younger subjects.”

European Journal of Clinical Nutrition: “Drinking water with a meal: a simple method of coping with feelings of hunger, satiety and desire to eat.”

Sports Medicine: “Impact of energy intake and exercise on resting metabolic rate.”

14 Reasons Why You’re Always Hungry

Hunger is your body’s natural cue that it needs more food.

When you’re hungry, your stomach may “growl” and feel empty, or you may get a headache, feel irritable, or be unable to concentrate.

Most people can go several hours between meals before feeling hungry again, though this isn’t the case for everyone.

There are several possible explanations for this, including a diet that lacks protein, fat, or fiber, as well as excessive stress or dehydration.

This article discusses 14 reasons for excessive hunger.

Why Am I So Hungry

Consuming enough protein is important for appetite control.

Protein has hunger-reducing properties that may help you automatically consume fewer calories during the day. It works by increasing the production of hormones that signal fullness and reducing the levels of hormones that stimulate hunger ( 1 , 2 , 3 , 4 ).

Due to these effects, you may feel hungry frequently if you’re not eating enough protein.

In one study, 14 men with excess weight 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 ( 5 ).

Additionally, those with a higher protein intake reported greater fullness throughout the day and fewer obsessive thoughts about food ( 5 ).

Many different foods are high in protein, so it’s not difficult to get enough of it through your diet. Including a source of protein in every meal can help prevent excessive hunger.

Animal products, such as meat, poultry, fish, and eggs, contain high amounts of protein.

This nutrient is also found in some dairy products, including milk and yogurt, as well as a few plant-based foods like legumes, nuts, seeds, and whole grains.

Summary

Protein plays an important role in appetite control by regulating your hunger hormones. For this reason, you may feel hungry frequently if you don’t eat enough of it.

Getting adequate sleep is extremely important for your health.

Sleep is required for the proper functioning of your brain and immune system, and getting enough of it is associated with a lower risk of several chronic illnesses, including heart disease and cancer ( 6 ).

Additionally, sleeping enough is a factor in appetite control, as it helps regulate ghrelin, the appetite-stimulating hormone. Lack of sleep leads to higher ghrelin levels, which is why you may feel hungrier when you are sleep deprived ( 7 , 8 ).

In one study, 15 people who were sleep deprived for only 1 night reported being significantly more hungry and chose 14% larger portion sizes, compared with a group that slept for 8 hours ( 9 ).

Getting enough sleep also helps ensure adequate levels of leptin, a hormone that promotes feelings of fullness ( 7 , 8 ).

To keep your hunger levels well managed, it’s generally recommended to get at least 8 hours of uninterrupted sleep each night.

Summary

Sleep deprivation is known to cause fluctuations in your hunger hormone levels and may leave you feeling hungry more frequently.

Refined carbs have been highly processed and stripped of their fiber, vitamins, and minerals.

One of the most popular sources of refined carbs is white flour, which is found in many grain-based foods like bread and pasta. Foods like soda, candy, and baked goods, which are made with processed sugars, are also considered to be refined carbs.

Since refined carbs lack filling fiber, your body digests them very quickly. This is a major reason why you may be hungry frequently if you eat a lot of refined carbs, as they do not promote significant feelings of fullness ( 10 ).

Furthermore, eating refined carbs may lead to rapid spikes in your blood sugar. This leads to increased levels of insulin, a hormone responsible for transporting sugar into your cells ( 10 , 11 ).

When a lot of insulin is released at once in response to high blood sugar, it quickly removes sugar from your blood, which may lead to a sudden drop in blood sugar levels, a condition known as hypoglycemia ( 10 , 11 ).

Low blood sugar levels signal your body that it needs more food, which is another reason why you may feel hungry often if refined carbs are a regular part of your diet ( 10 ).

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 ( 12 ).

Summary

Refined carbs lack fiber and cause blood sugar fluctuations, which are the primary reasons why eating too many of them may leave you feeling hungry.

Fat plays a key role in keeping you full.

This is partly due to its slow gastrointestinal transit time, meaning that it takes longer for you to digest and remains in your stomach for a long period. Additionally, eating fat may lead to the release of various fullness-promoting hormones ( 13 , 14, 15 ).

For these reasons, you may feel frequent hunger if your diet is low in fat.

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 ( 16 ).

Furthermore, those in the low fat group reported more feelings of hunger than the group that followed a low carb eating pattern ( 16 ).

There are many nutrient-dense, high fat foods that you can include in your diet to increase your fat intake. Certain types of fats, such as medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs) and omega-3 fatty acids, have been studied the most for their ability to reduce appetite ( 17 , 18 , 19 , 20 ).

The richest food source of MCT is coconut oil, while omega-3 fatty acids are found in fatty fish like salmon, tuna, and sardines. You can also get omega-3s from plant-based foods, such as walnuts and flaxseeds.

Other sources of nutrient-rich, high fat foods include avocados, olive oil, eggs, and full fat yogurt.

Summary

You may feel hungry often if you don’t eat enough fat. That’s because fat plays a role in slowing digestion and increasing the production of fullness-promoting hormones.

Proper hydration is incredibly important for your overall health.

Drinking enough water has several health benefits, including promoting brain and heart health and optimizing exercise performance. Additionally, water keeps your skin and digestive system healthy ( 21 ).

Water is also quite filling and has the potential to reduce appetite when consumed before meals ( 22 , 23 ).

In one study, 14 people who drank 2 cups of water before a meal ate almost 600 fewer calories than those who didn’t drink any water ( 24 ).

Due to water’s role in keeping you full, you may find that you feel hungry frequently if you’re not drinking enough of it.

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 ( 23 ).

To ensure you’re properly hydrated, simply drink water when you feel thirsty. Eating lots of water-rich foods, including fruits and vegetables, will also contribute to your hydration needs ( 25 ).

Summary

You may always be hungry if you’re not drinking enough water. That’s because it has appetite-reducing properties. Additionally, you may be mistaking feelings of thirst for feelings of hunger.

If your diet lacks fiber, you may feel hungry frequently.

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 ( 12 , 26).

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 ( 12 ).

It’s important to note that there are different types of fiber, and some are better than others at keeping you full and preventing hunger. Several studies have found that soluble fiber, or fiber that dissolves in water, is more filling than insoluble fiber ( 27 , 28 , 29).

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 ( 30 ).

To ensure you’re getting enough fiber, opt for a diet that’s rich in whole, plant-based foods, such as fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, legumes, and whole grains.

Summary

If your diet lacks fiber, you may find that you are always hungry. This is because fiber plays a role in reducing your appetite and keeping you full.

If you live a busy lifestyle, you may often eat while you are distracted.

Although it may save you time, distracted eating can be detrimental to your health. It’s associated with greater appetite, increased calorie intake, and weight gain ( 31 ).

The primary reason for this is because distracted eating reduces your awareness of how much you’re consuming. It prevents you from recognizing your body’s fullness signals as efficiently as when you’re not distracted ( 31 ).

Several studies have shown that those who engage in distracted eating are hungrier than those who avoid distractions during mealtimes ( 31 ).

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 ( 32 ).

Another study found that people who distracted themselves with a computer game during lunch were less full than those who did not play the game. Additionally, the distracted eaters consumed 48% more food in a test that occurred later that day ( 33 ).

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.

Summary

Distracted eating may be a reason why you are always hungry, as it makes it difficult for you to recognize feelings of fullness.

Individuals who exercise frequently burn a lot of calories.

This is especially true if you regularly participate in high-intensity exercise or engage in physical activity for long durations, such as in marathon training.

Research has shown that those who exercise vigorously on a regular basis tend to have a faster metabolism, which means that they burn more calories at rest than those who exercise moderately or live sedentary lifestyles ( 34 , 35 ).

More recently, however, a 2014 systematic review of 103 studies found no consistent evidence to support increased energy intake during exercise. Additional randomized studies are needed ( 36 ).

In one study, 10 men who engaged in a vigorous 45-minute workout increased their overall metabolic rate by 37% for the day, compared with another day when they did not exercise ( 37 ).

Another study found that women who exercised at a high intensity every day for 16 days burned 33% more calories throughout the day than a group that did not exercise and 15% more calories than moderate exercisers. The results were similar for men ( 38 ).

Although several studies have shown exercise to be beneficial for suppressing appetite, there is some evidence that vigorous, long-term exercisers tend to have greater appetites than those who do not exercise ( 39 , 40 , 41 , 42 ).

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.

Summary

Individuals who regularly exercise at a high intensity or for long durations tend to have greater appetites and faster metabolisms. Thus, they may experience frequent hunger.