null null

Why Do We Get Hangry?

WRITTEN BY TAYLOR RYAN

Contributer - Accredited Sports Dietitian

Ever wondered why you’ve skipped lunch due to a busy work day, or a meeting that’s just popped up, despite being a little bit peckish, and all of a sudden you’re raging with frustration and can’t concentrate? And once you do finally eat, you eat anything and everything you can get your hands onto. You’re not alone. Here’s an Accredited Sports Dietitian’s rundown on the science behind being ‘Hangry’.

Summary

  • Feeling hangry is a natural body response when you don’t consistently eat food
  • Three key hormones play a role in hunger and fullness levels: Leptin (tells the body when enough is enough), Ghrelin (tells the body it’s hungry) and Dopamine (positive feelings that increase every time you eat)
  • Unfortunately, if we consistently overeat and gain large amounts of body fat, we can inadvertently impair this signalling process, known as Leptin Resistance, which may lead to constant feelings of being hungry or never being full.
  • Research has shown protein consumption has an enhanced effect on dopamine and improved satiety.
  • One of the most common factors that impact on these hormone levels, what almost one third of the population does not receive adequate amounts of, is sleep!
  • Ensure meals are balanced, containing lower GI carbohydrates (such as multigrain or whole grain products), lean proteins, healthy fats, and an abundance of colour and plant based foods.

 

The Hormones Behind Hangry

Feeling ‘hangry’ is a natural response that occurs within our body when we don’t consistently eat food, and has a lot to do with our hunger and appetite hormones. Research has identified numerous hormones, in the body, which play an important role in appetite control and hence hunger and satiety (fullness) levels.

The first hormone that is essential to appetite regulation is Leptin. Leptin helps to switch on and off our hunger cues to maintain a healthy level of fat mass. Leptin is released from our fat stores which send a signal to our brain that we are full and we need to stop eating.

Unfortunately, if we consistently overeat and gain large amounts of body fat, we can inadvertently impair this signalling process, known as Leptin Resistance, which may lead to constant feelings of being hungry or never being full.

Healthy Ready Made Meals | My Muscle Chef

 

The good news is that in order to reduce this inflammation that can contribute to leptin resistance, one must incorporate anti-inflammatory, antioxidant-rich foods in their diet. Think: plenty of fruits and vegetables, and omega 3s such as nuts, eggs and oily fish.

On the other hand, we have the hormone Ghrelin. Ghrelin is the opposite to Leptin in that it’s released from the stomach and pancreas to stimulate appetite. Ghrelin is also known as the “hunger hormone” for this reason (think “grr (for ghrelin), i’m hungry” - a great way to remember this hormone).

Fluctuations in Ghrelin levels are normal throughout the day as food is ingested and absorbed - it rises before meals and drops after meals. Eating in a regular eating pattern such as breakfast, morning tea, lunch, afternoon tea, and dinner will ensure consistent ghrelin levels, where no large peaks or a build up of ghrelin is experienced, which can inherently lead to overeating.

Leptin & Ghrelin Infographic | My Muscle Chef

 

Other than a few other important hormones such as insulin, cholecystokinin and cortisol (don’t worry we won’t bombard you with information on these), another important hormone is dopamine. Dopamine is known as the ‘feel good’ hormone and is generally secreted when we are full from a meal which leads to an increase in dopamine levels.

Research has shown protein consumption has an enhanced effect on dopamine and improved satiety. This means that it’s even more important to ensure that you are consuming balanced meals containing lean proteins, carbohydrates, some healthy fats, and lots of colour to enhance satiety and hence dopamine levels in the brain.

Thankfully, My Muscle Chef meals are packed with lean protein sources, colourful vegetables and wholefood types of carbs to offer you a filling range of nutrient dense meals which taste great and are sure to boost your dopamine levels!

My Muscle Chef | Healthy High Protein Meals

 

With this in mind, it’s easy to see that once you skip a meal, it’s easy to start feeling pretty rubbish! However, there is another factor that can significantly impact your hunger levels. One of the most common factors that impact on these hormone levels, what almost one third of the population does not receive adequate amounts of, is sleep!

According to research one should aim to receive more than 7 hours of sleep per night. Anything less than this is classified as sleep deprivation which can have negative effects on the body, particularly in leptin and ghrelin production.

Leptin is decreased with sleep deprivation, whereas ghrelin is increased, therefore one’s appetite may feel out of control and feel quite hangry (literally), potentially leading to increased food intake and contributing to weight gain. Higher ghrelin and lower leptin following sleep deprivation were correlated with increased hunger, especially for foods dense in fats and carbohydrates.

Decrease hunger levels by getting a good night's sleep

 

Top Tips For Tackling Your Appetite

With all of this in mind, what are the golden rules you can follow to manage your appetite hormones?

  1. Eat on a schedule. This may look different for everyone, but as a general rule, aiming for breakfast, morning tea, lunch, afternoon tea, and dinner is beneficial.
  2. Eat a high protein breakfast - even if you aren’t a breakfast fan, you will often see a shift in these hunger and fullness cues once you start adopting having breakfast.
  3. If you prefer not to have breakfast, make sure you’re eating enough protein for your mid morning snack or lunch meal.
  4. Ensure meals are balanced, containing lower GI carbohydrates (such as multigrain or whole grain products), lean proteins, healthy fats, and an abundance of colour and plant based foods.
  5. Ensure that you are receiving adequate sleep (more than 7 hours per night).
  6. Exercise regularly - aiming for up to 300 minutes of moderate physical activity per week as per the Australian physical activity guidelines.

Healthy High Protein Meals | My Muscle Chef

 

When it comes to avoiding ‘Hangry’, it all comes down to planning. Planning to ensure meals aren’t being skipped, regularly exercising and making it a part of your general routine and trying to plan to sleep at the same time every night.

Luckily for you, we can help with ensuring you have tasty and healthy meals ready in 90 seconds to make life just that little bit easier!