Why You’re Always Hungry & What Your Body is Really Craving

Why You’re Always Hungry & What Your Body is Really Craving

Are you constantly battling the urge to raid the pantry, even after a full meal? You're not alone! Let's learn more about one of our body's most complex feelings — hunger.

Are you constantly battling the urge to raid the pantry, even after a full meal? You're not alone! In an age of constant contact, content consumption, and endless dopamine, it’s no surprise that sometimes it’s hard to figure out just what we’re hungry for. The relentless feeling of hunger can be puzzling and frustrating, but don’t stress. Backed by our resident registered dietitian, Connie Weissmuller, we’ve rounded up a little hunger 101 to help you better understand the underlying reasons why you're always hungry and provide practical tips to get better in tune with what your body is really craving.

What is hunger?

In order to understand why we’re hungry, we first have to understand what hunger is. Despite feeling hunger in our bellies, our stomachs are not solely responsible for that craving to eat. Instead, you can thank the same system responsible for puberty, metabolism and blood sugar control -– your endocrine system. The feeling of hunger is caused by a cascade of hormones that work together to signal the body to eat. Hunger levels vary depending on a person’s age, gender, activity level, stress level, medication usage, and past or current dieting history.


Understanding the Hunger Hormones

At the core of our appetite regulation are two key hormones: ghrelin and leptin. Ghrelin, often referred to as the "hunger hormone," stimulates appetite and signals to the brain when it's time to eat. On the other hand, leptin, known as the "satiety hormone," communicates feelings of fullness and suppresses hunger.

Needless to say, hunger is complex! Here’s a few things that may help you understand why you have that nagging hunger more than you’d like.


5 Sneaky Factors That Impact Hunger

1.You need to eat more

Did you know that the well-known 1,200 calories per day actually came from the diet industry? In fact, that number is actually more sufficient for a child than an adult. The average adult needs more 1,200 calories a day to properly nourish their body and keep its many complex systems functioning. The new recommendation isn’t an average at all, because every person’s needs are unique. Despite this, restrictive diets have completely normalized undereating, causing many people to eat way too little. Your body, like your routine, is not the same every day and so it’s normal to feel hungrier some days than others. Hunger is a cue that should be listened to, not ignored. Not eating enough can send your body into starvation mode, which is a spooky place to be. Quite simply, food = calories = energy your body needs to function. You wouldn’t drive your car on empty, so do yourself a favor and fuel on up!

2. You need the proper nutrients

Okay, eating enough calories is just the start, but all nutrients are not made the same! Have you ever been annoyed at getting hungry an hour after you ate? Many times, this is because what you ate wasn’t a complete meal. In order for food to qualify as a complete meal, it needs a combination of carbohydrates, protein, and fat. This keeps the body full and satisfied. A diet lacking in protein, fat, and fiber can leave you feeling unsatisfied and perpetually hungry. These nutrients play crucial roles in promoting satiety and stabilizing blood sugar levels. Incorporate protein-rich foods like lean meats, legumes, and nuts, along with fiber-packed fruits, vegetables, and whole grains into your meals to keep hunger at bay. Not sure if what you’re eating is complete? Remember this easy formula: Carbs + Protein + Fat = Complete Meal = Full & Happy

3. You are waiting too long between meals

While every body is different, it’s quite normal for people to get hungry every 2-4 hours. Some people can operate on solely three complete meals a day, but it’s more common that the body needs supplemental energy between full meals. Which leads us to one of our favorite things: snacks! Good news: snacks are actually encouraged, and often essential for the body to feel and function its best. Despite studies on intermittent fasting, skipping meals or prolonged periods of fasting can disrupt hunger hormones and increase appetite. If we skip snacks, we may end up ravenous by the time we eat our next meal, leading us to overeat and feel lethargic. Aim for balanced meals and snacks at regular intervals throughout the day to maintain steady energy levels and prevent excessive hunger.

4. You need more sleep

We all know sleep is important. Whether or not we get enough hours in has a big impact on our mood, energy levels and, you guessed it — hunger. Skimping on sleep can disrupt the delicate balance of our hunger and fullness hormones. Some research shows limited sleep is associated with higher hunger hormones, ghrelin, and lower fullness hormones, leptin. Of course, we all would love to get the 7-8 hours of quality sleep each night needed to support optimal appetite regulation and reduce cravings throughout the day, but hey no one is perfect! On days when you’ve had little sleep the night before, make sure to prioritize hydration and a healthy, nutrient-dense diet to get you through till your next snooze.

5. You're stressed

Yes, stress eating, or emotional eating, is a real thing. Although unfairly overdramatized in 90’s movies (re:not all women crave Ben & Jerry’s after a breakup), eating as a coping mechanism is a very real thing for people of all ages and backgrounds (and it’s not even often our fault). With the increased demands and pressures of the modern world (hello, 7% inflation and 23% unemployment), our generation’s stress levels continue to climb every year, impacting our appetites and overall health. When we feel stress, our bodies release cortisol, a hormone that can stimulate appetite and promote cravings for high-calorie foods. It’s highly unlikely you’ll be able to avoid all stress-inducing triggers, but you can minimize them & learn how to cope. Try downsizing clutter, cutting out toxic relationships and adopt stress-reducing techniques such as meditation, deep breathing exercises, or engaging in hobbies to manage emotional eating and prevent mindless snacking.


Feeling hungry all the time can be frustrating, but just remember there are so many factors that impact our appetite — and it’s completely normal for our appetite to fluctuate (within a reasonable amount). One of the easiest ways to manage hunger is to make sure you’re incorporating nutrient-dense foods that keep our body satisfied into your diet. The best foods to keep you full and satisfied are foods rich in protein (plant or animal), unsaturated fats, and whole grains. 

Another great option? JOVA. Filled with oats, nuts, and other nutrient-dense whole ingredients, JOVA smoothies pack in over 20g of protein and more than 10g of fiber, silencing stomach grumbles and keeping you full up to 5 hours. Lastly, remember it's normal to feel hungry! It means your body is doing its thing. That’s why it’s important to always listen to your body and eat when you're truly hungry. If you're concerned about your hunger levels or eating habits, consider speaking with a healthcare professional or registered dietitian for personalized advice. Happy eating! 😊