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Hungry again soon after a meal?

6th March 2017

Have you ever eaten a meal and been really hungry again in no time at all?  You may find that this tends to happen after particular meals such as Chow Mein, Spaghetti Bolognese or fast foods such as McDonalds, Burger King etc.  Do you find yourself having cravings or snacking on bad foods?  Here’s the science behind it and what you can do to stop it:


Ghrelin and hunger

Our appetite is mainly controlled by a hormone called Ghrelin, which is released by gastric cells.  Ghrelin increases during fasting (empty stomach between meals) and prior to routine meal times.  It is Ghrelin that makes you feel hungry and it’s levels decrease following adequate food intake.


Ghrelin and cravings

Ghrelin stimulates the mesolimbic regions of the brain; the “reward centres” involved in both cravings and addiction.  Irregular or delayed eating routines can drive Ghrelin too high, leading to poor food choices to satisfy the reward centres.


Ghrelin wants just one thing: for you to eat healthily

If the food you consume does not contain the appropriate nutrients, your body will continue to release Ghrelin until you have eaten something that is nutrient dense.  You will therefore, continue to feel hungry if you haven’t eaten something adequate.  Similarly, Ghrelin increases when calorie intake decreases.  This is why low-calorie diets don’t work: they actually stimulate you to keep eating, leaving you always feeling hungry.



Leptin is another hormone that also has some control over appetite.  Leptin release increases when the body shifts towards fat storage.  A decrease in Leptin causes an increase in your appetite.  Obese and overweight people can develop Leptin resistance, which drives a strong appetite.  High levels of Insulin “masks” Leptin, leaving a person feeling constantly hungry.


Satiety and Macronutrients

Carbohydrates have a strong but short-lived effect on satiety.  Protein has been found to have the most significant effect on curbing appetite. Fats in isolation have a lower satiety effect than carbs, but due to energy density, they can lengthen the time before the onset of hunger.



If you eat nutrient dense foods at regular meal times, Ghrelin can be controlled (Chow Mein, Spaghetti Bolognese and fast foods are not nutrient dense).  Eat protein and some naturally occurring fats in every meal.  Limit carb consumption and only eat natural, non-starchy carbs. Do not have huge meals, as the amount of Insulin released is relevant to the amount of food consumed – you’re better off having 4 smaller meals throughout the day than 2 or 3 large meals.


Further reading:







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