Hungry days, we all have them – you know the ones where you feel like you could eat the fridge empty and still be hungry! It’s completely normal to have fluctuations in hunger and appetite levels from day to day. The important thing is to tune in and respect your body’s cues telling you eat to eat. There is no single reason that explains why some days you are hungrier than others, most often it’s a combination of reasons, but here are a few of the more common ones for active people.
If you’ve had a big day of training and haven’t managed to match your food intake to your exercise load, chances are your body will try to “catch up” the deficit the next day. While this is ok, it’s also a sign that you most likely didn’t recover appropriately from your training session the day before. To avoid this, make sure that you eat and drink a suitable recovery meal soon after you finish exercising to maximise muscle refueling and repair.
Often our hungriest days are those with the least training - rest days or really light recovery days. On these days you are less likely to have any appetite suppression that comes as a side effect of hard training so often feel hungrier, despite being less active. Plus, you may also be ‘catching up’ from the previous day of hard training too (see above).
Rest days also come with more free time so it’s a good idea to check in on whether you actually are hungry or whether you just think you are hungry. Often we can convince ourselves that we’re hungry and food is the answer, when actually we’re just bored, procrastinating or killing time. So before you reach for the fridge, take a quick moment to check in on your appetite and hunger levels.
Healthy fats (such as those found in nuts!), quality protein and fibre are the most satisfying and filling nutrients to eat. As a result, if you have a meal or snack that lacks protein, healthy fats or fibre (e.g. a couple of slices of vegemite toast as you run out the door to work!) chances are that you won’t stay “full” for long and will soon be looking for something else to eat. As a one-off, this may not be a major issue, but if your meals continue to lack healthy fats, protein and fibre then the chances are you’ll start to feel like you’re in a constant state of insatiable hunger.
Sleep deprivation has been shown to affect circulating appetite hormones. In particular, poor sleep can lead to higher levels of the hunger hormone ghrelin leaving you feeling extra hungry after a poor night’s sleep. If your higher hunger levels come after a sleepless night, make sure that you fill your body with nutritious choices, rather than reach for quick energy hits such as sugary foods or energy drinks. It’s also a good idea to limit caffeine in the hours before bed to reduce the chances of an interrupted sleep.
- Contributed by Ali Patterson, Advanced Sports Dietitian -