As you dive into your day, do you notice that you start to get hungry right before lunch time? What about as you’re driving home, thinking about dinner? We all get this and there are ways that you can fight that feeling of hunger to help you stay on track with eating right!
So what causes this hunger? When your stomach is empty, your body actually releases a hormone called Ghrelin. Although an empty stomach is the main reason that levels of Ghrelin rise, there are multiple culprits that can also cause this hormone to be released. Ever notice that you are hungrier when you’re drinking alcohol? That’s because alcohol actually triggers more Ghrelin to be released; so does eating fatty foods, greasy foods, and eating too few calories. These are all things that we should stay away from right? =)
There are a few different things that are simple to help keep your Ghrelin levels low throughout the day, so that you never get hit with that crazy hunger that makes you rush to the nearest drive through! Some of these strategies include: eating more complex carbs and fiber, eating a more substantial breakfast, eating on a regular schedule, eating more protein, and choosing low calorie foods that still fill you up!
The first strategy is to eat more complex carbs and fiber. When you eat simple/refined carbs, like bagels or pasta, your blood sugar rises quickly. When your blood sugar increases, your Ghrelin decreases. You’d think this is a good thing, but the problem is that as a result of a high blood sugar, your body surges with Insulin, which regulates and lowers the blood sugar very quickly. When this happens, you get hungrier faster. Having these ups and downs in your blood sugar also affect your metabolism by slowing it down! It’s better to eat complex carbs and fiber because these take longer to break down, so the release of sugar is much slower into the blood stream. Because the sugar in the blood stream does not spike as quickly, Insulin levels are kept at bay, which keeps Ghrelin levels low, which means that you’ll feel full longer!
Next, it is imperative to make sure that you have a substantial breakfast! One study actually showed that participants eating a higher calorie breakfast produced 33% LESS Ghrelin throughout the entire day! These same people also felt satisfied for a longer period of time in the morning. Remember, if your stomach is empty because you ate too small or no breakfast, Ghrelin levels will rise and you’ll be hungry before you know it!
Next, you have to eat on a regular schedule. If we know that Ghrelin levels rise and fall with usual mealtimes and a set schedule, if you eat in a regular schedule, then you can prevent spikes of Ghrelin and that insatiable hunger! What should you do if you can’t stick to that schedule all the time? When I’m out and about, I carry small baggies of nuts in my car and purse to munch on so that my stomach feels like it has something in it, until I can get home and have a good meal.
Next, protein protein protein! Research has shown that protein rich foods actually suppress Ghrelin levels and create a long lasting feeling of fullness! Try to put a little peanut butter on whole wheat toast in the morning or have a protein shake!
Last, make sure that you eat a lot of low calorie but high volume foods! This basically means eat a lot of food, like salad, soup, green veggies, or foods with a high water content! These foods reduce Ghrelin levels by filling up your stomach long before you’ve overeaten, without filling you with unnecessary calories!