I think that one of the worst “non-injury” related feelings in the world, next to being sleepy, is hunger. Unless it’s the evening and you’re binging a show and decide you’re hungry and need a snack, feelings of hunger can be uncomfortable, distracting and have an actual and measurable impact on your health, blood sugars and even you’re overall fitness.
So, what is hunger? At the most basic level, hunger is felt when your stomach is empty of content and your body releases certain hormones into the body that gives you that “hunger feeling.” Please don’t quote me, I’m not a doctor. But this is what was explained to me BY a doctor. So, there. But hunger is usually triggered when the stuff you need to properly keep your body up and running is running low. So it isn’t just that your stomach is empty, it also has a lot to do with your glucose and nutrients being low in your blood stream.
Now that I’m done telling you all that I’m not a doctor WHILE continuing to talk like one, let’s discuss what hunger does to you. When your body starts to run low on its necessities, it can start a number of processes. If you’re Diabetic, some of those processes won’t work well and if they do, will affect your overall blood sugars (like just about EVERYTHING does). If you’re performing exercise, the type of exercise you’re doing can have some detrimental effects, if you’re hungry.
I recently wrote about how working out on an empty stomach can actually CAUSE muscle loss, since the body will usually start by breaking down muscle tissue to compensate for the lack of energy needed for exercise. This doesn’t apply to ALL fitness situations. After all, working through a karate class on a full stomach can have some pretty detrimental effects, as well. On you AND the others in the dojo. But consistent and sustained cardio can often be better done on an empty stomach.
According to an article posted by WebMD, “the real trick to managing weight is to eat less, but not to feel hungry or deprived.” This is key, because it’s often been proven throughout the years that depriving yourself can lead to binging later, which is a definite slide backwards in your weight loss or fitness efforts. Kind of like me, when I hit a really bad low and I nearly empty out the fridge. But I digress…
The article goes on to suggest that if you’ve eaten less than 2 to 3 hours prior, your hunger likely isn’t genuine and suggests drinking a glass of water or eating a small, high-fibre snack in an effort to stave off real hunger until your next meal. I often try this tactic on my 6-year old, as he’ll claim hunger within an hour after eating until he’s full. Mild dehydration will cause similar symptoms to hunger, so sipping water is usually a big one for me.
The article caps off by providing a short list of tips, such as exercising portion control, eat high-fibre foods or foods bulky with water and air to feel more full, include lean proteins and avoid buffets as having more options will often lead to eating more than you need to. Portion control is important as people always tend to dish up more than they need. And taking the time to appreciate your meal is important, as well. If you watch television or read while you eat, you may want to consider putting a stop to that.
I’m really bad for doing the second one. In the past year, I always seem to spend my mealtime at home with a book in front of my face. Habits can be hard to break. The takeaway here is that your body is a machine and like all machines, requires fuelling, maintenance and care. Hunger can impact ALL of those aspects and as I mentioned in the opening paragraph, can be distracting when it’s important not to be, as well as reduce performance in key areas, such as fitness. Food for thought… (pun intended). ☯️