Feeling hungry? 7 ways to manage your hunger

Written by Eva Gizowska

Do you feel hangry all the time? Healthista spoke to the experts – here’s what you can do to satisfy your hunger

Ever had one of those busy days where you skipped breakfast or lunch? Or maybe you are on a diet and you consciously cut back on what you eat?

Notice what happens to your mood? Does Hunger Make You Angry – Or Hangry?

“Generally feeling hungry is one thing,” says Rob Hobson, Head of Nutrition at supplement brand Healthspan.

“But if you go past that point and feel like you’re starving, it can really affect your mood, making you angry, snappy, and irritable.

“You are also more likely to eat fatty, sugary, stodgy, fast foods (eg chips, chocolates, chips) to satisfy your hunger and this can lead to unhealthy eating habits.”

How Hunger Affects Your Hormones

Not only does it make you difficult to be around, but letting hunger spiral out of control disrupts your physical and emotional balance.

‘When you get extremely hungry, the hormones in your body change,’ says Rob.

‘There’s a physiological reason for that. When you’re hungry and haven’t eaten in a while, your blood sugar (glucose) level drops. When blood sugar gets too low, your body produces the stress hormones, cortisol and adrenaline.

These help bring blood sugar levels back up, but a surge of stress hormones also puts you in ‘fight or flight’ mode, leaving you feeling more anxious, tense and angry.

When the blood sugar level gets too low, your body releases the stress hormones

“Low blood sugar also triggers the release of a chemical in the brain called neuropeptide Y, which can make you more aggressive and make you crave sugary carbohydrates for instant energy.”

While it’s okay to get a little hungry every now and then, it’s important not to get so hungry that it makes you hungry. Here are some tactics to keep ‘hanger’ at bay…

woman feeling hangry in restaurant

#1 Eat regularly

“If you’re prone to hangovers, the trick is to eat regularly and choose highly nutritious foods that will keep you feeling full for longer,” says nutritionist Rob Hobson.

‘You don’t even have to eat that much. The best foods are the ones that give you lasting energy. Focus on nutrient-rich foods – for example: vegetables, fresh fruits, nuts, seeds, whole grains, fish and lean meats.

‘If you combine proteins, healthy fats and fiber, you stay satiated longer. In addition, it is important to eat a varied diet to get a good balance between different nutrients.’

#2 Plan ahead

If you know you have a busy few days or weeks ahead of you, you may need to plan ahead. Ideally, make a list of all the things you’ll need and stock up well in advance.

For a quick nutritious breakfast – soak the oats, berries, nuts and seeds in the fridge the night before.

Grab a serving of last night’s leftovers (example: a slice of vegetable frittata) for lunch. Make sure you have the ingredients to make a quick, healthy evening meal.

overnight oats keep hunger pangs under control

#3 Eat protein with every meal

Protein makes you feel full for longer. It regulates blood sugar (by slowing the release of blood glucose into the bloodstream from carbohydrates) and increases metabolism.

a high-protein diet improves appetite control

Protein also increases the satiety hormone, leptin, and decreases levels of the hunger hormone, ghrelin. A recent study (published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 2015) showed that a high-protein diet improves appetite control.

Good sources of protein are chickpeas, nuts, seeds, quinoa, lentils, tofu, lean meats, poultry, fish, yogurt, cheese, eggs.

#4 Fight hunger with healthy fats

‘Eating healthy fats boosts metabolism, increases fat burning and satiates your appetite, making you less hungry,’ says Rob.

‘You also need good fats for healthy hormone production. Your best tactic is to combine protein-rich foods with healthy fats and fiber to keep you feeling full.”

Foods high in healthy fats include fatty fish such as wild mackerel, salmon, sardines, tuna and herring, chia seeds, flaxseeds (pre-soaked), nuts and seeds, olive oil, yogurt and avocado.

salmon and avocado on toast

#5 Carry portable healthy snacks

“When you’re pottering around, it’s tempting to grab every sweet snack you can get your hands on,” says nutritionist Rick Hay.

“But this only leads to a sugar crash later, making you even hungrier and more irritable.”

Balance blood sugar with these healthy snacks:

#6 Keep the stress level low

If you’re insanely busy, you’re probably also very stressed. That’s not a good combination when it comes to keeping the pendant under control.

Stress automatically triggers an increase in cortisol and adrenaline, which causes a drop in blood sugar, exacerbating mood swings and food cravings. In addition to getting hungry, you’re also more likely to struggle with your weight.

“During chronic stress, cortisol suppresses an enzyme, hormone-sensitive lipase, so that fat breakdown is blocked, making it more difficult to lose weight,” said Dr Sarah Brewer, Healthspan’s medical director.

Stress can also lead to comfort eating in an effort to replenish energy stores

‘This can be a survival mechanism to conserve energy supplies in difficult times. Stress can also lead to comfort eating in an effort to replenish energy reserves.’

dr. Brewer recommends the following tactics for dealing with stress:

  • Supplement stress-causing nutrients.

These include magnesium, also known as “nature’s tranquilizer,” vitamin C, and B vitamins — which are used up faster when you’re stressed.

Try: Healthspan Magnesium with Vitamin B Complex.

  • Talk to someone (for example: therapist, friend) who can help you deal with your emotions.
  • Take an herbal remedy like passionflower or valerian root to help your body better manage stress.

Try A.Vogel Passiflora Complex Tablets – contain soothing passionflower, lemon balm, valerian and magnesium.

  • Practice yoga, meditation, mindfulness, listen to relaxing music, laugh regularly and spend time with friends.

woman in bath

#7 Get enough sleep

“Stress hormones normally drop while you sleep,” says Rob.

“But when you have trouble sleeping, cortisol levels stay high, sugar levels drop, and you wake up tired, irritable, and moody.

‘Sleep deprivation also lowers leptin, the appetite suppressant hormone, and raises levels of ghrelin, the ‘hunger hormone’. So you’re more likely to go hungry and overeat.’

One study (King’s College London, 2016) found that a lack of sleep caused people to eat an extra 385 calories (on average) the next day.

Try the below to help your sweet quality and quantity:

  • Practice some form of relaxation before bed, such as yoga, meditation, or breathing exercises.
  • Take a warm bath with magnesium flakes or Epsom salts to relax you before bed.
  • Avoid stimulant drinks such as coffee, tea, and energy drinks for six hours before going to sleep.
  • Turn off all electronic gadgets at least an hour before going to bed.
  • Keep your room and bedding cool.
  • Herbal remedies such as Valerian root, 5-HTP and CBD can also help
  • Try the Sleepio app now used by the NHS to help with insomnia and sleep problems.