Constant fatigue and hunger can be the culprit for your inability to focus or carry out everyday tasks. Both are more than likely temporary and caused by the same factors. Let’s break down five main reasons you may have this constant feeling of sleepiness and hungry starting.
1. Poor Diet
Poor diet can lead to both hunger and tiredness. This can be a result of malnutrition. Most people when hearing the word malnutrition automatically think of third world countries. However, being malnourished is very much a real worldwide concern. What I mean by this is that you simply are following an unbalanced diet or are eating below the minimum daily recommended calorie intake. This calorie amount of course varies based on factors such as height, weight, gender, activity levels, and other biological factors. Not taking in enough nutrients or energy for that matter can of course leave you feeling hungry and tired simply due to not providing your body the fuel it needs and craves to function optimally. The key is to eat a balanced diet full of good sources of protein, healthy fats and carbs, dietary fiber, and of course plenty of water. Eating a balanced diet will leave you feeling overall better with more energy and more than likely higher quality of sleep.
2. Lack of Sleep
The most obvious is lack of sleep. Sleep is of course required for proper brain and immune system function. But what most don’t know is that sleep actually plays a role and is a factor when it comes to appetite control. Sleep helps regulate the appetite-stimulating hormone, ghrelin, also referenced as the hunger hormone. What happens is when you don’t get enough of sleep, ghrelin levels increase, essentially ghrelin is punching you in the face, which is why you may feel hungrier than usual when over tired or sleep deprived. Another hormone that is an important factor in controlling hunger is leptin, which is the hormone responsible for the feeling of fullness. Getting enough sleep helps regulate leptin levels, so lack of sleep naturally leaves your levels lower than normal, which means your satiety gauge is malfunctioning. To keep your hunger levels in check, it is imperative and recommended you get at least eight hours of quality sleep each night.
3. Not Eating Enough Protein
If you have been following me for a while now you have heard me say time and time again how important protein is for, not only your overall health, but for weight loss as well. According to the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, “potential beneficial outcomes associated with protein ingestion include the following: 1) increased satiety; 2) increased thermogenesis—higher protein diets are associated with increased thermogenesis, which also influences satiety and augments energy expenditure; 3) maintenance or accretion of fat-free mass—in some individuals, a moderately higher protein diet may provide a stimulatory effect on muscle protein anabolism, favoring the retention of lean muscle mass while improving metabolic profile.” So, what in the world does all that mean? Simply put, protein has a higher thermic effect of food, which essentially means the amount of energy used to digest or process food for use or storage. Protein helps boost your basal metabolic rate (the measurement of the calories needed to perform your body’s basic functions, such as the beating of your heart, breathing, and cell reproduction). This is the main reason protein helps you stay fuller longer – it takes a super long time to digest. Depending on how much protein you consume, it can take upwards of 4-7 hours to fully breakdown and process. For this reason, consuming a diet rich in protein can result in greater fullness throughout the day and less obsessing about food.
4. Not Drinking Enough Water or Dehydration
Proper hydration is of course important to your overall health, but it is also important in helping you control your hunger. Water is actually quite filling and has the potential to fill up your belly and help you to feel fuller longer. This is a good way to control your appetite when consumed before meals. According to the Mayo Clinic, “it is recommended that women drink 11 ½ cups of water daily and men drink 15 ½ cups daily.” I bet these amounts are higher than you were expecting. Well, it is actually quite easier than you think to get your water in! One way is to eat water-rich foods, such as fruits and vegetables, which will contribute to your overall hydration needs. The second way to help get your water in is to drink water before meals. Also, often times we confuse our thirst and hunger signals. This is not to say our brains can’t tell the difference between hunger and thirst, it actually can distinguish between the two, the confusions often happens when we ignore those signals long enough where now the symptoms (growling or empty stomach) become the same. So, when you feel as though you may be hungry, it may help to drink a glass or two of water, wait it out a bit to find out if you were truly thirsty. Be conscious and aware of your water intake to ensure you are taking in at least the recommended amounts to reap the benefits!
5. Overly Stressed
Excess stress leads to an increase in appetite. This occurs more so in the sympathetic nervous system response to stress. This is essentially your “fight or flight” response to stress. So, why is that? Why does this response increase your appetite? Well, what happens is that when you have an excess level of stress, or have a sympathetic response to stress, your cortisol hormone (stress hormone released by the adrenal glands) your hunger and food cravings have a spike. This make sense, right? Your body thinks it is running or fighting for its life so it needs immediate energy to do just that. This is one of the main reasons you often times crave for the “junky” foods, because those foods provide that instant energy spike (sugar) to give you that immediate boost you need to fight or flight. What also happens when you have this increase levels of cortisol are you may gain weight, have low energy levels, negatively affect your mood, and so much more. These factors are among the contributors of “stress eating.” Stress eating is a very real thing! There are many strategies to help reduce and manage stress that you can incorporate into your every day lives and routines that doesn’t have to take up a ton of time. These include things such as deep breathing, exercise, meditation, yoga, reading, and so much more. Find what you enjoy most and what works for you.
The moral of the story here is that feeling constant hunger and tiredness is a sure sign that your body needs more energy (calories) and water. This feeling is often a result of an imbalance of hormones, a malnourished diet, and leading an unhealthy lifestyle. If you fall into this category of a constant feeling of hunger and being tired, the first thing I would suggest you do is to assess your diet and lifestyle to see if there are small changes you can make to help you feel overall better. More often than not, a quick change to your dietary lifestyle and sleep may do the trick!