20 Reasons You Feel Hungry After Eating

July 29, 2022   •  Posted in: 

Have you ever felt you’re still hungry, no matter what you eat? If you have, you know how frustrating that can be, especially when you don’t understand why. Anything from lifestyle, dietary health, or physical health could be at play, so it’s good to learn what signs to look for to determine if it could be a more severe problem.

This guide will help you do just that.

Below are 20 reasons you could still feel hungry after eating, and some simple steps to address anything that may be a negative issue. These 20 reasons fall under three main categories: dietary health, physical health, and lifestyle.

 

Dietary Health

The first reasons for why you may be hungry after eating have to do with dietary issues, and can be the easiest to address.

1. Eating Enough Food

You may still be hungry after eating because you may not have eaten enough food throughout the day. Your body needs a certain amount of calories each day to function correctly. If you do not eat enough food throughout the day, you may not feel full even after you finally eat.

An easy way to address this is by learning how many calories your body needs and calculating your intake of calories over a week. By recording this information, you will likely see where you need to adjust your eating to match what is required by your body. You can figure out this number using a free calorie calculator.

2. Protein

Some of the most popular diets tout the importance of protein, and for a good reason. Science shows that meals with a higher portion of protein were more likely to generate feelings of fullness than those favoring carbs or fats. This process works because protein helps trigger the production of hormones that tell you, “you’re full,” and reduces hormones that tell you, “you’re hungry.”

You don’t have to look far for foods to increase your protein intake, no matter what dietary needs you may have. Those with vegetarian dietary restrictions can choose from plant-based proteins and dairy. In contrast, those without dietary restrictions can increase their protein intake with animal products like beef, poultry, pork, or dairy products like eggs, cheese, and milk.

3. Fiber

Another reason you may feel hungry after eating is the lack of fiber in your diet. While fiber is considered a carbohydrate, your body does not digest fiber. Also, fiber sets off hormones like GLP-1 and PYY, which both help suppress appetite.

Be aware, however, not all fiber is created equal. When looking for fiber to help keep you feeling full, look for the soluble fiber or the kind that can dissolve in water. Then, you could either add fiber supplements that mix in your drinks, or increase your intake of foods that are sources of soluble fiber, like oatmeal, sweet potato, Brussel sprouts, oranges, and flaxseeds.

High-fiber diets have also been linked to reduced risks of obesity, heart disease, and diabetes. [1]

4. Refined Carbs

Eating too many refined carbohydrates is another reason you may feel hungry after eating. They have fewer good nutrients like fiber, vitamins, and minerals, and they also cause spikes in blood sugar, leading to increased insulin levels.

The most common source of refined carbs is white flour, found in bread, pasta, etc. Also, foods with processed sugars like candy or soda will react similarly. When there is a sudden rush of high blood sugar from eating refined carbs or processed sugars, insulin does its job by removing sugar from the blood. This false signal, sent within your body repeatedly, can lead to hypoglycemia or a sudden drop in blood sugar levels.

The other complication of low blood sugar is that it sends the message you need more food because there are no nutrients in these foods that your body needs. So, your body processes the little bit that is substance and discards the rest.

The answer is to reduce the number of refined carbs and processed sugars you consume, replacing them with nutrient-rich foods like whole grains, beans, vegetables, and fruit.

5. Too little fat

A great way to feel fuller at the end of your meal is to include fats in your diet; however, many people eliminate fats altogether when losing weight. Unfortunately, this elimination of fats leads to more hunger since fat is a crucial way to keep you feeling full. In addition, because of its slow processing time, fat remains in the stomach longer than other foods quickly broken down by the body. Worse yet, a diet low in fat has been linked to higher obesity rates since lower fat leads to higher cravings for carbs and high-sugar foods. [2]

The key to addressing this problem is finding and adding “good fats,” or medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs) and omega-3 fatty acids, which can help reduce appetite.

The best natural way to find MCT is in coconut oil. In addition, foods like fish, walnuts, or flaxseeds are excellent sources of omega-3s, and avocado, olive oil, eggs, and yogurt are good sources to add more fat to your diet.

6. Dehydration

Properly hydrating is another way to promote feelings of fullness. One study showed that 14 people who drank 2 cups of water before a meal ate almost 600 fewer calories than those who didn’t drink any water. [3] Water promotes the feeling of fullness in your body, which is why many people are encouraged to try and drink water if they feel hungry, to narrow down whether lack of water has something to do with that hunger feeling.

Water doesn’t just work to keep you feeling full; it also helps your brain and heart health and helps you perform better in sports and exercise.

The simplest way to remedy this form of hunger is to drink more water. Another effective way is to eat more water-heavy foods like fruits and vegetables.

7. Excessive Alcohol

Consumption of alcohol stimulates your appetite by inhibiting the hormones that work to reduce your appetite, like leptin.

It is even more prevalent when you drink alcohol before or with your meals. Studies conducted on alcohol’s effect on diet showed that those who drank alcohol before a meal ate 10% more calories than those who didn’t or drank less. [4]

The other complicating factor with drinking too much alcohol is it weakens the part of the brain that helps with self-control and judgment. This issue alone can lead to poor nutrition choices, which could leave you feeling hungry.

The best way to address this is to either reduce or avoid alcohol altogether.

8. Liquid-Based Calories

In some cases, it may not be what is missing in your diet but rather how you’re consuming your calories, which leads to a feeling of hunger after eating. For example, eating a liquid diet mostly of smoothies, meal-replacement shakes, and soups will leave your body wanting more. The science behind this lies in the way the body uses food. Your body breaks down solid food over time, which leads to a fuller stomach feeling; eating a liquid diet, on the other hand, doesn’t leave much time for the body to “work on” digesting, so it is processed quickly.

As we learned before, the quicker your food is processed, the faster it empties from the gut, and the quicker you will feel hungry. Also, studies have shown that liquid foods don’t trigger the same result of hunger-promoting hormones that solid foods do.

One study proved that people who ate a liquid snack also ate 400 more calories, on average, throughout the day than those that ate a solid snack. [5]

Again, the fix is to incorporate more solid foods into your diet.

 

Physical Health

Your physical health also plays an integral role in whether you feel full or not. For example, certain diseases or existing factors in your body could leave you feeling hungry after eating.

1. High Blood Sugar/Insulin Resistance

As we mentioned earlier, high blood sugar levels affect whether or not you feel full, mainly because of the role of insulin. When people are born with insulin resistance, it means their insulin is not regulating their blood sugar. When this happens, and there are sugar variations, it will affect whether your “hungry” hormones are triggered or not.

Dealing with this type of issue requires a review by a doctor to manage. A doctor will likely recommend dietary changes or medicines to control insulin.

2. Stretch Receptors

Another component of feeling full is your stomach’s stretch receptors, which help you feel full during and after meals. These receptors monitor how far your stomach stretches and send messages to the brain that you are full. However, they do not determine the nutritional value of what you’ve eaten, only volume, and they are only short-term messengers.

In cases like this, adding more volume to your meal without too many calories is ideal. Foods like fresh vegetables and protein like turkey or chicken breast have the added component of water, which we’ve already shown can be increased to make you feel full. Even though these foods are to promote short-term fullness, they also tend to have added fiber, which we’ve already noted promotes long-term full feelings.

3. Leptin Resistance

Leptin is the critical hormone that lets your brain know you are full, so people with leptin resistance could be left feeling hungry, even after they’ve eaten a full meal. Fat cells produce leptin, so typically those with higher fat mass experience an increase of leptin in the blood. However, even though there is enough leptin in the blood, your brain might not recognize it, so you will not get a “stop eating” message.

Some have seen lessened effects of this through regular physical activity, a lower-sugar /high-fiber diet, and increased sleep. However, this is still a complex issue that needs to be addressed by a physician.

4. Diabetes

An even more profound cause of frequent hunger after eating could be a sign of a disease like diabetes. If you are constantly feeling hungry, no matter what you eat, it may be a symptom of diabetes. Hunger is one of the main symptoms, but if you also suffer from weight loss, fatigue, or excessive thirst, it’s time to consult a doctor.

5. Hyperthyroidism

Hyperthyroidism is a disease associated with increased hunger and involves an overactive, or hyper, thyroid. An excess of thyroid hormones increases your feelings of hunger. In this case, as well, consult a physician to mitigate symptoms.

6. Hypoglycemia

The opposite side of the spectrum, hypoglycemia, is a disease that causes low blood sugar levels. As noted before, lower blood sugar signals the hunger hormones and causes hungry feelings. This issue is further exacerbated by eating foods high in sugar and refined carbohydrates. Hypoglycemia has also been linked to kidney failure and type 2 diabetes. If you suspect you may have signs of this, seek guidance from a physician immediately.

 

Lifestyle

Aside from the key factors above, several behavioral factors may explain why you feel hungry after eating.

1. Distracted Eating

Some studies indicate those who eat while distracted will feel less satisfied and have a greater need to eat throughout the day. [6] You may use eating as an opportunity to multi-task, but if you find yourself needing to eat all the time, you may need to look at how and when you eat. Distracted eating can be detrimental to your health. It’s associated with greater appetite, increased calorie intake, and weight gain.

This issue occurs because your mind is working on other things rather than regulating your hunger when distracted. As a result, you will miss your body’s natural cues to stop eating.

The best fix for this is to practice mindfulness while eating. Try not to use electronic devices, and only eat. Focus on eating and listen to your body’s messages to know you’re full.

2. Quick Eating

Anyone who has kids says this repeatedly: “Slow down and chew your food before swallowing, or you’re going to choke!” Rapid eating can do more damage than distracted eating. If you eat too quickly, you will not give your body enough time to tell you it is full.

Practice mindful eating to combat eating your food too quickly.

3. Stress

To comfort themselves, many people who experience stress tend to gravitate towards higher-calorie foods, also known as comfort foods. However, along with the sugar spikes and valleys experienced by eating higher-calorie foods, stress also increases cortisol, which causes hunger.

If you often feel overwhelmed or stressed, yoga, regular exercise or meditation can help alleviate those feelings and are vital practices that can improve overall health and stress.

4. Excessive Exercise

The other side of the spectrum includes those who feel hungry after eating due to excessive exercise. This extreme activity could point to more significant problems, so make sure the excessive exercise is not because of an existing mental health issue, such as an eating disorder. You should speak to a mental health specialist to rule out such a mental health condition.

But if it is not due to a mental health issue, such as an eating disorder, excessive exercising could have you wanting more food, because of the volume of calories expended while over-exercising.

To combat this, count your calorie needs again. Since your calorie need is driven, in part, by activity level, redefining your calorie need when your activity level changes are imperative.

If an increase in calories is warranted, make sure to add the correct foods, like those high in fiber, to make you feel full. But, of course, the other more obvious solution is to reduce activity.

5. Lack of Sleep

Sleep is linked to many health benefits, mainly because it gives your body a chance to self-regulate. Hormone levels are greatly affected by lack of sleep. One of the appetite-stimulating hormones, ghrelin, is higher in people with less sleep.

Also, it’s not just about getting enough sleep; it’s also about getting good sleep. Your brain and immune system just won’t work well without sleep, and improved sleeping habits have been linked to a lowered risk of heart disease and cancer. [7]

Try turning off electronics a little earlier and read a book. Having time away from screens before you sleep will help your body transition to sleeping quicker and promote a night of more restful sleep.

6. You’re taking certain medications

Finally, certain medications can leave you feeling hungry after eating. The most common appetite-inducing medications include antipsychotics, such as clozapine and olanzapine, antidepressants, mood stabilizers, corticosteroids, and antiseizure drugs. [8] In addition, many diabetes medications can affect hunger and appetite.

If you think this may cause your constant hunger, it’s time to make an appointment to talk with a physician. They may be able to recommend diet changes or medication changes to address your constant hunger.

 

Conclusion

If you feel hungry, your body is telling you to give it more food; however, an imbalance of hormones or disease could also play a part.

If you often feel like you need to eat more, it may be time to assess your diet and lifestyle. In other cases, you may need to consult a therapist to see if your constant hunger is linked to a more profound question about your mental health. Asking questions with any physician or therapist is always recommended if you aren’t sure.

If you want to rule out any mental health issues, give us a call. At The Center • A Place of HOPE, we can offer guidance for your next steps.


[1] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19335713
[2] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3139783/
[3] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25893719
[4] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15059684
[5] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3278240/
[6] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3607652/
[7] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2845795/

Dr. Gregory Jantz

Pioneering Whole Person Care over thirty years ago, Dr. Gregory Jantz is an innovator in the treatment of mental health. He is a best-selling author of over 45 books, and a go-to media authority on behavioral health afflictions, appearing on CBS, ABC, NBC, Fox, and CNN. Dr. Jantz leads a team of world-class, licensed, and...

Read More

Related Posts

Signs That You Are Stressed

By: Dr. Gregory Jantz  •  May 30, 2016

The symptoms of stress can show up in unexpected ways.  Consider the following questions and whether you’re experiencing any of the following signs of a stress-filled life: What is your current resting heart rate? Stress leaves you energized and may cause you to have difficulty relaxing, so your heart may...

Is Food an Issue for You?

By: Dr. Gregory Jantz  •  April 17, 2017

To help you understand if food has moved out of its God-given realm and into an inappropriate place in your life, answer the following questions, and be sure to explain why you answer the way you do.

Guilt, Fear, Shame, and Eating Disorders

By: Dr. Gregory Jantz  •  April 20, 2015

Three toxic yet common accompaniments to eating disorders are fear, guilt and shame. These emotions are often a response to a pain or trauma in a person’s life and deeply intertwined with that person’s disordered eating patterns. Let’s dig into these three emotions a little deeper. Fear If you grew...

Get Started Now

"*" indicates required fields

Name*
Main Concerns*
This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

Whole Person Care

The whole person approach to treatment integrates all aspects of a person’s life:

  • Emotional well-being
  • Physical health
  • Spiritual peace
  • Relational happiness
  • Intellectual growth
  • Nutritional vitality