Are you regularly asking yourself, “Why do I feel hungry after eating?” Sometimes, a snack or a meal just isn’t enough to keep your belly from rumbling a short time later. Try these 10 ways to make your meals more satisfying and filling!
While inconvenient, to say the least, constant hunger can make you feel like something is wrong! After eating a full meal, you’d expect hunger to stay away for several hours.
While it’s not necessary to follow strict meal times, a nutrient-dense and filling meal should keep you full for anywhere from 4-6 hours. If you’re new to practicing intuitive eating and trying to listen to and honor your hunger and fullness signals, constant hunger can make you feel like you’re doing it wrong, making it hard to trust your body.
Let’s break down what hunger is, some reasons you may still feel hungry after eating, and how you can end your meal feeling satisfied for several hours.
** Please note that this is not medical advice and is not a substitute for an eating disorder treatment plan. If you have an eating disorder or suspect an eating disorder or suspect a more serious medical condition leading to polyphagia or an out-of-control feeling around food, seek advice from your doctor and medical team!
What is hunger?
Hunger is a craving or feeling the need for food. We need calories, aka energy, each day to fuel our brains and bodies and keep us alive. Physical hunger can show up in several ways, such as stomach growling, weakness, headaches, or generally low energy.
Wondering if your hunger is an actual physical need for food? It could be something else. There are four types of hunger, including physical hunger, emotional hunger, taste hunger, and practical hunger. Here, we’re focusing mainly on the physical feeling of needing food.
Many processes are happening in the body that lets you know when it’s time to eat. When it’s been a couple of hours since you’ve had a meal, your blood sugar drops, and your stomach tells your brain that you need food by releasing the hormone ghrelin.
Satiety, or fullness, happens when we eat and no longer feel hungry. Your body releases the hormone leptin after meals to let the brain know when you’re full and have had enough food. This back and forth of ghrelin and leptin makes us feel hunger and fullness.
If you’re feeling hunger pangs shortly after eating a meal or snack, there could be more at play. Meal composition, the amount of food you’re eating, how you’re eating, and other lifestyle factors can cause you to feel hungry right after eating.
10 reasons you still feel hungry after eating
1. You’re not eating enough
As simple as it may sound, you may not be eating enough food to feel satisfied. Everyone has unique energy needs for their own body and lifestyle. When you don’t get enough nutrients during the day, you’re bound to feel hungry, even shortly after eating.
Try experimenting with more calorie-dense foods. If you feel as though you couldn’t eat more in one sitting, but hunger quickly strikes, simple changes such as full-fat Greek yogurt rather than fat-free, or using cooking oils instead of low-calorie cooking spray can pack more energy into the same volume of food.
2. You’re eating high-volume, low-energy food
Eating tons of fruits and veggies is part of a balanced diet. However, these foods make it easy to eat a lot of volume without taking in a lot of calories. High-volume, low-energy foods are generally higher in water and lower in fat and protein, which can lower satiety.
You may feel like you are eating a ton of food and may feel full for a short time with these high-volume, low-energy foods, but the feeling won’t last long.
Filling up on these foods but depriving your body of calories can strike the urge to binge on food later in the day when your body has an urgent need for lost calories.
Create balance in your meals and snacks with protein, fat, and starchy carbs, along with low-starch fruits and vegetables. For a healthful snack that will leave you feeling full, try foods like cottage cheese, hummus, or guacamole, along with fruits and vegetables, to give them more staying power.
3. You’re not eating enough fiber
Fiber, specifically soluble fiber, expands in your stomach after eating, which can keep you fuller for longer, among other health benefits. It also has the added benefit of slowing down the digestive process, leading to a longer, more stable release of energy from your food.
Foods such as oranges, carrots, beans, chia seeds, and oatmeal are high in soluble fiber.
4. You’re not eating enough protein
Protein is the most satiating macronutrient. If your meals and snacks fall short in the protein department, your stomach may be rumbling quickly after eating.
While meat and poultry are excellent protein sources, you don’t have to rely solely on these foods to fill you up. Dairy, eggs, beans, lentils, nuts, seeds, and a variety of grains and vegetables can help you meet your protein needs at each meal.
Adding extra protein to your meals and snacks by incorporating protein powder, Greek yogurt, lean meats, or nuts and seeds into things you may already be eating is an easy way to boost your satiety levels.
If you start your day with a bowl of oatmeal, like I often do, try one of these 10 ways to add more protein to your oats for a satisfying breakfast that will leave you full all morning!
5. You’re not eating enough fat
Eating fat with your meals promotes satiety and may help to regulate appetite. Adding fat with fiber and protein creates balanced meals and snacks that will satisfy you.
Nuts and seeds, olive oil, avocado, fatty fish, full-fat yogurt, and eggs are all high-fat, nutrient-rich foods to include at meals and snacks if you have a tough time staying full after eating.
6. You’re distracted while eating
Are you watching TV or scrolling through your phone while eating? We’ve all been there! Unfortunately, distracted eating is linked to lower feelings of fullness, even after a meal is completed. Checking in with how food feels in your body can help you to feel satisfied by the food and satiated (full), meeting taste fullness and physical fullness at the same time.
This can be especially helpful if you often feel hungry and full at the same time. You may have met your physical fullness level, but either distraction or not eating something satisfying leaves you wanting more.
You can stay present while eating by scheduling distraction-free eating times, putting away your phone, and checking in with yourself during mealtimes. If that’s just not possible, I like to do a quick, mid-meal check-in when about half the food is gone. Even just a few minutes of mindfulness while eating can make a difference!
7. You’re eating too fast
When you feel super hungry, trying to eat a meal as fast as you can can be easy. But research suggests that eating too fast may be related to eating more food while feeling less satisfied.
A small 2010 study found that eating ice cream over the course of 5 minutes or 30 minutes made a difference in fullness levels. When the same amount was eaten over 5 minutes, the volunteers reported feeling less full as opposed to when the same amount was eaten over 30 minutes.
Peptides in the gut were also measured, and those that cause feelings of fullness were found at higher levels after eating over the course of 30 minutes versus over 5 minutes, matching the fullness levels of the volunteers.
So, instead of scarfing your food down as quickly as you can, take the time to enjoy your meal or snack to help your body catch up to what you’re eating and allow your fullness levels to match the energy eaten.
8. You’re not in tune with your hunger and fullness cues
Thanks to how strong diet culture is in our society, you may feel as though you can’t trust your body to let you know when it’s time to start and stop eating.
This distrust may lead you to feel unsatisfied and still hungry after eating what you think you should be eating based on diet rules. Intuitive eating and learning to honor your hunger and fullness can help you eat the right amount of food for your body at the moment and stay full for hours afterward.
9. You’re not sleeping well
Remember ghrelin and leptin, your hunger and fullness hormones? Studies have shown that sleep-deprived people may have increased ghrelin and decreased leptin levels.
If you’re not sleeping well, you may feel more hungry and less satisfied, even when eating regular meals.
Prioritizing sleep by having a regular sleep routine can help regulate your hunger hormones, among other stress-reducing benefits.
10. You’re exercising more than usual
If you’ve been loving a new workout or taking more walks as the seasons change, you’re likely burning more energy than you’re used to. Exercise breaks down the muscle in our bodies and burns through carbohydrate and calorie stores.
To remind you to refuel after exercise to repair muscle and replenish carbohydrates, your body may send out stronger hunger signals than usual. But you might not feel them for a couple of days.
Depending on the type of exercise, hunger signals may be stifled right after exercise, but as your body begins to feel the difference between energy received and energy needed, you could feel more hungry 1-2 days later.
If you find yourself engaging in more exercise than usual, incorporating a few extra high-protein snacks during the day to stay full and promote muscle growth can be helpful.
The Bottom Line
It can be frustrating to constantly ask yourself, “Why do I always feel hungry even after eating?” The good news is that there are many ways to promote satiety after meals while still eating intuitively and honoring your health and well-being. Intuitive and mindful eating are ways to explore what makes your body feel good by trying new things and supporting a gentle, positive relationship with food.