I often hear “I’m always hungry; I don’t feel full after a meal; I still want something after I eat but I can’t put my finger on it.”
Appetite is affected by both physiological and psychological issues. Since the psychological may be a whole research paper in itself let’s stick to the physiological things you can do to keep your appetite normal and healthy.
Two hormones affecting appetite are Leptin and Ghrelin. An easy way to remember them is leptin lowers your appetite and ghrelin grows your appetite. When they are in sync your appetite is in line with your metabolism. Things that can throw them off are lack of sleep and imbalances in the diet.
If your sleep is compromised it affects your hunger levels. Eve Van Cauter at the University of Chicago has done 25 years of research on how hormones affect sleep. Her research shows that when you are sleep deprived your leptin levels are 18% lower and your Ghrelin levels are 28 percent higher.
Her subjects also reported they were much hungrier than usual and craved salty, sweet food when they lacked sleep. Think of late night pizza and nachos when you stayed up too long. Craving salty, sweet food and increasing leptin and lowering ghrelin are the perfect combination for weight gain.
Appetite can also be thrown off by the wrong combination of carbohydrate, protein and fat. David Cummings, M.D. at the University School of Medicine in Seattle found that protein was the best suppressor of appetite. Fats seemed to have a neutral affect.
Carbohydrates initially lowered the appetite, but then rebounded later with a vengeance. I still remember my days of eating a “healthy” bowl of cereal for breakfast only to be famished 2 hours later – unaware that it was due to a lack of protein at the most important meal of the day.
Good sources of protein include:
- lean meats, poultry, fish
- plain yogurt, cottage cheese, hard cheeses
- nuts/seeds and nut butters
Take home message? Getting your rest and making sure you eat some sort of protein at each meal and snack will keep your appetite even keeled. So maybe a good idea is to eat your protein and get some rest with Rolly. What have you got to lose -besides weight?