When you start a diet or reduce your calorie intake, your body may respond with hunger pangs as it adjusts to these changes. These sharp, sudden sensations of hunger can be uncomfortable, but they serve an essential purpose: reminding you to nourish your body.
It’s crucial to distinguish between actual hunger and momentary cravings. Understanding hunger pangs allows you to make the right choices on your dietary journey.
Why do hunger pangs happen?
Dieting is a powerful and necessary tool that’ll undoubtedly help you reach your health and fitness goals. Still, it comes with a set of challenges, and hunger pangs are definitely one of them.
For your diet to be successful, you must reduce your calorie intake to shed off those excess pounds. That caloric deficit will trigger several physiological responses in your body.
The main reason hunger pangs happen is because your body is used to a particular energy intake. When you suddenly reduce that intake, it signals your brain that it’s time to eat.
The main objective of our bodies is the same for thousands of years: to prioritize survival. When you start reducing your calorie intake, it sees that as a potential threat. Because of that, your body starts sending hunger signals, making you feel the need to eat.
Some of the most common triggers for hunger pangs are:
- blood sugar fluctuations;
- ghrelin (hunger) hormone;
- your emotional state;
- meal timing;
- inadequate hydration.
What is the difference between hunger and hunger pangs?
People frequently use hunger and hunger pangs as a synonym. However, there are differences that you must understand to get a better idea of what your body is trying to tell you.
The main difference between hunger and hunger pangs is that hunger comes gradually and slowly, while hunger pangs come suddenly with an urgent need for food.
Hunger is your body’s natural response to the need for food. It’s a way of signaling that it needs fuel to maintain energy levels and preserve its functions. Hunger usually develops slowly, accompanied by rumbling in the stomach and a sensation of emptiness.
Hunger pangs are sudden and more intense sensations of hunger. They can be uncomfortable or painful and often come on quickly. They are usually caused by fluctuations in blood sugar levels or the release of the ghrelin hormone. When that happens, your body signals an urgent need for food.
How long do hunger pangs last?
Hunger pangs usually don’t last that long and will vanish within 20 to 30 minutes after eating a balanced meal or a snack. Their duration will vary from person to person, depending on your diet and eating habits.
However, if they persist for an extended period or are accompanied by other concerning symptoms, it’s essential to consult with a healthcare professional. Persistent, severe hunger pangs could mean underlying health issues requiring attention.
Should I ignore hunger pangs?
Ignoring hunger pangs entirely is not advisable, especially if they are frequent and severe. If you start completely ignoring them, you may resort to overeating later. Additionally, that will make it much more challenging to stick to your diet in the long run.
Instead of ignoring them, try to solve them mindfully. Here are a few tips to consider:
Assess your hunger:
Before reaching for a snack, take a moment to assess the intensity of your hunger. Are you experiencing true hunger, or is it a momentary craving? Understanding your body’s signals can help you make the right choice.
Choose nutrient-dense foods:
When hunger pangs strike, choose nutrient-dense foods that will keep you fuller for longer. That means adding lean proteins, fiber-rich vegetables, and whole grains into your meals and snacks. If you don’t have the time or inspiration to make those meals, you can always opt for a healthy food delivery service. Having your meals pre-planned and delivered will make it much easier to follow your diet, fueled by the right foods for your goals.
Practice mindful eating:
Slow down when you eat and enjoy each bite while paying attention to your body’s fullness cues. Mindful eating is an excellent way to avoid overeating when hunger pangs strike.
It’s common for thirst to be mistaken for hunger. Ensure you’re adequately hydrated throughout the day to prevent unnecessary hunger. Women should aim for 11.5 cups, while men should aim for 15.5 cups of water daily.
Practical tips for hunger-pang-free dieting
Managing hunger pangs effectively is a central part of a successful diet plan. Luckily, there are a few practical tips you can try to minimize or even eliminate them entirely.
Create a balanced meal plan
One of the most effective ways to prevent hunger pangs is to craft a balanced meal plan. Your particular diet plan may prevent you from including all of these ingredients. Still, you should try to incorporate most of them into your daily meal plan:
Including protein sources like chicken, fish, tofu, or legumes can help you stay full for extended periods.
Fiber works wonders in hunger management. Foods like fruits, vegetables, and whole grains are high in fiber, which will keep you satisfied.
Don’t shy away from healthy fats like avocados, nuts, and olive oil. They add flavor and satiety to your meals.
Be careful of portion sizes to avoid overeating. Smaller, balanced portions can prevent extreme hunger later on.
Keeping healthy snacks handy
When you need a quick snack to eliminate hunger, make sure you have nutritious options readily available:
Apples, berries, and citrus fruits are convenient and satisfying snacks.
Greek yogurt is high in protein and low in calories. That makes it a terrific, healthy snack.
A small handful of unsalted nuts provides healthy fats and protein.
Feeling hunger can sometimes result from boredom or habit rather than actual hunger. Try these distractions to take your mind off food:
Engage in activities:
Stay occupied with activities you enjoy. While steering away your thoughts from food, you’ll also be more active and burn a few more extra calories.
Practice deep breathing:
Relaxation techniques can help you manage cravings and reduce stress-related hunger.
Dealing with hunger pangs while dieting is a common challenge. Still, you can minimize them with the right approach and attitude. Remember that hunger is a natural signal from your body, and it’s crucial to respond to it in a balanced way.
By resorting to the right strategies, you can minimize the discomfort of hunger pangs and stay on course toward your dieting goals. Embrace these techniques, stay motivated, and approach your diet with patience and determination.