Pocket worthyStories to fuel your mind

4 Reasons Why You’re Always Hungry

And what to do about it…besides eating.


Read when you’ve got time to spare.

Illustration of large mouth with words "FEEEEED MEEEE" behind it

Illustration by Alicia Tatone

The scene: 10:45 a.m. sitting at a poorly lit desk in pants you wish were a little bit bigger. After clicking “send” on your sixth email of the day, your stomach grumbles. Cue snack one: an apple. Then about an hour and 10 minutes after a big lunch, the pang hits you again. You eat a KIND Bar, but you’re still hungry. You know you don’t need to eat right now: You need to eat like you need to watch Finding Nemo for the 22nd time with your niece later. So, what gives?

“Diet culture has made hunger out to be a ‘bad thing,’ something that should often be ignored or suppressed,” says registered dietitian Rebecca Ditkoff, MPH. “The average person needs to refuel with food every three to four hours, but this timeframe may vary even further, from two to five hours, depending on activity levels and how much was consumed at the previous meal or snack.”

But what if you get hungry, say, every 30 minutes? Here, the experts weigh in on possible causes of those mid-morning (and afternoon, and evening…) munchies.

1. You need to get better sleep: Sleep is important for basically everything you do during your waking hours—it affects how alert you are during a morning run; it affects your sex drive—so it’s no surprise that it impacts your hunger levels, too.

“When we don't sleep enough, it increases our hunger hormone, ghrelin, that can increase our appetite and make us think we’re more hungry than usual,” says Lori Zanini, RD, CDE, and creator of For The Love of Diabetes.

In one study, University of Chicago researchers found that sleep-deprived participants were unable to resist “rewarding snacks,” (think candy, chips, cookies) even though they’d eaten a meal two hours prior. On average, they ate nearly twice as much fat when they were exhausted (4.2 hours sleep versus eight hours) versus well-rested. “Making your sleep a priority can help regulate your appetite all day long,” says Zanini, who suggests getting better sleep quality by hitting the sheets in a cool room (under 70 degrees), using a white noise machine, and keeping the TV off.

2. You’re not drinking enough water: It’s normal to confuse thirst with hunger, according to Ditkoff. “In order to make sure you are staying adequately hydrated, you should be drinking about half of your body weight in ounces of water every day,” she suggests. For example, if you weigh 180 pounds, try drinking 90 ounces—or 11 glasses.

Big coffee drinker? You’ll need to take that into account when you think about your daily fluid intake, says Isabel K. Smith, MS RD CDN. “Caffeine is a diuretic, which means that it helps your body get rid of extra salt and water by causing you to urinate more,” she says. “If you drink a lot of caffeine, you’ll want to increase how much water you’re drinking regularly, for sure.”

3. You’re not fueling with the right foods: You might be trying to stay keto-friendly (hey, John Wall does it) by limiting yourself to steamed chicken breasts all day, but your body needs a range of foods to feel full.

“There are three macronutrients—protein, carbohydrates and fat—which work together to provide our body with the energy it needs,” says Ditkoff. Men should aim for .8 grams protein/kilogram of bodyweight, 45 to 65 percent of daily calories from carbohydrates, and roughly 20 to 35 percent of daily calories in fat, according to the Mayo Clinic. “You also want to be conscious of your fiber intake, which helps you feel fuller for longer.”

The Mayo Clinic suggests men aim to get between 30 and 38 grams of fiber daily. Ditkoff advises her clients to keep a food journal for a few days to really hone in on their typical macronutrient situation (and any unhealthy eating patterns). “Missing the mark on any of these three things”—protein, carbohydrates, and fats—“could definitely have a negative effect on satiety and fullness levels.”

4. You’re just not eating enough: There are loads of factors that prevent us from eating enough to fuel our bodies throughout the day. Maybe you’re trying out a new fad diet, or perhaps you just missed lunch because Matthew in accounting just had to have that report by 2 p.m.

But if you’ve eaten full meals all day, and you’re still ravenous, you might just be emotional-hungry—that’s especially likely if you’re craving something super specific, like peanut butter walnut chocolate chip cookies from the bakery down the street. Before you storm the vending machine, take a step back and evaluate how you feel, says Ditkoff. “Maybe it’s stress. Maybe it’s boredom. Sometimes emotional hunger can be confused for physical hunger,” she adds.

Maybe the only thing you really need to curb your appetite is just relaxation. Online shopping for new sneakers helps me chill TFO every single time.

How was it? Save stories you love and never lose them.

Logo for GQ

This post originally appeared on GQ and was published October 25, 2019. This article is republished here with permission.

Subscribe to GQ Now for Just $15 and Get Free Swag.