Hunger Hormone Triggers

There are three fundamental triggers that toss these yearning hormones twisted and make it that much harder to adhere to a good dieting arrangement.

Hunger Hormone Trigger #1: Lack of Sleep

The first and one of the most powerful triggers is a lack of sleep. There is very solid research on lack of sleep playing a huge role in your appetite:

A – Those getting a habitual 5 hours of sleep per night had 15.5% lower leptin level, while ghrelin increased by 14.9% compared to those getting 8 hours a night.

B – After two days of sleep deprivation, men had a 45% increase for high carbohydrate foods.

C – After 6 nights of sleep restriction, the rate of glucose from a glucose tolerance test was 40 percent slower. This means that sleep deprivation induces insulin resistance and as stated above, insulin and leptin resistance tend to go together and are predictors of obesity.

D – Those getting 5 hours and 15 minutes of sleep had a slower basal metabolism (by 114 calories per day), while losing about 2 pounds more muscle compared to those who had 7 hours and 25 minutes of sleep over 14 days. Remember, NPY has strong nutrient-partitioning effect and influence where those extra calories are stored.

In other words, lack of sleep induces muscle loss, slows your metabolism, increases your cravings for sweets, causes resistance in regards to insulin (and probably leptin), and increases your hunger hormones, while decreasing your fullness signals. If you feel like you’re always hungry, it might be time to get a little more shut eye.

Hunger Hormone Trigger #2: Stress

Stress increases the release of cortisol while increasing inflammation throughout the body. These things, over-time, can lead to an increased risk of leptin-resistance. In addition to that, CRH (released during stress) also stimulates NPY’s release. This release causes an increase nutrient partitioning to fat as opposed to muscle; this increase also causes the fullness signals to be delayed during eating. CRH also stimulates special neurons in the brain (Hypocretin Neurons) that increase excitability and generally cause issues with sleep causing a cycle of broken sleep and increased NPY.

Hunger Hormone Trigger #3: Dieting / Fasting

Last but not least with this trio is basic crash dieting or fasting. If you’ve ever experienced a yo-yo effect with your weight or have ever tried a crash diet only to re-gain all or most of the weight back, the imbalance between these hormones probably played a key role. For example, researchers had 50 overweight and obese participants go on a very-low calorie diet (an average of 550 calories per day) for 10 weeks. During this time, the average weight loss was 30 pounds, with most keeping off 18 of those pounds after a year. What the study showed though, was that leptin levels were 35% lower than would be predicted, while ghrelin levels were higher than predicted. This means that although the participants were able to keep the weight off, they were also hungrier more often and had a greater desire to eat, a year after the diet – and this was with diet coaching and counseling.

While the hormones that effect and control your hunger are numerous and complex, the three I’ve just discussed are keys to beginning to unravel this complicated system. There are many factors at play, beyond just your determination or plan to diet, and they are factors that many forget at times to even count as at play when they are frustrated about dieting.

Understanding why your body wants you to store fat – and why it will “tell” you to eat more or more often is one thing, but managing your hunger is a whole other beast that I plan to tackle in an article coming soon about key ways to control hunger.