Depending on the day, you can feel either really hungry or not hungry at all. If you ever wonder why your hunger is suppressed or heightened at different points, two hormones, known as the “hunger hormones,” could be the reason.
Both the leptin and ghrelin levels in your body can be changed, and when they are changed, you will either feel more or less hungry. In order to maintain weight, it is important to keep these hormones in check. The first, leptin, is appropriately named after the Greek word lepton, meaning thin. Produced by fat cells, and released into the bloodstream as you eat, leptin tells you to stop eating.
According to an informational article published by the Obesity Action Coalition, people who suffer from obesity can produce excess leptin, which they can develop resistance to. This causes their brains to ignore the signals from the hormone and in turn their sense of being full is dulled causing them to remain hungry even after eating a big meal. If your leptin levels are not in check, it is much harder to not only lean out, but also to maintain your weight. According to the article, leptin can also effect your energy, focus, and daily performance.
The second “hunger hormone” is ghrelin. This hormone controls the body’s appetite level. When you haven’t eaten for awhile, ghrelin levels will increase telling you that you are hungry. Following eating, the levels drop and stay low while your body digests your food.
According to the article, the human body has a complex system of hormones that interact in countless ways. Therefore, we are not likely to find a simple one-to-one relationship between these hormones and weight, meaning there is not one set way to keep hormones in check, and because of this not everyone maintains weight in the same way.
However, there are a few different ways that you can keep the hormones in check, and we broke down the top three ways to keep your leptin and ghrelin levels consistent.
1. Maintain stress
According to research done at UT Southwestern, stress causes ghrelin levels to increase. Based on this, the more stressed out you are, the more hungry you might be come.
Dr. Jeffery Zigman, senior author told the study: “Our findings in mice suggest that chronic stress causes ghrelin levels to go up and that behaviors associated with depression and anxiety decrease when ghrelin levels rise. An unfortunate side effect, however, is increased food intake and body weight.” Maintaining stress therefore will help you to also maintain your ghrelin levels, causing you to be in control of your hunger and avoid overeating.
2. Eat a high-protein diet
According to Breaking Muscle, avoiding overloading on carbs and eating a high-protein diet can help maintain leptin levels. A large amount of carbs results in insulin spikes, raising leptin production. With this in mind, leptin levels can also be maintained by avoiding overly sugary foods.
Overall, the key is to have a balanced diet and to keep your diet consistent so that your hunger hormone levels will also maintain balanced.
3. Get enough sleep
According to a study published in PLOS Medicine, sleep is key to maintaining a healthy weight. The study shows that a lack of sleep reduces leptin and elevates ghrelin levels. These differences in leptin and ghrelin are likely to increase appetite, possibly explaining the increased BMI observed with short sleep duration.
Once again, sleep plays a major role in maintaining weight and helps your body regulate your hunger hormones.