Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Why Does Eating Breakfast Make Me Hungry?

When I eat anything--I mean anything, before 10:00 or 11:00 a.m., I am ravenous for the rest of that day. I keep hearing how important breakfast is, so what has been working for me lately, is eating a brunch (which might be a salad, rather than breakfast style foods) around 10:30 in the morning and then around 2:00 p.m., a lunch or snack of some kind. What is it that triggers such hunger (if that's what it is), such a desire to eat all day, on days that I have a regular breakfast at a regular breakast time?
Nadia Giordana, http://www.thinking-skinny.blogspot.com/

You wouldn't believe the number of people who have this issue, Nadia, and thanks for your question! There could be two things at work here: One is the adaptive function of our body to conserve energy when we do not eat. It goes back to the caveman days: if there wasn't food around, our metabolism would slow down to conserve energy. Our bodies work the same way today: if we don't eat breakfast, our metabolism slows down and we are less hungry as a result. Some people don't get hungry till late in the afternoon if they don't eat! But they almost always make up for it later in the day. If we eat breakfast, our metabolism starts running: "we have plenty of energy to use," our body says, "so let's start using it!" If we don't keep eating we get hungry in a few hours. It's okay to eat again then--just be sure to have a snack that's not too high in calories, such as a handful of nuts or a few crackers with peanut butter. Then you won't be starving at lunch time!

The other factor that causes people to be hungry a few hours after breakfast is the drop in blood sugar. Often, breakfast is something high in carbohydrates and low in fat and protein, such as a bowl of cereal and a glass of juice, or toast with jam. Our blood sugar spikes high in an hour or so, and drops quickly in another hour, leaving us dizzy and weak by mid-morning--way before lunch time.
The solution to this is either having some high-protein food that also has a little fat in it, like an egg, cheese, cottage cheese, or peanut butter; or otherwise go with the mid-morning snack idea!

I know it sounds contrary to eat extra meals and snacks, particularly when one is trying to lose weight, but there are many studies that prove eating frequent small meals during the day results in weight loss.

In the meantime, try keeping a food diary for a few weeks to see what works for you. Which breakfast foods leave you satisfied until later in the morning? Does your weight really fluctuate if you eat a 300 calorie breakfast and a 200 calorie mid-morning snack (as opposed to nothing until lunch time and then catching up on calories the rest of the day)?

I would love to hear from you all about what you've tried and what works for you! Please add your experiences here for us to share.