Understanding Calories, Nutrients, Hormones, and Hunger
If I am getting enough calories, why do I still “feel” hungry?
The answer is found in the distinction between macro and micronutrients.
Your macronutrients serve as transport parcels for smaller micronutrients; and it’s these micronutrients your body/cells are really asking for when you experience hunger.
The experience of hunger is produced by the hormone ghrelin which gives you the “feeling like you want to eat something”.
HEAT AND THE BREAKDOWN & TRANSPORT NUTRIENTS
Each macronutrient (protein, fat, carb) requires an amount of heat to liberate the micronutrients contained within. High glycemic carbs require the least amount of heat while low glycemic fats have higher heat requirements for transformation into energy molecules.
The problem, however; is that most “ high glycemic carbs” people consume have almost zero micronutrient load, and while the satisfaction of eating is experienced as one consumes various carbohydrates, the nourishment of cells is neglected and another round of ghrelin is delivered into the system, triggering another sensation of hunger; even after eating.
This isn’t to say that all carbohydrate are bad, but this is why focusing “solely” on calorie or macros and paying no attention to the ingredients and micronutrients that compose those calories can have confusing and even detrimental effects on one’s results cycles—their body gets food (calories), but their cells don’t get the nutrients.
Most often, your cells want oxygen; and while breathing is helpful, water is also a great way to get the most necessary and abundant chemical—oxygen—into your cells. So…
Drinking more water is a GREAT way to reduce the “feeling of hunger”; and then target foods rich in micronutrients: more plants, vegetables, fruit (sparingly and when timed properly), and nuts & seeds.
And when your cells receive the nourishment they’re asking for, a different hormone is released, leptin; which produces the experience of “satisfaction” and having your hunger quenched.
What often restricts the release of leptin are synthetic, fast-foods, and a lot packaged “comfort” foods—chips, cookies, crackers, etc.—which are constructed to “keep you hungry”, and NOT satisfy your energy needs.
These foods don’t release the hormone leptin, but rather they stimulate your brain with dopamine, leading to the psychological sensation of “wanting more”. And since your cells aren’t nourished, you’ll experience the amplified sensation of hunger as ghrelin recycles through your system in tandem with you’re psyche seeking a pleasurable dose of dopamine.
This dopamine-driven positive feedback loop of “wanting more” is disastrous and CANNOT be satisfied by the stuff producing it, which is where addiction derives from.
Addiction aside, knowing the difference between macro and micronutrients and understanding their role in feeding the hunger AND fueling the cells will help you make food choices that satisfy your hunger.