Hunger and body composition

When most people think of weight loss, they think of dieting.

And when most people think of dieting, they think of hunger.

We often think of hunger in the worst-case scenario - the churning stomach alongside low-blood sugar that makes it hard to concentrate.

But hunger occurs across a spectrum that includes feeling full, feeling you could eat, and the level ten starvation where we could eat anything (at least we say that).

Two common statements about hunger further reinforce some common misconceptions.

“You’re not hungry, you’re thirsty/dehydrated.”

There is some truth to this, in the sense that many people are often dehydrated, particularly those who consume tea or coffee as their primary fluid intake.

When you are hungry and you consume a drink of water, this will add volume to the stomach that can alleviate hunger in the short term.

But water will not contribute any glucose, protein and fats into the bloodstream, so it won’t halt chemical signalling for more nutrients, if required (more on that tomorrow).

To surmise, you are probably somewhat hungry and dehydrated, both of which can be positively impacted by consuming water, but that doesn’t mean you’re confusing hunger for thirst.

“When you’re hungry, you’re burning fat (body fat).”

Again, there is some truth to this one, as when you are hungry there is an increased likelihood that you are burning fat.

After a meal, the nutrients enter the bloodstream to be used as fuel or stored.

During this period, there is no need for the body to mobilise stored body fat into the bloodstream because there is plenty of energy already there.

If anything, the energy from the bloodstream will be shifted into the storage.

As we get further away from the meal, the bloodstream begins to run low on energy (as it gets used for fuel or stored) and then body fat stores must be mobilised to replenish it.

So the longer your hunger goes on, the more likely you are mobilising body fat at that point in time.

However, hunger isn’t the best way to manage body composition and energy balance remains the key.

If you are hungry all day and then overconsume in the evening, the outcome will still be storage of body fat.

Therefore it’s important to find out what how to manage hunger as part of your nutritional approach, which we will cover this week.

Tom Fitzgerald