The average person needs to refuel with food every three to four hours, but this timeframe may vary even further, depending on activity levels and how much was consumed at the previous meal or snack. experts weigh in on possible causes of those mid-morning, afternoon, or evening munchies.
1. You need to get better sleep: Sleep is important for basically everything you do during your waking hours–it affects how alert you are during a morning run; it affects your sex drive–so it’s no surprise that it impacts your hunger levels, too.
“When we don’t sleep enough, it increases our hunger hormone, ghrelin, that can increase our appetite and make us think we’re more hungry than usual,” says Lori Zanini, RD, CDE, and creator of For The Love of Diabetes.
In one study, University of Chicago researchers found that sleep-deprived participants were unable to resist “rewarding snacks,” (think candy, chips, cookies) even though they’d eaten a meal two hours prior. On average, they ate nearly twice as much fat when they were exhausted (4.2 hours sleep versus eight hours) versus well-rested.
“Making your sleep a priority can help regulate your appetite all day long,” says Zanini, who suggests getting better sleep quality by hitting the sheets in a cool room (under 70 degrees), using a white noise machine, and keeping the TV off.
2. You’re not drinking enough water: It’s normal to confuse thirst with hunger, according to Ditkoff. “In order to make sure you are staying adequately hydrated, you should be drinking about half of your body weight in ounces of water every day,” she suggests. Calculate half your weight in kg, so if you way 80kg, you require an absolute minimum of 40 ounces of which translates to 5 glasses of water.
Big coffee drinker? You’ll need to take that into account when you think about your daily fluid intake, says Isabel K. Smith, MS RD CDN. “Caffeine is a diuretic, which means that it helps your body get rid of extra salt and water by causing you to urinate more,” she says. “If you drink a lot of caffeine, you’ll want to increase how much water you’re drinking regularly, for sure.”
3. You’re not fueling with the right foods: You might be trying to stay keto-friendly by limiting yourself to steamed chicken breasts all day, but your body needs a range of foods to feel full.
“There are three macronutrients–protein, carbohydrates and fat–which work together to provide our body with the energy it needs,” says Ditkoff. Men should aim for .8 grams protein/kilogram of bodyweight, 45 to 65 percent of daily calories from carbohydrates, and roughly 20 to 35 percent of daily calories in fat, according to the Mayo Clinic. “You also want to be conscious of your fiber intake, which helps you feel fuller for longer.”