What do hormones have to do with hunger?

Hormones and hunger, what is the connection? You know that feeling that you get when you’re hungry? Does your stomach ever start growling? Well, have you ever wondered what is happening in your body to trigger your hunger and full signals? As a science nerd, I find this extremely interesting and decided to do some research. Knowing why your body is sending these signals can help you to understand your hunger feelings more. This, in turn, will help you to learn how to eat more intuitively and respect the signals your body is telling you.


The two most important hormones are Ghrelin and Leptin.

These hormones have a very close relationship; meaning when one hormone is “on” the other hormone is “off.” What does this mean?


Well, Ghrelin controls your appetite by triggering the “hungry” feeling. Ghrelin is released by your stomach when your cells sense that your body is low in the nutrients, like fatty acids and glucose.


Leptin, on the other hand, turns off your hungry” feeling by making you feel satisfied. Leptin is released when your body senses that you have enough glucose, usually when insulin levels are high.

Sleep is so important to manage hunger

Interestingly enough, new studies are showing that there is a correlation between ghrelin and leptin levels and sleep.

Ghrelin levels tended to be higher when people sleep less and leptin levels were lower. This could in turn throw off hunger/full signals because your hormones are giving you the cue that you are hungrier. This means that sleep is a crucial part of health and nutrition.

It’s difficult to listen to your body’s signals when you are sleep deprived, so making time to relax is very important.


Stress management is key

There’s more!


Cortisol, “the stress hormone,” is also thought to impact our appetite.

  • This hormone is release during times of fasting (including dieting and food restriction!!), food ingestion, exercising, and at times when one is under psychosocial stress.
  • The purpose of cortisol is to tell the body what kind of energy, aka fat, carbohydrates, and protein, it needs.
  • This specific hormone is released during times and stress, and studies have linked amounts of cortisol in the blood to appetite.
  • When there is more cortisol present, it seems that we tend to be hungrier and eat more.
  • That is why high amounts of stress are linked to weight gain.
  • Stress management is also key when trying to live a healthier lifestyle.

Even though we cannot control the hormones our body decides to release, we can still practice mindful, intuitive eating. How?

Mindful, intuitive eating

  • It’s still important to listen to what your body is telling you. If you feel hungry, eat something you’re truly in the mood for. Whether that’s carrots and hummus, brownies, fruit and yogurt, or cheese and crackers.
  • Planning out your meals can definitely relieve some of the stress in your life surrounding health. Your REBEL Dietitian can assist you with meal planning and finding the right foods for you at one of your sessions. Ask her about it!Planning your meals makes it easier to go grocery shopping because you will know exactly what you need to buy!
  • Again, getting enough sleep is SO important for self care. It may be tough at first, but getting about 7-8 hours of sleep and having a consistent sleep schedule is possible.
    Adequate sleep can help you lose weight
  • Eliminate stressors from your life as best you can. Sometimes it’s important to have alone time and just relax for 20 minutes!
    Practicing better sleep hygiene can make for a better night's rest.

Contact us for more information on how we can help you lose weight.

Klara Knezevic is a registered dietitian nutritionist based in Maryland. She has over a decade of experience in the nutrition field and currently serves as the CEO and co-owner of Rebecca Bitzer and Associates, one of the largest nutrition private practices in the country. Klara is passionate about sharing practical nutrition tips to help you feel confident in the choices that you make. Coauthor ofCooking with Food Sensitivities Survival GuideandNourished: 10 Ingredients to Happy, Healthy Eating.