Why You’re Always Hungry, Tired or Both

Lori Russell, MS RD CSSD
by Lori Russell, MS RD CSSD
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Why You’re Always Hungry, Tired or Both

Experiencing a late-afternoon energy crash, feeling ravenous hours after a hard workout or snacking into the night are all signs you may be too hungry. Feeling too hungry too often can lead to overeating and a seemingly never-ending battle with weight, satiety and energy levels. Instead of being tired, hangry or stuffed and bloated, work to prevent the cause of these outcomes for balanced moods, energy, weight control and better athletic performances.

Part of living a healthful lifestyle and eating nutritiously requires us to be in tune with our hunger levels. Being able to distinguish feeling starved, feeling full, and the entire spectrum in between, is vital to fueling your body well. Here are a few common reasons people are always hungry and suggestions to find better balance:



Research shows eating more earlier in the day, known as ‘front-loading’ calories promotes satiety and long-term weight maintenance. By fueling our bodies in the morning, we are putting gas in the tank for a full day of mileage. If you tend to skip breakfast, it is very likely your body eventually catches up to feeling this lack of fuel. Unfortunately, your body signals this realization in a big way; meaning you don’t just feel a little hungry and reach for an apple, but rather you feel starved and reach for everything in sight.



Many common morning foods are high in carbohydrates: granola, cereal, pancakes, fruit, etc. These are great for ramping up energy before a major workout, but if you’re headed into the office, they’re likely to leave you with a mid-morning energy crash due to spiking and falling insulin levels. Adding protein first thing in the morning helps refuel muscles after a night’s fast and fat adds a slow-digesting satiety factor.

A balanced meal is more likely to promote the hormone leptin, which works to decrease appetite, limit cravings and promote long-term insulin control; both of which work to stabilize long-term weight control and energy levels. Aim to get 20–30 grams of protein at this meal along with fats and carbohydrates for a macronutrient balanced meal. Examples of balanced breakfasts are: granola, fruit and full-fat Greek yogurt or whole-grain toast topped with avocado and eggs.



Athletes who skip or under-consume fuel during workouts set themselves up for disaster. First, you’re limiting the performance output your body can produce. Second, training suppresses ghrelin, the hunger-signaling hormone, and when this effect wears off hours post-workout, you’re suddenly starving! Third, you’re putting yourself into a huge calorie deficit which may lead to excessive cravings and a tendency to eat the wrong thing later. Instead of downing a whole pizza three hours after a long run or ride, eat more during the workout. You’ll be amazed at how much better your performance is and how easily you can transition into balanced, appropriately sized meals later in the day.



Some athletes either cannot tolerate much fuel during their workouts or expend so many calories that replacing enough is impossible. Along with being in a calorie hole, your body is most susceptible to absorbing calories and nutrients needed to replenish and rebuild immediately after exercise. By skipping this small but very important recovery snack, your body is left craving nourishment and not only will your long-term recovery suffer, but you’re also much more likely to overeat later.



Typical schedules allow for an 8 a.m. breakfast, noon lunch and 7 p.m. dinner. Most of us can easily go from breakfast to lunch (provided we’re eating an adequate breakfast), however that long lunch-to-dinner stretch is too much to handle. This prolonged gap in fuel causes a ravenous appetite by the time dinner comes around, which frequently leads to large dinner portions and evening snacking on less healthful options. To overcome this, plan for a late-afternoon snack. Pack an apple, nut butter, protein bar, hard-boiled eggs or other combination of protein and complex carbohydrate bite to tide you over.

If your difficulties with hunger and energy are preventing you from achieving the results you’re after, try these solutions or enlist a registered dietitian to help.

About the Author

Lori Russell, MS RD CSSD
Lori Russell, MS RD CSSD

Lori, MS RD CSSD is an accomplished sports dietitian; she holds a Master’s Degree in Human Nutrition and Certification as a Specialist in Sports Nutrition. As a current professional road cyclist and previous elite marathoner and ultra-runner, Lori knows firsthand that food can enhance or diminish performance gains. She understands the importance of balancing a quality whole food based diet with science-backed performance nutrition and strives to share this message with others. Learn more about her @HungryForResults.


16 responses to “Why You’re Always Hungry, Tired or Both”

  1. Avatar Karen Gray says:

    Read the book “Any Way You Can” by Annette Bosworth MD. You will learn the real reason for hunger, midday crash, fatigue, low energy etc. based upon the most current research. You will also learn how to eat to maximize your health and prevent disease.

  2. Avatar $323536919 says:

    Probably because I am staring at the picture of the beautiful woman at the top of the article for hours on end without eating or sleeping

  3. Avatar Vandergrift01 says:

    Who wrote this? Some person stuck in 1960? ROFL! It’s all wrong. Every single word of it.

    • Avatar jumper297 says:

      Well you better jump in there and correct the person who has a Masters Degree in Human Nutrition…

      • Avatar Glenn Nelson says:

        Having a Masters degree in Nutrition is worthless if your professors are still stuck in the old school of thinking. That is the problem with nutritional science at the college level. One’s real education comes by catching up with researching the latest nutritional science after the degree now that you learned how to read them. #1 rule – don’t believe everything you learn in school.

  4. Avatar IMHO says:

    I just saw an RD for this very problem. I started eating a better breakfast and my blood sugars have dropped significantly into the normal range, all day. I stopped eating before dinner was cooked and I feel less inclined to eat before bedtime. I was very happy to read this article.

  5. Avatar Elisa Simkovitz says:

    This is 100% incorrect. Skipping breakfast and going hours (4-5) facilitates fat burning. Nothing wrong with that. Protein for breakfast: questionable but if so ADD HEALTHY FATS. That is what keeps you full and cognitive abilities intact.

    • Avatar Chris says:

      What are your credentials? This author has a Master’s Degree in Human Nutrition and Certification as a Specialist in Sports Nutrition. Furthermore, most things she mentioned above is exactly how I’ve been taught, by many, many people. Her eating suggestions are what I used to do a Half-Ironman.

    • Avatar Liz says:

      Going long periods of time facilitates fat STORING for most people. Fasting is not necessary and not everyone wants to or can do these fad, hard-to-sustain diets like Keto. Maybe skipping breakfast works for you but not true for most people. I’m going with the knowledge from the RD.

  6. Avatar jumper297 says:

    All the people who are slamming this because it doesn’t adhere to the new intermittent fasting trend might want to take a second and realize that this is written for people who are training hard or pro athletes, not some couch potato wanting to shed a few pounds.

    • Avatar ajs916 says:

      Exactly!! Most of the people I know who “swear by” this intermittent fasting fad, or whatever the new thing is, are constantly battling with their weight and never exercise. But they know EVERYthing about nutrition. Eye roll.

  7. Avatar Ruby says:

    Hi thank you for this article. I find it helpful since i have been struggling with losing weight despite spending hours everyday at the gym.

  8. Avatar Patrick M Finnegan says:

    Excellent article Lori! Over the years I’ve learned to adjust my diet and keep my energy level up while in pursuit of fitness, wellness (and sometimes injury rehab) goals. When my energy levels drop, my ‘toolbox’ includes all of your suggestions. Nice job!

  9. Avatar David M says:

    To minimize my blood sugar spike and crash mid morning, I minimize the amount of carbohydrates I eat for breakfast.

  10. Avatar Jacey says:

    Ever since I started skipping breakfast and eating within a four hour window, in addition to quitting breads, pastas, waffles, biscuits, pancakes, muffins, fruit, (carb dense and/or sugary foods) etc. I feel a lot more energetic, my mood swings are gone, I can get things done in the morning, and I’m working out every day without being fatigued—I’m never hungry or tired. I’ve lost 34 pounds.


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