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Feeling Hungry After Breakfast


QUESTION:

I've started to eat breakfast in the morning but I find that I'm starving again only a few hours later.  Why is this?

ANSWER:

Feeling hungry shortly after eating is most likely due to the composition of the meal.  If your breakfast meals are mostly simple carbohydrates, then this can cause a spike in blood glucose, followed by a subsequent drop in blood glucose levels if a large amount of insulin is released.  This is typically followed by a cyclic roller coaster ride of further hunger and cravings for carbohydrates that send a "time to eat again" signal.  Simple carbohydrate breakfast items can include things like low-fiber sugared cereals, donuts, sweet rolls, muffins, bagels, toast with jelly, and juices.  Although very healthy, even some fruit eaten alone can spike glucose, especially if consumed without its natural accompanying fiber - such as orange juice instead of the whole orange.  These items have a high glycemic load, meaning that they quickly release sugar into the bloodstream following digestion.

Does that mean that you can never eat these items?  Of course not!  However, what you should be aiming for in your breakfast meal is a nutrient rich meal with a high satiety factor.  Satiety is the ability of a meal to offer a feeling of prolonged and subtle fullness, satisfaction, and contentment.  Including fiber, fat and/or protein in your meal can slow the overall release of glucose into the blood, thereby allowing an appropriate release of insulin and increasing the overall satiety of the meal.  High fiber, low-processed carbohydrate foods - such as whole grains, usually have low glycemic loads and are packed with vitamins and minerals, thus making them healthy and nutritious food choices.  Eating these healthy carbohydrates in combination with healthy fats and good protein choices can further improve the satiety of the meal.  For instance, choose multi-grain toast with a slice of low-fat cheese or salmon, or a whole-wheat muffin or waffle with fruit spread or almond butter.  I always enjoy scrambled eggs with tofu sausages or a high fiber cereal, such as grape nuts, warmed and topped with soymilk and blueberries!

You may also want to try varying the size of your breakfast meal relative to lunch or dinner.  For instance, you may find that increasing the amount of food eaten at breakfast, and balancing this out by decreasing the amount of food eaten at dinner, works really well for you and your lifestyle and more closely matches your personal hunger profile.

Experiment with various combinations until you find a variety of meals that provide you with satiety for a few hours.  Remember, being hungry 3 to 5 hours after eating is normal, so don't expect that by eating breakfast you won't be hungry again that day!  Individuals vary in their sensitivity to blood glucose swings so it may take some time until you find what meals provide optimal satiety for you.

Remember these key points when planning your breakfast meal:


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Our expert, Dr. Sharon E. Griffin, holds a B.S., M.S., and Ph.D. in the areas of exercise science/physiology.  She also holds a second M.S. degree in Nutrition and is a licensed nutritionist and an ACSM certified health and fitness instructor.
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