What’s Happening When I’m Hungry?

ghrelin and leptin

What’s Happening When I’m Hungry?

Ghrelin & Leptin by Jenna Koroly, RD

What is happening to my hunger cues while I am going through body fat/weight loss?


Hunger and satiety cues come from 2 main hormones: leptin and ghrelin. Leptin decreases hunger, and ghrelin increases hunger.


In overweight individuals, the leptin signaling cycle is disrupted due to leptin resistance (a similar concept to insulin resistance). Even though there is enough of the hormone, the brain may still be signaling that it is hungry even if the body is fed.

Another component influencing hunger and satiety cues is homeostasis, which includes ensuring we are adequately fed. When you are aiming to lose body fat, your body’s hormone levels are changing, likely triggering your hypothalamus in your brain to tell you that you are hungry.1

Thus, when going through fat or weight loss, you may feel hungrier, and this is normal.


The Individual

Because everyone is so different, it is important to track your meals and pay attention to your hunger cues. Tracking when you feel hungry to see how your body is responding to a new way of eating and working out will help you determine when your hunger and satiety cues begin to realign and when eating additional food to support workouts is necessary.


A few additional tips to keep in mind are:

  • Get enough sleep.  Not getting adequate sleep is associated with increased ghrelin and decreased leptin
  • Losing weight in a healthy, honest way is the key to long term success. Portion sizes when you are eating are imperative.
  • Eat mindfully and slowly, this will help you feel more satisfied.
  • Long term weight loss maintenance is associated with commitment to changes in eating habits and regular exercise.2


You can do this. And we are here to help.

  1. Kollias, H. Leptin, ghrelin, and weight loss. PrecisionNutrition. Retrieved Jan 22, 2018 from https://www.precisionnutrition.com/leptin-ghrelin-weight-loss.
  1. Clark, N. Nancy Clark’s Sports Nutrition Guidebook. Newton: Human Kinetics, 2014.

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