A topic I’m sure we’re all familiar with and for most of us, it can be a daily battle.

Our bodies are extremely complex biological organisms, and the processes responsible for hunger are no exception to this rule. Biological, environmental and psychological factors all have their part to play in not only how hungry we feel, but also how easy it is for us to deal with. I’m not going to bore you by going into the details of each, because I am by no means an expert on the topic and if I was this is a blog post not a book! However as a physique competitor and fitness model I have had to deal with the practical side of hunger for protracted periods of time, and so feel I can offer real insight into dealing with its insidious influence.

Coach James Ronan in stage worthy condition

Coach James Ronan in stage worthy condition

If hunger is the bully in the playground, then satiety is most certainly your big brother! Satiety is something we’ve all experienced, like just after that humongous Christmas dinner, and happens when our bodies signal our brain to let us know our stomach is full (by releasing hormones like leptin). Making sure you’re satisfied from your daily meals is a key factor to managing hunger. Satisfaction from food can come in a variety of ways, from the smell, taste, texture to the size of the meal.

Here’s my top tips to managing that big bully… hunger!

Meal Size
Usually the more food volume in the meal, the more satisfied you’ll be.
So the aim of the game is to choose food groups that provide more food volume for lower kcal’s. Good examples would be: CauiRice - it comes at a half the calories of actual rice, whilst still providing a balanced serving. Courgette spaghetti is another fantastic alternative to add some volume to your meal. Vegetables are generally the best way of increasing food volume on your plate whilst keeping you on track to hit your daily targets.

CauliRice: tasty, filling and low in calories.

CauliRice: tasty, filling and low in calories.

Include Protein
Protein is the most satiating of the macro nutrients, so make sure you include a good sized portion in your meals, particularly if you're hungry. Meals that are particularly carb and fat heavy don’t fill you up nearly as much, so avoid things like crisps when you're hungry.

Between meals, before meals, after meals, as often as possible and especially when exercising. Hydration is key, as thirst can often be confused for hunger. a good daily target for water intake would be 2-3 litres.

Plan your day
Making sure you plane your day so that you know when and what you are going to eat can really help with dealing with hunger, and that doesn't necessarily mean carrying bags full of tupperware. Getting caught out without an option can mean visiting a cafe or supermarket whilst hungry, which is likely to end in tears. Figure out how many meals suit you personally over the day, and then make sure you have a plan to ensure you stick to that strategy. Packed meals, regular lunch spots and eating at home are your best choices here.

Get creative in the kitchen
Having less kcals doesn’t mean you have to eat bland boring food. Create meals that you enjoy, reconstruct recipes that fit your macros, it's often a lot of fun and can satisfy those cravings. As an example I made a delicious pizza for myself during competition prep that was far lower calorie than one from a restaurant and so I was able to fit it into my targets! Remember: The more flavoursome a meal the more likely it'll be satisfying

That sweet tooth
If you have a sweet tooth, try and factor in a meal that satisfies it. It's better to include a small amount of sugar within your macro targets than cut it out altogether, and often there are plenty of lower kcal alternatives out there (frozen berry protein smoothie a, yogurts with fruits, low kcal jelly, protein pancakes, etc) Ju has a ton of recipes on her website, and we’ll also be uploading some here monthly. Even artificial sweeteners can be useful to quash a craving, an occasional diet coke, sweet tea or protein shake can do wonders.

 Artificial sweeteners can be a solid method of dealing with sweet cravings. 

 Artificial sweeteners can be a solid method of dealing with sweet cravings. 

We all bang on about it, but honestly getting enough sleep will have a big impact on cravings and appetite. There is substantial scientific evidence that those who sleep less eat more, so aim for 8hrs a night at least.

Moments of high stress are when you’re more likely to over eat or undereat, and so can be very tough times for those trying to lose weight. The best advice I can offer from my experience, is don’t dwell on things. When life throws you those inevitable fast balls try not to fall on food as an emotional crutch, and if you do don't dwell on it and just get back on the horse as soon as you can.

Does have a suppressive effect on hunger, but that doesn't mean you have to start squatting every time you get hungry! Instead, why not go for a light walk and get away from the kitchen with all the temptation. Owning a dog can be a blessing here.

So you see hunger can be heightened or diminished by decisions you make, and hopefully this blog post provides with some ideas about how you can manage it. A little hunger is unavoidable when you're dieting and to some extent you do just have to deal with it, but with a little bit of foresight and planning you can stack the odds in your favour and keep yourself on track to achieve those goals!

If you're interested in working with James and the team at HLL towards your health and fitness goals you can find details of services they offer here.