T Nation

Physiological Basis of Hunger?

I’m new around here and I hate to post a million questions right away, but this time I really need somebody’s help; I screwed something up pretty badly.

About a week ago I read Christian Thibaudeau’s “The Truth About Bulking” article (http://www.T-Nation.com/readTopic.do?id=1268956) which contained this little gem:

“It’s most likely due to what I call the ‘lean threshold.’ You see, there’s a point (a certain body fat percentage) where you start to look lean (around 10% for most men). There’s also a point where you start to look fat (around 18-20% for most men). Then in between you have a certain zone where you basically look the same; you aren’t lean enough to look defined so you don’t really have any muscle separation.”

And basically right around the time I read this, I hit that magic percentage. I finally looked very fat, and realized that I went totally overboard with the massive eating program. Like he said, I somehow didn’t notice it before, even though I was consistently taking measurements.

And man was it depressing. So I instantly dropped (as of one week ago) from 5,500 kcal to 4,500 kcal (on workout days). Yeah that a sudden drop is not a good idea, I know. But at 17% bf I finally got “the gut” and I didn’t want it to get even worse. Basically I wanted to find exactly my maintenance level, just so I could know what that is for my body, at this lean mass weight (170 lb). Then I would up it a little. And its a compromise: this is actually a little more than CT’s article recommended.

Anyway, I feel like I’m starving (although I felt fine the first 2 days). What I really want to know is, why? Unless this turns out to be one of those urban myths, one of the things that makes you hungry when you eat less is that your body expects you to eat an amount similar to what you’ve been eating. Therefore being “hungry” doesn’t necessarily mean you actually need the food, or will do anything with it, just that it’s used to the food and needs to adjust.

On the other hand, I am worried about possibly being hungry because I am eating too little and losing muscle. It’s only been a week and I weigh about 3-3.5 lbs less. To be honest, I look about the same amount of “fat” but I look a little smaller, muscularly. Of course, I always think I look smaller muscularly. The pessemism runs in my veins. But it can’t be muscle mass, because there’s no way anyone could lose 3 lbs of muscle on a 4400-3800 (workout-postwork) per day diet in just one week, right?

In summary, I just have no idea what to do. This hit me pretty hard because for the last 9 months, I really thought I knew what I was doing. I was gaining fat, but “hey, that’s bulking” I said. After reading CTs article, I guess I can’t use that excuse anymore. Eat more? Eat less? Fat gain or lean mass loss seem to lurk behind every decision, and my confidence in my ability to make informed nutritional decisions is gone. I don’t mind a little fat gain. At this point, I wouldn’t even mind a little muscle loss. Just so long as I knew what I was doing. What bothers me is that I have no idea what my hunger actually means; am I just adjusting, or under-eating?

By the way, if this a clue at all, I’ve consistantly had less water weight this week upon waking up. I have a scale that measures that semi-reliably (the actual numbers are probably wrong, but the consistancy is good).

Take measurements, if you must, so you know what is going on, and relax.

You’ve probably also changed “what” you eat as well as how much you eat. You’ll find that some foods help you feel full longer than others.

Some other tips:

  • Drink more water. Tossing water down with a meal will help you feel like you have filled up.

  • Keep it warm. Feeling cold stimulates hunger. If you normally wear a t-shirt around the house, put on something warmer.

  • Log your food intake. Are you just guessing at numbers or do you know what you were eating and what you are now eating? A lot of people throw out estimates but have never actually tracked their intake carefully.

[quote]vroom wrote:
Take measurements, if you must, so you know what is going on, and relax.

You’ve probably also changed “what” you eat as well as how much you eat. You’ll find that some foods help you feel full longer than others.

Some other tips:

  • Drink more water. Tossing water down with a meal will help you feel like you have filled up.

  • Keep it warm. Feeling cold stimulates hunger. If you normally wear a t-shirt around the house, put on something warmer.

  • Log your food intake. Are you just guessing at numbers or do you know what you were eating and what you are now eating? A lot of people throw out estimates but have never actually tracked their intake carefully.[/quote]

As far as water goes, I have always consumed huge amounts of it. Honestly to the point where I wonder if its healthy, like when I wake up having to piss INCREDIBLY badly, I mean that can’t be good for the kidneys, right?

I’m actually eating the same stuff, just less nuts (cashews, walnuts) for healthy fat and I dropped a few servings of fattier stuff like cheese sticks and 2% milk cheese. My diet comes entirely from the massive eating recommendations, except I probably don’t get enough vegetables (I do take Greens+ though). All of the foods I eat are on the “great” and “good” foods list in that recent article here, none are on the bad lists.

As for logging, I used to log every calorie in FitDay for the first 4 months. Since I was pretty much eating the same things all the time, I stopped doing it every day. One of things Berardi recommended is increasing the calories by some fixed amount consistant with optimal mass gain, and another thing he recommended was the “wait 2 weeks and see!” method, obviously a smarter method if you don’t want to get too fat.

Since I feared lack of lean gain more than fat gain, and because it was easier, I stuck with the consistant increase. I also stopped logging as rigorously, obviously a bad combination. I guess I’ve been overstepping the natural limit the last few times I did it. I can say with certainty it was at least 5500 kcal/day on a workout day though, possibly more. Needless to say I have gone all the way back to what it was 5 months ago, and have gone back to tracking it.

The reason for jumping backwards so far is that I think I may have been getting too fat even then. But back then, before reading CT’s article, I thought it was “necessary” (and it’s also hard to see in that range). If the bulk hadn’t been so clean, I’d probably have 22-25% bf now instead of 17-18%. Of course, I’d probably have realized my mistake much earlier…

Good advice with respect to keeping warm, I’ve never heard that before. As far as relaxing goes, probably the most valuable advice, but I don’t think I’ll be able to follow it. I know very little about the science behind muscle loss, just that it can happen. So whenever I get hungry I think “uh oh it might be happening!” since I have no idea if it is or not :slight_smile: I mean does it happen routinely? Is it rare? What is the average percentage of fat to
“indigenous protein” metabolism in most humans under hunger conditions? Of course no one knows about me specifically, because all of this stuff is hormonal.

But there’s gotta be some “conventional wisdom” or some very loose guidelines about it, like there is for everything else (ex: “training and not growing? eat more!”). Basically I was trying to find out, by posting this, but either no one really knows or they don’t want to share.

[quote]kfol wrote:
Basically I was trying to find out, by posting this, but either no one really knows or they don’t want to share.[/quote]

We know why this happens- it’s because one makes rash decisions based solely on emotions yo-yo-ing food intake to the point where the psychology of it all has got the best of them.

It’s called a lack of understanding. You knew you wanted to gain weight, you even knew about a good plan to do so- the problem is you followed the plan so blindly that it got away from you. Instead of keeping good track and using the plan to suit you- you went about it thinking it was cookie cutter.

Now to your problem- understand that one must make gradual changes to their intake to avoid the hunger you are experiencing. It will subside.

[quote]eengrms76 wrote:
We know why this happens- it’s because one makes rash decisions based solely on emotions yo-yo-ing food intake to the point where the psychology of it all has got the best of them.
[/quote]

This appears to be a (probably valid) criticism of my reason for suddenly adjusting my diet, while providing no information about the physiological questions related to the sensation of hunger. So I guess your intention was just critism, dressed up with some contemptual language, with no actual information.

So if I decide that this means that the level of discourse on “Supplements and Nutrition” is at about the level of “Building a Better Body”, that is if I change my mind exactly once, can that be charactetrized as yo-yo-like behavior? Because a yo-yo capable of a single cycle would not be a fun children’s toy. I mean, if I were child, I don’t think I’d play with it.

In the event that another new person is reading this and actually cares about the original topic, I found this journal article:

which deals with the effects of glutamine on muscle loss while cutting. While it is not exactly analogous, it does deals with 1000 kcal intake drops. A table gives information about lean mass lost. There are probably many scientific publications which address this issue directly, but I don’t know where to look for them (i.e. why I posted this thread in the first place).

[quote]kfol wrote:
eengrms76 wrote:
We know why this happens- it’s because one makes rash decisions based solely on emotions yo-yo-ing food intake to the point where the psychology of it all has got the best of them.

This appears to be a (probably valid) criticism of my reason for suddenly adjusting my diet, while providing no information about the physiological questions related to the sensation of hunger. So I guess your intention was just critism, dressed up with some contemptual language, with no actual information.

So if I decide that this means that the level of discourse on “Supplements and Nutrition” is at about the level of “Building a Better Body”, that is if I change my mind exactly once, can that be charactetrized as yo-yo-like behavior? Because a yo-yo capable of a single cycle would not be a fun children’s toy. I mean, if I were child, I don’t think I’d play with it.

In the event that another new person is reading this and actually cares about the original topic, I found this journal article:

which deals with the effects of glutamine on muscle loss while cutting. While it is not exactly analogous, it does deals with 1000 kcal intake drops. A table gives information about lean mass lost. There are probably many scientific publications which address this issue directly, but I don’t know where to look for them (i.e. why I posted this thread in the first place).[/quote]

You’re still looking for an answer that doesn’t truly exist. Why you feel hunger is going to be different than why I feel hunger. But in this case it is because you dropped your calories too fast. What do you want us to tell you? That there is a sub-conscious reason for being hungry and that if you meditate for 7 minutes a day it will go away?

The reason you aren’t getting many responses is because every one of your posts is like a book. Who wants to read all that when it can be summed up in a few brief points with direct questions?

If you want to be a prick to the people who do bother to respond then don’t expect much additional assistance.