Did you know that you may feel hungry when in reality you just need a nice glass of cold water? Often times learning this information is a turning point in someone’s weight loss journey as they learn to differentiate between the physical difference between hunger and thirst.
It’s very common for someone to confuse thirst with hunger, especially because the part of your brain that is responsible for interpreting hunger also interprets thirst. No wonder the two of these signals often get confused!
I am going to break down the actual differences so that you can know the difference and fuel your body with exactly what it needs.
Are you hungry or thirsty?
To help you better understand the difference between hunger and thirst, let’s take a look at the signs of both.
Signs of hunger
If it’s been longer than 3 hours since your last meal and you are starting to experience symptoms such as weakness, irritability, or if you notice that your stomach is starting to make a rumbling noise, there’s a good chance you are hungry.
It’s also important to know that true hunger signs also come on gradually, not suddenly, so you are likely to feel slightly hungry before it turns into what you may associate with starvation! Aim to eat small meals every 3-4 hours to help keep your hunger cues in check and to keep blood sugar levels balanced so that you don’t wind up getting your hunger and thirst signals mixed up.
Signs of thirst
So, what does thirst look like? How is your thirst signal any different from your hunger signals? The first thing you need to understand about thirst is that by the time you are feeling thirsty, you may already be slightly dehydrated. Once true thirst has really set in, you may start to experience symptoms such as nausea, dizziness, headache, dry eyes, dark urine, and dry mouth. If you frequently let yourself get to the point of dehydration, you may experience frequent constipation and dry skin.
The trick is to stay ahead of the thirst by drinking water throughout the day. You can also add a splash of unsweetened coconut water to your water bottle to help keep electrolyte levels up. If you stay hydrated throughout the day, you are less likely to feel thirsty which reduces your chance of dehydration but also reduces the chance that you get thirst confused with hunger and wind up eating when your body really just needs some hydration.
So, now what?
Now that you know what hunger and thirst look like and the type of signals your body may receive what can you do to make sure you are not mixing these two signals up? The first step is not immediately to grab food the second you are hungry. Remember that true hunger gradually creeps up as opposed to suddenly coming on. This means that you can take the time to reach for some water and hydrate before grabbing that snack to see if that does the trick.
The bottom line is that if you find yourself craving a food or are hungry shortly after a meal try drinking a glass of water and then wait 15 minutes and see how you feel. Take notice to see if your hunger pangs subside. If you no longer feel hungry, there’s a good chance your body just needed some hydration. If you still notice your stomach growling, then your body may actually be giving you hunger signs, and it may be time to eat. However, keep in mind that if you’re still craving that sweet treat even after a glass of water, it could just be emotional hunger as opposed to your body’s hunger signal. Try having another glass of water and go for a walk to distract yourself from that pesky craving!
Having enough water in your diet is an essential step in achieving overall health, but it’s also an important part of keeping your thirst mechanism in check. The reality is that many people have a weak thirst mechanism which is why they often mistake hunger with just being thirsty. Get ahead of this by hydrating throughout the day and tuning into your bodies cues a little more closely. It may just be the difference between whether or not you overeat.