Rather than induce hunger, caffeine actually suppresses the appetite and may cause you to skip meals. While it may seem that the caffeine is to blame if you suddenly experience hunger pangs after a long period of drinking caffeinated beverages, your food cravings are probably due to having skipped or delayed a meal. Monitor your eating habits while consuming caffeine to maintain a steady intake of food throughout the day.
Caffeine and the Body
Caffeine is a psychoactive stimulant that is absorbed and distributed very quickly through the body. After digestion, the caffeine passes into the brain, where it begins to stimulate the central nervous system, blocking fatigue-inducers called adenosine receptors. As a result, your neurons begin firing at an accelerated rate, as your heart rate increases and your hunger cravings become delayed.
Suppressing the Appetite
Your blood sugar levels gradually decline anytime you delay or skip a meal. According to MayoClinic.com, caffeine can reduce your desire to eat for a period of time, causing you to consume fewer calories during the course of a day. By consuming caffeine, your energy levels remain at an artificial peak, while your blood sugar steadily declines. After the caffeine has reached its highest concentration in your blood, you may experience a crash or sudden energy drop that is accompanied by hunger pangs, if you have forgotten to eat.
One possible correlation between caffeine and hunger involves craving comfort foods. As your central nervous system becomes stimulated, your pituitary and hypothalamus glands release stress hormones such as ephinedrine and cortisol, enabling a fight-or-flight response in your body. Because the neural control of your gastrointestinal tract is highly affected by emotions and stress, your caffeine consumption may cause you to crave certain comfort foods to help cope with the increased sensations of anxiety and stress.
Always keep your caffeine intake below the 300 milligrams recommended for most healthy adults. Consuming caffeine in excess of 500 milligrams a day may result in unpleasant symptoms such as dizziness, headaches, anxiousness, irritability, upset stomach, increased heart rate and muscle tremors. Talk to your doctor if you routinely experience hunger pangs after consuming caffeine, and try to adopt a regular eating pattern to prevent dips in blood sugar.
- MayoClinic.com; Caffeine: How Much Is Too Much?; March 9, 2011
- Monroe Street Medical Clinic: Appetite Suppressants
- Gaia Naturopathic Clinic; Effects of Coffee and/or Caffeine on the Gastrointestinal Tract; Julia Gonen
- MedlinePlus; Caffeine in the Diet; May 5, 2011
- The University of Maryland Medical Center; Caffeine in the Diet; May 2, 2009
- Princeton University; Drugs and Smoking; August 18, 2011