9

votes

Have you always had an enormous appetite? Do you know why?

Answered on August 19, 2014
Created March 11, 2011 at 9:15 AM

This one is for all you big eaters. I've always been a big eater, at least I know I have been over the last ten years or so since I started paying attention to this sort of thing. But I at least know that I was a big eater before I went paleo, and I still am now. People who are around my size just don't eat as much food as I do. This has led to the usual jokes: "You must have a tapeworm" (tapeworms can actually decrease your appetite, I've read); or "where does it all go"; or "it's amazing that you're so slim." And it's true, I don't ever gain weight. (I lost my late-20s belly fat when I went paleo, but before going paleo I also always stayed at a constant weight.) I do exercise, but not excessively: weights a couple times a week, cardio once a week, sprints once a week, walking, etc. But even when I don't exercise, for days and days, I still eat a huge amount.

I always assumed I had a big appetite because I carry a fair amount of muscle on my body (BMI 24). And I always thought that muscle was metabolically expensive, even when you're not exercising -- simply keeping it on your body consumes a lot of calories. But I was just reading through this great post from Dr. Mike Eades, "Are we meat eaters or vegetarians? Part II," and it got me thinking. The main concern of his post is to explain the classic article by Aiello and Wheeler, "The Expensive-Tissue Hypothesis," in which the authors show that human beings, compared to other primates, have disproportionately large brains and disproportionately small guts -- which one can take as good evidence for our meat-eating past. That topic is really interesting, of course. But one paragraph from Dr. Mike's post got me onto these new reflections of mine:

The authors of the ETH [The Expensive-Tissue Hypothesis] set out to look at the metabolic rates of the various organs. By a diligent search of the literature, they found that along with the brain, the heart, the kidneys, the liver and the gastro-intestinal tract account for the vast majority of the total BMR. They dubbed these organs as ???expensive tissues??? because they consume a large amount of energy as compared to their size. (Surprisingly, muscle mass doesn???t contribute all that much to the total metabolic rate (skin and bone contribute even less), which gives the lie to that old notion ??? that I, myself, have fallen prey to ??? that replacing fat with muscle increases metabolism significantly.)

Therefore having a lot of muscle mass does not lead to a huge increase in basal metabolic rate. So if that's true, then why is it that some people eat more than others when they're the same size, and have the same level of activity? Why are some people big eaters and other people not?

Taking into account that it's the brain, heart, kidneys, liver, and GI tract that are using up most of the energy, we might ask: could a big eater have an inefficient liver? An inefficient heart? If your liver is damaged in some way could it be using more calories? If you spend all day thinking are you going to be burning more calories? (In my case I know it's not my big brain, ha ha.)

What if you have a long-term, low-level infection? Are you feeding a virus or a fungus? (Kind of like the tape-worm idea above ...) Or perhaps it's just miscalculation, overestimating how much you're eating -- the "big eater" is just a boaster and not a big eater at all? Or are some of us just built differently from others and that's that?

And here's another thought: If general appetite level is not changed by a switch to paleo does that give us any clues as to what the cause of that appetite level might be?

81feb1022a28f534867616b9316c7aa4

(638)

on April 04, 2013
at 08:42 AM

does it mean you actually burn 1.96 more cals a min, or 1.96 cals a min as opposed to 1 cal a min if you were sitting down?

Af2662fc82df87952abb3fdf16b20aa4

(410)

on July 30, 2012
at 03:12 PM

I've read in a couple of places that each pound of muscle burns about 6kcals per day.

47a42b6be94caf700fce9509e38bb6a4

(9647)

on March 18, 2011
at 05:23 AM

Why has this answer not been voted up more? I thought that link was a good find.

0adda19045a3641edac0008364b91110

(1146)

on March 17, 2011
at 03:06 AM

Impressive, especially for your size.

26b7615ef542394102785a67a2786867

(7967)

on March 17, 2011
at 01:20 AM

I am barely 5'5". It wasn't specifically directed at rob or the OP, but I think in the 3000s is probably normal for many men. Though I do eat quite a bit more than my boyfriend, and he outweighs me by 60 lbs... a lot of it is genetics for me, plain and simple. My dad is skinny with a big appetite and ADD, and my two sisters and I inherited all of it (I'm the skinniest though). We overeat and our skin gets hot to the touch and we want to jump around... we don't build much meat even on 300g of carbs daily.

47a42b6be94caf700fce9509e38bb6a4

(9647)

on March 16, 2011
at 10:16 PM

More evidence for the fidgeting theory ...

47a42b6be94caf700fce9509e38bb6a4

(9647)

on March 16, 2011
at 10:14 PM

Your last comment is directed at Rob right? I think I actually eat more like 3500 on average. ... Those are impressive calorie numbers you have -- unless you got that BMI at, say, 6'8" and 159.

47a42b6be94caf700fce9509e38bb6a4

(9647)

on March 11, 2011
at 08:55 PM

My girlfriend tells me there is never a time when I am not moving. When I am lying down reading, say, I'm usually tapping my foot up and down, noiselessly.

47a42b6be94caf700fce9509e38bb6a4

(9647)

on March 11, 2011
at 08:53 PM

Oh yeah, the confusion was maybe that I posted a link to my answer about calories in/calories out, which was not entirely necessary I guess. When you go to David's link have a look at Table 1 (under the subheading "Results").

E35e3d76547b18096a59c90029e7e107

(15613)

on March 11, 2011
at 08:35 PM

http://www.ajcn.org/content/72/6/1451.full American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Vol. 72, No. 6, 1451-1454, December 2000 Energy expenditure of nonexercise activity

100fd85230060e754fc13394eee6d6f1

(18706)

on March 11, 2011
at 08:04 PM

Would you mind reposting the link to the study? I'm not sure where you mean, exactly.

100fd85230060e754fc13394eee6d6f1

(18706)

on March 11, 2011
at 07:52 PM

Wow. Those fidget numbers are incredible. I don't feel like I fidget, but I do stand a lot. That could be driving the need for more fuel.

47a42b6be94caf700fce9509e38bb6a4

(9647)

on March 11, 2011
at 06:07 PM

Thanks for sharing your experiences Robert. Funny that you ask if I am asking about myself. I think I have a habit of trying to make my paleohacks questions both personal and general -- maybe to try to get more responses that way?

47a42b6be94caf700fce9509e38bb6a4

(9647)

on March 11, 2011
at 05:56 PM

Right, I've looked at your new tracking experiment, the thing you linked to in that question from a little while back. Maybe you're a fidgeter like me? (David Moss's answer and my comments.)

47a42b6be94caf700fce9509e38bb6a4

(9647)

on March 11, 2011
at 05:54 PM

increase your expenditure above resting by 54%! In the paper, that was an average of 1.96 calories a minute -- i.e., 118 calories an hour, or, theoretically extended over 16 waking hours ... 1,900 calories! That is really something else. (Of course the authors go on to hint/propose non-exercise activity like this as a weight-loss method, missing the Taubes point.)

47a42b6be94caf700fce9509e38bb6a4

(9647)

on March 11, 2011
at 05:50 PM

Right, I knew that fidgeting (or futile cycling) is one way that the body can react to excess calories; this is a Taubes point, and an important part of the whole calories versus hormonal picture (my answer, for example: http://paleohacks.com/questions/15420/do-you-believe-in-calories-in-calories-out-for-weight-loss-or-gain-and-why/15435#15435). But of course you are completely right that fidgeting could be an important part of *everyday* calorie expenditure and not just a reaction to increased intake. And that article is truly insane: just in fidgeting while sitting you can [continued]

C0fcb48d7da4f76fac17318efd2cd6b8

(4069)

on March 11, 2011
at 05:20 PM

I wish I could understand this response.

0ee98c251b5eef357445aefec99c5d7b

(888)

on March 11, 2011
at 02:06 PM

sorry i meant correlation between brain activity and metabolic rate. I can't imagine them being the same for a stressed-out corporate manager vs a buddhist monk.

0ee98c251b5eef357445aefec99c5d7b

(888)

on March 11, 2011
at 02:03 PM

this might be a long shot, but is there any scientific literature about the correlation between brain activity and appetite? ie. if someone has a lot of chronic stress/introversion, would his/her brain expend more energy on a daily basis?

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12 Answers

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3
E35e3d76547b18096a59c90029e7e107

(15613)

on March 11, 2011
at 03:37 PM

Perhaps you naturally burn more calories through non-exercising activity, e.g. basically fidgeting. I seem to recall that just standing up, rather than sitting, makes a substantial difference both through lipoprotein lipase and through the subtle shifting of weight etc. that we barely notice. Perhaps leptin is part of the explanation- namely, as soon as you or other big eaters, gain an energy excess, you're automatically compelled to increase activity through various means.

100fd85230060e754fc13394eee6d6f1

(18706)

on March 11, 2011
at 08:04 PM

Would you mind reposting the link to the study? I'm not sure where you mean, exactly.

E35e3d76547b18096a59c90029e7e107

(15613)

on March 11, 2011
at 08:35 PM

http://www.ajcn.org/content/72/6/1451.full American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Vol. 72, No. 6, 1451-1454, December 2000 Energy expenditure of nonexercise activity

47a42b6be94caf700fce9509e38bb6a4

(9647)

on March 11, 2011
at 08:53 PM

Oh yeah, the confusion was maybe that I posted a link to my answer about calories in/calories out, which was not entirely necessary I guess. When you go to David's link have a look at Table 1 (under the subheading "Results").

47a42b6be94caf700fce9509e38bb6a4

(9647)

on March 11, 2011
at 05:54 PM

increase your expenditure above resting by 54%! In the paper, that was an average of 1.96 calories a minute -- i.e., 118 calories an hour, or, theoretically extended over 16 waking hours ... 1,900 calories! That is really something else. (Of course the authors go on to hint/propose non-exercise activity like this as a weight-loss method, missing the Taubes point.)

47a42b6be94caf700fce9509e38bb6a4

(9647)

on March 11, 2011
at 05:50 PM

Right, I knew that fidgeting (or futile cycling) is one way that the body can react to excess calories; this is a Taubes point, and an important part of the whole calories versus hormonal picture (my answer, for example: http://paleohacks.com/questions/15420/do-you-believe-in-calories-in-calories-out-for-weight-loss-or-gain-and-why/15435#15435). But of course you are completely right that fidgeting could be an important part of *everyday* calorie expenditure and not just a reaction to increased intake. And that article is truly insane: just in fidgeting while sitting you can [continued]

47a42b6be94caf700fce9509e38bb6a4

(9647)

on March 18, 2011
at 05:23 AM

Why has this answer not been voted up more? I thought that link was a good find.

81feb1022a28f534867616b9316c7aa4

(638)

on April 04, 2013
at 08:42 AM

does it mean you actually burn 1.96 more cals a min, or 1.96 cals a min as opposed to 1 cal a min if you were sitting down?

1
048dd52752c45129c1212bfffb37ca72

on April 04, 2013
at 07:23 AM

I suspect you may not had a look at this from the most evident perspective. While it's true that lean tissue, be it the organs or muscle have a certain metabolic rate expense, I think that the true reason why you can eat so much without putting a lot of fat tissue and your high hunger it's pretty related to your hormone status level.

You have stated that have good muscle size and you can maintain it even when you do not a lot of strength training. Also stated than can overeat without putting on weight. Congratz, because in my point of view, you seem to have really good levels of free testosterone running through your veins.

You could do some bloodwork in order to confirm this, but I bet you'll find good news. Testosterone, for men, is the truly hormone of youth. When you have plenty of it, and also a general good hormone status, where you don't aromatize it into estrogens and have good thyroid levels, the body works at its full. With high test, you can avoid putting on fat, specially near the waist zone, and can prompt muscle building from macronutrients when there is a surplus, inspite of sending them to fat tissue. It also plays an important role from the emotional and energy side of things. If you're happy and in a good anabolic state you're most certainly having good taste for food. You're likely to having good appetite but for most of the healthy options (lean meats and fats). This is pretty different from the cravings you feel when tired, low testosterone and with rocket-high levels of cortisol, where you may be missing sweet stuff and carbs the most.

That could be an explanation, of course the body is a pretty complex thing which involves a lot of biochemical reactions and we can be oversimplifying things.

Nonetheless, I'd still pay attention at what you eat because if overeating but promoting a lot of sugary stuff instead of real, good food, that may put up blood sugar over the time and start causing issues with insulin and leptin, where you start losing control of your appetite and eating bad stuf (this has something to do with the neurepeptides NPY that The Quilt commented and got downvoted for so) then you'd start losing your good hormonal balance and things could start turning in the wrong direction. You are paleo currently so It seems that you'll be doing fine for a long time.

1
96bf58d8c6bd492dc5b8ae46203fe247

(37227)

on April 03, 2013
at 04:33 PM

In the other responses, I didn't see mention of gut efficiency. Sorry if you did and I missed it. I agree with the current opinion, "You are not what you eat; you are what you absorb." I'm seeing that headline often, but I don't know the original source.

Yes, I am a big eater and I always have been. In my case, sadly, the large appetite produced excess fat because I do seem to have an efficient gut. I inherited my appetite from my dad, who ate like an NFL lineman yet he weighed 133 lbs his entire life and was wiry thin. I believe he had an inefficient gut and simply didn't absorb all that food.

At our dinner table, huge servings and 2nd helpings were "normal." I was actually the only one of the 4 of us who packed the nutrients into fat and I was as active as they were.

Nowadays, I don't fight my appetite at all because I've learned willpower will only take me so far. I eat one meal per day and I make sure it's high volume so I can get that stuffed feeling that shuts down my appetite until the next day--a large serving of fruit, such as a whole grapefruit and a banana or equivalent, a huge salad of greens and low-carb veggies made in a mixing bowl and a nice 8-10 oz. serving of beef or equivalent.

I'm steadily losing inches on this program. I don't know where I'll stabilize as I'm still overweight, but I'm hoping it will happen at a weight within normal range. I figure I'm 5-7 months away from finding out.

1
671cba589bf72259aab6ceb17447955c

on July 30, 2012
at 02:50 PM

it's easy to eat around 3000 calories a day and still get hungry! just have about 15 chocolate bars and that's 3000 calories!! it's actually about WHAT you eat not HOW MUCH you eat.

1
26b7615ef542394102785a67a2786867

on March 16, 2011
at 09:38 PM

I'm a 25-year-old woman with a BMI of 17.5, and 3000+ calories is my daily norm (I'm maintaining my weight right now - would like to gain but eating so much more is a pain in the ass). I'm pretty active ATM, but still, it's a lot of food for a small girl. It's not my muscle mass - I have wiry ones, but they are tiny. I fidget a TON and always have.

3000 calories isn't that much for a muscular man IMO...

26b7615ef542394102785a67a2786867

(7967)

on March 17, 2011
at 01:20 AM

I am barely 5'5". It wasn't specifically directed at rob or the OP, but I think in the 3000s is probably normal for many men. Though I do eat quite a bit more than my boyfriend, and he outweighs me by 60 lbs... a lot of it is genetics for me, plain and simple. My dad is skinny with a big appetite and ADD, and my two sisters and I inherited all of it (I'm the skinniest though). We overeat and our skin gets hot to the touch and we want to jump around... we don't build much meat even on 300g of carbs daily.

0adda19045a3641edac0008364b91110

(1146)

on March 17, 2011
at 03:06 AM

Impressive, especially for your size.

47a42b6be94caf700fce9509e38bb6a4

(9647)

on March 16, 2011
at 10:14 PM

Your last comment is directed at Rob right? I think I actually eat more like 3500 on average. ... Those are impressive calorie numbers you have -- unless you got that BMI at, say, 6'8" and 159.

47a42b6be94caf700fce9509e38bb6a4

(9647)

on March 16, 2011
at 10:16 PM

More evidence for the fidgeting theory ...

1
100fd85230060e754fc13394eee6d6f1

(18706)

on March 11, 2011
at 02:57 PM

Great question! I'm currently fairly stable in weight (losing slightly and sporadically), and just found out I'm eating around 3000 calories a day. It baffles me.

47a42b6be94caf700fce9509e38bb6a4

(9647)

on March 11, 2011
at 08:55 PM

My girlfriend tells me there is never a time when I am not moving. When I am lying down reading, say, I'm usually tapping my foot up and down, noiselessly.

47a42b6be94caf700fce9509e38bb6a4

(9647)

on March 11, 2011
at 05:56 PM

Right, I've looked at your new tracking experiment, the thing you linked to in that question from a little while back. Maybe you're a fidgeter like me? (David Moss's answer and my comments.)

100fd85230060e754fc13394eee6d6f1

(18706)

on March 11, 2011
at 07:52 PM

Wow. Those fidget numbers are incredible. I don't feel like I fidget, but I do stand a lot. That could be driving the need for more fuel.

1
Ee6e654c261005257e1b62848f76a3e6

on March 11, 2011
at 12:40 PM

Do I understand that you want to understand why you have such a large appetite?

I'm not sure if I have an answer for you but I can tell you that you are not the only one. I have had a large appetite since I was a small child. My mom talked to our doctor about it every year but I was never really aware of it until about 8th grade when my appetite started to get enormous. My friends who used to tease me minorly for my appetite now questioned me about how I could possibly eat so much and how I could "still be hungry" etc. So I have had many similar experiences to you. These comments never really bothered me and I expect it doesn't bother you ether.

I was a little bothered by the fact that I seemed to need more than my friends and would get hungry before anyone else. Once at a party I ate an entire large pizza plus a little more. This wasn't too much more than some of my friends but 3 or 4 hours later I put away another half a pizza. My friend said something like "OMG! are you HUNGRY!?!? - STILL!?!?" and "Good God, How much can you eat!?!?" I WAS hungry and it made me feel funny that everyone thought it was so strange. I suspect this is your concern also. If so, don't worry about it - different people are just different.

I also have a large muscle mass - I put on muscle very easily. I suspect there is a genetic cause for my appetite. I have heard of people whose bodies cannot make myostatin - they are extremely muscular and have extremely fast metabolisms. I don't seem to have all the symtoms of that condition but I really suspect that there is some sort of similar genetics at work which may not be discovered yet. Very probably you are the same but if you are concerned then go see a doctor. I have seen several.

That's about the best I can do. Good Luck!

47a42b6be94caf700fce9509e38bb6a4

(9647)

on March 11, 2011
at 06:07 PM

Thanks for sharing your experiences Robert. Funny that you ask if I am asking about myself. I think I have a habit of trying to make my paleohacks questions both personal and general -- maybe to try to get more responses that way?

0
89985542ffc00c296552951369fe809a

on April 03, 2013
at 05:31 PM

I am a HUGE EATER - the biggest one I know. I have been known to sit down to five pounds of salmon... I just cannot stop, and I am a bottomless pit. LOL! I believe the reason for this is because I do not eat carbohydrates other than some vegetables.

This lifestyle works for me quite nicely, but it's not a one-size fits all!

0
Eaa23cfb80679fd73334daa155ff2632

(0)

on April 03, 2013
at 02:53 PM

Finally!people who know how i feel!i always feel awkward when i reach for seconds and every1 else feels stuffed,although i suffered a mild eating disorder period 8 months ago,i thought my system would have become normal by now!

0
F9638b939a6f85d67f60065677193cad

(4266)

on July 30, 2012
at 06:48 PM

I'm hungry a lot. I try to restrain myself. My appetite is much larger than it ought to be. The whole low carb/high fat thing really helped me at first but now nothing works to curtail my appetite. I'm starving right now and watching the clock for lunchtime.

0
0adda19045a3641edac0008364b91110

(1146)

on March 11, 2011
at 04:26 PM

I eat about 3000 calories a day just to sustain my weight, and I feel I could still fit in more. I just try to control myself, when I don't I could easily down 5000 calories.

0
Ed71ab1c75c6a9bd217a599db0a3e117

(25482)

on March 11, 2011
at 02:32 PM

Increase appetite is neurohumoral response to carbohydrate due to hypothalamic levels of NPY......That is why. Once youre leptin sensitve it all goes away. Intestinal lavage with calcium AEP helps tun it off by its effects on agouti.

C0fcb48d7da4f76fac17318efd2cd6b8

(4069)

on March 11, 2011
at 05:20 PM

I wish I could understand this response.

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