NUTRITION

Why you are always hungry at work despite sitting all day

Which is often accompanied by constant snacking

In Summary

•Depending on a person's activity the brain uses at least 20% of the body energy to think.

•The energy which is in form of calories is required by your brain for it to perform every activity.

Image: SHUTTERSTOCK

Ever wondered why you will still feel tired and angry even after spending the entire day sitting at your desk?

For most employed people, working during the eight-hour shift while taking regular breaks to walk to the coffee makers, water dispenser or use the washroom does not amount to physical activity.

But according to Nanyuki based Nutritionist Wincate Wangari, during your eight-hour shift, your brain is constantly working, which is part of physical exercise.

“When we engage in any physical activity or work, our body is expending energy in the movement of our muscles. Your brain, your liver, kidneys, blood flowing and bowel movements all require energy,” says Wangari.

The energy which is in form of calories is required by your brain for it to perform every activity.

Research has found that during a typical day, a person uses about 320 calories just to think. In fact, while the brain contributes 2 per cent of a person’s body weight, it uses up to 20 per cent of the body energy.

“Different tasks affect the way the brain consumes energy. Some studies have found that when people are not very good at a particular task, they exert more mental effort and use more glucose,” she said.

“The more a person participates in a difficult mental task, the more energy they will require as there is more activity for the brain to engage in. At the same time, it has to keep you alive and your organs functioning.”

Studies have shown even while sleeping, the brain also requires energy to run the normal body processes.

Chess board
Chess board
Image: Pixabay

Wangari said the more skilled a person is in doing a certain activity, the more efficient his or her brain is and the body tends to use less glucose.

“The brain is the most expensive organ, even when it comes to consuming energy. When skilled and unskilled persons are playing Chess, for example, the skilled one will consume less brain energy compared to the unskilled,” she said.

Even though the brain doesn’t have a reserve of energy to store away when it needs it, as our skill level grows in a particular area, our brain will inevitably require less energy to perform that task.

Image: Image: Fer Andrade

“My general hypothesis is that the brain often has a hard time staying focused on one thing for too long. That is why you need to get regular breaks to gain energy again. But some people have trained their brain to focus, such that it has sharpened their mental state,” Wangari says.

How to boost energy levels

By participating in games like Sudoku, chess, puzzles and others, studies have shown that people who enjoy such activities don’t often suffer mental exhaustion.

“We naturally feel hungrier when we have been doing a lot of mental work. Since the brain requires glucose for its power, perhaps giving in and feeding your happy hormones could be the answer to stress management,” she said.

Wangari recommended eating brain-friendly foods such as berries, eggs, nuts, green leafy vegetables or oily fish.

“It is high time we start respecting mental hunger. Let us pay attention to brain health like other organs. Refined carbs lack fiber and cause blood sugar fluctuations, which are the primary reasons why eating too many of them may leave you feeling hungry,” She said.

Taking a 30-minute break, drinking lots of water, getting enough sleep and knowing how to handle stress can reduce how often we snack in during working hours.

“Always eat away from your desk, distracted eating may be a reason why you are always hungry, and you eat fast in the process making it difficult for you to recognize feelings of fullness.”