Disclaimer
• Your life and health are your own responsibility.
• Your decisions to act (or not act) based on information or advice anyone provides you—including me—are your own responsibility.

Categories

I Am A Ghrelin Addict

I am a ghrelin addict.

Ghrelin is a hunger hormone. Your body secretes it when you haven’t eaten for some time. It makes you hungry, and blood levels plummet once you eat.

Yet ghrelin is so much more than hunger.

Ghrelin is neurotrophic. It enhances learning and memory — in fact, it is “essential for cognitive adaptation to changing environments and the process of learning.”
Ghrelin stimulates the secretion of growth hormone.
Ghrelin increases cardiac output.
Ghrelin increases the concentration of dopamine in the substantia nigra, the brain’s center of reward and addiction.
That is why ghrelin is a rush.

Ghrelin is why hunger motivates us, and why it’s so hard to get motivated to learn or do anything when you’re full of food. Brains are metabolically expensive, and ghrelin sends our brains into overdrive when we need them—which is when we’re hungry.

Ghrelin is one reason fat people get fatter. If you can’t resist hunger—if a little shot of ghrelin just makes you walk straight to the cupboard and grab a snack—you’ll never know the sublime pleasure of feeling your brain kick into overdrive, the hot satisfaction of really digging into a tough problem with all your strength. You’ll just sink back onto the couch and flip channels and get fat.

Ghrelin is yet another sign that humans are hunters, not farmers. Is hunger a useful motivator to plow and sow and weed, when the reward of harvest is months away? No. The only reason for hunger to make us smarter is that we are hunters, and our minds must be honed to a sharp edge in order to find and kill big, dangerous animals and defend our kills from the other predators, and that is what ghrelin does—but only when we’re hungry, because we didn’t co-evolve with refrigerators.

I am a ghrelin addict.
I dance on the knife edge of keen mental acuity and dopamine rush.
The rush cannot last forever. If I am smart I simply eat, and accept the lull. If I am not smart, I push it too far and crash into starvation and depression.
I am not anorexic! I love to eat, and I eat like a warrior, and I have never purged, ever. But in order to do my best, most inspired work, I must dance on that knife edge as long as I can.

The hunger gnaws at my insides until I can feel my gut twisting itself into knots. Yet I gladly suffer the pain in order to wield ghrelin’s power. It is my cursed sword and its power is terrifying and intoxicating and it exacts its price from me, and I pay that price with an evil grin, because it is a power I could not wield any other way.

I am a ghrelin addict, and this is my story.

Bookmark and Share

47 comments

Permalink: I Am A Ghrelin Addict
  • Mark

    Great article. I find that I need to be mildly hungry to perform at my best too.

  • Bodhi

    I think a lot of the Paleo community is becoming addicted to ghrelin. Intermittent fasting has grown greatly over the last year.

  • links for 2011-04-17

    [...] I Am A Ghrelin Addict – GNOLLS.ORG Apparently ghrelin or "being hungry" makes us smarter and better for a little moments. Uhmmnn…. (tags: ghrelin addiction good health gnolls.org creativity power) [...]

  • 042611 – Tuesd

    [...] American Diet) are over, you’re feeling more energetic—and thinking more clearly due to the action of ghrelin, now that being hungry doesn’t just make you cranky and [...]

  • Peggy the Primal Par

    I never really thought I’d read a scientific article verifying my addiction to hunger. I’ve heard of great Japanese warriors self inflicting life-long near starvation and, while that’s reassuring, I haven’t heard the same of intellectuals. I’m just aware of my body and notice that I am both more physically energetic and mentally acute when I’m hungry. I never connected that rush to ghrelin. Thanks for the insight. I am not anorexic either. I eat plenty of high fat foods every day but I just enjoy skipping meals quite frequently too. I suppose between that and low carb I stay pretty thin.

  • Peggy:

    It's nice to be able to function at such a high level, for so long, without crashing, isn't it?

    The great part is that since I wrote this article I've become much more attentive to my diet (high-fat paleo/primal, like you), and I can last a lot longer.  And I don't think my calorie intake has gone down, much…I eat epic meals when I finally do break my fast.

    I loved your anecdote “Bacon Makes You Fat??!!”, by the way.

    JS

  • Peggy

    Yeah, I wouldn’t say my caloric intake has gone down either. I have days when I seem to be making up for lost time and then other days where I’m just not into eating. It evens out, I think.

    I’m glad you liked that story. It’s sad but true, and a little bit funny. ;)

  • Paul Lee

    Managed to find this site doing a search for “beta oxidation.” It really is an excellent resource. Of course I have been familiar with Paleo eating and have been a “low carber” for some time but thanks for explaining the role of Ghrelin in a completely different way. I’d always considered it a bit of a PITA hormone, serving no good purpose really, but reading your post, will make me relish this little hormone!

  • Tim

    The article gave me a much needed change of perspective on fasting – a kick up the **** to get I.F.-ing again! Thank you

  • Paul:

    Yes, ghrelin most definitely exists for a very good reason…it's not just trying to make you fat.  It's trying to make you get off your butt and go spear a mammoth.  Unfortunately that motivation tends to get short-circuited, in modern times, by the refrigerator or Taco Bell.

    Tim:

    It's worth it.

    JS

  • Diet For Health &amp

    [...] while at the same time makes us ready for action. J. Stanton reveals the brighter side of ghrelin in this short [...]

  • Hipparchia

    I watched a movie about an artist- a starving artist, but not because he did not make money. He said something that makes more and more sense to me: a painter must be hungry to create art.

    Now, I never start a painting on a full stomach. I never solved a problem in a painting on a full stomach.

    You have to be a bit miserable, a bit driven, so art can work.

  • Hipparchia:

    Many people have come to this realization instinctively, but it's very interesting to know the biochemistry.  At least I think so!

    It's also interesting when a metaphor crosses back into literal truth.

    JS

  • Kathy Schneider

    As far as learning goes, Ghrelin also acts on the hippocampus to enhance learning.

  • Bruun's Titting

    [...] this should be of interest to you since you're in school: I Am A Ghrelin Addict - GNOLLS.ORG __________________ That part of me left yesterday The heart of me is strong today No regrets I'm [...]

  • Indifference, I thin

    [...] but since you're our bac-taker that's in school, you might find this interesting. Every bit helps. I Am A Ghrelin Addict - GNOLLS.ORG __________________ That part of me left yesterday The heart of me is strong today No regrets I'm [...]

  • Haley

    Me too!! I’m glad to get a little better understanding of the reason behind the extra focus and motivation. Interesting read! Thanks!

  • Indifference, I thin

    [...] but since you're our bac-taker that's in school, you might find this interesting. Every bit helps. I Am A Ghrelin Addict – GNOLLS.ORG __________________ Still fighting the good [...]

  • J. Stanton said:

    Paul:

    Yes, ghrelin most definitely exists for a very good reason…it's not just trying to make you fat.  It's trying to make you get off your butt and go spear a mammoth.  Unfortunately that motivation tends to get short-circuited, in modern times, by the refrigerator or Taco Bell.

    Tim:

    It's worth it.

    JS


    that damn Taco Bell…

  • Addicted to feeling

    [...] I Am A Ghrelin Addict - GNOLLS.ORG http://thepaleopremise.blogspot.com Reply With Quote   + Reply to [...]

  • Kathy:

    Yes, that's correct.

    Haley:

    IFing is great once you're able to do it without feeling like you're going to faint.

    Brynn:

    But it's open late, and so convenient!

    That's why I almost always cook roasts instead of individual meat portions: so I've got pre-cooked real food available quickly if I need it.  Tri-tip, bacon, or prime rib > anything on the Taco Bell menu.

    Furthermore, the longer you eat like a predator, the less you'll be tempted, because you'll get “the munchies” less and less often.  For a healthy human, hunger is a signal, not an alarm.

    JS

  • 5 Links We Love This

    [...] The Hunger Hormone Does More Then Make Our Stomach Growl — The Gnoll Credo [...]

  • Brynn:

    But it's open late, and so convenient!

    That's why I almost always cook roasts instead of individual meat portions: so I've got pre-cooked real food available quickly if I need it.  Tri-tip, bacon, or prime rib > anything on the Taco Bell menu.

    Furthermore, the longer you eat like a predator, the less you'll be tempted, because you'll get “the munchies” less and less often.  For a healthy human, hunger is a signal, not an alarm.

    JS


    Luckily for me, I don't live any where near any fast food places (pretty remarkable, if you ask me) and since I walk every where, theres no way I could justify walking MILES for shitty food.  But, that's good advice.  I am a scatter-brain and often don't have time to cook.  Thanks for the inspiration!  

  • Suggestions for Heal

    [...] is a sensation that you might just have to get acquainted with if you want to shed body fat. When you’re hungry, your body is saying “Hey dummy, you [...]

  • The Fat of the Land

    [...] и стегната, докато мързелувам. Освен това, ако искам повишена креативност, винаги мога да пропусна 2-3 яденета, без метаболизмът [...]

  • Shopping experience

    [...] read this post in a forum, about becoming a hunter and predator rather than pray. Today in the supermarket, I felt [...]

  • [...] is a sensation that you might just have to get acquainted with if you want to shed body fat. When you’re hungry, your body is saying “Hey dummy, you [...]

  • [...] but I give my body time to reset.  It accelerates fat-burning, it sharpens my mind through the ghrelin production and restores insulin sensitivity.  And when I am between meals, I try not to snack; my liver [...]

  • MasterNinja

    I won't say I'm an addict because I can stop whenever I want. Cool

     

    However, I don't want to stop.  Went totally paleo diet on January 16, 2012.  I will still have the occasional full-fat yogurt mixed with my local honey, and still use cheeses in small amounts.  30lbs and 6 inches from my waist later, I feel awesome.  Part of this change is that in this process, I found I just wasn't hungry as much, and started with IF about a month ago.  Typically, from 9 at night till about 1 in the afternoon, I don't eat.  Not surprisingly, I get more work done in that 4 hours right before my afternoon feeding.  Ghrelin Addict?  Nah.  I just enjoy it a bit every day. 

     

    But, I can quit whenever I want. Wink

  • MasterNinja:

    Congratulations on great progress!

    JS

  • MasterNinja

    However, I AM a bit of a Parmesan cheese addict.  I love to shave some off the block onto my roasted asparagus or brussel sprouts.  If that keeps me from being “Paleo” then it's gonna be a while before I can do without it.  Confused

  • MasterNinja:

    I wouldn't worry about it.  As my latest article states, Parmesan is a massive source of umami.  And “shaving bits onto broccoli” is a lot different than making a big cheese quesadilla (I think I lived mostly on these when I was vegetarian) or binging on Kraft Singles.

    I'm not strongly anti-dairy anyway: Eat Like A Predator summarizes my stance on the matter.  Butterfat is fine, and cheese in condiment quantities isn't a big deal unless you're intolerant.

    JS

  • Fletch

    Thinking…Is it possible that the ‘high’ that early-stage vegans experience is grehlins?

    And…I’ve been Intermittent Fasting for a couple of months. Usually 19 hour fast, and a five hour eating window. I’ve definitely had days where I’ve ridden that knife-edge of hunger and it’s been great for creativity. Yesterday, however, I became ravenous after about 15 hours. One of those, ‘If I don’t eat something, I’m gonna kill something’ hungers. So I ate. Not wanting to break from work, I ate while I worked.

    Whoah. It was like the calories were being fed straight into my brain. It was a high. Fatty ground beef and scrambled eggs, and I felt like I was trippin’ balls. Grehlins rock, but feeding the beast (when it’s REALLY hungry) is pretty awesome too. I can’t remember the last time food had that effect on me.

    Crap. When I started typing I swear I had a point.

  • Fletch:

    It's definitely why fasting is a high…and I suspect you're right, that it also contributes to the early stage vegan high.

    I too have found that eating meat, eggs, and veggies (i.e. no starch) when hungry often leaves me quite buzzed.  It's only once I start piling on the starch (or consuming heroic amounts of meat) that I get the post-prandial blahs.

    JS

  • Puzzled

    This makes so much sense. I’ve found that exercising goes much better in a fasted state, to the point where I often eat nothing until after my afternoon workout. I also find that I can’t eat lunch at work – if I do, after lunch I feel miserable.

    There are exceptions. I feel great, almost high, after a really good prime rib. Also, I can’t fast at all if I haven’t been consistent with low-carb paleo. If I’m eating any significant carbs, even fruit, fasting doesn’t produce these good effects; instead, I get hazy, unable to think, and feel “odd.” By odd, I mean as if I’m going to die. But 3 days of perfect eating lets me again fast easily.

  • Puzzled:

    Digestion requires energy…so if your body is efficient at using stored energy, you'll get more done in a fasted state. 

    And I suspect that eating a carb surplus throws your body into a sugar-demanding mode (i.e. you lose some of your metabolic flexibility), which will result in the “hazy” (hypoglycemic) feeling you describe when you try to fast.

    Glad to help!

    JS

  • [...] while at the same time makes us ready for action. J. Stanton reveals the brighter side of ghrelin in this short [...]

  • [...] The Hunger Hormone Does More Then Make Our Stomach Growl — The Gnoll Credo [...]

  • [...] I prefer to think of fasting as an exercise in the limitations of my will power. Of course there are also deeper, human/global truths being learned when you gain the ability to differentiate passing pangs from true, life-threatening hunger. The irony of a (dangerously) overweight person asking himself whether skipping meals is dangerous was lost on me before I started fasting. Not anymore. Mondays and Wednesdays are now days I look forward to. In fact, I often save my workouts for 18+ hours into a fast, when, for whatever reason, I become hyper focused and am able to run faster, lift more and jump higher than I normally can. I could probably pen an entire blog about this phenomenon alone. It’s absurdly cool. (note from @ddn: a favorite author of mine, J. Stanton, wrote about this phenomenon,  noting it may be linked to ghrelin, a hunger hormone.) [...]

  • [...] is a sensation that you might just have to get acquainted with if you want to shed body fat. When you’re hungry, your body is saying “Hey dummy, you [...]

  • Jen W

    I read this article awhile back but don't think I really “got it” (as in had conscious experience of it) until recently.  I'm beginning to realize I am more attentive during my noon Aikido classes where eat afterwards than my Friday evening Aikido classes in which I eat before hand.  I'm still working out how long before hand to eat dinner on Fridays, so that I'm as attentive as possible during class and distracted by the digestive process taking up too much energy.  Also, I may just skip my usual cup of sweet potato before hand and eat some blueberries instead to see if it's the starch that's interfering with my attentiveness.

     

    Another thing I've noticed is that when I get up early enough to go to the morning class (I'll do that one fasted) that I crave fat or fatty cuts of meat afterwards and very little carbs.  Anyone else had this experience? 

     

    Jen

  • Jen:

    I generally support working out fasted and eating carbs after your workout, when your muscles are very insulin-sensitive and will suck them right up.  Also, eating them pre-WO just sticks you in glycolysis, and you'd probably rather encourage some degree of FAO.  “Train in the energy system you want to use” is a solid maxim.

    JS

  • [...] American Diet) are over, you’re feeling more energetic—and thinking more clearly due to the action of ghrelin, now that being hungry doesn’t just make you cranky and [...]

  • [...] to get up and hunt for some food. J. Stanton, over at Gnolls.org, wrote a great piece on ghrelin here. I highly recommend reading the post, but in short ghrelin is neurotrophic; it enhances learning [...]

  • [...] eat Ghrelin is produced by the body. This chemical enhances one’s mind for intellectual pursuits. http://www.gnolls.org/79/i-am-a-ghrelin-addict/ I was going to write this article yesterday but I had a breakfast bar and there went all my ideas. [...]

  • [...] eat Ghrelin is produced by the body. This chemical enhances one’s mind for intellectual pursuits. http://www.gnolls.org/79/i-am-a-ghrelin-addict/ I was going to write this article yesterday but I had a breakfast bar and there went all my ideas. [...]

Add Comment Register



Leave a Reply

  

  

  

You can use these HTML tags

<a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>

Subscribe me to the sporadic yet informative gnolls.org newsletter! (Your email will not be sold or distributed.)