What It’s Like to Always Be Hungry from Lifting

Constantly picking up heavy stuff is awesome, but the hunger that comes with it can be…umm…frustrating at times. Why? Well, while we’re opening up new windows by working out like improved strength, new gym friends, PRs, bigger muscles, and lifelong hobbies – we’re closing one.

That closing window is of course the amount of time we can go without eating.

I’m almost positive the person who created the 6-7 small meals a day theory had no interest with their metabolism, but instead, their constant hunger (I’m only somewhat joking about that). Throughout your lifting career you learn a whole lot about yourself, and one of those things includes the savage you become when you experience prolonged uncured hunger.

In fact, there are few things in life more dangerous than a strength athlete moving into catabolic territories. This article will try to illustrate what it’s like being a strength athlete with hunger that’s unfed.

Phase One: Your Brain’s Friendly Reminder.

The first phase is when your stomach and muscles send a message to your brain saying something like, “Hey there pal, you should probably find something to eat in the next hour, or this could get ugly.” This is the preemptive kind suggestion your body gives your brain, it’s like kindly asking someone to put their phone away in the movies.

Phase Two: Did You Not Hear Us the First Time?

The second phase is when you begin the transition from friendly to anxious. You’re not quite angry, or annoyed yet, but you’re moving in that direction, like a lion who’s detected its prey and knows a messy feast is in the future. You know something scary is about to happen (your savage hunger side being exposed), but you’re stuck and don’t know how to get out of the situation.

If you’re in this phase, then you’re more than likely in a setting where food isn’t readily available. Hence where the anxious feeling comes from. Your stomach and muscles are now saying, “Hey, it’s me again, if you could go ahead and find some resources….NOW, that would be great.” You might be stuck in a meeting, a long wedding, or any other event that you can’t readily get up and eat, cook, or buy food at.

The worse part is, the busier the setting, the more heightened this panicked feeling grows. You know in the back of your head what your hungry savage self can be like. No one is safe.

Phase Three: Annoyed, Angry, and Short-Tempered.

The third phase is when you make the switch from human into some form of beast-like creature. Primal instincts begin to kick in. As you sit in your office’s meeting and Janice continues to talk, you start fantasizing about what it’s like on the outside with food running freely. You’re ready to snap at any minute. Thoughts turn from supportive and productive to anger filled monologues.

This is when your stomach stops messing around. They start an inner monologue as your brain stays silent and say something like…

“Give me food, or someone is seriously going to get hurt (you start looking at Janice who’s still talking) Hmm..if I throw this notebook at her, what are the odds I get fired and can go grab a meal? Does Janice even lift? Probably not. Dammit Janice, be quiet so I can eat.” 

These extended negative monologues continue, and begin to cross the borderline into unconscious rambling. This is why there are shirts out there that say, “I’m sorry I said that, I was hungry.” Normal conversations with your significant other begin to go something like…

  • Them: Hey honey, how was your day?
  • You: What kind of question is that!?

You didn’t start the day angry, but you’re there now. No one is safe at this point. You’re on edge and begin to get light headed as you fill with hunger and anger.

Phase Four: Complete Catabolic Blackout, but Then…

At this point, all hope is lost.

Your stomach and muscles have completely given up, they have no more energy to give. The brain is just as exhausted, because it was working to control them. Nothing makes sense, energy is low, thoughts are non-existent, and life seems meaningless.

All of a sudden, a sliver lining appears. Janice begins to wrap up her Thursday tirade about this quarter’s earnings. To you, that means one thing…food is on the horizon, it’s an image as beautiful as the first time Simba was raised in the Lion King. The fog that has filled you begins to subside.

As you leave the meeting and rush to the kitchen, you grab everything that’s yours and edible in-sight and begin to ravish through it. As you scarf down food, not one word is said, not even to Janice who’s called your name now twice as she reheats her meatloaf. The only thing that’s coming out of your mouth is a snarling sound that most lions make when they’ve caught a nice juicy gazelle.

It’s at this moment everyone around you learn an important lesson…and that’s to not mess with you when you’re hungry.

Editors note: This article is an op-ed. The views expressed herein are the authors and don’t necessarily reflect the views of BarBend. Claims, assertions, opinions, and quotes have been sourced exclusively by the author.

Feature image on right  of collage from @thevanillagorilla92 Instagram page. 

Jake Boly

Jake Boly

Jake holds a Master's in Sports Science and a Bachelor's in Exercise Science. Currently, Jake serves as the Fitness and Training Editor at BarBend.

He's a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS) and has spoken at state conferences on the topics of writing in the fitness industry and building a brand.

As of right now, Jake has published over 1,200 articles related to strength athletes and sports. Articles about powerlifting concepts, advanced strength & conditioning methods, and topics that sit atop a strong science foundation are Jake's bread-and-butter.

On top of his personal writing, Jake edits and plans content for 15 writers and strength coaches who come from every strength sport.

Prior to BarBend, Jake worked for two years as a strength and conditioning coach for hockey and lacrosse players, and a personal trainer the three years before that, and most recently he was the content writer at The Vitamin Shoppe's corporate office.

Jake competes in powerlifting in the 181 lb weight class, and considers himself a professional knee rehabber after tearing his quad squatting in 2017. On the side of writing full time, Jake works as a part-time strength coach and works with clients through his personal business Concrete Athletics in New York City.

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