4 Simple Ways To Suppress Hunger & Cravings

When embarking on a weight loss journey, calorie deficit is the primary prerequisite. However, whenever we go on a calorie deficit diet, our uncontrolled hunger and cravings derail us from our path.

But there are few simple hacks to suppress hunger & cravings in a healthy and natural way, which will put you back on track in no time:

  1. Proteins – protein is the most preferred macronutrient when it comes to weight/fat loss. One of the major reasons for this recommendation is that a high proportion of calories from protein increases weight loss and prevents weight re-gain. Proteins are known to induce satiety, increase secretion of gastrointestinal hormones, and increase diet-induced thermogenesis.

In fact, as compared to other macros, protein is much more satiating. Acc. to a study, when compared to high-fat snacks, eating less energy dense, high-protein snacks improves appetite control, satiety, and reduces subsequent food intake in healthy women.

Protein rich meals are considered one of the best ways to tackle obesity. Acc. to a study, consumption of higher protein diets, containing between 25–30% of calorie intake as protein, leads to significant improvements in body weight management, through voluntary reductions in energy intake, weight loss, and beneficial changes in body composition. One mechanism-of-action is due, in part, to improvements in appetite control, satiety, and reward-driven eating behaviour. To date, the minimum amount of protein required to elicit these mechanistic responses is 30g of protein/eating occasion.

In a study, in overweight adults, consuming a beverage with high protein (17g) and high fibre (6g) as a preload improved appetite measures of desire to eat, hunger, and tended to reduce energy intake at a subsequent meal compared with a lower-protein (1g), lower-fibre (3g) placebo.

Another study, tested whether a breakfast including eggs containing high-quality protein decreases subsequent food intake and increases satiety-related hormones in overweight or obese adults more than a breakfast including cereal of lower protein quality, but matched for energy density and macronutrient composition. Compared to the cereal breakfast week, during the egg breakfast week, feeling of fullness was greater, and lowered hunger hormones.

The best part that studies have shown, is that protein from both animal and plant sources has similar appetite suppressing effects. In fact, protein supplementation have also shown similar appetite lowering effects.

A review study, found that, high protein-induced satiety with subsequent energy intake reduction was significant and associated with greater weight loss and weight maintenance.

Another study, suggested that,  the mechanism by which high protein diets increases energy expenditure involves two aspects: first, proteins have a markedly higher diet induced thermogenesis than carbohydrates and fats. Second, protein intake prevents a decrease in fat free mass, which helps maintain resting energy expenditure despite weight loss.

A meta-analysis study, found that, consuming protein rich breakfast led to reduced subsequent energy intake, higher fullness, and lower hunger, in children and adolescents.

In a study, appetite, caloric intake, body weight, and fat mass were measured in 19 subjects placed on the following diets: a weight-maintaining diet (15% protein, 35% fat, and 50% carbohydrate), and an isocaloric diet (30% protein, 20% fat, and 50% carbohydrate).

Satiety was markedly increased with the isocaloric high-protein diet. Spontaneous energy intake decreased by app. 441kcal/d, body weight decreased by app. 4.9kg, and fat mass decreased by app. 3.7kg with the ad libitum, high-protein diet.

2. Fibre – just like protein, eating adequate fibre in your meals, slows gastric emptying, promotes satiety and helps in appetite control, and this is primarily because of their properties of adding bulk (satiation) and producing viscosity (satiety). Adding bulk to the diet with fibre will also reduce the energy density of the diet. 

Diets low in energy and fat, such as those typically recommended for obese people, are poorly satiating. Adding fibre to low-calorie/low-fat foods may enhance satiety.

A systematic review study, found that, addition of fibre theoretically improves satiety by slowing the absorption of various nutrients including fat.

When you eat fibre, it ferments in your gut (large intestines), with the help of gut microbiota, and produces many metabolites, the major one being Short Chain fatty acids (SCFAs).

These SCFAs don’t just promote feeling of fullness, but play a key role in gastrointestinal physiology, immune function, metabolism, and even in development and homeostasis of the Central Nervous System.

What better would be to combine both proteins and fibre in a meal, both of which promote satiety and appetite control. Even studies have shown a greater combined effect of both consumed together.

3. Sleep – evidence is growing that sleep is a powerful regulator of appetite, energy use, and weight control. During sleep, the body’s production of the appetite suppressor leptin increases, and the appetite stimulant ghrelin decreases.

Leptin is released from adipose tissue (fat) and acts on receptors in the hypothalamus of the brain where it inhibits appetite and promotes satiety thus limiting food intake. Circulating blood levels of leptin are generally proportional to body fat mass. Ghrelin, however, is released from the stomach and pancreas and stimulates appetite. Circulating ghrelin levels fluctuate over the course of the day in relation to food intake.

Leptin is decreased with sleep deprivation, which means decreased satiety, whereas ghrelin is increased, that means increased hunger. This combination of increased hunger and decreased satiety may increase eating, which may predispose individuals to obesity and diabetes. Further, disruptions in leptin and ghrelin may also result in dysregulation of insulin and glucose. Total ghrelin levels after two nights of 4h of sleep were 28% higher, relative to a rested condition.

Other changes induced by sleep restriction include blunting of the usual nocturnal decline in cortisol levels and increases in levels of peptide YY (which acts to inhibit food intake).

A study found that, food stimuli increased activity in regions of the basal ganglia and limbic system in the brain, after restricted sleep. These regions have been associated with motivation and the reward value of food as well as cognitive processing, decision-making, and self-control.

Restricting sleep alters neuronal activity, which predisposes individuals to enhanced susceptibility to food stimuli and may partly explain the relation observed between sleep duration and BMI. Restricted sleep induces a state of greater responsiveness to food stimuli and heightened awareness of the rewarding properties of food.

High-calorie foods may be preferred by subjects after sleep restriction. Studies have reported increased cortisol concentrations after a period of restricted sleep. Cortisol release via activation of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis could lead to overeating in the presence of highly palatable food. During habitual sleep, men showed less overall brain activity in response to foods compared with women.

Studies found that the less people sleep, the more likely they are to be overweight or obese and prefer eating foods that are higher in calories and carbohydrates. People who report an average total sleep time of 5 hours a night, for example, are much more likely to become obese, compared with people who sleep 7–8 hours a night.

Acc. to a review research, multiple studies indicate that:

  • An 18% decrease in leptin (an anorexigenic hormone), 24% increase in ghrelin (an orexigenic hormone), 24% increase in hunger, and 23% increase in appetite when sleep was restricted to 4 h. Appetite for high carbohydrate food was increased by 32% during sleep deprivation
  • Persistent sleep restriction could modify the amount, composition, and distribution of human food intake.
  • Restriction to 6.5 h of bed time in adolescents was associated with increased consumption of high-calorie and glycaemic index food.
  • Following five nights of 4h bed time, healthy subjects were provided with healthy or unhealthy food during fasting. The response to unhealthy food stimuli was greater in brain reward and food-sensitive regions during sleep deprivation.
  • Even a single night of total sleep deprivation can influence energy expenditure and metabolism; in subjects with 24h wakefulness, resting and postprandial energy expenditure were decreased; morning plasma ghrelin, nocturnal and daytime circulating thyrotropin, cortisol, and norepinephrine concentrations were increased.

4. Stress Management – stress is another major factor which very strongly controls your appetite. A study found that, stress is related with the drive to eat, binge eating, and increased intake of palatable non-nutritious food. Additionally, stress is related to increased rigid restraint—the form of restraint more frequently associated with overeating.

Those reporting greater stress, also reported greater drive to eat across several indices (disinhibition, hunger, and binge eating) and more frequent palatable non-nutritious food consumption (e.g., chips, hamburgers, and soda).

Acc. to a study, increased food intake, termed “comfort eating”, is a type of coping mechanism in chronic stress. Cortisol release under stress is a potent predictor of stress-induced eating behaviour affecting the body mass index (BMI). Higher the cortisol levels, greater your chances of indulging in stress induced eating.

In fact, managing stress and sleep is even more important, as you cannot compensate either by adding more protein and fibre in the diet.

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