Tackling overhunger lesson 2: eat more protein

Picture of Dr. Jen Kerns

Dr. Jen Kerns

This month, as you know, I’m going back to basics and doling out a snippet of useful information each day to help you address your overeating in a sustainable way. The first of three critical reasons why we overeat is simply excessive hunger. Yesterday we talked about how eating simple carbs like sugar or refined grains can actually make you hungrier. If you didn’t catch it, go back and read that first. Today we are talking about how to make yourself feel more satisfied, or sated, for longer: eat more protein.

Of all of the macronutrients we consume (fat, carbohydrate, protein, or alcohol), protein promotes the greatest satiety. When amino acids from broken-down protein are sensed by your small intestine, this triggers the release of satiety hormones such as cholecystokinin (CCK) and glucagon-like peptide-1 (GLP-1), leading to greater fullness and satiety not only for the hours following that meal, but for the entire 24h period and indeed over periods of weeks when tested longer term. For anyone wanting a deeper dive, this is a nice review paper about protein and hunger/weight management. One clinical trial raised protein intake from 15% to 30% of total calories each day, while keeping the carbohydrate percentage in the diet constant — meaning, they did not go low carb or enter into ketosis. They found that this increase in protein (without changing carbs) led to a whopping 441 fewer calories being consumed each day, showing what a huge difference protein consumption can make on your level of hunger and satiety.

In addition to this great benefit on our hunger and satiety, protein also has a higher thermic effect — meaning, 20-30% of the calories contained within protein are actually burned during the breakdown and processing of protein by your body. Carbohydrate only burns about 5-10%, and fat only requires 0-3% of its energy to be metabolized. This means that 100 calories of protein eaten only give you about 70 calories of usable energy, whereas 100 calories of fat eaten give you about 97 calories of usable energy. I don’t know about you, but I’d rather go with the energy wasting protein since that helps me burn more calories without trying!

High protein diets have been shown in study after study to improve body weight, percent body fat, insulin sensitivity, and total food intake, and have been shown to improve glucose tolerance and lower blood glucose levels in patients with type 2 diabetes.

I highly recommend that you be sure to include protein with every meal or snack. Think hard boiled eggs or unsweetened Greek yogurt. One of my favorite high protein snacks is a packet of roasted edamame that I buy in bulk from Amazon, which has 10 grams of plant-based protein per 100 calories. I love the wasabi flavor, and have some almost every afternoon to help get me from lunch to dinner without triggering my sugar-addicted inner beast (like an afternoon Snickers bar would do!).

If you find these snippets of information and advice helpful, please help me spread the word by sharing it in your social media! ❤️ Next up tomorrow: a third way to tackle excessive hunger!





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