It’s a problem I hear regularly from clients and non-clients alike, that hunger is limiting their ability to stay on track with their diets. And if you are, or ever have, followed a nutrition plan with a goal to lose weight, whatever your reason is, you’ve felt the pang of hunger trying to pull you off course. But there are a few tips and tricks to help you stay full during fat loss, reducing the amount and intensity of your hunger, and making it easier to stay the course.
I’ll share with you a bunch of ideas, tips and tricks I’ve used with, and learned from, my clients that you can use to help
I totally get it, you’ve been conditioned to believe that hunger is an emergency, that it’s a signal that you have to eat right now, and bad things will happen if you don’t. And this made a load of sense thousands of years ago to avoid starvation and death. But we have easier access to pretty much any food we want whenever we want and, fortunately for most of us, starvation isn’t an issue. But old instincts die hard and we still feel the need to immediately respond to hunger signals, so reducing these signals and understanding that they’re not an emergency is a big part of your fat loss success.
Here are foods, tips and tricks you can use to limit hunger without pushing your calories up, negating your efforts in creating a calorie deficit.
Food choices to stay full during fat loss
Simply changing some of your food choices can have a massive impact on your hunger levels between meals. Generally speaking, more processed, hyper-palatable foods tend to be high in calories but low in satiety. Meaning that you get hungry sooner after finishing than if you had eaten a less processed, higher nutrient meal.
I’ve talked a lot about protein and its high value from a body composition standpoint. And it has a lot going for it:
- higher satiety
- helps you spare lean mass (so you lose more weight from fat stores)
- higher thermic effect of food (so you burn more calories chewing, digesting and processing it)
Eating more complete sources of protein is number one in the food choice options. Lean cuts of meat, poultry, fish and dairy choices such as Greek yoghurt and cottage cheese get you a load of protein, are low in calories and keep you feeling fuller for ages.
Going down the supplement route, which may be essential for many, particularly vegetarian and vegan dieters, is an easy way to increase protein intake. A good whey or casein protein is a no brainer, and there are plenty of vegan options that blend a number of plant proteins to get you a complete protein source in a handy supplement form. A complete protein source is simply one that has a full complement of amino acids, these typically come from animal sources, but you can get them from the combination of a range of plant sources.
Some of my personal favourite choices are:
- Sliced chicken breast. Great for adding to salads and wraps and easy to prep in advance.
- White fish and salmon.
- Greek yoghurt mixed with a scoop of chocolate whey
Carbs can be a bit of a dilemma during a diet phase. Some insist that low carb is the best way to go, others say high carb is better. Others still insist that carb cycling is the best option.
The truth is that it’s entirely up to you how you do it. Ultimately it’s adherence long term that is going to get you the result you want, and your carb intake plays a big role in that. Find what works best for you then pick your carb sources accordingly.
The 3 P’s
Porridge is an amazingly filling option. I often mix in a scoop of choc whey and feel packed for hours after eating it. It’s a relatively low calorie, slow energy releasing food that works well for a lot of people.
Potatoes score super high on the satiety index, making them a good option. Personally I’m in a minority amongst Scottish people in that I’m really not a fan of potatoes (much to my wife’s
disgust astonishment. And some people don’t find them particularly filling, but if you do then crack on.
Popcorn can be a good snack option if you are hungry and want a low cal, filling snack. Just don’t go for an option packed with extra calories from added coatings and sugar.
Other options in the carbs group include:
Beans, which are packed with fibre and relatively high in protein, both of which increase satiety.
Veggies are great. Loaded with nutrients, fibre and they’re so tasty. Crunch your way through a couple of sliced carrots, celery or cucumber and you’ll feel full for a while.
Fruit can be a great option too. Berries are very low calorie and satisfying. You can eat a whole box of strawberries for less than 100kcals. Work through half a melon (about 115kcals) and tell me how hungry you are after…
Apples, pears, oranges and the rest are great options. And, no, fruit won’t make you fat.
Speaking of fat…
Fat is an essential part of a balanced diet due to the myriad of health benefits and functions it aids with but while fats are more slowly digested, they don’t seem to be all that satisfying for many people. Maybe having a higher fat cut of meat or a serving of fattier fish such as salmon may help but I’ve found that fattier options don’t have a big effect on satiety.
Something I encourage clients to do is to remove as many calories from drinks as they can. Generally speaking, calories from drinks come from sugars and are less satiating despite the higher calorie cost.
Switching to lower cal options, with water still the gold standard, saves calories for more satiating food options and still helps to keep you hydrated.
Water is a great option. Often hunger and thirst is confused, and simply having more to drink does amazing things to your hunger levels throughout the day. If you want a sweeter option, then zero cal soft drinks and diluting juices are a great way to add a little more taste and flavour to your liquid intake. And no, artificial sweeteners won’t kill you.
Non-food tips and tricks
Playing with meal timing can help by adjusting the number of meals you have throughout the day. For example you may find that 3 larger meals works best for controlling hunger levels between those meals. But on the other hand, if you feel over full after larger meals, you may switch it up to have more, smaller meals spread across the day.
Establish clear rules. For example, if you enjoy doughnuts, you know that you probably can’t have them everyday and be successful in your weight loss goal, so you set yourself a rule that says you can only have 2 doughnuts in any week. Or if you like a glass of wine with dinner, you make arule that says you can only have wine on a Friday and Saturday and you’ll limit it to 2 glasses (normal sized ones before you go getting any clever ideas…) per night.
“I’ll have it later.” This phrase can be massively powerful when it comes to self-control and reduces the amount of food you’ll eat later. A study showed that those who used this tactic instead of saying they were going to abstain from the food choices entirely used less mental energy to do so and ate significant;y less food in the subsequent hours.
Brush your teeth. This is a signal that we are done eating for the day and you become less likely to follow it up with eating. This is obviously less valuable at lunchtime, but great if you tend to find yourself snacking a lot after dinner.
Weight loss is simple, it’s just not easy and there is no one size fits all approach I can offer. All you can do is look at the principles involved and experiment with the different ways of implementing them in a way that works within your own individual lifestyle. There will inevitably be ups and downs along your journey, the important part is that you keep going and keep finding out what works for you.