Can Protein Curb Apetite and Help You Reach Your Fitness Goals?

Feeling hungry and having cravings are normal biological processes. They are your body’s way of telling you it needs energy or that it wants a certain food. 


While experiencing hunger is normal, it’s never fun to constantly feel hungry or feel like you shouldn’t satisfy your cravings. 


If you have fitness goals or are trying to lose weight, you may be wondering how you can increase fullness and satisfaction after meals to help manage cravings. 

Why Do I Get Hungry So Frequently? 

There are a couple of reasons you may feel like you are constantly hungry


First and foremost, you may not be eating enough throughout the day to support your body’s energy needs. If you are trying to lose weight, you only need a slight caloric deficit to safely decrease body fat and maintain your results long-term. 


Many people cut their calorie intake by too much, leading them to feel hungry all the time. 


Secondly, not all foods are created equal in terms of satisfying hunger and keeping you full for longer. 


Foods that are higher in protein, fat, and fiber can help you feel full and satisfied for hours, which reduces hunger and cravings. If you aren’t eating balanced meals consisting of protein, carbohydrates, dietary fat, and fiber, chances are you’ll feel hungry pretty soon after you’ve finished eating. 


Additionally, if you’re viewing foods as “good” and “bad” and totally restricting the “bad” ones from your diet, you are likely going to experience frequent cravings for those foods that you’ve labeled as “off limits.” 


The key is to stick to healthy, nutritious foods most of the time, but still reward yourself with the foods you love every now and then to make it a sustainable and enjoyable lifestyle.

Does Eating at Night Cause Weight Gain? 


We’ve all heard the diet rule that you shoudn’t eat after 7 pm (or 8 pm, depending on where you’re getting your information from) because eating at night causes weight gain. 


The reality is that there isn’t much research on humans to support this theory. 


Studies show that what you eat and how much you eat is much more important than when you eat. If eating at night causes you to exceed your daily calorie needs, then yes, weight gain will occur. 


However, if you’re staying within your calorie needs while eating in the evenings, you cannot physiologically gain weight. 


If you fuel your body appropriately throughout the day and give it what it needs, you probably won’t experience late-night hunger and cravings. 


That’s why eating balanced meals and snacks consistently throughout the day can decrease nighttime cravings and hunger. 

What's the Best Way to Regulate Appetite?

The best way to regulate appetite is to make sure you are eating enough throughout the day, and that you’re having balanced meals that keep you feeling full and satisfied. 


Rather than eating just carbohydrates or protein, having a meal containing all macronutrients (protein, carbs, and fat) increases satiety and regulates appetite. 


The reason a balanced meal keeps you full for longer is because it takes longer to digest. Carbohydrates consumed on their own are digested fairly quickly, which is why you feel hungry soon after eating an apple or crackers by itself. 

What are Your Calorie Requirements?

Estimated calorie requirements are dependent upon several different variables and vary from person to person. The Dietary Guidelines suggest that the average man needs 2,700 kcal per day and the average woman needs 2,200 kcal per day. 


Your specific calorie needs will depend on:

  • overall general health
  • physical activity demands
  • sex
  • weight
  • height

You can use a calculator to determine your estimated calorie needs. 

Are You Eating Enough Throughout the Day?

Your body needs calories to survive and function properly even without considering your daily activities and exercise. Without energy, the cells in your body would not survive, your heart and lungs would stop, and your organs would not be able to accomplish the basic processes required for living.

If people ate only the number of calories needed every day, there is a high probability they would lead very healthy lives without complications. Eating too few or too many calories can eventually lead to health problems.

To ensure you are eating enough throughout the day, you need to consume your estimated daily calorie needs. 


If you’re trying to lose weight or reach a certain physique goal, you should only slightly decrease your caloric intake from your estimated need. There is no need to drastically cut your calories. It’s not sustainable and can be detrimental to your physical and mental health. 

Protein and Appetite Regulation 


Adding more protein to your diet can increase feelings of fullness, decrease ghrelin (the hunger hormone) levels, and potentially help you eat less at your next meal. 


One study showed that adults who ate a higher-protein breakfast versus a carbohydrate-based breakfast had increased feelings of fullness and lower levels of ghrelin after eating. 


Another study showed that drinking a beverage high in protein and fiber a half-hour prior to eating pizza reduced appetite and the quantity of pizza that participants ate. 


The hunger-suppressing effects of protein aren’t just limited to animal-based proteins like meats and eggs. Vegetable proteins like beans and peas can be just as useful, if not more, for keeping you satisfied and moderating your appetite.

How Much Protein Should I Eat?

There are different recommendations for protein intake based on age, activity level, and goals.


Eating at least 20–30% of your total calorie intake from protein is sufficient to provide health benefits. However, some studies suggest an intake of up to 0.55–0.73 grams of protein per pound (1.2–1.6 grams per kg) of body weight. 


If you’re trying to lose weight, a protein intake of around 30% of calories seems to be optimal for supporting that goal.

The Importance of Fiber 


High fiber foods help fill you up by slowing digestion and increasing the release of hormones that cause satiety and regulate appetite. Additionally, fiber produces short-chain fatty acids in your gut, which may increase feelings of fullness.  


High-fiber foods also contain other beneficial nutrients, including vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and phytonutrients. 

Best Sources of Fiber

  • Quinoa
  • Oats
  • Popcorn
  • Beans
  • Lentils
  • Almonds 
  • Chia seeds
  • Fruits (pears, apples, berries, bananas)
  • Vegetables (carrots, beets, broccoli, avocado, brussels sprouts, peas)

What's the Easiest Way to Increase Protein Consumption?

The easiest way to increase protein consumption is to eat protein consistently throughout the day. Add protein to the foods you already enjoy to create balanced meals and snacks. Some excellent sources of protein include:

  • Eggs
  • Nuts and seeds
  • Chicken Breast
  • Cottage Cheese
  • Greek Yogurt
  • Milk
  • Lentils
  • Lean Beef
  • Fish
  • Quinoa
  • Protein powders

One way to increase protein at breakfast is to add a protein shake to your normal breakfast instead of just having cereal or toast. Our chocolate protein shake is a convenient morning shake to get started on the right foot and help you feel full and satisfied through lunchtime. 

Conclusion

You don’t have to constantly feel hungry or deny your cravings when you’re trying to lose weight or reach your fitness goals. Eating a diet high in protein and fiber can help you feel full and satisfied between meals. Eat balanced meals and snacks consisting of carbs, protein, dietary fat, and fiber to increase satiety and help you reach your goals.