Hunger is a major obstacle which every dieter needs to overcome to successfully lose weight - that’s why I’m handing you 6 simple yet highly effective tactics to minimise the rumbling of your stomach in this post!
You see, there’s an unfortunate truth which most fitness gurus and diet plans like to keep quiet in order to sell you sexy looking meal plans and diet programs; losing weight makes you feel hungry. In fact, I’ll go as far as to say that if you’re not feeling the occasional hunger pang you aren’t making progress towards your weight loss goal.
Please don't take this the wrong way, I’m definitley NOT saying you need to starve yourself half to death to get into shape. I’m simply giving you a heads up that when you cut your calorie intake (which you MUST do to lose weight) you are going to feel some level of hunger.
Basically, the fewer calories you eat the more hungry you will feel.
Too many fitness gurus and diet programs tell you that losing weight is EFFORTLESS and EASY, if it only this were true! If you've ever dieted before you will know that eating fewer calories than your body needs on a daily basis can be challenging.
The good news is you can mitigate the amount of hunger you experience by making some smart dietary choices. The better you become at managing your hunger the easier and more sustainable your diet will be.
In just a moment I'll go over my top hunger management tips with you so that you can move towards your weight loss goal with the least amount of suffering and sacrifice possible. But, before jumping into these tips I want to remove any fears you may be holding onto regarding hunger and the number of meals you should eat per day to lose weight.
Of course, the best way to do this is to bust these nutritional myths apart with some good old scientific evidence.
myth #1: eating little & often boosts your metabolism
Have you ever heard that eating small meals frequently throughout the day keeps your metabolism stoked and thus helps you to burn more calories and lose weight? If so ignore the person telling you this because its entirely incorrect!
Studies show that there is no metabolism boosting benefits of nibbling throughout the day. Your total daily energy expenditure is the same regardless of whether you decide to eat 1 or 10 meals per day (so long as your total calorie intake is the same).
Eating every few hours is time consuming and inconvenient for most people, so unless you like to eat small and regular meals - don't!
If you are one of the many people who feel scared to go more than a couple of hours without food because it will "slow down your metabolism and stop you losing weight" let the evidence showing this to be incorrect set you free! Just don't be put off if you feel a little hunger in-between meals, this is normal and your hunger patterns will most likely adapt after a few days.
myth #2: skipping breafast = starvation mode
I bet someone has told you this one before. In fact it could have been me! Many years ago I believed this and used to tell my clients that skipping breakfast would put them into starvation mode and slow down their metabolism! Fortunately I have since learned this not to be true.
Again the research shows that provided your total calorie intake is matched over the course of the day you can lose weight regardless of whether you eat breakfast or choose to skip it entirely.
In case you are wondering it actually takes 3 days of eating nothing for your metabolism to start slowing down and going into "starvation mode".
So, if you wake up without an appetite you don't need to force feed yourself, just skip breakfast and eat later on when your hunger comes around naturally - trust me your metabolism will be ok!
Take home points:
- Feeling hungry now and then is ok - view mild hunger as a signal that your body is burning off fat.
- There is no benefit to grazing all day - unless you actually like to eat that way.
- You don't have to start your day with breakfast - especially if you don't feel hungry in the morning.
HUNGER IS A NORMAL PART OF losing WEIGHT BUT IT CAN & SHOULD BE MINIMISED
Now that we've accepted that hunger is to be expected whilst dieting lets get into some simple and effective ways to minimise it as much as possible.
HUNGER MANAGEMENT TIP #1: PROTEIN
Protein rich foods are an essential part of a healthy diet and provide many health and fat-burning benefits.
My recommendation for weight loss is to eat about 2 grams of protein per kg of body weight.
For example, if you weigh 65 kg then aiming for about 130 grams of protein per day (65 x 2 = 130) is a good starting point.
As the most satiating macronutrient protein rich foods leave you feeling full and satisfied which can prevent you from snacking in-between meals. This is important because studies show that people who snack in-between meals are likely to be at a higher risk of obesity.
Additional benefits of eating adequate protein include:
- Increased calories burned via digestion: Anytime you eat food your body uses energy digesting it, this is whats known as the Therimc Effect of Food (TEK). Protein rich foods have the highest thermic effect which means your body spends more energy digesting and absorbing proteins than it does when eating carbs and fats. In fact, 25-30% of the calories provided from protein foods get used up during digestion!
- Eating adequate protein also helps to prevent muscle loss when dieting and can build muscle when combined with a sound strength training program - even during a calorie restricted diet.
- There are many other general health benefits to eating protein such as supporting the production of hormones, enzymes and oxygen carrying red blood cells in your body, as well as supporting the immune system and detoxification system.
Take away tip: Eat plenty of protein! Aim to consume around 2 grams of protein per kg of body weight (thats about 1 gram per Ib).
hunger management tip #2: low energy dense foods
Energy density refers to how many calories are contained within a food.
Foods with a high energy density are packed with calories. Examples of high energy density foods include mostly dry foods such as biscuits, nuts, crisps, cakes, pastries and sweets. Butter and oil also have very high energy densities.
These kinds of foods pack a lot of calories into very a small portion of food, for example 1 tablespoon of peanut butter = 100 calories.
When you eat these kinds of foods you basically get a LOT of calories in a small volume of food meaning you are less likely to feel full and continue eating.
On the other hand, low energy density foods contain far less calories per gram. Foods with a low energy density pack a small number of calories into a LARGE volume of food and literally fill up and stretch your stomach which shuts off hunger.
Eating large volumes of such low calorie foods is a great way to satisfy your hunger without overstepping your daily calorie needs.
For example 2.5 cups of spinach also contains 100 calories.
To help put energy density into perspective even further take a look at the image of the deserts below.
Both of these desserts contain 215 calories but the one on the left weighs 300g while the one on the right only weighs 140g.
Which do you think is more filling?
Take away tip: Adding low energy dense foods like vegetables, fruits, oats, soups, stews, beans, potatoes or pasta to your protein will fill you up and help keep your calories in check.
HUNGER MANAGEMENT TIP #3: WATER
Its very easy to confuse thirst for hunger.
Drinking enough water to stay well hydrated is a really simple and easy way to reduce hunger.
As a quick estimate of how much water you should drink simply take your bodyweight in kg and multiply it by 0.033, this figure will give you the number of liters to drink per day.
Body weight (kg) X 0.033 = number of liters per day
For example, if you weigh 70kg take 70 x 0.03 = 2.3 liters per day.
Alternatively you can take your bodyweight in Ibs and divide it by 2 = fluid ounces of water to drink per day.
If you struggle to drink enough water try using some of these tricks:
- Add sugar free squash or some fresh lemon or lime to your water to make it more appetising.
- Create a daily checklist of how many glasses of water you drink. Raising your awareness of how much you drink can lead you to increase your intake.
- Fill up or buy a large bottle of water and simply aim to finish 2 or 3 of them to hit your goal.
Drinking sparkling water such as San Pellegrino and Perrier is a trick many pro athletes like tour de France cyclists use to help drop weight for competition. The bubbles in the water help to fill up your stomach and increase feelings of fullness. So, next time you feel hungry try sipping on some bubbles!
Studies have shown that drinking 500ml water shortly before meals reduces calorie intake. The participants preloading their meals with water in this 12 week study lost 2kg more weight than this who did not drink water before eating.
If you want to speed up your rate of weight loss try pre-loading your meals with some water.
Take away tip: Drink plenty of water! Calculate your target daily intake and consume some water before meals!
HUNGER MANAGEMENT TIP #4: CAFFEINE
You may be pleased to learn that the caffeine contained within tea and coffee can help you lose weight by speeding up your metabolism a little and reducing your hunger. This is a double whammy for helping you lose weight and probably great news if you a tea or coffee drinker!
Studies show that caffeine is effective at reducing hunger and increasing hormones that make you feel satiated. Drinking caffeinated tea or coffee can help you squash hunger and decrease your calorie intake at subsequent meals.
Just be sure to consume caffeinated beverages in moderation to avoid negatively impacting your health.
As a stimulator or the fight or flight branch of your nervous system, its recommend that you limit your daily intake of caffeine to no more than 400 mg per day - that's the equivalent of about 3-4 cups of home-brewed coffee.
Of course, if you are sensitive to caffeine and find yourself feeling anxious and jittery after drinking a cup its probably best to avoid caffeine entirely or at least limit your consumption.
Its worth noting that caffeine has a half-life of 6 hours (meaning it takes your body that amount of time to remove 50% of the caffeine you consume), so its best to avoid drinking it too late in the day if you value a good nights sleep (which you definitely should if you are trying to lose weight and be healthy).
I generally advise clients to avoid caffeine after midday.
Take away tip: If you enjoy a cup of tea or coffee - drink up! Caffeine is healthful in moderation and may help you reach your weight loss goal.
HUNGER MANAGEMENT TIP #5: MEAL TIMING
I'm one of the first to admit that total calorie intake trumps meal timing when it come to fat loss. WHAT you eat is way more important than WHEN you eat.
Having said that, WHEN you choose to eat your calories can have an impact upon how much food/calories you eat over the course of the entire day.
As I eluded to earlier, some people simply aren't hungry in the morning. If you feel like skipping breakfast go ahead and do it. Forcing yourself to eat when you are not hungry will only leave you with fewer remaining calories to eat later in the day when you ARE HUNGRY.
Conversely, if you wake up ravenous but feel less hungry at night you will probably do best by eating a decent sized breakfast, followed by smaller meals at lunch and dinner.
Many gym goers believe they must eat something within 30 minutes of finishing a workout. The issue here is that most people simply aren't hungry right after a workout due to all the stress hormones pumping around their body.
Unless you are training 2 or more times per day or a serious bodybuilder in a mass gaining phase, there's no need to slam down some food or a protein shake right after your workout. When it comes to managing hunger a smarter choice may be to wait for an hour or 2 and simply eat when your hunger naturally comes around.
The point here is to create a meal plan that enables you to eat meals when you typically feel the most hungry.
Using up some of your limited calorie intake right after a workout or at times of the day when your hunger is low is going to put you in a tough situation when your hunger spikes later on in the day; you can either fight against your hunger and go to bed feeling ravenous or give in and overconsume calories for the day and gain some weight. Neither of these are ideal!
Take away tip: Being smart about when you eat can help you to create and sustain the calorie deficit needed to lose weight.
HUNGER MANAGEMENT TIP #6: FOOD PALATABILITY
I've purposefully left this tip for last because I only recommend it as a last resort when all other hunger management tips are being utilised but the dieter still wishes to increase their rate of progress.
Studies suggest that limiting food variety is linked to increased satiety. Conversley, the amount of food eaten tends to increase when more variety is introduced into a diet.
Basically greater dietary variety is associated with increased body weight. Therefore, decreasing the variety of foods in your diet can potentially increase satiety and decrease your overall food intake.
The reason I'm not a huge fan of this strategy is because eating a variety of foods is a well established recommendation for healthy eating.
If you are really pushing to hit a fat loss goal and need to pull out all the stops then sure try decreasing your food variety for a for weeks until you get your body weight to where you want it to be.
A diet does not have to be forever and you can always increase your food variety and calorie intake once you hit your goals and shift into a weight maintenance phase.
Take away tip: Reducing your food variety can reduce your hunger and overall calorie intake but is best used as a last resort to managing hunger and for short periods of time only.
Feeling hungry is an expected side effect of you eating fewer calories than normal. Don't let a little hunger worry you - ride it out, in most cases it subsides considerably within 2-3 days.
Having said that, if you are feeling extreme and long lasting hunger, or suffering with fatigue and insomnia you should eat more food. If you ever experience any of these symptoms when dieting simply increase your calorie intake slightly (say by 100-200 calories), see how you feel and then make further adjustments as needed.
I hope you find these tips to be an easy and effective way to reduce the level of hunger you feel whilst dieting so that you can shift towards your weight loss goal with minimal suffering and sacrifice.
As always if you have questions or need any help feel free to reach out to me.