Last updated on September 9th, 2018
Appetite Suppressing Foods. When it comes to appetite suppression and satisfying your hunger, not all foods are made equal.
In the early days of mankind, our ancestors probably ate anything they could get hold of.
Certainly, getting the groceries back then would have been a whole different ballgame compared with the convenience of modern civilization.
And kudos to those early humans. A lot of them probably died trying something new, but not because they were being adventurous, because they were desperate to survive.
Thanks to the ones that learned quickly, and ran even quicker, our species has made it to the point where we can argue over who gets the last slice of double chocolate fudge cheesecake.
Now that we have all these tasty options, and zero accountability for the state of our own health, it’s easy to see why obesity is no small problem, but a global pandemic.
Many of us no longer eat as a means of survival, and a relative minority organize their nutritional intake around performance, lifestyle and body composition goals.
This has led so many people to seek out ways to reduce their body fat mass, whether it’s through diet, exercise, supplementation, or a combination of all three.
Satiating Hunger and Suppressing Appetite
Real hunger is a feeling based on need. When you’re genuinely hungry, it’s a combination of your gut and your brain telling you that you are lacking nutrients.
I’ve been told more times than I care to remember that if you wait until you are hungry, it means that you are already too late.
Too late for what, I’ve never been quite sure. It’s kind of an alarmist way to look at it, but then the world is full of alarmists these days.
What “too late” means is that once you are really feeling uncomfortably hungry, you can be prone to making different decisions than you would if you were prepared. For example, you might opt for some junk because it’s quick to prepare/purchase, in order to answer the hunger pangs.
When we eat a meal, our best bet is to provide what the body needs, which will also satisfy our hunger.
Appetite is something else. It’s just the desire to eat food, and while it is sometimes a result of real need, it is often stimulated by other root causes, such as our emotional state and boredom.
Much of the time, however, when we don’t satisfy our body’s actual nutritional needs, this weird appetite keeps us going back for more and more food, seemingly until we choose the right thing.
Foods That Can Stimulate Appetite
Certain foods can stimulate our appetite, and often when you eat them they don’t reduce it, and might even increase it. These are generally nutrient-weak carbohydrate based foods. People call them “empty carbs” these days (my dad used to describe them as “moreish”).
For example, you can eat a huge bag of some tasty flavoured chips and be “hungry” again five minutes later.
Appetite suppression has become a viable method with which to lose weight (body fat mass). If nothing else, it’s the most efficient way compared with trying to burn calories you’ve already stored as fat (though you should do that as well).
Want to induce a calorie deficit? – i.e. consume less energy than you burn through the day??
Then start by eating less calories.
We can eat certain foods, take certain supplements and do certain things to suppress our appetite, but the best way by far is to give our body what it needs in the first place. Supply its demand as accurately as possible and you’re most of the way there.
Keep distracting it and disturbing it with junk and it will keep asking for what it needs. Meanwhile your daily calorie intake just keeps growing.
Appetite Suppressing Foods Where To Start
There are so many complexities involved with the problem of overeating that it’s really difficult to pin down a starting point.
It’s easy for people to advise you that you need to eat healthier, or count your calories, but when you’re already rushed off your feet, these things can be put off indefinitely.
So let’s start with a few simple concepts from which you can begin to reduce your overall calorie intake by suppressing your appetite with the very foods you eat.
Low Energy Density
Whole fruit and (non-starchy) vegetables are low energy density foods.
That means for their total weight, they don’t contain a large amount of energy in the form of calories.
Put another way: “energy density” is the amount of energy (in calories) per gram of food.
As a general rule when dieting, it’s a good idea to eat low energy dense foods. They are bulkier and more filling for the amount of calories they contain. They also tend to be of the healthier variety.
Some so-called diet gurus try to bad-mouth fruits, saying that they contain as much sugar as candy in some instances.
Fruit does contain sugar, but also a lot of fiber which helps release that sugar into your system slowly, as well as a plethora of micronutrients, vitamins and minerals that help you turn that energy over rather than store it as fat.
In fact there are quite a few quality studies which have shown fruit to have anti-obesity effects. Sure, you can overeat on anything if you try hard enough but fruit’s highly nutritious nature and low energy density make it a great filler with much more positive impact than negative.
Many vegetables provide a similar source of low energy density nutrition to help fill your stomach but not your calorie quota.
Even root vegetables like sweet potatoes are valuable in this respect. A sweet potato only packs about 86 calories – and provides 20 grams of carbs – per 100 grams. For the amount of micronutrients it provides, it’s a great source of filling carbohydrate.
Also good low energy dense foods are those which are higher in protein quantity but light on fat and overall calories.
Legumes like peas, lentils and other beans are excellent choices, and they are also high in fiber, which is filling but not fattening.
Chicken and fish are great choices for your main protein source because they are lean and high in protein.
You’ll get a good idea over time of what low-energy-density foods are the best for you in terms of suppressing your appetite while also supplying your body with sustained energy.
High Energy Density
The flip side to the low energy density argument is of course high energy density. These are obviously the foods with more energy per gram.
It’s also where ketogenic diets and other high-fat-low-carb diets place their stock, fat being the main source of calories, followed by protein and very little in the way of carbohydrate.
For some people fatty foods are more satisfying than carb-rich foods, or low energy density foods because they more quickly satisfy the energy requirements.
In my personal opinion, it definitely comes down to the individual and how they respond to the diet. People overeat for all manner of reasons and they start diets in many different shapes and sizes.
If there’s ever a message being pumped out by the research, it’s that there is no one-size-fits-all diet.
Nutrient density should be considered alongside energy-density. Earlier I mentioned “empty carbs” because a lot of people snack on those while skirting around the genuine needs of your body and never satiating real hunger.
When you’re hungry, you want nutrients. The macro nutrients – carbohydrate, protein and fat of course, but a certain part of your cravings are the need to top up on vitamins, minerals, micronutrients, antioxidants and so on.
Making sure you are eating a lot of whole foods of various colours is a basic but effective way of supplying your body with the right nutrients.
Impact on Blood Sugar – Glycemic Index (GI)
What you put into your body is definitely indicative of how it will treat you in return.
I like a treat as much as the next person, and I don’t deny myself them either, but if your snacking behaviour is habitual and chronic, it can lead to health problems, including obesity, down the road.
You’ve heard of the Glycemic Index (GI), and you probably know that it’s a measure of the speed by which a food affects blood sugar levels, relative to glucose.
A high GI number means its sugar has a strong impact on your blood sugar levels. Low GI foods do not raise blood sugar quickly.
Don’t Spike Blood Sugar With Snacks
Packaged, sugary snacks, chips, sweets, candy, confectionary, white flour based backed goods and so on tend to be in the higher end of the spectrum. They spike blood sugar quickly.
When blood sugar is spiked repeatedly over a long period of time, your insulin becomes desensitized. When that happens it simply rushes out and stores all the sugar that’s in your bloodstream into fat cells.
This is especially the case if you lead a sedentary lifestyle.
Not only does this necessitate the growth of fat cells, but it reduces your blood sugar so quickly that you can end up with too little, when only a little while earlier there was a spike.
This is commonly called a sugar crash because when you have low blood sugar, you feel tired, grumpy and weak. in order to fix the problem, your brain does the hunger dance so that you will eat again. What it wants is some good stuff, but what it often gets is more crap.
And so the cycle continues.
To break the cycle, it’s good to get into a practice of eating low/medium GI carbs most of the time, while having the odd fast carb here and there.
If you exercise intensely on a regular basis then there is certainly a time and a place for some decadent treats, and you don’t even need to worry about them because they will help your fitness progress. I’ll get to that in a bit.
Smoothing out the spikes in blood sugar will help you to keep cravings at bay for longer and lessen their force when they do come.
Appetite Suppressing Foods Timing of Cheats and Treats
When you’re going about your calorie deficit and trying to lose body fat any which way you can, there’s absolutely no need to go full metal jacket on yourself.
If you exercise, you can get away with a few hundred calories a day in deficit, and some people are fine eating at maintenance and then whatever they burn during a good workout is their deficit.
There’s also a place for treats, even when you are trying to suppress your appetite, increase thermogenesis, light up your brown adipose tissue, and whatever else the weight loss grind entails.
Success And Failure Of Treats
Cheat meals and treats can actually make the difference between success and failure, and more often than not it’s cutting them out entirely that will lead to failure.
Treats shouldn’t really fill a hunger gap because as I’ve mentioned, they won’t really work anyway. The best way to do it is following an intense workout. Aside from that, it’s best to be as satisfied as possible from a main meal before indulging.
Again, if 90% of your diet is on track and you have a good handle on your calorie intake and expenditure, there is no reason you cannot fit a treat in.
- Something to look forward to in the way of a delicious treat can help you get through the tougher times of calorie restriction
- Cheat meals encourage you to savour decadence rather than shove it down your neck.
When you factor in your workouts, cheat meals and treats might even work towards your body goals.
- Post-workout is the best time to replenish your muscle (and liver) glycogen stores, especially if you have to do any adulting (like work) afterwards.
- Replenishing depleted glycogen stores post-workout helps sensitize your insulin.
- It also helps reduce post-exercise fatigue
- It can even help you burn more fat during post-exercise oxygen consumption
- Also, if you’re interested in maximum muscle gains from your training, it’s going to help reserve all your post-workout protein for muscle building.
Cheat meals and treats don’t suppress your appetite directly. In fact, on a physical level, they just don’t work.
From a psychological perspective, however, they can help you adhere to a long-term calorie deficit because they give you a little bit of badness to get help you stick to the goodness.
Closing Remarks on Appetite Suppressing Foods
Appetite Suppression comes in many forms, both tangible and intangible.
One of the main, if not THE main, tangible is your diet itself and the food choices you make.
At the risk of being dramatic, your next meal can set you up for the following few hours. Or it can keep you going for 20 minutes until you crash and/or need to eat again.
Foods like fruit and fibrous vegetables can slow gastric emptying. This means they move from the stomach to the intestine at a slower rate, thus releasing the sugars they contain over a more sustained period, rather than all at once.
This alone helps you to feel satiated for longer, not to mention the plethora of vitamins, minerals and micronutrients that your body can use for all kinds of processes, including the usage, and not storage, of the very calories the food contains.
The impact you have on your blood sugar levels is important, but so is having something to look forward to in the way of a treat. The timing of a cheat meal can even serve to benefit you rather than put you back a step.
Finally, whatever path your choose for your diet, whether you specifically subscribe to a high-fat-low-carb (HFLC) plan, or you simply follow the general Calories In – Calories Out (CICO) rule, it’s adherence and consistent adherence that makes the difference in the end.