How to Decrease Food Cravings and Hunger while on a Diet

How to Decrease Food Cravings and Hunger while on a Diet

Posted on 23. Mar, 2010 by in Nutrition

If you find yourself constantly hungry and/or craving something while on a calorie restricted diet, a tiny tweak in your nutrition plan might make all the difference. On the topic of fat loss, a lot of people tend to think that simply reducing the amount of calories you eat while eating the same foods will do the trick. This strategy may work for a little bit but not for long because you will feel hungry and have cravings especially if your nutrition plan consists of high calorie, junk foods that lack nutrients. Believe me, I have tried.

As I tried to reduce the amount of food that I ate, my hunger and cravings became intense especially on the days that I exercised. I thought about giving up exercise altogether so I won’t be so hungry but I didn’t think it was a good idea. So, I researched a way to control them through my diet. One of the studies that I found was about the role of protein in satiety. In this study, the researchers found that high protein diets gave the dieters more satisfaction thereby reducing their cravings and hunger.

The investigators of this study, which was done at Arizona State University, was intrigued by a government, randomized clinical trial which showed that dieters following the Atkins diet showed greater weight loss at 3 to 6 months. But the Atkins’ high protein, high fat, low carbohydrate approach presented a problem with the subjects showing an increase in LDL and total cholesterol levels. So, the research compared two groups with one group on a high-carbohydrate, low-fat plan and the second one on a high-protein, low fat plan for 6 weeks.

At the end of the 6-week trial, the subjects’ body weight and fat mass were reduced significantly at about 6 and 10%, respectively, for both groups. At the same time, their BMI fell considerably while their total cholesterol levels were unaffected, also for both groups. In short, there was not much of a difference in results between the two diets. Both groups were also able to maintain their average weight loss until 4 weeks after the study has ended. The pattern of weight loss was also very similar over time. I was definitely surprised, maybe even a little disappointed, because I predicted that the high-protein diet had a huge advantage against the high-carbohydrate diet.

It was not until the subjects were asked about satiety that I knew I found a solution. The people in the high-protein, low-fat group reported that they felt more satisfied and content with their food during the first 4 weeks of the trial whereas the other group did not feel satisfied until the last two weeks of the experiment. In short, you can get similar results from both diets but you can easily follow a high-protein, low fat plan because you do not have to deal with hunger and cravings all the time.

When Dieting Gets Easier

As I applied what I learned from this study to my own diet, I was amazed at what a big difference it made. As soon as I added more protein to each meal and obtained my carbohydrates from fruits and vegetables, my hunger pains went away. In addition, my cravings have been greatly reduced. Before, my days consisted of waiting non-stop for my next meal because I felt so hungry that I could eat a donkey! I could not focus on my everyday tasks because all I thought about was food and most of my time was spent looking up dessert recipes on the internet. I was going crazy until I started a high-protein diet. Even during the first 2 days, I felt more like myself. I felt normal again. It was as if I was not even struggling even though I was on a calorie-restricted plan.

Now, I love carbohydrates. Who doesn’t? They give you a warm, fuzzy feeling after you’ve had a stressful day at work but then they also make you crash which sets off a vicious cycle of hunger and cravings. Remember those after-lunch naps you wish you took? Yes, it’s from those carbohydrates. I cannot say that I will never eat a high-carbohydrate meal again but after feeling the difference in my energy levels and my satisfaction with food on a high-protein diet, I was sold!
If I have not sold you on the idea of eating a high-protein diet yet, think of a time when you had a nice piece of steak. Do you remember how full you felt? You probably did not think about food for a few hours either and you probably said no to dessert. While most steak cuts are high in fat, the feeling is about the same after eating a high-protein meal. Just keep in mind that high-fat meats would not fit in this picture because of high-fat means also high calories. Which means that you want to save your calories as much and you can control that my eating lean meats. Plus, your heart will thank you later.

So, the next time you plan your meals for the week, look for some nice lean meats that you can season with different spices. Lean meats are great because they can serve as a blank canvass so you can experience different flavors. Add in some nice green vegetables and you got an appetizing meal. Try doing this for a few weeks and you will reach your fitness goals in no time and most likely, with less worries about when the next hunger pain or craving will start again.

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  • Hi

    On the days i don’t fast i like to eat a high protein breakfast. It’s not even a diet anymore for me it’s a lifestyle.

    One thing I’ve found to kill hunger in between meals is water. The human brain is not advanced enough to tell the difference between hunger and thirst so the hunger I felt between meals was easily extinguished by a glass of water. Water is also great in other aspects of our health.

    By applying EatStopEat, high protein breakfasts and drinking more water I’ve lost 45 pounds in 4 months.


  • admin

    Hey Rune, definitely right! We all should extinguish “dieting” in our vocabulary and change our lifestyles permanently. Protein and ESE go well together (not at the same time though…haha). This is a good strategy for doing ESE.

    Thanks for stopping by!


  • Hey Anna,
    Great post as always. Reading this actually reminds me that i need to up my protein a little as well not a great deal though just a tad but I do love my carbs too i must say haha. Very informative.


  • admin

    Hi Michael, don’t we all love our carbs? Want more carbs, workout more? That’s what Dr. John Berardi said 🙂

    Thanks for the comment!