Can Protein Curb Your Appetite?

We’ve all had it happen before. You’ve just had breakfast and then shortly thereafter, your stomach starts growling. You’re hungry again, and it isn’t even noon. Then you think, “what’s the point in eating breakfast if I’m just going to be hungry an hour later?”

If you examine your food intake closely, you may be able to trace the problem back to the macronutrients in that first meal of the day… or maybe the macronutrients missing in that first meal. In particular, I’m thinking of protein, which aside from promoting strong muscles, can also help curb your appetite. 

What Makes You Hungry? 

My stomach is empty, so therefore I am hungry.

When it comes down to our daily experience, that’s how we usually feel. But hunger is actually fairly sophisticated, regulated by hormones, and is interrelated with the metabolism of our meals. We won’t get too far into the details, but I would like to introduce you to the two leading hormones in the hunger dance.

Ghrelin – This is like the gremlin in your stomach. When your stomach becomes empty, Ghrelin causes your stomach to growl, cuing your feelings of hunger. After a meal, you have reduced Ghrelin levels, thus decreasing your appetite.

Leptin – This has the opposite effect from Ghrelin. When your body’s fat cells are full, it essentially means that your energy storage is full. So, you don’t need any more food. When these cells are full, the levels of Leptin increase, reducing your appetite.

In summary, ghrelin increases hunger, and leptin decreases hunger. 

The Effect of Protein on Hunger and Satiety 

Protein, fat, and carbohydrates each effect satiety and hunger slightly differently. Overall, carbohydrates have the lowest effect on satiety, and fat and protein have a higher effect on satiety. This is partially because it takes longer for your body to break down fat and protein, but fat also contains more calories per gram (9 calories/gram) than carbohydrates or protein – which likely also lends to it’s satiating effect.

Protein on the other hand has the same number of calories per gram as carbohydrates (4 calories/gram), but also has a greater moderating effect on hunger and appetite. This is in part due to the fact that protein takes longer to digest, but it also has a positive effect on hunger regulating hormones by reducing ghrelin, and increasing other satiety hormones (PYY, CCK, GLP-1).

Multiple studies have illustrated these hunger modulating effects of adding protein to your diet. For instance, a randomized controlled trial in 2015 showed that participants who ate a higher protein breakfast (sausage and egg based) had a higher satiety level compared to those who ate a low-protein breakfast (pancakes). They also found that calorie intake at lunch was lower for participants who ate the higher protein breakfast, suggesting a longer lasting sense of satiety.

Although it’s recommended to get your protein sources from whole foods like meats, eggs, and nuts, studies have suggested that whey supplements can also be beneficial for reducing appetite. Whey will not suppress your appetite more than other sources of protein, but it is a high-quality source when you’re on the go, and you can toss it into a quick smoothie.

In fact, one study suggests 20 grams of whey protein is sufficient to curb your appetite. If you’re using BN Labs Grass-Fed Whey Protein, that’s just one scoop.   

The Common Commercialized Breakfast

If you visit the breakfast food isle in your local grocery store, you’ll likely find toaster strudels, frozen waffles, and cereals coated with sugar. The reality of the commercialized breakfast is that it’s not optimal for promoting satiety. It’s also not optimal for nutritional balance either.

Many traditional breakfast foods are nutritionally lopsided and composed of carbohydrates that are then glazed with sugar. Pancakes are topped with syrup, cereals are coated in a sugar crust, and muffins are frosted with sweetness.

These breakfast foods are okay, from time to time. But they’re not typically produced to promote satiety and long-term wellness. They’re designed to tickle your taste buds, like a dessert does.

If you want to get your day off to the best start, you need a balanced breakfast that incorporates a quality supply of carbohydrates, protein and fat. A great way to do this is to make a breakfast scramble with veggies and eggs. You can also add fresh fruit as a side or throw it in a smoothie with some whey protein to help get that balance your body needs.

And, if you’re craving those muffins or pancakes, that’s cool too. But, you can make them more satiating and more nutritionally balanced with these BN Labs recipes for blueberry whey-protein muffins, and whey-protein pancakes.

Then after breakfast, use these 6 simple ways to sneak more protein into your diet.

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