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Over-Eating, Hungry All The Time? What You Don't Know Is Blocking Your Weight Loss

People often give me the strangest reasons for why they can't stop munching all day and lose weight. Maybe its because I have a fat gene, maybe its because I don't drink enough water, maybe its because I don't exercise enough blah, blah, blah.

I have discussed the only way to lose weight on this site for a while now. 
  1. The only way to lose weight is with a calorie reduction (I recommend intermittent fasting).
  2. Follow a diet that you can live with for the long haul.
Thats it. Thats how weight is lost. Yes, you can add resistance training in order to build lean muscle or aerobic training to facilitate the burning of a few more calories but if you don't address the amount of calories you eat it will make little difference. Hormones do play a role but tend to get corrected with proper eating and the intermittent fasting enhances the bodies utilization of same.

So why is it that even when you have all that correct you still feel hungry all the time? Macronutrient consumption plays a large role.

Protein Regulates Calorie Consumption

Scientists have speculated that primates regulate food intake the same way humans do, which is by the amount of protein they consume. An older study in the Journal of Behavioral Ecology found that spider monkeys with limited access to protein increased their intake of low protein, high carb foods to reach their protein needs. The end result was they consumed more calories overall. This suggests that humans have a tendency to do the same. Basically these spider monkeys would eat to fulfill a certain protein requirement. If they only had access to low protein, high carb foods they would eat more of these foods to fulfill the protein requirement and subsequently eat more calories by doing so. Interestingly the same phenomenon has been documented in mice seen here in the Journal Obesity.

The phenomenon is known as the "protein leverage effect." It states that inadequate protein increases overconsumption of calories as the body attempts to regulate this protein need. It is easy to see how this can cause a problem with overconsumption for those attempting to limit protein sources from animals.

Those of us that have not bought into the idea that all meat is bad tend to have an easier time with feeling satiated. I am familiar with many peope who eat a diet consisting mostly of plant based foods who are constantly hungry or having to snack on something. In order for these people to reach their protein requirement they have to eat constantly. Depending on how you digest these carbs will dictate to what degree you have weight issues but there is little doubt that if your meal plan does not contain enough protein you will put on the pounds due to the overconsumption of calories.

What To Do?

Make sure you are eating adequate amounts of protein. The answer is simple. If humans, like primates, regulate food intake by the amount of protein consumed then make certain you are eating enough. Voila! Problem solved.

I recommend anywhere from .8-1.5 grams of protein per pound of body weight. This is not a hard figure to reach but is high compared to the RDA. My reasoning for this and the amount of protein required by each individual depends on a few factors.
  • Your weight loss goals
  • Your current weight
  • Your current activity level
  • Your age
If you are already severely overweight increasing protein to 1-1.5grams/lb will provide satiety and allow for few additional calories from outside sources. Over time this amount of protein will be reduced or maintained depending on body weight in order to faciliate other nutrients but initially it will allow for weight loss and reduced hunger. With this amount of protein there will be no need to eat a bag of chips with every meal plus a soda plus a candy bar plus, plus, plus, you get the idea.

People are always concerned about fruits and veggies while eating so much protein and I find this funny because if they are overweight they are usually not eating anything good to begin with. They reference people on the high protein diets who look like skeletons and eventually gain all the weight back. I understand their concern as these diets tend to have a very limited selection of food and eating deli meat and chicken day in and day out gets old. Fortunately, this is not what I am advocating. Many of these high protein diets eschew fats and carbs, which is just ridiculous and a post for another time.

I inform clients the protein will be reduced eventually to a more modest amount and the way I do it allows them to still eat yummy fats so the meals actually have taste. The higher protein figures are usually for those attempting to put on muscle or lose weight. For those attempting to simply remain lean the lower end of the scale, .8grams/lb seems to be adequate to maintain muscle and avoid the pitfalls of dieting. This assumes that the person is active. If training is minimal than more protein is actually required to maintain the lean muscle you already have. The problem is the lower you get with protein consumption the more likely you are to overconsume other macronutrients and thus weight gain returns. You have to determine the ideal amount of protein for your body and the easiest way to do this is to start high and reduce the amount over time.

Another concern is all the hype regarding kidney issues with high protein consumption. This issue has been debunked as a myth in much of the scientific literature, another study showing no health concerns. The only people that have problems with increased protein consumption are those with renal failure or pre-existing kidney conditions. Healthy kidneys will not have a problem with increased protein consumption any more than my bicep will with increased weight. In fact, increased protein consumption has many health benefits.

How do I make certain that micronutrients are kept high so there are no negative health consequences for those concerned about their fruit and veggie intake? I utilize different supplements to arrive at optimal health and fitness. Spirulina is a supplement I recommend for all my clients. It has every micronutrient required by the body in the correct ratios. I won't break Spirulina down here because that is a whole post in itself but I will recommend it to anyone over a multivitamin any day. I make certain to inform all my clients to take it as a food and not a supplement. By taking it as a food I mean consuming it in quantities greater than recommended. Since it is a food, an algae to be exact, there is no fear of toxicity or side effects. Begin slowly with the recommended dosages and work your way into the higher ranges of anywhere from 10-20 grams a day. This will provide the body with more goodness than it knows what to do with and will assist in weight loss and overall health plus feed your muscles what they need to function at the highest levels. To read more about the Spirulina I recommend follow this link.

The point is protein regulates calorie consumption and the higher the intake the less chance you have of feeling hungry. Concerns for eating too much protein are far outweighed by the fact that reduced caloric consumption of less healthy foods leads to a better quality of life. Supplementing with products like spirulina will only increase the amount of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and the like of dietary fruits and veggies. I love fruits, I love veggies, so my protocol does not consist of eliminating these. On the contrary, I eat quite a bit of both but they do require cycling depending on your goals. Email me for a consultation if you want to take your gains All The Way!

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