At some point, most of us struggle with hunger getting in the way of our attempts to burn fat and lose weight.
Continual food cravings is a daily battle for a lot of us in fact, especially as we ramp up the intensity in our workouts and burn more calories, which can trigger your two primary hormones associated with hunger and appetite control, leptin and ghrelin, to make you feel you need to eat more.
If appetite control or hunger pangs are compromising your fat loss efforts or hard-earned lean physique, here are five key ways you can curb your appetite and help stave off food cravings.
- Eat the right types of food
But did you know they are also good at tricking your brain into feeling you need to eat more of them?
The good news is there are a variety of healthy foods that have the opposite effect on your appetite.
Foods high in healthy fats, fiber, or protein, or even better, a combination of the three, can help you feel full longer, plus each of these offers additional key benefits to your health, making it even more important to ensure these foods are a regular part of your diet.
Some of the best options include:
- Avocados – Rich in fiber and healthy monounsaturated fats, particularly oleic acid
- Salmon – A protein-rich fish that packs a heavy dose of healthy fat
- Nuts (Particularly Almonds) – Another great source of oleic acid and appetite-killing fiber
- Chia Seeds and Flax Seeds – Rich in fiber and a solid source of protein
- Potatoes – A good “carb” food, potatoes contain resistant starches, a type of fiber that resists digestive enzymes
- Legumes – Beans, peas, lentils and chickpeas offer vegetarian protein as well as high levels of fiber, particularly resistant starches and oligosaccharides
- Oatmeal – Rolled oats or steel-cut oats contain a type of soluble fiber called beta-glucans that travel slowly through the digestive tract, helping you to feel full longer
- Drink more water
While it may sound a little odd, keeping well hydrated is another key to curbing your appetite.
Hunger is often mistaken for dehydration, as the need for water can make us feel tired and fatigued, tricking your mind into releasing hormones that tell your body you’re hungry and need to eat.
And drinking a glass of water prior to meals can also help fill your stomach so that you eat less while feeling more full at meal times.
- Slow down and enjoy the process
Slow eaters eat four times fewer calories than fast eaters.
Keep it slow and steady here: remember to take smaller bites and chew more before swallowing, and you’ll find you feel full faster than you would otherwise, which tends to lead to consuming less at meal times.
Bonus: It also gives you a chance to savor and really enjoy the food you’re eating.
- Go for a walk or exercise
Getting up and moving, whether it’s a 15-minute walk or a quick trip to the gym, not only burns calories and jumpstarts your metabolism, it can also help take your mind off the need to eat and your hands and mouth away from tempting snacks.
A Brazilian study has also found that exercise can help restore the sensitivity of neurons involved in satiety (the feeling of being full), which in turn naturally curbs food consumption and the perceived need to eat.
Some types of vigorous exercise can also reduce your appetite for up to two hours afterward. According to David Stensel, Ph. D., one of the authors of a study published in the American Journal of Physiology, “aerobic exercise lowers ghrelin levels and increases the amount of an appetite-suppressing hormone in your body.”
And ramping up the intensity of your cardio workouts with intervals such as Tabatas or H.I.I.T. (High Intensity Interval Training) can increase the effects and duration of these appetite-suppression signals.[pro_ad_display_adzone id=”8825″]
- Reduce stress and ensure you get enough sleep
When you suffer from stress or aren’t getting enough sleep on a regular basis, your hormones responsible for regulating your appetite, leptin and ghrelin, can send you into an unwanted food binge or string of binges.
Stress in particular kicks the hormone cortisol into overdrive, which can trigger the emotional desire to eat — and unfortunately eat the wrong types of “comfort” foods such as those high in bad carbohydrates like refined sugar.
Minimizing stress inducers as much as possible and adding relaxation and calming techniques such as yoga and calming music to your daily routine can go a long way toward keeping your stress, and in turn cortisol, in control.
And when it comes to rest, seven to eight hours of restorative sleep will help ensure these two hormones work properly, which means you’ll end up feeling the need to eat less during the day.
- Ropelle ER, Flores MB, Cintra DE, Rocha GZ, Pauli JR, et al. IL-6 and IL-10 Anti-Inflammatory Activity Links Exercise to Hypothalamic Insulin and Leptin Sensitivity through IKKb and ER Stress Inhibition. PLoS Biol, 8(8): e1000465 DOI: 10.1371/journal.pbio.1000465M
- Broom, D.R., Batterham, R.L., King, J.A., Stensel, D.J. (2009). Influence of resistance and aerobic exercise on hunger, circulating levels of acylated ghrelin, and peptide YY in healthy males. American Journal of Physiology – Regulatory, Integrative and Comparative Physiology. Published 1 January 2009 Vol. 296 no. 1, R29-R35 DOI: 10.1152/ajpregu.90706.2008