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Let me introduce myself. My name is Mark Sisson. I’m 63 years young. I live and work in Malibu, California. In a past life I was a professional marathoner and triathlete. Now my life goal is to help 100 million people get healthy. I started this blog in 2006 to empower people to take full responsibility for their own health and enjoyment of life by investigating, discussing, and critically rethinking everything we’ve assumed to be true about health and wellness...

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March 23, 2009

Dear Mark: Hunger Pangs a Thing of the Past?

By Mark Sisson
69 Comments

Dear Mark,

Since eating more fat and protein (while cutting down on the carbs), I seem to get fuller faster. Sometimes I won’t even finish my plate, which basically never happened before! I’m guessing it has something to do with eating more primal foods, and it makes sense from an anthropological standpoint (getting full on less food is advantageous in a survival sense)… but are there any science or lab studies that have actually examined this phenomenon?

Thanks,
Paul

Does a diet rich in fat and protein actually sate hunger more effectively? Funny you should ask, Paul. Your experience is more common than you might think.

In addition to receiving numerous reader comments just like yours that corroborate the fat-protein-satiety idea, I also have my own personal experience. As some of you may know, I used to be a professional long-distance (marathon-long) runner. I was “fit,” but I was fueling my activities with massive amounts of carbohydrates. To put it into perspective, a typical evening snack was a half gallon of ice cream. How typical? Every night. Despite the amount of food I was taking in, I was always hungry… even when I wasn’t training. Eventually, the joint pain, respiratory infections, and general unhappiness with the toll my lifestyle was taking on my body prompted me to shed the carbs and rethink my entire food/fitness/life philosophy. The path was long and winding, but I eventually began upping my fat and protein until I arrived at the Primal Blueprint. The first thing I noticed upon dropping carbs and upping fats/protein was the immediate change in appetite. Simply put, I didn’t have much of one anymore.

Now, I look around at what other people my age and size are eating, and I feel like I eat like a bird. Sure, there are times where I eat a massive meal, like after a workout-fast session or a grueling day, but most of the time I’m just not that hungry. Comments like yours, my own experiences, and a recent study all support the notion that the fat and protein content of the Primal Blueprint diet is the driving satiating force.

We already knew how protein worked to satisfy the appetite. Proteins are digested much more slowly than carbohydrates; theirs is a steady breakdown into absorbable nutrients, whereas the ingested carbohydrate causes an immediate and potent spike in blood sugar that leaves you wanting more. You’re not going to binge on steaks and lamb chops like you would with potato chips.

As for fat, Dr. Reza Norouzy, from King’s College of London, provides an explanation. He knew that low GI diets are “known to cause reduced appetite,” but the mechanisms as to how had (heretofore) never been established. His team gave either a high GI diet or a low GI diet to twelve healthy volunteers and examined two markers in each participant: insulin and GLP-1, a gut hormone known to increase “fullness and suppression of appetite.”

Those who ate a lower GI meal had 20% higher levels of GLP-1 and 38% lower levels of insulin, suggesting an actual physiological mechanism behind the idea that fat and protein increase satiety. Though the specifics of the diet weren’t available, we can surmise that a lower GI means relatively fewer carbohydrates and more fat and protein.

You’ve probably gathered that calories are definitely not king around here; that we tend to focus more on the source of calories, rather than the quantity. Still, some people do worry about calorie counts. For that crowd, take heart: eating more fat and protein while avoiding carbs with a high GI increases appetite-curbing GLP-1. The more GLP-1 you have coursing through your veins, the less you are likely to eat.

Sounds easy enough to me.

Further Reading:

Mmmmmmmmmmmmmm… Fat.

Dear Mark: Sugar Cravings

Pass the Protein, Please!

TAGS:  dear mark

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69 Comments on "Dear Mark: Hunger Pangs a Thing of the Past?"

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Yum Yucky
7 years 6 months ago

I’m just starting to focus on how protein affects diet & weight loss, so this is right on time. I’m Queen of Carbs (my childhood nickname was Bread). And yes, I’m always hungry.

“I will eat more protein…I will eat more protein…”

Son of Grok
7 years 6 months ago

I have totally experienced this too. As my body has gotten more atuned to primal eating, I can now also notice a direct correlation between carbs and hunger. If I eat a little more fruit than usual, I notice that I am also a little more hungry than usual. Pretty cool stuff.

The SoG

Holly
Holly
7 years 6 months ago

I can’t say I’m as in tune with my body as SoG is 😉 , but i can say that i have definitely gotten less hungry as i continue further and further with the primal blueprint. (but since the foods are so good, its totally satisfying!)

Bill
7 years 6 months ago

Our experience is very similar to SoG’s. My wife and I have noticed a significant difference in satiety after eating a higher than normal carb content meal.

Simply put, we’re quite hungry within a couple of hours after eating a carb-laden meal.

Adam Steer - Better Is Better
7 years 6 months ago
Another great anecdotal way to test this is through fasting. Start a fast after a meal relatively high in carbohydrates, and then your next fast after a day of relatively few carbohydrates. Most times you’ll find that you are way more hungry during the fasts following a high-carb day. This leads me to think that the metabolic environment, as it relates to hunger, that is set up by carbs is much longer lived than the postprandial period. I tend to think the ease of fasts after a low carb day somehow has more to do with the absence of carbs… Read more »
RT
7 years 6 months ago

My experience pretty much echo’s SoG’s as well. Im loving how this lifestyle makes me feel – no longer caught up in the vicious cycle that consuming way too many carbs would put me through. I would never feel fully full, had constant energy crashes, and basically was a mess!
Now I’m so much more content with so many aspects of my life…all through modifying my diet (cutting out wheat and sugar). Its amazing!

DC
DC
7 years 6 months ago

What is described here is not necessarily a good thing. I’m already skinny and looking to gain some (muscle) weight. Since going primal my appetite has decreased to the point where I almost have to force feed myself. I’ve lost 10 pounds and am not happy about it.

Any people with similar experiences out there?

Sarah
Sarah
7 years 6 months ago

What if this *doesn’t* happen to you, though? High fat, low carb, and still feel hungry dang near all the time…it’s annoying.

Havolas
Havolas
7 months 3 days ago

Make sure you are also eating around 40g of protein at each meal (you can fiddle with the amount, but this works well), and try to keep your saturated, monounsaturated, and polyunsaturated fat ratio around 1:2:1 while eating between 67-130g of fat daily. Keep your high fiber, whole plant food net carbs between 70-120g (50 is too low – ketosis cannot make up enough glucose for your brain when ingested carbs are too low). Make sure you eat protein, fat, and carbs at each meal. This works great!!

C
C
7 years 6 months ago

I definitely have to agree with SoG and everyone else. I have recently been tinkering with the number of carbs I eat in a day and the lower the number has gone the more and more satisfied I am with my meals. Although I have noticed that after say a 2 hour soccer practice or game my hunger seems to linger regardless of my nutrition.

madMUHHH
madMUHHH
7 years 6 months ago
@DC: Actually, yes! During my first month or so of eating more primal I actually lost 6-8 pounds, too and I’m also quite skinny. I was pretty shocked when I found that out, because I don’t step on the scale that often and then I stepped on it after a few weeks and suddenly I was weighing much less. Fortunately I think I haven’t lost that much muscle mass even though I dodn’t have much body fat to begin with. But right now things are starting to balance out (at least I hope, about tme to find out whethe I… Read more »
ReachWest
ReachWest
7 years 6 months ago
I’m new to the Primal Blueprint and have been transitioning my diet and lifestyle for the past three months. I have, so far, dropped 26 pounds of fat and gained 7 pounds of lean mass. I feel better and have more energy. I discovered Mark’s Daily Apple after my wife referred it to me. She has always been very conscious of nutrition and exercise and now she has me hooked too. We’re both following the BP (as closely as we can). I too have noted that my appetite has changed. I no longer crave food in the late evening, after… Read more »
DC
DC
7 years 6 months ago

madMUHHH:

Thanks. I’m eating about 1.2 grams of protein per pound of body weight, and have cut the cardio to very little, focusing instead on long walks, short sprints, and weight lifting.

madMUHHH
7 years 6 months ago

@DC: Hmmm. If it’s really a big deal, you could always try to drink more smoothies, milk or whatever drinks are relatively high in calories, but still primal. That way you could get some extra calories without even really noticing it.

Oh and Mark, thanks for the links! I set up my twitter account now, maybe you could do a little post or something, to really get the network started.

Chris
Chris
7 years 6 months ago

I am tall and lanky as well and lose to much muscle without some daily sweet potatoes or even rice!I can only eat so much protein and/or fat before indigestion sets in.
YEah I like rice but I am naughty like that and have single digit bodyfat.

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[…] Fitness Article Links Stretch That Psoas I’m Hungry…At Least I Used to Be Ladies…Get Pumped Up Share and […]

DC
DC
7 years 6 months ago

Mark:

I think I’ve lost muscle mass, but it’s hard to say for sure. I have very little body fat, so there isn’t much else for me to lose. Like Chris, I just can’t stomach all the fat and protein without feeling bloated and full. I don’t want to force feed myself, but I don’t want to get any skinnier either.

Tim
Tim
7 years 6 months ago

My partner and I are going on a diet to shed too much weight but one thing concerns me about the increase in fat. My partner had his gal bladder removed so he can’t tolerate too much fat. How can he get the benefits of this diet with that condition? Also what about the issue of cholesterol(sp?)? Thanks for your help.

Tim

Donna
Donna
7 years 6 months ago

It’s so true, eating Primal DOES keep you on the full side, eating grains just seems to keep you hungry. For breakfast i really enjoy a cooked egg topped with nut butter, i stay full for hours. Long time ago when i used to eat some kind of grain for breakfast it didn’t hold me up well.

Son of Grok
7 years 6 months ago

Tim,
Not a doctor here either… but have a RL reference… a good friend of mine (Roger de Rok) had his gall bladder removed and primal is going awesome for him. has lost over 50#s so far without any gall bladder related dificulty.

The SoG

DC
DC
7 years 6 months ago

Mark:

Last summer while training for the ironman I could eat 1000 calories of sugar (e.g., a whole box of organic toaster pastries) and then go out and run – no GI distress at all. A similar amount (or less) of calories from fat and protein gives me indigestion and a big bloated stomach. My activity levels are intentionally way down from IM levels, but I still get out for an hour or so most days (weights, long walks, some moderate- or high-intensity biking or running). I don’t do any dairy except for some occasional plain yogurt.

Chris
Chris
7 years 6 months ago
Yep…my experience is about the same as DC I don’t do dairy and have tweaked every angle of Paleo/Primal style eating for nearly 2 years with same results.It doesn’t matter if its high fruit/lean protein,low carb high fat or any variation in between. I do OK for a month or two and then lose to much muscle,6’3@160lbs isn’t good for me.Then when I try to compensate with more protein and/or fat,fruit or veg I get bloated and constipated. I ad back carbs and GI distress is gone and muscle comes back. Some people can just handle carbs better than most.I… Read more »
Arlo
Arlo
7 years 6 months ago
Speaking of feeling hungry, I ran into a conversation with a co-worker today that all I could do was nod my head quietly though I was gritting my teeth. I really wanted to point out the fallacies in her thinking, but I just couldn’t do it. From past experience I know she just wouldn’t listen. She was super happy about a Special K snack bar that she had found. She made a statement along the lines of, “I’m so glad I found these bars, because I’m eating healthy AND it tastes like candy!” No wonder. I took a look at… Read more »
Jan
Jan
7 years 6 months ago
Paul, The primary explanation for reduced hunger with less carb goes to the heart of society’s current weight problems. Carbs, basically sugar, has been proportional to fat and protein in every meal in nature (animals and plants) for millions of years and is part of our DNA. Sugar and starches (grains, potatoes) have been relatively recent introductions in the millions of years of humans have been around. The rise of sugar in your blood after a meal (glycemic index) signals how much you ate. So when you eat a 1,000 calorie meal with carbs/sugars way out of proportion to what… Read more »
Jason
Jason
7 years 6 months ago
Hi Tim: I’ve had my gallbladder out and I can eat plenty of fats (nb. coconut oil is especially good for those without gallbladders). Tell your partner to build up the fats slowly. If still having problems, swedish bitters and/or ox bile supplements can be taken to help digest the fats. Without plenty of fats, your partner is in danger of nutritional deficiencies as many vitamins are fat soluble. Mark (& others): how many times a day should a primal person eat? I used to eat 6 smaller meals a day, but have since read that that line of thought… Read more »
Sherri
Sherri
7 years 6 months ago

Have those of you who are experiencing digestive problems thought of trying digestive enzymes and probiotic supplements?

Trinkwasser
Trinkwasser
7 years 5 months ago
David Mendosa has a good take on the Satiety Index http://mendosa.com/satiety.htm also the Glycemic Index Works for me too (skinny Type 2 with reactive hypoglycemia) without the carbs I don’t get the carb cravings, just “normal” hunger. It seems to have improved over time also, I used to need to manually adjust my BG with carb/fat snacks while doing stuff but I’m finding much less need to do that and fewer liver dump highs and near hypos on a primal-type balance of protein fats and low carb veggies, my BG has become so even that I seldom bother to test… Read more »
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[…] Since eating more fat and protein (while cutting down on the carbs), I seem to get fuller faster. Sometimes I won’t even finish my plate, which basically never happened before! Read More>> […]

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[…] of biochemical drives. The brain is built to incentivize our efforts not just with the quieting of hunger pangs but the kick-starting of an intricate hormonal “reward” system. When it comes to diet, I’ve […]

Liam McKarry
Liam McKarry
6 years 3 months ago

Reduced carbs but upped fat and protein and can honestly say after 4 days I’m starving.

Today I’ve regulated carbs to 120g and I’m so hungry

I don’t feel foggy or ill just hungry

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[…] dosing of sucralose did not induce a cephalic insulin response, nor did it affect GLP-1. Not even appetite was […]

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[…] you’re hungry,” because let’s face it: eating the types of foods we evolved eating induces powerful satiety and makes eating the right amount of food a subconscious act. Fasting becomes a whole lot easier […]

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[…] to signal correctly. Mark Sisson, he of the Daily Apple, has several pieces about satiety: here, here, and here. Basically, overeating is a symptom of metabolic derangement, and almost all modern […]

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[…] you might try eating a high-protein breakfast. Add some fat to that protein and I bet you could maintain satiation for longer than the three hours described in the […]

Graeme
Graeme
4 years 11 months ago

I just recently have begun the transition to Primal. I’ve gone quite low-carb but I haven’t added the other Primal elements as much as I’d like.

Nonetheless, I already feel better than ever. My appetite is WAY down and I don’t feel as though I’m a slave to food anymore. I’m snacking less and eating less at meals as well.

trackback

[…] high-fat diet wasn’t the target; obese mice brains were. This study wasn’t really about the diet. The […]

june
june
4 years 7 months ago

My experience has been different to this. Since going almost completely paleo about 3.5 weeks ago, my appetite is uncontrollable! I want to eat EVERYTHING all the time.

I’m eating a lot of fat, protein, and veges. No sugar (except a couple of squares of 85% dark chocolate), and no grains.

I am hoping this stage will pass soon, because it is getting ridiculous! I’m going to try fasting this week and see if that helps.

Has anyone else experienced an _increase_ in appetite since going primal?

Jo-Anne
Jo-Anne
4 years 5 months ago

Yes…..I have and I put it down to the fact that the bacterial overgrowth has realised I am starving it so it is not that I am hungry, it is, and I fall off the wagon and have to start all over again…..like a reformed drinker….just one WILL hurt….fasting seems to help……pump in the pro and pre-biotics while you fast….good luck.

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[…] not really about having to control HOW MUCH you eat – the satiety provided by protein and fat takes care of that naturally, especially if dietary sugar isn’t increasing your appetite and […]

Ayana
Ayana
4 years 6 months ago

I find this article interesting. While I am on my last day of Spring Break before the regular weekend,I decided to try to eat a Primal breakfast, lunch, and dinner. I already knocked out breakfast with a chocolate “milkshake” (I posted the recipe on the 10 reasons to become Primal article). I highly suggest that for breakfast, or a snack. My dad loved it too, drinking more of it than I did. It was indescribably delicious! 🙂

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[…] olive oil, and coconut oil are some great places for healthy fats that help us feel full, and curb apptetite cravings for a longer period of […]

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[…] eating a Paleo diet rich in animal fats, our hunger signals are greatly sated, and we just don’t get hungry, unless we are truly hungry! And we are only hungry when […]

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[…] is very satiating, especially when paired with low-carb eating. Grass-fed pot roast, ribbed with yellow fat, […]

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4 years 3 months ago

[…] is very  satiating, especially when paired with low-carb eating.  Grass-fed pot roast, ribbed with yellow fat, […]

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[…] is very satiating, especially when paired with low-carb eating. Grass-fed pot roast, ribbed with yellow fat, […]

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[…] is very satiating, especially when paired with low-carb eating. Grass-fed pot roast, ribbed with yellow fat, […]

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[…] nutrients in your meals will increase satiety. Don’t believe me….give it a try and read this article from Mark’s Daily […]

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4 years 2 months ago

[…] is very satiating, especially when paired with low-carb eating. Grass-fed pot roast, ribbed with yellow fat, […]

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