Marks Daily Apple
Serving up health and fitness insights (daily, of course) with a side of irreverence.
23 Mar

Dear Mark: Hunger Pangs a Thing of the Past?

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?


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!

You want comments? We got comments:

Imagine you’re George Clooney. Take a moment to admire your grooming and wit. Okay, now imagine someone walks up to you and asks, “What’s your name?” You say, “I’m George Clooney.” Or maybe you say, “I’m the Clooninator!” You don’t say “I’m George of George Clooney Sells Movies Blog” and you certainly don’t say, “I’m Clooney Weight Loss Plan”. So while spam is technically meat, it ain’t anywhere near Primal. Please nickname yourself something your friends would call you.

  1. 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! :-)

    Ayana wrote on March 30th, 2012
  2. Hey. Not a frequent visitor or commentor, but I found several of your articles while doing searches concerning diet and nutrition.

    I’m curious if its the FAT that is the primary curber of hunger here. I’ve been attempting medically supervised diets for some time… specifically the Medifast Diet.

    The MD works on a low-carb idea, but they are also very anti-fat. Even healthy fats are tightly regulated – olive oil, almonds, avocado. They are high in protein and high fiber/low GI foods/supplements and very low calorie. I struggled a lot with the diet, even while eating 1500 calories/day as a nursing mother. I wasn’t losing weight, because I was constantly fighting hunger and cravings.

    Being a nursing mother with a hungry baby who was having eating problems, I had to do some research on breast milk production and baby diet physiology. Essentially, my daughter was gassy, hungry quickly (in spite a heavy milk supply), and had improper stools. Apparently, at the beginning of a feeding session, breast milk is composed primarily of carbs. The end of the feeding (hind milk) is chock ful of FAT. The fat triggers a hormone that lets the baby know she’s full. My baby was lacking that part, filling up on carbs that were used quickly, leaving her hungry an 30 minutes later.

    In this, it highlighted fat as the primary trigger for satiation.

    I am now on the Atkin’s diet, where I have a lot more freedom in what I eat – including plenty of fat. After 3-4 days, my blood sugar evened out and I’m eating less than 1500 calories/day without any issues in cravings or hunger.

    I think the thing to get here is that fat really needs to be in the diet and that protein alone isn’t going to satiate the same way fat will.

    Christina wrote on September 24th, 2012
  3. My eating routine is totally different. I eat a plant based diet with is a low protein, low fat, high carb diet. It is high in good carbs from fruits and vegetables (sugars, complex carbs, high fiber) I eat throughout the day day, small meals. I don’t get hungry but my body knows when it needs energy, so I eat good all day through. I maintain very very high energy levels for a 46 year old man.

    Aqiyl Aniys wrote on February 15th, 2014
  4. I’ve been eating high fat low carb paleo on/off this year. I get to two weeks and give in with something small which escalates the next day, so now I’m all or nothing. Anyway, I’m getting bloated from high up in my abdomen if I eat too much coconut oil or too much bacon fat. I’m also reeeeally lethargic and feel heavy – these are new conditions in the last two years. I’m eating twice a day, adding salt to everything, green teas in afternoon and lots of water. Multivitamin, potassium, vitamin d/b, cla, carnitine supps. 8 hours sleep. Coffee now and then. What am I doing wrong? Other than the yoyo which I’ve stopped. I’m eating minimal veg so considering a greens supp. Too much veg and I feel stuffed. I think I’m insulin resistant, face and belly puffs in days of eating bad stuff but settles within days of eating good :p

    Sam wrote on July 30th, 2014

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