Do you often find yourself having one too many cheat meals or snacks? Are you trying to lose some excess fat in order to get cut and lean? Well, the truth is that the latter can’t be accomplished with the former. So keep reading if you want to learn how to effectively fight off those relentless and nagging food cravings.
The Science of Food Cravings
When you’re restricting calories, cravings can be especially intense. Your body basically goes in to shock which translates to extreme hunger. Specifically, appetite is controlled by the hormones known as ghrelin, leptin, and insulin. You see, after a few hours of not consuming anything, insulin levels decrease since the body is done processing the last meal’s nutrients.
This is because insulin is essentially responsible for spreading these nutrients throughout the body. Conversely, levels of ghrelin increase at this point, which increases appetite. Once you consume something again, such as an apple, levels of leptin increase, which decreases appetite. Note that when you’re limiting calories, ghrelin will be higher and leptin will be lower than normal. This explains the extreme hunger mentioned earlier.
Avoid Cravings with the Right Foods
Diets rich in protein are great for preventing cravings. This is because studies show that it promotes satiety or fullness since it essentially supports sensitivity to leptin. What’s more is that it promotes muscle and not fat. It’s recommended that approximately 35 to 45% of daily calories should come from it.
So it’s important to pick meals and snacks that are good sources of protein. Try to get roughly 0.5 grams or more per pound of your body weight per day. One great way to make sure that you’re getting enough is by supplementing with a high quality protein powder. Other good sources of protein are lean skinless chicken, lean beef, fish, nuts and, Greek yogurt.
Foods with a lot of fiber are a third way to get rid of cravings. Fiber is a component found in some foods that basically soaks up water as it goes in the gastrointestinal tract. This makes it swell or inflate, which creates a feeling of fullness. Additionally, it supports healthy bowel movements. Try to consume approximately 15 grams of fiber per 1000 calories consumed per day. Some of the best sources of fiber are fruits, vegetables, nuts, whole grains, and beans.
Don’t Eliminate Carbohydrates
Fasting completely from all carbs isn’t a good idea for a number of reasons. First, doing so will definitely increase cravings. Second, strength can decrease since glycogen levels will decrease. If you really want to limit carbs, it’s best to do so gradually and for a temporary amount of time.
Certain types of carbs are definitely worse than others. High glycemic carbohydrates are the kind you want to stay away from. The GI (glycemic index) is a gauge that essentially measures how carbohydrates affect levels of blood sugar. The type that gets broken down steadily and discharges glucose steadily in to the blood is known as low GI.
The kind that does the opposite of this is considered high GI (this will cause levels of insulin to suddenly increase). The glycemic index ranges from 1-100. Anything around 50 or less is on the low end of the spectrum. Anything about 71 or higher is in the high range.
Studies have shown that the fast glucose absorption associated with high GI carbohydrates leads to a hormonal and metabolic process which increases appetite. What’s more is that most high GI carbs are processed, unhealthy foods which don’t offer good nutrition. As you can probably tell, this can lead to a very unhealthy cycle.
Consume Enough Water
Around a half hour prior to breakfast, lunch, and dinner, consume about a 6oz cup of water. Consume a few more cups with each of the meals. Studies have concluded that doing this will cause you to feel satisfied or full faster. Also, consuming water before and during snacks is a good idea.
Eat Foods with 5-HTP
5-Hydroxytryptophan or 5-HTP is an amino acid that helps break down tryptophan. It’s known to raise serotonin in the brain, which elevates mood. Additionally, it has been proven to promote satiety and prevent carbohydrate cravings. Some foods that contain it are potatoes, milk, and pumpkins.
Consume Foods Slowly
Eating meals and snacks at a slow rate has been shown to make the body signal that it’s full faster. This will ultimately cause you to consume less. Yes, this can be difficult, especially if you’re hungry, but it’s definitely helpful. It will get less difficult the more you do it though. Think of it as taking the time to truly savor your food.
Yes, it’s perfectly OK to give in to your cravings or “cheat” every once in a while. Sometimes a reward is well deserved and needed in order to stop constant, pesky cravings. However, the operative word is “sometimes.” It shouldn’t be something that you do often. What’s more is that when you do indulge, it’s important to do so without binging or overdoing it. Restraint or control is necessary.
Get Adequate Sleep
If you don’t get a sufficient amount of sleep each night, levels of leptin will decrease and levels of ghrelin will rise. As you will recall from earlier, this is not good because it will increase hunger. Generally speaking, the ideal amount of sleep to get each night is 7-10 hours for adults. According to research, anything less will promote appetite and body fat.
If you want to stop those annoying cravings and ultimately lose body fat you’re going to have to do two main things. First, you’re going to have to adjust your diet by consuming more protein and so forth. Second, you’ll have to tweak some lifestyle choices, such as getting more sleep.
What foods do you find yourself craving the most and when?