By Cassandra Forsythe-Pribanic, PhD, RD
One of the hardest aspects of starting a new diet plan is appetite control. Now, we’re not talking about ultra-restrictive dieting here, because those are just silly and only result in rebounds and misery.
What we’re referring to is any dietary switch that requires you to pay attention to some aspect of your nutrition with the goal of dropping body fat and improving health. Whether it be carbohydrate cycling or calorie confusion, any time you make a conscious effort to improve what you feed your body, your appetite can be your biggest enemy.
Say you’re simply trying to eat less on days that you’re not active – days you’re stuck at work and aren’t able to make it out for your nightly run or weight workout – it’s your appetite that can get in the way of helping you achieve your goals. Or you’re trying to avoid eating too much at your next Holiday meal (you know the ones… where you eat so much you feel sick afterwards despite all intentions of not doing so).
But luckily, scientists have spent time in the lab figuring out which foods can help you eat less or avoid eating something that really isn’t conducive to your healthy eating plans.
One of the foods that shows great promise for helping you hold back and prevent food blunders is whey protein.
Yes, you read that right: good ol’ whey protein powder.
In several different scientific investigations, whey has been compared to other protein sources and against carbohydrates and fiber, and has been shown to decrease food intake and improve appetite one to four hours later.
In other words, you’ll be less tempted to eat until you feel like you’re going to burst if you drink whey protein before a big meal.
In a recent Australian study, an isocaloric drink containing whey was compared to tuna, turkey and egg four hours before 22 lean, healthy men were presented with a buffet meal (all men took in the same calories and grams of protein). The whey protein was found to elicit a higher insulin response and lower glucose response than the other protein meals. The whey also resulted in lower hunger scores and reduced food intake at the buffet.
So, calorie for calorie, and protein gram for protein gram, whey protein does the best job at helping you feel more satisfied and preventing you from overeating when tempted by a ton of good food.
In another recent study from the Netherlands, researchers compared whey protein to soy and casein (casein is the other protein found in milk) on satiety and hunger. Twenty 25 healthy men and women were given a custard breakfast made with either whey, soy or casein protein and then presented with a lunch 3 hours later. The protein in the custard was either 10% of the total custard calories or 25%.
At 10% energy, the whey protein suppressed appetite and improved satiety more than the soy and casein protein. This was connected to increases in blood amino acids after taking the proteins, with whey stimulating greater increases than the other proteins. At 25% energy of the custard, all of the proteins had a similar effect on appetite and satiety.
From this study, we learned that whey at even small doses decreases appetite compared to other proteins. But, when the proteins are taken at high doses, they all prevented overeating.
So, if you only want to take in a few calories of protein before a big meal, your best choice is whey protein above soy and casein.
Finally, not overly surprisingly, whey in either a solid or liquid form was found to be superior to sugar in either solid or liquid form for reducing food intake and improving satiety.
Again, if you’re looking to control your appetite for any reason at all, choose whey protein over most other proteins and especially over sugars.
Whey protein can help you stick to your dietary plan and ensure you don’t overeat when faced with temptations. But, remember that this is all within the context of healthy and not over-restrictive eating patterns. Starvation diets will always result in bad outcomes even if they initially make you skinny.