Why Protein Suppresses Hunger

Protein suppresses hunger and can help improve body composition if consumed properly. Keep reading to learn more.
Why Protein Suppresses Hunger
Saúl Sánchez

Written and verified by el nutricionista Saúl Sánchez.

Last update: 07 February, 2023

It’s been said that protein suppresses hunger in the diet, which is very useful for balancing calories at the end of the day and preventing fat weight gain. In fact, more and more importance is given to these nutrients, as they’re necessary for the optimal functioning of the body.

Until recently, it was stated that a high protein intake could cause kidney and liver damage. However, we currently know that this isn’t the case. Rather, they’re totally safe compounds for health. In the same way, it was speculated that its intake altered the renal excretion of calcium, impacting bone mineral density. This premise is also incorrect.

Protein and appetite

When we talk about proteins and appetite, we must place special emphasis on the ability of these compounds to delay the rate of gastric emptying. After all, hunger is determined by several mechanisms and factors, but the fact that the stomach is full is one of them.

Stomach distension receptors are activated, thus sending signals to the brain that block the genesis of the need to eat more. Other substances such as fats cause a similar result.

In addition, proteins also contribute to maintaining stable blood glucose levels. This is partly because they modulate digestive speed. This is how glucose enters the bloodstream in a more progressive way, avoiding alterations that could affect the state of health.

In fact, hyperglycemia can be followed by reactive hypoglycemia, which not only causes weakness but also increased appetite. This is evidenced by a study published in Diabetes & Metabolism .

It’s key to highlight that maintaining efficient glucose metabolism is considered essential in order to prevent the development of complex diseases in the medium term. Otherwise, insulin resistance will be progressively generated, this being the prelude to type 2 diabetes.

From then on, there will be an increasing propensity for the accumulation of subcutaneous and visceral fat, which negatively conditions the functioning of the human body.

To avoid this series of problems, it’s crucial to optimize the diet and remove low-quality inflammatory foods from dietary routines. Examples of them are those that contain simple sugars and trans fats in high amounts.

These last compounds have been shown to increase the incidence of many diseases, especially due to their potential to affect oxidation and cause DNA damage.

Other functions of proteins

Roasted chicken breast with broccoli and yamani rice.
Proper muscle function requires large amounts of good-quality protein from the diet.

In any case, proteins don’t only have the ability to control appetite in the previously explained way. They’re a key element for the recovery and growth of muscle tissue. This acts as an endocrine organ when necessary. Not only does it guarantee homeostasis in the internal environment, but it can also affect hunger. Of course, as long as the exercise variable is introduced into the equation.

In recent years, it has been suggested that the practice of physical activity contributes to modulating appetite. Not always reducing it, but also optimizing it. However, for this to be carried out accurately, it’s key that the protein intake is sufficient. Failure to do so could increase the risk of injury. The physiological adaptations of the tissue would also be put into play.

As a general rule, the need to guarantee a contribution of at least 1.4 grams of protein per kilo of weight per day in people who do sports on a regular basis is proposed. Even this amount could reach 2 grams of protein per kilo of weight per day. This is confirmed by research published in the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition.

Of course, at least half of the proteins in the diet must be of high biological value, that is, of animal origin. These have all the essential amino acids and have a good score in terms of digestibility. They help muscle mass to function properly and prevent the development of chronic problems such as sarcopenia, which are increasingly common in middle-aged people.

Other strategies to suppress hunger

Protein suppresses hunger, but there are other strategies that work to do the same. Other mechanisms can be put into operation that help, as long as there are no basic problems in the regulation of appetite. We refer fundamentally to genetic alterations that condition a state of hyperphagia in which the constant need to consume food is felt. In these cases, the treatment can become complex.

One of the strategies that can be considered is the consumption of a glass of water before main meals. This has proven to be efficient in improving body composition. In this way, stomach distension is generated and the mechanoreceptors that cause a feeling of satiety are activated. This will make it less likely that you’ll eat an excessive amount of food.

Replacing the simple sugars in the regimen with complex carbohydrates will also help. Not only is a better metabolism of glucose guaranteed, but alterations in glycemia are avoided, which could lead to increased appetite with preferences for sweets. In addition, the fiber will contribute to increasing the feeling of satiety itself, apart from improving the subsequent digestive processes.

It will also be positive to give priority to vegetables in the diet. These not only contain antioxidants necessary to maintain a good state of health, but also provide a good amount of fiber.

It’s important to ensure a daily consumption of at least 25 grams of this substance to help prevent the development of pathologies such as colon cancer. This is evidenced by research published in the International Journal of Food Sciences and Nutrition.

Is there anything wrong with eating a lot of protein?

Proteins are efficient in suppressing hunger and improving muscle function. However, it has been proposed for decades that a high intake could be negative for health. Today this has been denied. Following a diet with more than 2 grams of protein per kilo of body weight could be possible without this leading to side effects.

Of course, we’re always talking about healthy people. When there’s any pre-existing alteration in liver or kidney function, the contribution of these nutrients must be monitored, making adaptations. But they’re very specific cases. As a general rule, there’s no need to be so careful with protein consumption. Moreover, it’s usually more dangerous to present a deficit than an excess of these nutrients.

According to a study published in Nutrition Research magazine , the presence of protein in the diet along with exercise helps prevent diseases such as sarcopenia. This develops primarily in older adults and often causes lean tissue catabolism along with a loss of strength and lean tissue functionality. In fact, its appearance is related to an increased risk of death from any cause.

Does eating a lot of protein help you lose weight?

Protein suppresses hunger but doesn't not do all the work.
Protein-rich foods need to be combined with resistance exercise to boost muscle function and lose weight.

We’ve mentioned that protein suppresses hunger. However, this doesn’t mean that you’ll lose weight by increasing the amount of these nutrients in your diet.

While it’s true that high protein and low carbohydrate regimens can promote fat oxidation, they’re not suitable for everyone. At the end of the day, it’s essential to promote a plan that generates adherence in the medium term, thus avoiding the rebound effect.

When it comes to stimulating weight loss, one of the keys has to do with the creation of a hypercaloric environment. The distribution of nutrients may matter, but if the deficit isn’t consolidated, no more fat will be oxidized. Of course, it’s key to highlight that there may be alterations in metabolic efficiency that make it difficult to mobilize lipids, such as insulin resistance or type 2 diabetes.

In any case, they’re specific cases that require precise intervention. As a general rule, it’s enough to follow a diet with an energy deficit and enough protein to prevent lean mass from being catabolized.

All this will have to be accompanied by the practice of physical exercise on a regular basis, prioritizing above all the work of muscular strength. Thus, it’s possible to increase expenditure and control the level of inflammation in the internal environment.

Of course, there are some supplements that can help in this task. One of the most widely used is caffeine, as confirmed by research published in the Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition magazine.

This manages to promote the oxidation of lipids for energy production, in addition to delaying the onset of fatigue and improving physical performance. Others, such as green tea extract or cinnamon, may help to achieve good results. Even adding spice to meals will do the trick.

Protein suppresses hunger

Protein suppresses hunger thanks to the delay in gastric emptying and its importance in helping to control blood glucose levels. But it’s not the only strategy to achieve this objective. Nor does it guarantee weight loss as such. It’s also crucial to combine a series of good habits to consolidate a significant change in the state of body composition.

Keep in mind that other factors such as rest can affect all of this. Poor sleep increases appetite and preferences for low-quality, high-fat, and sweet foods. Sleeping at least 7 or 8 hours each night will be decisive in achieving a state of homeostasis in the internal environment that helps prevent complex and chronic health problems.

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