Most who have maintained a stringent pre-contest bodybuilding diet for an extended period or who have otherwise achieved respectably low body fat levels through the careful planning and disciplined adherence to a low calorie eating plan will admit to being severely tested. In many cases, full blown eating binges, or more than ‘occasional treats’, will have accompanied their monastic dietary habits. Such measures may not be necessary and this article will endeavor to explain why.
Most of us approach healthy, so-called ‘clean eating’ with a slight feeling of trepidation, if not all-consuming anxiety, for the hunger and self-denial that awaits us. With nutritional transgressions and excuses along the lines of ‘we’re only human’ (often uttered after one has succumbed to a mega-calorie junk food feast), it appears that eating well for a well-conditioned physique may be one of life’s tougher ordeals.
With an ever-increasing array of supplemental appetite suppressants, and even more extreme surgical procedures to prevent obesity-boosting binges, society, it appears, has become increasingly less disciplined when it comes to putting down the fork and spoon.
It is acknowledged that balanced nutrition with limited, if any, high sugar food is necessary for shaping up. While bodybuilders must be more selective in what they eat compared to the average fitness devotee (who can have their cake and eat it too – but only some of the time), both must work hard at avoiding temptation and sticking to a nutritious diet. The question is – how is this done without regular splurging? Controlling one’s appetite is a great place to start.
Tip #1: Eat a Balanced Diet
Let’s start at the beginning – the fundamentals. A well-balanced diet featuring a full array of nutrient-dense foods such as vegetables (both fibrous and starchy), proteins (animal and vegetable), fats (avoid saturated, stick to the healthy fats), fruits (in moderation) and a full spectrum of high potency supplements including multi-vitamin formulations and proteins will satisfy our nutrient requirements and prevent hunger from striking.
Provided we consume a well-planned diet with no nutritional holes and enough calories to sustain hard workouts and boost recovery, we should not become hungry – period.
Tip #2: Divert Your Attention
The cravings we have for certain foods may be assumed to have physical origins (we may have deluded ourselves into thinking we are lacking certain nutrients and thus require replenishment), chances are it is our obsession with the foods we have grown to love that compel us to gorge upon them.
Recall your last binge, or that slice of carrot cake you ‘just couldn’t stop yourself’ from eating. Well, provided you were also eating a balanced diet (discussed soon) it is highly unlikely your body needed the surplus of calories contained in these foods. The fact is: the more you thought about this food, the more you craved it, and the more you craved it the more your body began to express the physical symptoms of hunger (a watering mouth, a hollow stomach) – until you could no longer hold back.
The psychological addiction we have to the foods we love most manifests itself in a physical compulsion to eat them.
Over time, the mere presentation, or mention, of certain foods is enough to trigger hunger, irrespective of whether one is well satiated or not. However, by diverting our attention away from off limits fare and, instead, focusing on the reasons why we have to stay committed to our eating plan we can circumvent this conditioned response. Thus, it could be argued that a strong mind may be our strongest ally when seeking to suppress our appetite and achieve the lean physique we have always wanted.
Tip #3: Enjoy the Occasional Treat
The distinction here being ‘occasional’, or rather, one high calorie ‘cheat’ meal approximately every 2-3 days (individual variability will dictate how often you can indulge without adding unwanted body weight). By occasionally eating foods that are not strictly nutritionally beneficial (without over indulging) we may continue to suppress our appetite while promoting periodic metabolism spiking to further accelerate fat loss.
The key to this is controlling the cheat by avoiding items that can easily go over board.
Buying a package of Oreo’s and setting your cheat at 6 cookies is bound to end in disaster. Instead, buy snack-packs, or individually wrapped items and eat all of it, rather than buying large quantities and trying to control portions.
Tip #4: H2O It
Regular consumption of water remains an effective appetite suppressant strategy. By drinking plenty of H2O (a gallona day is a good start for the fitness enthusiast) the foods we eat are increased in volume (carbohydrates in particular) and we stay fuller, for longer. Also, dehydration, however slight, may be mistaken for hunger. Thus, when thirsty we may cheat on our diet. Bottom line: keep your water intake high to further suppress your appetite.
Tip #5: Lower Your Stress Levels
It is when we are stressed, depressed, or otherwise feeling down, that we are more likely to seek food for its comforting effects. High carbohydrate fare such as chocolate, pasta and cake which contain certain neurotransmitter-releasing substances, restore our brain chemistry to promote feelings of well-being; the ensuing cascade of feel-good chemicals (primarily dopamine and serotonin) may significantly elevate our mood and this allows us to get on with our day.
However, what goes up must come down, and our new-found happiness quickly turns to guilt. The mood-boosting properties of our junk food binge soon diminish and we resume our negative thought patterns, with the added burden of excess calories to burn. By keeping stress and depression at bay our appetite for nutritionally deleterious foods is reduced. If your shape-up diet is getting you down, your chances of cheating on it are increased; therefore, find a diet that is manageable for your body type, one that is both nutrient dense and satisfying.
Tip #6: Whey Your Options
While high protein foods in general are great for suppressing appetite, whey protein in particular has been found by many to strongly counter hunger pangs. As well as being lower in calories and less likely to be converted to fat than either carbohydrates or fat itself, proteins place greater metabolic demands on our body, which, in turn, enable us to burn more body fat at rest. Protein also helps to regulate blood sugar to curtail our urge to splurge on high sugar foods. Finally, and importantly for those wanting to shape up fast, protein, in particular whey, can control appetite by increasing levels of the hormone cholecystokinin (CCK), an appetite regulator which encourages feelings of fullness following meals.
Tip #7: Appetite Suppressant Supplements
Aside from natural appetite suppressant methods, of which several of the best are featured in this article, there are many supplements that have proven effective in reducing hunger to control food cravings. Two of the best include glucomannan (a water-soluble polysaccharide which reduces our ability to absorb carbohydrates to prevent the significant insulin spiking which may promote further sugar cravings) and 5HTP (which raises serotonin levels to suppress hunger). Though supplemental appetite suppressants can be effective it is best to not form a reliance on their use as the body may, over time, be fooled into thinking it does not need food; rather, moderately incorporate the best of these as part of a holistic hunger control strategy (drawing from the methods outlined in this article).
Tip #8: Eat Your Fiber
A nutrient found in whole grain products and in some fruits and vegetables, fiber helps to facilitate proper digestion to encourage greater satiety and hunger control. In eating sufficient fiber we feel fuller, faster, and are less likely to binge. Seek out high fiber foods and liberally incorporate these into your diet; in particular, include apples which at approximately five grams of fiber per apple, fill the stomach and reduce hunger pangs. Further, the sugars contained in apples do not spike blood sugar levels to the extent some starchy carbs do. Our blood-sugar levels are thus better regulated and our appetite is further suppressed.
Tip #9: Caffeinate Your Day
Though one must never use caffeine (either in supplemental form or through the consumption of coffee) to compensate for poor eating habits, this energy-boosting substance, one of the world’s most widely used stimulants, can mask hunger given its short-term fatigue-fighting properties (when we are on a low calorie diet and feel energy levels waning we are more likely to reach for high sugar, off limits foods).
The chlorogenic acids found in coffee may also help to decrease hunger pangs. However, the central nervous system, and metabolic booster caffeine, must never be over consumed as the adrenal glands may in turn be compromised, a state which may lead to exhaustion and the subsequent binging on high calorie foods.
Tip #10: Review Your Goals Daily
To routinely remind ourselves of what we expect from ourselves is to encourage greater focus, and control over our behaviors; often it is when we lack focus that we will act in opposition to our best interests, especially when our natural urges and instincts compel us to stray from correct eating habits.
By reviewing our nutritional goals daily, foremost in our minds will be what we must do to successfully achieve our fitness aims. By reading our goals aloud each morning we program ourselves to be ever cognizant of the steps we must take to achieve each of them. Before we eat foods that may undermine our dietary efforts we are faced with a choice. Whether we are strong enough to resist temptation and make the right choices may depend on the strength of our intention and our intention is strengthened by the meaning we attach to, and how important we consider each of our goals to be.
Hunger No More!
Appetite suppression is a complex process which may or may not require the consumption of specific foods and supplements. Indeed, the cravings we have for certain foods may be precipitated by a moment of weakness, a strong urge to mix it up to suppress the boredom associated with stringent eating practices. So, the first step to ensuring we do not blow our diet is to consume a nutritious diet and to be mentally strong; to develop the capacity to stay focused on our goals (eating a well balanced diet should leave us feeling satiated whereas nutritional deficiencies might cause us to restore the balance through more hearty fare – thus, the cravings we have may, to a large extent, be more mental than physical).
However, given the fact that people metabolize foods at different and genetically determined rates, many of us may, despite our sound nutritional practices, find a lower calorie diet painstakingly difficult to maintain. Or we may simply be burning many more calories than we are consuming, thus throwing our nutrient balance out of whack. For these people and those wanting to eliminate the possibility of binge eating, the tips featured in this article may keep you from falling off the dietary wagon.