If you find yourself eating less than ideal snacks or racking up calories later in the day, you may just not be craving more food. According to a new study, your body might actually need protein.
The study published in the journal Obesity involved an analysis of data from the National Nutrition and Physical Activity Survey, which took place between May 2011 and June 2012. Taking into consideration the dietary and physical habits of 9,341 adults with an average age of 46.3 years ago, scientists from the University of Sydney found that the energy intake of participants’ diets was generally made up of 30.9% fat, 43.5% carbohydrates, 18.4% protein, 4, 3% alcohol and 2.2% fiber.
The study authors also found that participants who didn’t eat as much protein at breakfast (or their first daily meal) ate more during the rest of the day than participants who ate more protein earlier. High-protein breakfast eaters also ended up eating less as the day progressed.
The researchers also found that the participants who did not eat enough protein at the start of their day ended up not only eating more calories throughout the day, but they also ate more foods high in fat, sugar and salt; consumed more alcohol; and ate less healthy foods like grains, vegetables, legumes, fruits, dairy products and meat.
Researchers found that one of the reasons study participants weren’t consuming adequate levels of protein was likely due to high consumption of processed foods. This high consumption of low-quality processed foods crowds out protein foods that promote satiety, curb the overconsumption of calorie-dense and nutrient-poor foods, and reduce the risk of obesity.
“It’s becoming increasingly clear that our bodies are eating to meet a protein goal,” said Professor David Raubenheimer, Leonard Ullmann Professor of Nutritional Ecology in the School of Life and Environmental Sciences and one of the study’s authors, in a statement to EurekAlert! “But the problem is that foods in Western diets are getting less and less protein, so you have to eat more of them to hit your protein goal, which effectively increases your daily energy intake.”
Main author Dr AS Amanda Grechpostdoctoral researcher at the Charles Perkins Center at the University of Sydney and the University’s School of Life and Environmental Sciences, also noted: “As people consume more junk food or highly processed and refined, they dilute their dietary protein and increase their risk of being overweight and obese, which we know increases the risk of chronic disease.”
When Eat this, not that! spoke to Kylene Bogden, Dt.P.co-founder of FWDfuel, ambassador of Pureboost and nutritionist for the Cleveland Cavaliers, she told us she was not surprised with the results.
“These results are incredibly accurate,” says Bogden. “Many of us eat processed foods multiple times a day, day after day, leading to chronic inflammation and nutrient deficiencies. When our bodies are chronically inflamed and deficient, we can experience fatigue, sugar cravings and the inability to lose weight.”
Regarding how foods high in protein, fat, and carbohydrates affect your body differently, as well as why the latter two can potentially lead to obesity, Bogden notes that “the simple act of breaking down Protein burns the most calories, fat comes second, and carbs come third.” She says that “part of this slower digestion process is also that adequate protein intake is necessary for optimal blood sugar control and stable blood sugar levels make weight loss smoother.”
Desirée O is a freelance writer who covers, among other things, lifestyle, food and nutrition news. Learn more about Desiree
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