Losing weight is hard, but research shows that a compound released from digested protein can make it easier. Managing your appetite is the key to successful weight loss. While it’s true that you’re going to feel hungry some of the time (that’s the sign it’s working), trying to starve yourself and overcome your appetite through sheer willpower only leads to failure and binge eating. Some nutrients like refined sugars send your appetite spiraling out of control while other nutrients like protein and fiber have been shown to have an appetite suppressing effect.
Suppressive amino acid
One way that protein controls appetite is through the amino acid phenylalanine. Consumed protein is broken down into amino acids so it can be absorbed by the body. Multiple studies have shown how phenylalanine suppresses appetite and even improves mood and helps you burn stored fat. One study found that phenylalanine increases the release of an intestinal hormone called cholecystokinin in humans. This hormone signals the brain to feel satiated after eating and causes a reduction in subsequent food intake. A mouse study found that a single dose of phenylalanine caused an increase in another satiety hormone called GLP-1, it reduced levels of the hunger-hormone ghrelin, and it caused the mice to move around more. One of the reasons it caused them to move more is because phenylalanine is a precursor for norepinephrine and dopamine.
The purpose of norepinephrine is to rouse your body for activity. It increases your focus, delivers blood to working muscles, and mobilizes glucose and stored fat to fuel your movements. Dopamine is considered the reward-hormone and increasing it’s levels in your brain is helpful for making your weight loss diet less unpleasant. Eating is a pleasurable experience and the dopamine decreases that typically come from a diet can cause people to quickly abandon their plan and return to a poor diet to get that good feeling back.
Easy to find
Phenylalanine does come in supplement form but that seems unnecessary since it’s pretty easy to find in foods, and much more satisfying than a pill. You can find it in meats like beef, pork, turkey, lamb, chicken, tuna and cod; dairy sources like eggs, milk and certain cheeses (parmesan and cottage cheese are highest); and in plants like soy (the highest source of all), pinto beans, lentils, sesame seeds, pumpkin seeds, and sunflower seeds.
As I’ve said before, you want to aim for 20 to 30 percent protein in each meal to reduce your appetite, improve leptin sensitivity, and prevent your body from digesting muscle tissue during weight loss. If you’re looking for some excellent examples of how to structure a high protein diet, check out our Clean Protein Weight Loss Formula.