Snacking can either make or break your diet. Mindlessly snacking and grazing is one of the easiest ways to consume excess calories and blow your energy intake for the day. Calories are energy and for healthy weight management you need to have balance between energy in and energy out. If you eat more energy than your body needs for the day, that excess of calories is going to result in weight gain. You can get either bigger and more muscular, or you can store the extra weight as fat, which largely depends on your training, the type of food you eat, and your body type. The advice in this article is aimed towards those of you who are interested in either maintaining your current weight or fat loss.
Having a snack can be an important part of your fitness program, and keep you from binging later on. The key is to learn the difference between mindless snacking and snacking responsibly.
Here are a few tips to keep in mind the next time you feel yourself aimlessly entering the snacking zone.
1. Fill Up on Water. According to Society for Neuroscience, your hypothalamus is a section of the brain that is responsible for many functions including, signaling to you if you’re hungry or thirsty. Most people confuse thirst with hunger, which can lead to unnecessary snacking. Before heading to the vending machine, have a glass of water first, give yourself 10 minutes and see if you are still hungry. If you’re trying to lose weight, fill up on naturally sweet flavored herbal teas, and sparkling waters, to help curb hunger.
2. Time Your Meals. Studies show that maintaining stable blood sugar levels, is key when we are trying to lose or maintain our weight. When we skip meals or go too long without eating, it can lead to a hunger binge and unstable blood sugar levels, triggering all sorts of fat storing hormones. Stay on track and reduce the constant grazing by eating every 3-4 hours.
3. Fill Up on Fiber. There are two types of fiber: insoluble and soluble. Insoluble fiber helps add bulk to waste so it can pass through your digestive system. Soluble fiber is soft and sticky, and forms a gel-like substance inside your gastrointestinal tract by absorbing water. This type of fiber slows down the absorption of substances like cholesterol and sugar, giving you a steady supply of energy. “When you eat foods that lack fiber, your blood sugar can spike quickly. Then it crashes, causing hunger and overeating,” says Tanya Zuckerbrot, RD, author of The F-Factor Diet. The more fiber a food has, the better your appetite is controlled, the less you feel the need to snack. Aim to get fiber rich foods at each meal such as fruits & veggies, nuts & seeds, whole grains, or legumes.
4. Keep Busy. We eat when we’re happy, we eat when we’re sad, and many times, we snack when we’re bored. Instead of eating out of boredom, fill your time with something that brings you joy and distracts you. Activities that keep your hands busy and your mind engaged will help maintain the attention off of the need to snack, for no reason other than it gives you something to do. Go for a walk, listen to a podcast, clean your home, call a friend, play with your pets or do something that brings you joy.
5. Eat Enough During Your Main Meals. Don’t skip meals in an attempt to save calories. This can trigger excessive hunger pangs and lead you to constant snacking and grazing. Make sure that you are eating plenty at your main meals, so you don’t feel the need to reach for snacks, or, binge eat later on something unhealthy. Fill these meals with plenty of proteins, healthy fats, and fiber rich veggies.
6. Eat More Protein
Researchers from the Society for Endocrinology believe eating more protein is the key when it comes to promoting weight loss and keeping hunger at bay. Protein creates neurotransmitters, which are important brain chemicals, that among many other actions, communicate whether you’ve eaten enough or not. Making sure you’re getting protein in at each meal will help keep those pesky cravings at bay. As a bonus, when you eat protein with carbs it helps slow down the effects of carbs on your blood sugar levels. When you eat carbs on their own, it can quickly spike your levels leading to an energy crash and trigger cravings later on. But, when you eat protein with carbs, it helps slow down the spike of your insulin levels.
7. Work out. A study published in The International Journal of Obesity found that working out can suppress your appetite. Specifically, it can suppress your hunger hormone ghrelin, which is responsible for stimulating your appetite. The key here is to work out intensely, utilizing workouts such as HIIT. Participates in a study done at the University of Western Australia found that high-intensity interval training versus performing the same amount of moderate intensity exercise, caused them to consume fewer calories. These participants were simply less hungry after doing HIIT training. This effect may be due to the combination of a reduction in the hormone ghrelin, and the increased levels of blood lactate and blood glucose, which squash short-term appetite.