Breakfast was two Krispy Kreme strawberry-filled doughnuts. I needed something quick, so I downed the pastries in my car on the way to work. Feeling full and high on sugar, I tackled my inbox with gusto. But by 10 a.m., my gut was grumbling again—and lunch was hours away. It was nothing like the previous morning, when I made an egg-and-Swiss sandwich on whole-wheat toast. Even though that had about 200 fewer calories than my Krispy Kreme binge, it kept me full till 1 p.m. Both breakfasts were satisfying—at the time. What was the difference?
The answer, fellow hungry men, lies in your brain's dual perceptions of fullness. "Satiation" is the feeling of fullness at the end of a meal. "Satiety," on the other hand, is a measure of how long it takes before you're hungry again. Of course, food companies don't want you to stay satisfied. Fifteen years ago, Susanna Holt, Ph.D., an Australian researcher who ranked foods according to their satiety power, approached a number of food companies for funding to continue her work. She's still waiting: The companies were motivated to decrease the satiety of their foods—so people would buy more. Take control.
Master satiation and you can keep portion sizes in check; boost satiety and you can prevent needless snacking. (Avoid empty calories with these five protein-packed snacks.) Read on and you'll be able to fill your gut—and then lose it.
SATIETY SECRET #1: Know what (and when) to drink.
Think of your stomach as a balloon. As you eat, it stretches. And once it expands to its maximum capacity, the sensors throughout your digestive system tell your brain's amygdala that it's time to stop chowing down—regardless of what you've filled your belly with. As Alan Aragon, M.S., Men's Health's nutrition advisor, puts it, "Eating half a roll of toilet paper would make you feel full."
To stretch your stomach without stuffing it with calories (or paper products), you need water. Aragon recommends drinking a glass 30 minutes before a meal and sipping frequently while eating. Water-rich foods—soup, salad, fruit, and vegetables—will also fill your belly without contributing excessive calories.
SATIETY SECRET #2: Fill up with fiber
Fiber draws water from your body and from the food you've eaten, and transports it to your intestinal tract, helping to deliver that meal-ending satiation, according to a 2009 study by researchers at the University of Washington.
Fiber may boost satiety, too. Since it passes through the body undigested, fiber slows the absorption of nutrients and makes you feel fuller longer, according to a 2008 study by researchers at the University of Minnesota. A 2009 study in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association found that adding 6 grams of soluble fiber (such as ground flaxseed) to yogurt provided the satiating power of an additional 260 calories. To reap the satiating benefits of fiber, aim for 25 to 35 grams daily.
Refined carbohydrates, on the other hand—like in those Krispy Kremes—are satiety killers. When participants in a 2008 British study drank a high-carb beverage for breakfast, they reported feeling hungrier at lunch than when they drank a beverage high in protein. Here's why: Too much sugar brings on a rapid spike in insulin, which causes a sugar crash later and triggers a craving for more food.
SATIETY SECRET #3: Pack in the protein
Protein, your muscle-growing fuel, also has the power to raise levels of peptides—synthesized amino acids—in your stomach. "These peptides initiate cross-talk with the brain on a molecular level to send out satiety signals," says Aragon. He recommends aiming for 20 to 40 grams of protein at each meal. (See below for a sample day of belly-filling food.)
SATIETY SECRET #4: Savor the flavors
Your belly is rumbling, and a waiter sets a juicy burger in front of you. Resist the urge to unhinge your jaws and swallow it whole. Thoroughly chewing your food increases what researchers call "oro-sensory factors," which send satiation signals to your brain, helping you feel full on less food, according to a 2009 study by Dutch researchers. Study participants who chewed each bite for an extra 3 seconds ended up consuming less. And skip those sippable meal-replacement shakes and calorie-clogged smoothies from the juice joint.
SATIETY SECRET #5: Trick your belly full
You can't trust your gut. Maybe you've heard about the Cornell University study with the trick bowls: People who ate soup from bowls that continuously refilled ate 73 percent more than those who ate from ordinary bowls. The kicker: They rated themselves as feeling no more full. Scientists call this use of sensory cues to assess fullness "learned satiation." Try this: Dole out a portion of food onto a smaller plate and immediately place the rest in the refrigerator. Once you eat, the visual cue of a clean plate will signal that you've had enough—and the leftovers will stay out of sight and out of mind, in the fridge.
Want more ways to whittle your waistline? Try these nine weight-loss rules that work.
SATIETY SECRET #6: Avoid distraction at dinner
What you're doing while you eat might be as important as what you're eating. You're likely to consume much more food and eat for longer periods of time when you're distracted by television, music, or a computer, according to a 2009 review of studies published in Trends in Food Science & Technology. Eating while distracted interrupts brain-to-stomach satiation signals, making it harder to monitor your food intake. Also, distraction raises the risk of overeating the wrong types of foods—think popcorn at the movies.
The takeaway from all this is simple: When you eat, actually eat. Grab a seat. Focus on your meal. Don't check your e-mail or hit up Hulu for last night's Daily Show. Pay attention to your first plate of food and you might find that you don't need to go back for seconds.
SATIETY SECRET #7: Downsize your snacks
As long as you're eating satiety-inducing nutrients at every meal, you'll reduce your urge for food between meals, says Aragon. But if your gut's growling and your next meal is far away, a snack can help prevent you from doing a Joey Chestnut impression at dinner.
The problem is, our appetite for snacks has become insatiable. Between 1977 and 2006, Americans' snacking increased 11 percent while our average downtime between meals dropped from 4? hours to 3? hours, according to a 2009 study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. The fast-food chains couldn't be happier with our snack fetish. McDonald's hawks a 340-calorie Snack Wrap, and Taco Bell's "Fourthmeal" campaign encourages eaters to inflate the midnight snack into a full-fledged second dinner, complete with its 770-calorie Nachos BellGrande.
Portion control is key: Learn 12 easy ways to estimate serving sizes.
If hunger hits, keep the snack, well, snack-sized. Grab food that's high in protein or fiber, like beef jerky, nuts, or cottage cheese, and keep your consumption under 200 calories, says Aragon. That way, you'll keep gut gurgling at bay without packing in a mini-meal. Whatever you do, skip the processed snacks that prime your gut for more, more, more. It's how a doughnut leads to a growling stomach before lunch. It's how a drive-thru dinner can lead to Fourthmeal at midnight. And it's how you can eat all day and never feel full.
BLOCK THAT BINGEEat these satiating foods at mealtimes—and two sane snacks in between—to stay satisfied all day long—and avoid overeating
A glass of milk (8 oz), 3 large scrambled eggs, a slice of Cheddar, and a medium apple
Milk: Pour tall: There's a gram of protein in every ounce. And the fluid aids satiation.
Egg: One egg contains about 7 grams of filling protein.
Apple: This on-the-go breakfast finale has 4 grams of fiber.
Chicken salad (? cup) on whole-wheat bread, and a glass of iced tea (8 oz)
Chicken: It's an easy way to pack in 22 grams of protein per serving.
Bread: Always pick whole-wheat over white for the extra fiber. Look for at least 3 grams in each slice.
Iced tea: Drink the real, unsweetened stuff, not the sugar-water posers.
Seared meat or fish (8 oz), some steamed broccoli (? cup), a medium baked sweet potato, and a glass of water (12 oz)
Meat/fish: It's loaded with enough protein to fend off a midnight snack attack.
Broccoli: Vegetables are a low-calorie way to eat more fiber.
Water: H2O may help stop you from scrambling for seconds.