Hunger is the only reason why it’s hard to lose fat.
If hunger wasn’t an issue during fat loss, everyone would already be fit. Yet, here we are where the majority of the world’s population is overweight.
Unfortunately, a certain level of hunger is a necessary evil for fat loss. It’s completely normal to feel hungry when you eat fewer calories than you burn. That’s how your body is supposed to function.
See, your body doesn’t know you’re dieting. When you’re dieting to lose fat, your body thinks there must be a food shortage so it sends signals of hunger to compel you to find food. Hunger isn’t necessarily an enemy. If hunger didn’t exist, we would forget to eat, starve, and our species would quickly go extinct.
Hence, our goal should not be to completely eradicate hunger during fat loss (which is not possible anyway) but to minimize it. After all, fat loss isn’t a contest where the one who resists hunger the most wins. You want to lose fat (preferably without losing muscle), not heroically resist hunger.
Instead of wishing not to feel hungry when you’re dieting for fat loss, be realistic and learn the best ways to curb hunger.
Since it’s impossible to completely eradicate hunger during fat loss, you’ll inevitably need willpower in order to successfully lose fat. So, you don’t want to waste your willpower over silly strategies that don’t make a meaningful difference.
Hence, I will NOT tell you to eat breakfast, eat vegetables, eat low-carb, eat fiber-rich foods, eat dark chocolate, eat with a big fork (I shit you not this piece of advice actually exists), eat slowly, eat mindfully (whatever that is), drink coffee, drink water (no shit Sherlock), eat on small plates, chew gum, or countless other silly pieces of advice that do more harm than good by wasting your willpower.
I also won’t bullshit you by promising you that you’ll not feel hungry at all. Hunger is inevitable. In the words of the great Martin Berkhan, “hunger comes to collect.” You’ll learn how to curb your hunger as humanly as possible and your willpower will take care of the rest.
Follow these 10 no-BS tips to curb your hunger when dieting for fat loss and you’ll greatly improve your chances of joining the minority of the fit:
1. Eat More Protein
In order to lose fat, you’ll need to eat fewer calories than you burn. Hence, you’ll inevitably have a limited calorie budget.
The more you spend your limited calorie budget on satiating foods, the less hungry you’ll feel during your diet so the likelier you’ll successfully lose fat.
Protein, hands down, is the most satiating macronutrient. The other two macronutrients — carbs and dietary fat — aren’t as satiating as protein.
I certainly feel more satiated and consume fewer calories when I eat a high-protein diet but don’t take my word for it. Scientific evidence supports that “a high proportion of calories from protein increases weight loss and prevents weight (re)gain”1 and “a higher protein intake increases thermogenesis and satiety compared to diets of lower protein content.”2
In addition to being the most satiating macronutrient, protein is also the macronutrient with the highest thermic effect; which means that not only you’ll feel fuller by eating more protein (and less of other macronutrients) during your diet, you’ll also be able to afford to eat more calories without exceeding your calorie budget.
The thermic effect of food is the calories required to digest, absorb, and dispose of the food you eat. The thermic effect of protein is estimated to be between 20 and 30%, which means that your body spends up to 30% of the calories you eat from protein to process it.
Since the thermic effect of both dietary fat and carbs is between 5 and 15%, protein helps you lose more fat compared to other macronutrients, notwithstanding the fact that protein is also more satiating.
Moreover, eating protein further helps fat loss by preventing muscle loss when you’re losing fat3 and/or helping you to build muscle provided that you’re training for strength because muscles burn residual calories round the clock regardless of whether you’re exercising or not.
How Often Should You Eat?
Meal frequency often comes up in many diet discussions so I’ll briefly talk about it as well. Conventional diet advice is to eat 6 meals a day to keep your metabolic rate high. Luckily, this is false. I say luckily because I would hate to eat 6 small meals a day which would be a massive chore.
Scientific studies show that eating three protein-rich meals a day is superior to eating six small meals a day4.
So much for eating 6 meals a day to increase metabolic speed and burn more fat, eh?
I eat no more than 3 meals a day (usually 2). If I feel too hungry in between meals, I eat a hard-boiled egg and the problem is solved.
I don’t think anyone actually wants to eat 6 meals a day but considering that it not only doesn’t work but is also inferior to eating 3 meals a day, it’s not even necessary.
If you really want to eat 6 small meals a day, I would say go ahead and do it. I think it won’t make much of a difference as the net daily caloric deficit you create is what really matters. However, if you’re forcing yourself to eat 6 small meals a day because you think it promotes fat loss then you’re mistaken.
What Are The Best Sources Of Protein, Especially During Fat Loss?
The best sources of protein are animal products such as beef, lamb, pork, poultry, fish, eggs, and dairy.
If you want to lose fat faster by creating a larger caloric deficit, feel free to go for lean sources of protein. Chicken and turkey breast, canned tuna in brine, lean cuts of meat, lean ground beef, egg whites, fish, squid, shrimp, and cottage cheese will keep you satiated due to their high-protein content and help you create a larger calorie deficit due to their lower calorie content. Moreover, they’re rich in micronutrients as well.
The problem with sources of lean protein is that they’re usually tasteless compared to their fattier counterparts but we’ll talk about how you can make your food tastier later in the article. Keep reading.
How Much Protein Should You Eat?
I recommend eating a minimum of 0.7 grams of protein per pound of your body’s weight. If you’re training for strength, amp it up 1-1.2 grams per pound.
-But Lane, I was told to eat vegetables and fiber-rich food to curb my hunger.
There was a time when I used to recommend low-calorie, fibrous vegetables (such as asparagus, cabbage, spinach, lettuce, cucumber, eggplant, and radish) to curb your hunger during fat loss but I no longer recommend them for the purposes of curbing hunger because I noticed that I don’t feel any hungrier if I remove them from my diet.
I do like eating vegetables but most people don’t. As long as you aren’t lacking in micronutrients, don’t force yourself to eat them just to curb your hunger. Eat them if you like them or they provide the nutrients you lack but don’t expect them to make you less hungry. Protein does a better job at that.
As for fiber-rich foods, first of all, I don’t recommend high-calorie fiber-rich foods (such as nuts and seeds) at all. They contain extremely high calories. Eating them will make you gain weight.
I also think wholegrain breakfast cereals, wholewheat pasta, wholegrain bread and oats, barley, and rye are overrated in terms of their satiety. Protein keeps you fuller with lower calories so if you don’t particularly like these foods, you can skip them altogether. For example, there’s not much difference between regular white bread and wholegrain bread in terms of calories and it’s dubious at best that the wholegrain version keeps you fuller.
Fruits are fine but they contain calories, especially sugary ones. Don’t eat them to feel full but feel free to eat them for their nutrition value, provided that you don’t overspend your already limited calorie budget.
I usually eat potatoes, white bread, white rice, and fruits not for the satiety they provide but for my carb requirements.
2. Eat Hard-Boiled Eggs
I know I’ve already recommended protein but I’ve opened a separate slot for eggs, especially hard-boiled eggs, due to their impressive performance at keeping you satiated despite their low-calorie content while being extremely nutritious at the same time.
To illustrate the power of hard-boiled eggs in creating a caloric deficit while keeping you satiated, let’s do the math.
One large egg (~50 grams) contains ~80 calories. A large hard-boiled egg keeps me satiated for about an hour. I’m awake for about 16 hours a day so I can theoretically be reasonably full all throughout the day by eating 16 hard-boiled eggs.
16 eggs contain 1,280 calories (16 X 80). Considering that my sedentary calorie expenditure is about 2000 calories a day (you can calculate yours here), I can theoretically lose fat without feeling hungry by creating a daily caloric deficit of 720 (2,000 – 1,280) just by eating hard-boiled eggs.
Of course, this calculation is for illustration purposes and you obviously won’t just eat hard-boiled eggs (hence the ten tips in this article instead of one) but it illustrates the power of eating hard-boiled eggs for losing fat without feeling hungry.
While I don’t eat 16 eggs a day, eggs were of huge help to me to get in the best shape of my life and they also greatly help me to stay in shape. I eat 6 eggs a day on average regardless of whether I’m dieting or not. I’ve been doing this for almost a decade and my bloodwork results consistently come out fine. Most of the time, I eat them hard-boiled. At other times, I eat them cooked in butter.
If you don’t like hard-boiled eggs, you can go for scrambled, poached, soft-boiled, or whichever cooking method you like and they’ll still keep you satiated although not as much as hard-boiled eggs do.
Unless you’re allergic to eggs or your bloodwork informs you to avoid eating eggs, I see no downsides to eating them, especially during fat loss.
Scientific research also validates the superiority of eggs for satiety. For example, one study among overweight and obese subjects5 found that “participants had greater feelings of satiety after the egg breakfast and consumed significantly less energy” and another study6 found that “after eating eggs for breakfast, overweight and obese individuals had a lower energy intake at an ad libitum lunch in comparison to eating a cereal breakfast.” The findings of many other studies are consistent with the results of these studies. Eggs do an excellent job of curbing your hunger with fewer calories.
It should go without saying that there’s no rule to dictate that eating eggs should be constrained to breakfasts. I love eggs and I can them at any time of the day. Also, hard-boiled eggs make for excellent snacks. I eat a hard-boiled egg whenever I feel hungry during the day.
Last but not least, the nutritiousness of eggs not only greatly enhances their satiety but also reduces the need for consuming other sources of nutrition which further helps you to lose fat easier and faster.
Eggs are meant to grow the babies of chickens or the like. An egg contains all the right nutrients that a living and growing organism needs. That’s how nutritious an egg is. Eat them, preferably hard-boiled, and you’ll lose fat or keep yourself in shape easier and you’ll do it in a healthy way.
3. Eat Nutritious Food
Theoretically, all you have to do to lose fat is to eat fewer calories than you burn. You can lose fat by eating nothing other than Twinkies, Doritos, Oreos, or other types of junk food as long as you’re in a state of a caloric deficit but this is a very bad way to lose fat.
We consume food not only for energy (calories) but also for nutrition. Junk food contains calories but they are of poor nutrition value. Their inferior nutrition value is the reason why junk food is poor at keeping you satiated.
Basically, hunger is your body telling you to eat. However, a lack of energy is not the only reason that your body tells you to eat. A lack of essential micro or macronutrients also prompts your body to signal hunger because we need protein, fat, carbs, vitamins, and minerals to properly function.
To illustrate how it works, consider how an iron or zinc deficiency can lead children to eat soil or other inedible substances.
If your body is lacking in nutrients, your body will signal you to eat even when you eat enough calories.
Make it a point to eat nutritious food containing essential macro and micronutrients and you’ll feel less hungry during your diet. In most cases, avoiding junk food and eating whole foods will suffice to do just that.
4. Don’t Force Yourself To Eat When You Aren’t Hungry
I can hear you asking “why would I force myself to eat when I’m not hungry?” but hear me out.
For example, many people, including a lot of my friends and family members, don’t feel hungry when they wake up. But since they’ve been repeatedly told by the mainstream media that breakfast is the most important meal of the day, they force themselves to eat breakfast even though they don’t feel hungry.
The truth is that your overall calorie balance is what dictates your body’s weight with little regard to the time of the day you eat.
If you don’t feel hungry at breakfast time, thank your lucky stars and skip your breakfast. It will help you to create a bigger calorie deficit provided that you don’t overeat during lunch and dinner.
As a general rule, never force yourself to eat when you’re not hungry and you’ll spare valuable calorie budget for the times you feel hungry. Hence, you’ll suffer less from hunger when you’re dieting to lose fat.
5. Avoid The Types Of Exercise That Make You Feel Hungry
Regular exercise is a necessity not only to get and/or stay fit but also because our bodies don’t function optimally without physical activity.
However, not all types of exercise are created equal, especially when it comes to fat loss.
I especially recommend against the types of exercise that don’t burn as many calories as to justify the time and effort you expend and end up making you hungry in the process which makes dieting harder to endure than it should be.
To drive the point home, I’ll give you an example. How can you run a marathon (which is very very hard to do) and still gain weight? But, apparently, this is a genuine problem. I shit you not, if you Google “How To Avoid Marathon-Training Weight Gain” you’ll see a lot of articles come up in the results pane. Here’s an article that states “constant hunger” and “accidental weight gain” as two of the many problems that come with marathon running.
When you think about it, it’s not hard to figure out why long-distance runners gain weight:
- Long-distance runners aren’t known to be muscular. Google “sprinter vs marathon runner physique” to see the disparity in muscular size between marathon runners and sprinters. Since muscles burn residual calories, the less muscular you are, the easier it is to gain weight and the harder it is to lose fat.
- Long-distance running doesn’t burn a lot of calories. You’ll burn a measly 100 calories by running a mile, which you can easily gain back by eating just a banana.
- Long-distance running makes you hungry, which makes it a chore to lose fat especially considering that hunger is the only reason why losing fat is hard. That 100 calorie banana looks a lot more attractive after you run a mile compared to when you sat on the couch doing nothing at all.
Similar things can be said for almost all types of aerobic exercise and also for swimming. (Walking is an exception, as we’ll see in greater detail in the next section.)
As is the case with long-distance running, aerobic exercise doesn’t burn as many calories as you think while leaving you hungry.
I think swimming is more or less the same. I’ve seen a lot of overweight colleagues and acquaintances who regularly swim to lose fat but I’ve never seen anyone manage to lose fat by swimming.
Swimming is extremely easy once you master the technique. Even obese people can swim for extended periods of time without fatiguing, although they would quickly start panting with any other physically demanding task, which suggests that swimming doesn’t burn many calories, to begin with.
Considering that swimming also makes you very hungry which inevitably leads to eating, it’s not hard to understand why obese swimmers remain obese although they “exercise” regularly. Swimming fast can be effective for fat loss but very few people do that.
The best type of exercise for fat loss is strength training because strength training builds muscle mass that burns residual calories round the clock even when you’re sedentary.
Moreover, strength training helps curb hunger due to its intensity. You can easily try this by yourself. The next time you feel hungry, do some pushups and you’ll probably find that your hunger dissipates, at least temporarily.
The only type of aerobic exercise I recommend is “walking” which brings us to our next item on the list.
6. Walk When You Are Hungry
While aerobic exercise (such as long-distance running) and swimming make you hungrier, walking doesn’t. In fact, it does the opposite: Walking curbs hunger.
The next time you feel hungry, go out for a walk to see for yourself what I am talking about. Don’t be surprised when you quickly forget about hunger. Unlike other types of aerobic exercise and swimming, walking suppresses appetite.
Another benefit of walking is that it’s not strenuous at all. You can even walk without having to don your exercise clothing. For example, you can very well leave your office in a suit and walk home.
Going out for a walk, especially at the times when you’re hungry, is a good fat loss strategy provided that you have the time. I usually don’t, so I mostly rely on strength training to stay fit.
The best way to utilize walking to get and stay fit is to not go out of your way to walk but to integrate walking into your daily life.
Let me give you an example. When I graduated from college, I quickly gained weight. It took me a long time to realize that I stayed in shape in college without even trying because I used to walk every weekday for at least 40 minutes inside the campus from my dorm room to attend classes or to go to the cafeteria. On the weekends I walked a lot in the city.
Make it a habit to walk to the places you have to go within walking distance and you’ll automatically burn calories without even trying. If you deliberately sync the times you walk with the times you’re hungry, you’ll kill two birds with one stone.
7. Don’t Drink Your Calories
Solid food satiates you more than liquid food.
Eat yogurt or cheese instead of drinking milk. Eat protein-rich whole foods instead of drinking protein shakes. Eat fruits instead of drinking fruit juice.
Don’t put sugar or cream into your coffee or tea. Use artificial sweeteners instead of sugar if you can’t do without the sweet taste. Diet soda is better for fat loss than regular soda because artificial sweeteners don’t make you gain weight since they don’t contain calories.
Better, don’t drink soda at all or don’t use any artificial sweeteners until your palate adjusts. If there’s no low or zero-calorie alternative to the caloric drink you consume, consider dropping it entirely for good.
8. Learn How To Cook
Learning how to cook is a legitimate diet hack for you can cook delicious meals from otherwise bland ingredients.
You can cook delicious treats with low-calorie ingredients such as lean cuts of meat, diet-friendly condiments, spices, and vegetables such as eggplant, spinach, cabbage, etc.
Grilled meat, chicken, or fish taste great and they’re diet-friendly. There are hundreds of ways to cook delicious meals with low-calorie ingredients. Learn them, utilize them.
Moreover, as we’ve already talked about, a lack of macro or micronutrients prompts your body to send signals of hunger to compel you to eat.
Unlike ready-made food which is usually low in nutritional value and high in calories, home-cooked nutritious meals satiate you with fewer calories.
Not only cooking enables you to curb the inevitable hunger during a diet, but you’ll also eat delicious meals without worrying about getting fat or not losing fat.
9. Don’t Eat Cheat Meals
Cheat meals are often recommended to dieters not only for taking a refreshing break from their restrictive diets and replenishing their resources of willpower but also for speeding up their metabolism that inevitably slows down in a state of caloric deficit.
Unfortunately, a single cheat meal can easily undo a week’s worth of dieting because it’s incredibly easy to overeat. Many people can eat several thousand calories in one sitting, which can very well be enough to undo a week’s worth of accumulated caloric deficit. To prevent this, dieticians come up with rules to limit the calorie intake during a cheat meal, which kind of spoils the whole concept of cheat meals because, by definition, you aren’t cheating if you’re following the rules.
Moreover, it’s up for debate whether cheat meals provide the benefits they’re purported to do.
First of all, it’s dubious at best that cheat meals strengthen a dieter’s resolve. I wonder how many of them quit dieting altogether after experiencing the hedonic pleasure of a cheat meal, refusing to go back to a restrictive diet.
Second of all, while it’s true that a cheat meal where you consume more calories than your previous meals speeds up your metabolism, this is not as good a thing as it’s advertised. The downside to a faster metabolism is that you’ll get hungry quicker the next day when you resume your restrictive diet. Considering that hunger is the only reason that dieting is hard, the extra hunger following the cheat day will make it very hard to go back to being in a caloric deficit. I suspect many people fail to resume their diet after a cheat meal day because of this reason.
The elephant in the room is that the horrors of a metabolic slowdown are massively overblown. Of course, your metabolism slows down when you’re in a state of a caloric deficit because your body is a survival machine that slows itself down in an attempt to spare energy so that it doesn’t starve itself.
As we’ve already talked about, your body doesn’t know you’re dieting. It thinks there must be a food shortage that compels you to eat fewer calories than you burn. A metabolic slowdown is a completely normal part of fat loss. It means your body is functioning the way it’s supposed to do.
The truth nobody wants to believe is that a metabolic slowdown is NOT insurmountable. If it was insurmountable, nobody would be able to lose fat. As long as you continue eating below your maintenance calories, a metabolic slowdown is never enough to completely eliminate fat loss. Otherwise, no one would be able to get back to being lean once they get fat.
In fact, losing fat despite a metabolic slowdown becomes of increasing importance as you continue to lose fat. The fatter you are, the easier it is to lose fat because you’ll burn more residual calories when you’re heavier. The leaner you get the harder it becomes to lose fat. This might sound counterintuitive but it’s harder for a top athlete to lose fat than it is for an obese couch potato.
This is a reality of fat loss and if you want to get lean you must come to terms with it. Nobody is above the laws of nature. Just like everyone else, you’ve got the play the hand that mother nature dealt you. Learning how to deal with a metabolic slowdown is a better idea than speeding up your metabolism by cheat meals that set you back on your diet.
Cheat meals are massively overrated and they’re not a necessary part of successful fat loss. Eat them if you really want, but know that they can undo up to a week’s dieting effort and make you hungrier the next day.
On a final note, building muscle is the only legit way to speed up your metabolism regardless of whether you’re dieting or not, which is a topic that I cover in great detail in many other articles on this site.
10. Track Your Calories
The average person watches TV (or browses social media, for newer generations) for 3,5 hours a day on average but once you tell them to spare 5 minutes of their day to count their calories when they’re dieting to lose fat, they’ll revolt. No wonder why the average person is fat.
As a reader of this website, I assume you aren’t an average person so you’ll be open to the idea of tracking your calories because it provides a giant return on your investment (just a few minutes a day) by massively improving your odds of successfully getting in shape.
While you can and must curb your hunger while dieting, there will still be inevitable times when you’ll feel hungry that will test your resolve. You’ll need to use your willpower at times and anything that strengthens your resolve or spares your willpower should be embraced and employed.
Tracking your calories (or better, macros) greatly helps with maintaining and strengthening your resolve, eliminating self-doubt by ensuring that you’re on the right track, or preventing frustration by providing feedback that informs you to tweak your diet.
See, fat loss isn’t linear. There will be times when your weight won’t budge for days (up to 2 weeks) even though you’re creating a caloric deficit and actually burning fat. Counting your calories assures you that you’re on the right track and the weight will eventually come off if you keep persisting.
When I track my calories during fat loss, I don’t mind the days when the digits on the scale don’t go down or they’re volatile because I know I’ll eventually succeed. Counting my calories spares me from shooting in the dark. Self-doubt is replaced by the self-confidence of imminent success because there’s no way you can’t lose fat if you successfully create a caloric deficit.
While counting your calories doesn’t make you feel less hungry, it’s a potent psychological weapon in your arsenal for the times when the going gets tough. When you’re psychologically stronger, you’ll better endure the hunger pangs that can potentially cause you to abort your diet and go back to gorging on food.
Bonus: How To Deal With Cravings
When you understand that your body doesn’t know you’re dieting, that it thinks there must be a food shortage or a famine forcing you to eat below your maintenance calories, all of the puzzles about the ways your body responds to your diet fall into place.
Your body genuinely thinks there’s an emergency to be tackled immediately and responds in ways to motivate you to find food. The human body is evolved through countless famines so our bodies came up with various survival responses to a state of caloric deficit.
One powerful survival response is cravings. See, your body isn’t stupid. It knows which types of foods provide easy calories in the case of a food shortage, making you crave calorie-dense foods.
Let me give you an example to drive the point home. When I was dieting and training hard to get six-pack abs, I craved chocolate cake. I was dumbfounded with my body’s response because I’ve never been a fan of chocolate cake even at times when I didn’t care about gaining fat. What was going on? Where were these cravings coming from?
I spent days patiently waiting for the times when I finish dieting and eat all the chocolate cake that I want. However, when I successfully finished my diet and went back to maintenance calories, I no longer craved chocolate cake which confused me even more.
It took me a lot of thinking to figure out that the cravings were my body’s hail mary attempt to goad me into eating easy calories. I was mad at my body for not cooperating with my fitness goals but once I understood that my body was thinking that there was a food shortage and it was trying to save my life, everything fell into place. I wasn’t craving chocolate cake per se, I was craving calories.
From that point on, I’ve never taken cravings during the occasional diet seriously because I consciously knew that everything is under my control and there’s no food shortage whatsoever. I ignore the cravings and proceed to successfully complete my diet. Moreover, the more I was able to curb hunger thanks to the strategies I outlined in this article, the fewer cravings I suffered from.
In short, your body will try to trick you into eating easy calories. That’s what’s really all about the cravings during a diet. In the rare case that you crave low-calorie foods, it’s probably about nutrient deficiency, in which case you should go back to #3 and adjust your diet according to your nutritional needs.
The best strategy against your cravings for high-calorie foods is to understand that you don’t crave any particular food but you crave calories. Go through the 10 tips in this post and curb your hunger as much as you can. If cravings don’t disappear, chalk it up to the game of fat loss and proceed without giving in.
Don’t do stupid shit like cooking fake muffins with low-calorie ingredients, preparing low-calorie Nutella, etc. That’s pathetic. Don’t spoil yourself for being spoiled never pays. Moreover, your body is not stupid. You can’t fool your body by low-calorie alternatives of the foods you crave because it’s not about the food, it’s about the calories.
Being disciplined, on the other hand, pays richly and handsomely. Just say no. Saying no to your whims has spillover benefits. It builds character. You learn how to deal with your impulses.
Embrace your cravings, don’t capitulate and you’ll emerge a stronger person as you come out of your diet victorious. As it is with everything else in life, you’ll be strong and you’ll win.
Be sure to read:
- Ripped with Bodyweight: 12-Week Program for Muscle Growth and Fat Loss, The best way to get in the best shape of your life is to build muscle and lose fat at the same time. This book teaches you how.
- 10 Truths About Fitness That Nobody Wants To Believe
- 10 Truths About Building Muscle That Nobody Wants To Believe
- How To Get Motivated To Work Out
- 20 Life-Changing Benefits of Having Six Pack Abs