So I have been changing my eating habits to increase my protein intake but it has been a struggle for a number of reasons…
One of the things I have often heard is that increasing protein in meals can help you feel full for longer. According to a study in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, it has been well established that eating protein is more satiating than eating fat or carbohydrates. It has been so well accepted that an increase in protein is often promoted as a dietary change to aid weight loss.
By this understanding, increasing my protein intake would mean that I shouldn’t need to eat again for a while. Unfortunately, this has not the case for me. After a protein-rich meal, I find myself in the kitchen looking for more food. Well, specifically, I go carb hunting because protein doesn’t seem to give me the satiety factor it is meant to.
I’ve been pondering about why this is so…
Is it because I don’t really fancy high-protein foods so I’ve developed a long-term habit of eating carbs? It is always a struggle to eat large portions of meat of any kind. When making unconscious food choices, I usually gravitate towards the carbohydrate-rich foods. For instance, my favourite part of sar hor fun is the hor fun. I’d happily give up the meat as long as you leave me the noodles.
“Jelak” is a term in Malay that is often used in reference to eating too much of something that you cannot eat any more of it. It isn’t because you’re full. It just means you can’t eat any more of that particular item right now. Well, jelak is how I feel when I have to eat a lot of meat. What do I mean by a lot of meat? Well, one chicken breast is a lot of meat for me.
Okay, so it’s possible that I am hunting for food because I haven’t eaten enough protein to reach satiation. So I tried drinking my protein to see if it helps and the answer is still “not really”. I just really want my carbs.
When I track my diet with My Fitness Pal – without restricting my carbs but just eating as I normally would – I find myself exceeding the daily carbohydrate allocation just about every single day. And it’s not even by a little. The only days I actually stay under are the ones where I’ve worked out exceptionally hard and haven’t OD’d on carbs after.
So a few people have suggested that maybe my body was just made to run on carbs. I mean, given the amount of carbs I consume, it is a wonder that I managed to lose weight the first time I started training for a Spartan race. Although I have always contended that weight loss is simply following the basic rule of consuming less energy than you expend.
But I digress… running on carbs. It made me think about a post I wrote a long time ago about the movie “Unbreakable” and two experiments – “Supersize Me” and the Nyström’ study.
The movie “Unbreakable” was about Elijah, a man who is born with Osteogenesis Imperfecta Type 1. It is a medical condition where a person’s bones are so brittle that they break very easily. In Eiljah’s case, even being born caused him to break several bones. To understand why he is, Elijah has a hypothesis that he was born at one end of a spectrum of which his polar opposite would be a man with such strong bones that he would be unbreakable.
It is an interesting theory because we rarely study the healthy. Most studies are of people who already have a disease. It makes sense because it would be unethical to conduct a study that made healthy people sick. Even if we were allowed to do such things, we would have to ask for volunteers and that would not necessarily be a true depiction of the general population.
Enter: Supersize Me. The study of one Morgan Spurlock’s journey to eat McDonald’s 3 times a day for 30 days. His daily food consumption averaged about 5000 kcal a day – double the recommendation for an average man to maintain his weight. Unsurprisingly, Morgan gained weight – 11.1kg. His cholesterol levels also went up, his mood was affected, and his libido dropped. His liver enzymes skyrocketed to an extent that his doctors were concerned he would end up with serious liver damage. As if these results weren’t damning enough.
A study of one, however, is not a reflection of the population. Fredrik Nyström from Linköping University in Sweden decided to repeat the experiment with 18 volunteers. The study parameters were slightly different:
- Subjects were not limited to McDonalds but could eat any junk food or high fat food – burgers, pizza, chocolate, whatever it took to consume double their normal daily calorie intake (which was calculated before hand).
- They were only allowed 1 hour of upper body weight training a week. Other than that, they were not to exercise and were given bus passes so they could avoid walking as much as possible.
As expected, the subjects came out of the study with increased liver enzymes but not to the extent that Morgan experienced. In fact, these subjects’ livers showed an improvement after the third week, indicating the liver’s adaptation to the diet. So what happened with Morgan? It is possible that Morgan may have had an undiagnosed liver condition or that his previously vegan diet meant that his body was unprepared to handle a fast food diet.
While some subjects were worse off with this extremely high calorie diet, other subjects tolerated it quite well. One subject came out of the study with a 4.6 kg weight gain – half of which was muscle! Cholesterol levels dropped and good cholesterol levels even went up! Evidently, some people appear to be immune to obesity. Obesity studies are usually of obese individuals who are clearly the ones with the least resistance to calories.
Check and Balance the Calories
It’s also worth noting that the two studies above dealt with extremely high calorie diets that even the subjects struggled to consume. A normal person would never eat that much for that long even if they did overeat.
If you monitor your calories well, you really can have your junk food and eat it, too. One science teacher proved this point when he lose 37 pounds eating nothing but McDonalds for 90 days.
Given the significant variation in results from Nystrom’s study, I start to wonder if maybe I really am meant to be a high-carb person. Some people do well on the Keto Diet. Maybe I was meant to stick to the Carbo Diet? Who knows. Although, most diets out there seem to warn against the perils of carbs. Have you ever seen a book about a carb diet that doesn’t involve consuming less carbs?