Higher protein intakes naturally lead to less eating later on

I usually eat breakfast, but sometimes I drink it. If I’m short on time and it’s too early to eat I might whizz up a ‘smoothie’ with a range of ingredients that cover a number of nutritional bases. Typical ingredients include berries, plain, raw egg, full-fat yoghurt, coconut milk and/or cream, water and a little honey. One of the tricks to eating healthily, I think, is to ensure appetite is kept nicely under control. So, I want this liquid breakfast to sustain me. The protein and fat tend to do the job here (in contrast to a fruit-based smoothie which will not only spike my blood sugar, but give me a whack of fructose, and not sustain me for more than perhaps two or three hours).

One thing I sometimes toss into the mix is some whey protein powder. Part of my rationale here is that it will help ensure that my smoothie will keep my appetite under control until lunchtime. After such a smoothie had at 7.00 or 8.00 in the morning, it’s not uncommon for me to be ready for lunch, but not ravenously hungry, at 1.00 pm, say. This morning is a case in point: I had a smoothie at about 8.15 (a little later than normal), and I’m writing this at 2.00 pm without any great desire to eat.

One of the reasons whey may help here is because, well, it’s protein. And protein, calorie for calorie, tends to sate the appetite more effectively than carbohydrate or fat. Several studies show that higher-protein meals are generally more satisfying, and tend to lead to individuals eating less at a subsequent meal too.

Bearing in mind my some-time liquid-based breakfast, I was interested to read a recent study which assessed the affect of drinks fortified with varying amounts of whey protein on subsequent food intake [1]. The study in question took subjects and have them one of the following 400 ml drinks:

  • Flavoured water
  • A beverage containing 400 calories of which 12.5 per cent came from whey protein
  • A beverage containing 400 calories of which 25 per cent came from whey protein
  • A beverage containing 400 calories of which 50 per cent came from whey protein

90 minutes later, the individuals were given access to an unlimited amount of food, and their intake was measured.

After flavoured water alone, average intake was 988 calories.

Average intakes following the other beverages were as follows:

12.5 per cent whey: 841 calories

25 per cent whey: 808 calories

50 per cent whey: 682 calories

On another occasion, the experiment was repeated but with some adjustment to the preloads.

  • Flavoured water
  • A beverage containing 250 calories of which 10 per cent came from whey protein
  • A beverage containing 250 calories of which 20 per cent came from whey protein
  • A beverage containing 250 calories of which 40 per cent came from whey protein

The results were similar to the first experiment.

After flavoured water alone, average intake was 1147 calories.

Average intakes following the other beverages were as follows:

10 per cent whey: 1000 calories

20 per cent whey: 953 calories

40 per cent whey: 908 calories

What is clear from these two experiments is that when the ‘pre-load’ contains protein, the more protein is had, generally the less is eaten subsequently, even when the pre-loads contain the same number of calories. Here, again, is evidence that protein has potentially useful appetite sating power.

My experience is that eating a decent amount of protein is a key strategy for those seeking to control their appetites. It makes healthy eating easier, usually. We have a vogue here in the UK (as in many other countries) to base breakfast around cereal and milk and/or toast. Not only are these options relatively low-protein, they will also tend to destabilise blood sugar levels in a way that can lead to low-ish blood sugar in the mid-late morning. Many people find that if they eat breakfast they get hungrier than if they eat nothing at all. These people invariably eat starch/sugar based breakfasts. The trick, if you’re going to have breakfast, is to make sure it has a decent amount of protein in it.

Full-fat yoghurt with nuts/seeds and berries is an option, as is eggs perhaps with some ham or smoked salmon. I’ve found relatively protein-rich breakfasts such as these tend to control appetite not just in the morning, but for the rest of the day (including the evening) too.


1. Astbury NA, et al. Dose–response effect of a whey protein preload on within-day energy intake in lean subjects. British Journal of Nutrition. 28 September 2010 [epub before print]

14 Responses to Higher protein intakes naturally lead to less eating later on

  1. Kit 8 October 2010 at 7:23 pm #

    Any suggestions for the brand of whey protein?

  2. David 8 October 2010 at 7:25 pm #

    A couple of weeks ago I made the conversion to a smoothie breakfast and I haven’t looked back. I used to have a certain wholegrain cereal for breakfast, I’d feel bloated immediately afterwards and 2 hours later I’d be starving. Instead I now make a smoothie containing almonds, walnuts, protein powder, a few prunes, some berries, and a bannana. Stick in a load of ice to keep it chilled and I drink it at my desk between 8 and midday. I can’t believe how filling it is! I’m no longer staring at the clock waiting for lunchtime to come!

  3. Bill 8 October 2010 at 8:50 pm #

    Agreed! My breakfast used to include a banana, and I was invariably ravenous within 2 hours. Switching to yoghurt (full fat – goat’s or sheep’s), nuts and berries (I now add desiccated coconut) sustained me til lunch (4/5hrs). I now often eat eggs too – try separating the eggs, and cooking the whites. 2 problems with raw whites – 1) biotin gets bound 2) approx 40% of the protein isn’t bioavailable unless cooked. (Ref available on that last one)

  4. John Briffa 8 October 2010 at 8:58 pm #


    I can’t say I’m an expert on whey protein, but seeing as you asked I buy ‘impact whey protein'(unflavoured) from http://www.myprotein.co.uk

  5. Lori 8 October 2010 at 9:49 pm #

    This is a coincidence–I posted the recipe for my breakfast protein shake just a few days ago on my blog. It’s just some water, a little protein powder, a spoonful of nut butter, thickener and vitamins, but it’s very filling.

  6. Susie Cornfield 8 October 2010 at 11:10 pm #

    About a million years ago I think it was Vidal Sassoon wrote of a similar protein drink, adding a banana. Dee-licious! And sustaining. Wonder if a treat could include some very dark chocolate.

  7. Heli 9 October 2010 at 12:13 am #

    I’ve found this to be true in my personal experience as well. As long as I start my day with protein (and some fat) I can easily make it to lunch without feeling hungry. If I were to start my day with a bowl of low-protein/high-carb cereal, I’d be starving by 10am and would set myself up for a day of compulsively overeating.

  8. dennis 9 October 2010 at 12:14 am #

    Not agreed. I think one should eat complete foods, as nearly natural as possible, to maximise nutritional value and not food extracts, smoothies etc. Lightly boiled egg, fish, whole nuts and seeds, whole fruits such as blueberries, all types of fresh vegetables etc. I often have some spiced baked cod with fresh spinach and a small baked sweet potato followed by some whole blueberries. Certainly keeps me full till lunchtime. Ignore the whey protein and added fats which have little or no nutritional value.

  9. Peter Andrews 9 October 2010 at 2:10 am #

    Two fried eggs and two slices of bacon keep me comfortable for five hours or more.

    Also this breakfast does not cause insulin release so presumably I stay in fat burning mode (due to night time fast) until later in the day when I eat my first carbs.

  10. Richard 10 October 2010 at 1:28 pm #

    I prefer to have a real cooked breakfast or leftovers from the night before, I have a good appetite in the morning and don’t see why breakfast should be viewed as different to any other meal, baked fish and veg, stew… today I had scrambled eggs, smoked salmon, fresh basil and some watermelon.

    I sometimes have a similar smoothie at about 4:30 pm, to keep hunger at bay until I’m home in the evening, although I think dairy like whey should be avoided since it contains insulin like growth factors and these have been associated with cancers. Instead of whey I use egg powder, nut butters or ground seeds, I may give powdered hemp a go soon.

    • Joan 17 April 2014 at 7:25 pm #

      I’ve been through a container of organic hemp protein powder (80%] protein and it is quite sustaining along with some frozen berries, spinach or kale and 2 Tbsp. Ground flax seed. I’ve also tried rice protein powder with similar results. The frozen berries make it quite palatable.

  11. Ani 14 October 2010 at 10:04 am #

    I thought you might be interested in this study, published yesterday:

    Sebely Pal, Vanessa Ellis. 2010. The acute effects of four protein meals on insulin, glucose, appetite and energy intake in lean men. British Journal of Nutrition. Volume 104 Issue 08 , pp 1241-1248

    Different dietary proteins vary in their ability to influence satiety and reduce food intake. The present study compared the effects of four protein meals, whey, tuna, turkey and egg albumin, on postprandial glucose and insulin concentrations as well as on appetite measures and energy intake in twenty-two lean, healthy men. This was a randomised, cross-over design study where participants consumed four liquid test meals on separate occasions followed by the collection of regular blood samples (fasting, +30, 60, 90, 120, 180 and 240 min). They were then offered a buffet meal 4 h later. The blood glucose response after the consumption of the test meal, as an incremental area under the curve (AUC), was significantly lower with the whey meal than with the turkey (P < 0•023) and egg (P < 0•001) meals, but it was not lower than with the tuna meal (P < 0•34). The AUC blood insulin after the consumption of the test meal was significantly higher with the whey meal than with the tuna, turkey and egg meals (all P < 0•001). The AUC rating of hunger was significantly lower with the whey meal than with the tuna (P < 0•033), turkey (P < 0•001) and egg (P < 0•001) meals. Mean energy intake at the ad libitum meal was significantly lower (P < 0•001) with the whey meal than with the tuna, egg and turkey meals. There was a strong relationship between self-rated appetite, postprandial insulin response and energy intake at lunch. Whey protein meal produced a greater insulin response, reduced appetite and decreased ad libitum energy intake at a subsequent meal compared with the other protein meals, indicating a potential for appetite suppression and weight loss in overweight or obese individuals

  12. luis martinez (61,mexico) 16 October 2010 at 12:50 am #

    My experience;if I don’t include lard,bacon or butter/coconut oil,for breakfast,I’ll be hungry for sure within the next 4 hrs..Also, if I make 2 meals at least this way during the day,fasting and exercise early next morning comes easy.

  13. JT 26 October 2010 at 9:10 pm #

    From what I’ve read in this article it appears that the study should actually supports ‘Flavoured water’ as the best way to reduce calorie consumption.

    If you add together the initial calorie consumption with the later calorie consumption you get a more interesting set of numbers.

    Flavoured water 0 + 988 = 988.
    12.5% whey 400 + 841 = 1241.
    25% whey 400 + 808 = 1208.
    50% whey 400 + 682 = 1082.

    The flavoured water consumers ate the least over the course of the experiment and were equally satisfied at the end.

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