Protein Curbs Food Lust

A new study from the University of Sydney has found that including enough protein in our diets, rather than simply cutting calories, is the key to curbing appetites and preventing excessive consumption of fats and carbohydrates. “Aaahh”, I hear you all saying. “High protein diets do work”.


That depends really on what you call a high protein diet. The study looked at 10% of calories coming from protein, vs 15% and 25%. The findings DO NOT support those who advocate excessive amounts of protein in the diet. (Some eating plans strive for over 40% of calories coming from protein).


The researchers from Sydney Uni have shown that people on a 10 percent protein diet will eat more snacks between meals and consume significantly more calories in total compared with people on a 15 percent protein diet. The results show that dietary protein plays an important role in appetite and total food consumption in humans. “Humans have a particularly strong appetite for protein, and when the proportion of protein in the diet is low this appetite can drive excess energy intake,” said lead author Dr Alison Gosby. The ‘protein-leverage’ hypothesis, proposes that animals have a fixed protein target, which they will defend at the expense of other nutrients.


In their new study Dr Alison Gosby and Professor Steve Simpson wanted to test the ‘protein-leverage’ effect in humans. The researchers created three menus that represented low (10 percent), intermediate (15 percent) and high (25 percent) protein, based on data from the World Health Organization recommending people eat 15 percent protein diets. With the exception of protein, the three diets were identical in all other factors such as appearance, palatability, variety and availability. The researchers then took a group of 22 lean people and fed each subject each of the three menus during three separate four-day periods, monitoring energy intake over each four-day period and hunger ratings on day four. They found subjects who ate a 10 percent protein diet consumed 12 percent more energy over four days than those eating a 15 percent protein diet. Moreover, 70 percent of the increased energy intake on the lower protein diet was attributed to snacking.


When the protein content was further increased to 25 percent, however, the researchers observed no change in behavior relative to the 15 percent protein diet. On the fourth day of the trial, however, there was a greater increase in the hunger score between 1–2 hours after the 10 per cent protein breakfast versus the 25 percent protein breakfast.


Dr Gosby commented: “This result confirms the ‘protein-leverage’ effect in humans and importantly, shows counting calories is not enough to manage appetite and body weight. In the western world, where food is abundant, if you reduce your calorie intake but fail to reach your protein target you will find it hard to resist hunger pangs.”


Take a close look at this statement from Dr Gosby. She is not saying you can eat the same amount of calories, but as long as you eat protein you will lose weight, she is saying you need to reduce your calories, and taking in enough protein will help you do that. Weight loss is still about taking in less energy than you expend.


Dr Gosby points out  their  “results indicate low protein diets will cause humans to overeat. Tragically in the modern westernised environment there are many factors encouraging us to eat foods that are high in sugars and fat, including reduced cost and increased availability of these foods. Underpinning all this is our ancestral environment in which fat and simple sugars were highly prized, leaving us with a predilection for these foods.”


Does this mean that you should load up on protein?

Whilst protein has it’s place in your diet, too much protein can have detrimental effects on your health. Diets in which protein makes up a large amount of your daily caloric intake, so-called ketogenic diets, cause a build up of toxic ketones in your body.  Your kidneys are pushed into overdrive in order to flush the ketones from your body, and you can lose significant amounts of water, putting you at risk of dehydration. This of course is exacerbated if you exercise heavily, particularly in the summer months.


As well as fluid loss, high protein diets can cause calcium to be leached from your bones. Ketongenic diets can cause blood acidity. The correct pH balance of your blood is imperative if your blood is to deliver vital nutrients around your body. Your body recognises the pH imbalance in your blood and does something about it. The acidity needs to be counteracted by a buffer to return the blood to it’s correct pH. One such buffer is calcium, which is found in your bones and teeth. Basically, your body considers that your blood needs the calcium (to counteract acidity) more than your bones and teeth do, and you can become calcium deficient and suffer form oesteoporosis if you maintain a hight protein diet for a prolonged period.

Not only that, dehydration from a ketogenic diet can give you bad breath!!


What does a 15% protein day look like?

Don’t stress too much about hitting the magic 15% mark. Being too technical can turn you off even trying. You should simply be aiming to have protein at every meal. For meat, chicken and fish, a good rule of thumb is to have a portion about the size of the palm of your hand at meal times. Be sure to trim off all visible fat (except from fish as these are good fats). Skin needs to be trimmed from poultry BEFORE cooking. Try eggs for breakfast rather than sweet (and often salty) cereal. Try nuts and seeds instead of dipping into the biscuit tin. Limit fruit to no more than 2 pieces a day, and ditch the fruit juice for water.


If you are eating a sandwich at lunchtime, two slabs of bread and a skinny bit of ham in the middle doesn’t really cut it. Try a tuna sandwich with avocado instead of butter. Add a boiled egg to your lunchbox. A good amount of protein at lunchtime will go a long way to stopping that mid-afternoon forage to the snack dispenser!


Add your tips for including more protein in the diet below.

Reference: Protein key to curbing overeating and preventing obesity

By Carla Avolio. Oct 2011


Can Stress Make You Fat?


Stress. It makes you depressed. It makes you tired. It makes you snap at the people you love. Stress can make you drink the whole bottle of wine when you only meant to have a glass. Stress can also make you fat.

Scientists at the Universityof Liverpoolfound that women exposed to a range of mentally and physically stressful tasks ate 20 per cent more of the free chocolate they were offered, compared to when they didn’t have to do the tasks.  However, the stress-fat connection isn’t just down to those uncontrollable urges to eat a packet of Tim Tams. It appears that the effects of stress can alter the way our bodies deal with food

Research at the Universityof Californiain San Franciscofound that out of 160 women between 30 and 46 years old, those with the biggest waist measurements reported the highest levels of stress. Meanwhile, Dr Pamela Peeke, one of a team of researchers at the National Institutes of Health in America, has discovered that hormones secreted during times of stress are instrumental in causing more fat to be stored, particularly around the abdomen.

It works like this.

  • A hormone called CRH (corticotrophin-releasing hormone) rises in response to stress, triggering amongst other things, a release of cortisol and adrenalin (the ‘stress’ hormones), to help prepare the body for action.
  • Cortisol stimulates the release of glucose to provide fuel for fight or flight while adrenalin primes the nervous system for action.
  • Once the crisis is over, adrenalin disperses, but cortisol — and the glucose it has drawn into the blood — lingers, causing a surge of insulin.
  • This stimulates the appetite to encourage the body to restore its fuel stores, to be ready to cope with the next confrontation.
  • Of course, these days, our confrontations tend not to be with hairy mammals and other things we need to run away from, so we rarely expend any energy in our stressful encounters. We do still end up refuelling however, because we’re hard-wired to do so. This excess body fat is stored ‘viscerally’,  or deep within the abdomen, where it raises our risk of heart disease and diabetes.

So what to do about it? One of the most obvious ways to solve the problem is to reduce or eliminate stress by changing your lifestyle and learning coping strategies. A sensible approach — but frankly, easier said than done. So how about ‘reinstating’ the fight or flight response, by following stressful events and experiences with some physical activity, like we were born to do?

Not only will this dissipate those stress hormones, it will also release beta-endorphins, making you feel calm and contented. And  you will be a super athlete in no time with all that exercise each time you stress out about something! More importantly, regular workouts will enable you to become more stress-resilient in the future. The fitter you are, the lower the rise in cortisol under stressful conditions.


Waist Measurements

Why measure your waist?

Measuring your waist is a simple check to see how much body fat you have, and where it is placed around the body. The location of body fat can be an important indicator of your risk of developing certain chronic diseases. Whatever your height or build, an increased waistline is a sign you may be at greater risk of ongoing health problems such as type 2 diabetes, heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure and some cancers.


How to measure your waistline

  • Measure directly against your skin
  • Breathe out normally
  • The tape should be snug, without compressing the skin
  • Measure your waist half way between the lowest point of your lowest rib and the highest point of your hip bone. If you palpate at the side of your tummy you will feel these bony landmarks.

What does it mean?

No matter what your height, the following waist measurements suggest you could be at an increased risk of developing a chronic disease.


Increased Risk
Women: more than 80cm
Men: more than 94 cm

Greatly Increased Risk
Women: more than 88cm
Men: more than 102 cm


These waist measurements are recommended for Caucasian men and Caucasian and Asian women. Not enough research has been done on other groups for a definitive measurement to be established.

References: Australian Better Health Initiative. Fact Sheet: How do you measure up?

Sugar Free Food Labelling


If you’re looking at reducing the amount of sugar in your diet, you need to be aware of what the labelling means. Here’s a quick summary.

In Australia, the Code of Practice on Nutrient Claims in Food (CoPoNC) sets out the provisions for “low”, “free”, and  “no sugar” claims as:


Sugar Free, No Sugar, Zero Sugar

Foods must contain less than 0.2grams of sugars per 100 grams of edible portion of the food Liquids must contain less than 0.1grams for 100 grams of edible portion

The policy of the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission however has a zero tolerance policy in relation to the term “free”. So technically, foods which are labelled “sugar free” and include the small tolerance level of sugar allowed for under the CoPoNC, are in breach of fair trading laws.


No Added Sugar

Foods must not have sugar or sugar containing ingredients added to them. This means that sugars  including dextrose, fructose, sucrose, lactose, starch hydrolysate, glucose syrups, maltodextrin and similar products, icing sugar, invert sugar, fruit sugar syrup, honey, malt, malt extract or maltose products, or products derived at a sugar refinery including brown sugar and molasses is NOT added to the food during processing.

“No added sugar” foods can still contain high amounts of natural sugars. Normally, “no added sugar” foods have a low Glycemic Index, which means they don’t cause a rapid spike in blood sugar.


Low in Sugar

Foods must contain no more than 5g total sugars per 100grams of edible portion. Liquids must contain no more than 2.5grams per 100 grams of edible portion.


Sweet Poison Challenge


60 Minutes ran a piece last Sunday night about the “controversial new research” surrounding sugar. Basically, it indicated that sugar is the route of all dietary evil and quitting sugar would fix most of your health problems. Have a look at the footage or read the transcript here.

The research the report referred to is that done by Dr Robert Lustig  a Pediatric Endocrinologist. It is hardly “new” however as his lecture “Sugar: The Bitter Truth” was posted on YouTube in July 2009 – nearly three years ago. Not a big deal, I know, but little things like that do tend to get me thinking about what else might be being sensationalised by 60 minutes this time!

The report gives the impression that sugar is bad, and pretty much everything else is okay, as far as healthy eating goes, which is so patently NOT TRUE it makes my blood boil.

Too much of ANYTHING is not good for you. As Jennie Brand-Miller (the glycemic index pioneer) puts it, demonising sugar and concentrating too heavily on its evils gives the message that it’s okay to eat whatever else you like as long as it doesn’t have sugar in it. We run the risk of ignoring the health effects of overdosing on other macronutrients such as fats (especially trans fats) and protein.  She suggests a moderate intake of sugar of up to 10 teaspoons per day is fine. That 10 teaspoons per day includes all sources of dietary sugar – ie the pure white stuff you add to your coffee, as well as the hidden stuff in processed foods, fruit juice etc.

Also interesting was the brain scan which indicated sugar has the same addictive qualities as some drugs, which would kind of explain why we keep eating the stuff when we know it isn’t good for us.

Lustig’s lecture“Sugar: The Bitter Truth”  is well worth listening to, but make sure you have a sugar hit, or at least a cup of coffee handy, as it runs for 90 minutes. It can be found here . He is certainly entertaining, and certainly leaves some of my old uni lecturers for dead, but his use of emotive and headline grabbing language such as referring to sugar as “toxic” and “poison” shouldn’t get in the way of critically evaluating what he says.

David Gillespie is another anti-sugar campaigner.  He  was prompted to sing the praises of a sugar free diet by his own weight loss as a result of cutting sugar out of his diet. See an extensive interview with David Gillespie here   and the Nutrition Australia position statement in response to Gillespie’s book Sweet Poison here.


So, what’s the bottom line?

  • Yes, too much sugar is bad for you.
  • Yes, massive intakes of soft drink will cause you to gain weight
  • Yes, fruit juice does contain heaps of sugar and should be regarded as a treat, not an everyday healthy food
  • Yes, fruit should be limited to 2-3 serves per day, depending on your overall energy requirements
  • Yes, sugar can be addictive
  • No, sugar is not the only reason we get fat.


The Challenge

Will cutting sugar out of your diet make you feel better? Start cutting down on sugar over the next week or so, and put your hand up below if you’re willing to go sugar free for 4 weeks, starting on Monday 25th June. I am.

Fun Run Nutrition: Raisins vs Chews and Gels



Raisins are a cheap natural source of carbohydrates which have been found to be as effective as carbohydrate chews in producing a workout boost.



Researchers from California-Davis University have found raisins to be as effective as sports chews when athletes’ performances were tested in a 5km time trial which was conducted 2 days after a 2 hour run during which they consumed either raisins or sports chews. When just water was consumed during the 2 hour run, the athletes did not perform as well in the time trial 2 days later. The trial included only 11 athletes so it was a fairly small sample, but it’s certainly food for thought (pardon the pun).


This table shows you the nutritional breakdown of a couple of gels and chews, and raisins. Note the raisins do have some dietary fibre so could cause some GIT upset, but then gels and chews can have the same effect with some people.

GU ROCTANE GEL (one serve=1 sachet) GU ENERGY GEL(one serve= on sachet) GU CHOMPS (one serve = 4 pieces -1/2 a sachet) RAISINS (one serve = 35 gms-about what you can hold in the palm of your hand)
Weight 32gms 32 gms 30 gms 35 gms
Calories 100 100 90 100
Total Carbohydrate 25gms 20 gms 23gms 25 gms
Fat 0 2gms 0 0.3 gms
Sugars 5gms 6gms 11gms 24 gms
Sodium 125gms 40 gms 50 gms 20 gms
Potasium 55gms 40 gms 40 gms 364 gms
Vit E amt not stated amt not stated amt not stated
Calcium amt not stated amt not stated amt not stated 14 gms
Amino Acid Blend 1220 mg no protein no protein 800 mgs
Caffeine 35 mg nil nil nil
Dietary Fibre 1.7 gms


What works for one person doesn’t necessarily work for another.  The only way you’ll know if raisins work for you is to trial them in training, NOT in a race. And best to trial it first in the off season. Don’t muck around with your race and training nutrition when a mistake might really make a difference to your race results. Personally, I like a gel with a touch of caffeine, but each to their own. I’m struggling with the concept of trying to get all those loose raisins under control whilst I’m running too. You can read the full article in the Journal of The International Society of Sports Nutrition.


Share your experiences with race and training nutrition below.