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3 P’s for Managing Energy Intake

One of the healthiest things we can do, regardless of our goals is to find an effective strategy for managing our food intake. Our society and food environment (at least in the US, UK, Australia, Canada, etc.) is such that most of us need to be careful that we don’t take in excessive energy (calories).

There are different strategies that people use to accomplish this including following some type of named diet. These diets usually include a number of rules to follow and often require eliminating an entire food or group of foods. Others use a technique where they will track everything they eat using a calorie and macro tracking app to ensure they stay within a particular range of energy intake. While diets and apps do work, they often only work for a period of time … until the person tires of the rules and/or weighing and measuring everything they eat.

There’s another way that centers around making food choices that naturally result in reduced or controlled energy intake. Here are 3 P’s that may help you accomplish this.

Protein

Protein is an amazing nutrient found in meat, dairy, and legumes (beans) as well as whole grains, nuts, seeds, and other foods. We won’t go into all the nuances of the different types of protein or which sources are superior and why. Suffice it to say, protein is powerful when it comes to managing our appetite and thus food intake.

The recommended dietary allowance (RDA) is 0.8g/kg of body weight or 0.36g/lb. So, for an 80 kg man (176 lbs) that would come out to 64g per day. While this will prevent deficiency, numerous studies have shown that higher amounts of protein (1.2-1.6g/kg) are probably superior, especially for those who are physically active or over 50.

Research has also shown that the simple act of increasing protein intake from 15% of your daily calorie intake to 30% has a remarkable effect! They’ve found that in this instance, people spontaneously eat fewer overall calories without consciously making any other adjustments resulting in weight loss. Another possible effect is that higher protein intake can improve leptin sensitivity. Leptin is the “satiety” hormone that helps regulate our appetite. When our body is more sensitive to this hormone, our appetite is better controlled which means we have less drive and urge to seek out food.

Processed Food

Another incredibly effective strategy for managing food intake is to focus the bulk of our attention on unprocessed foods. These are foods that are typically not pre-packaged and do not come in a box. Think whole fruit, vegetables, legumes, whole-grains, potatoes (very satiating, by the way), etc.

A recent tightly controlled metabolic ward study from 2019 by Dr. Kevin Hall and colleagues found that when people primarily eat an “ultra-processed” food diet, on average, they consume an additional 500 calories per day. By switching to an unprocessed diet, they spontaneously reduce calorie intake.

What constitutes “ultra-processed?” Here are a couple of examples from the study:

Egg (Papetti’s), turkey bacon (Jenni-O) and American cheese (Glenview Farms) on an
English muffin (Sara Lee)
Tater tots (Monarch) with ketchup (Heinz)
Orange juice (Sun Cup) with NutriSource Fiber
Chicken salad (Giant canned chicken, Heinz pickle relish, Hellmann’s mayonnaise)
sandwich on white bread (Ottenberg)
Peaches canned in heavy syrup (Giant)
Shortbread cookies (Keebler)
Fig Newtons (Nabisco)
Diet lemonade (Crystal Light) with NutriSource fiber

How about “unprocessed” examples from the study:

Spinach, onion and tomato omelet (fresh eggs) cooked in olive oil
Sweet potato hash (sweet potato, olive oil and cinnamon)
Salt and Pepper (Monarch)
Skim milk (Cloverland)
Beef tender roast (Tyson)
Rice pilaf (basmati rice (Roland) with garlic, onions, sweet peppers and olive oil)
Steamed broccoli
Side salad (Green leaf lettuce, tomatoes, cucumbers) with balsamic vinaigrette
(balsamic vinegar (Nature’s Promise)
Orange slices
Pecans (Monarch)
Salt and Pepper (Monarch)

Noticeable difference, right? Just a quick look at the meals shows that the unprocessed meals look more substantial, even though they are actually very similar in calorie content?

Physical Activity

The third P is physical activity. This can be in the form of non-exercise activity or exercise activity. Both forms of activity can be helpful in managing appetite and hunger. Not only that, but they are both just really good for our bodies. Anything we can do to help our bodies function better, improve strength, build the cardiovascular system, etc. is beneficial.

Another benefit is that it helps change our mindset. Whenever we’re thinking about our health and well-being, we tend to naturally make better choices with regard to our food choices and  

Summary

There is nothing wrong with making the choice to follow a particular diet, track your calories using an app, or whatever method works best for you and your individual goals.

However, if you’re reading this article, I have a sneaking suspicion you’ve tried those things and may be looking for something more effective. With that said, each of these 3 P’s can be incorporated into any nutrition and fitness plan so you don’t need to completely change everything. Simply incorporate these suggestions and it could make adherence to your plan much easier.

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