Can you curb your cravings by hacking your amino acid intake?

There’s nothing like an incredibly strong food craving to throw off your diet… especially if it comes up again and again. Maybe the thought of a delicious dessert is enough to make you run to the nearest bakery, or maybe a salty bag of chips seems to call your name like clockwork. While a few treats here and there won’t do much harm (even during the holiday season, when eating is so necessary for enjoyment and fun), cravings can turn into bigger health problems if they persist, and you just can’t do it. resist—over long periods of time.

That said, there are some rumors circulating that posit that specific amino acids may act to curb your strongest cravings. Apparently, this could apply to either sugar, carbs, or salty foods, or even depending on what type of consumer you are (think: stressed, fatigued, comfort-seeking, and the like). But do they have any merit?

Seeking answers about the connection between amino acids and cravings, as well as how protein fits into the broader question, we reached out to a Brooklyn-based dietitian. Maddie Pasquariello, MS, RDof East Coast Health.

Can a lack of certain amino acids trigger cravings for specific foods?

First, Pasquariello offers a quick summary of what amino acids are in the context of cravings. “Amino acids are the building blocks of proteins and are components of hormones, neurotransmitters and more. As a result, our reward systems are linked to protein intake,” he explains. It seems like amino acids and cravings could be connected, since we tend to experience pleasure from indulging them… but the dietician says the link isn’t very strong.

“While the evidence is very limited when it comes to whether a deficiency of a specific amino acid can trigger cravings, diets deficient in protein-rich foods in general can trigger cravings, including foods that contain amino acids that the diet might be missing. “. she clarifies. Carbohydrate cravings are another such manifestation, arising when the body seeks a quick (and ideally tasty) fuel source.

When it comes to the research to date on specific amino acids, cravings, and satiety, Pasquariello highlights one small study on tryptophan. She found that “a reduction in the tryptophan/large neutral amino acid (LNAA) ratio, which may be caused by the consumption of high-protein foods, may reduce the overall desire to binge eat among women.” As such, she suggests a possible link between amino acid intake and strong urges to accept cravings.

Other amino acids, he continues, have been studied in the context of cravings; However, the jury is out as most of it lacks clear and conclusive evidence. These include:

  • tyrosine
  • phenylalanine
  • methionine
  • theanine

“Another amino acid that is frequently discussed as a possible help in reducing cravings is glutamine,” Pasquariello continues. She says it has gained popularity in the conversation about cravings because it promises to encourage weight loss specifically in people with diabetes. However, evidence is lacking for those who have blood sugar levels within normal ranges.

5 tips to curb your strongest cravings

If you want to reduce your food cravings with significant success, pay attention to the helpful and healthy dietitian-approved tricks below.

1. Sleep well and de-stress

This tip is a no-brainer for both your cravings and your overall well-being. for study 2018 In the diary Obesity, chronic stress and higher cortisol levels predict food cravings and future weight gain. And ICYMI, your circadian cycles regulate not only your sleep and wake times but also your appetite. They also influence certain hormones of the endocrine system, including the hunger and satiety hormones ghrelin and leptin, respectively. Lack of sleep (as well as stress) can suppresses leptin and increases ghrelinthus increasing hunger for processed and unhealthy foods.

Since these lifestyle habits can wreak havoc on your hunger signals, look for ways to improve both when you’re under pressure. Mindful movement, deep breathing, and a solid bedtime routine are just a few of the countless self-care modalities at your disposal.

2. Prioritize proteins

When it comes to amino acids and cravings, Pasquriello ultimately advises against seeking out amino acids on their own (through specific foods or individual supplements). “A healthy, nutrient-dense diet typically contains all of the essential amino acids the body needs to thrive, so there is no reason for most people to seek out supplements or specific sources of a given amino acid,” he shares. “In fact, I would go so far as to say that doing so could create a lot more stress (and work!) than necessary.”

That said, making sure you’re getting enough protein in your overall diet (along with carbs, healthy fats, fiber, water, vitamins, and minerals) may be the best cravings trick available. In addition to being inherently satiating, protein “is also vital for maintaining a healthy body weight, regulating our organ systems (as well as immunity and metabolism), maintaining cellular structure and function, and building muscle,” Pasquariello continues.

Going back to amino acids, it’s important to make sure you consume them all to reap the benefits of complete proteins. Animal-based foods will easily meet your needs, but Pasquariello notes that vegetarians and plant-based eaters may need to be more careful. However, it is absolutely possible to obtain all amino acids. and Adequate protein in a plant-based diet. “For example, buckwheat, chia, and hemp seeds are complete proteins on their own,” Pasquariello shares, “or you can opt for complete protein combinations like hummus and pita, peanut butter on toast, or rice and beans.”

Advice: Blended into a smoothie or baked into treats, a plant-based protein powder like HUM’s Core Strength can help you increase the ease of complete protein intake. (One serving provides 20 grams of protein with all 22 amino acids, including all 9 essential amino acids.)

3. Know your cravings

By turning to mindfulness, you may find that the causes behind your cravings are easier to discover and remedy than you imagined. “Instead of trying to prevent or ignore your cravings, try to tune into (and even physically note) the circumstances in which they arise. Maybe you are tired, bored at work, dehydrated, stressed or distracted.” She says certain cravings can be even more context or environment dependent. (Think: craving popcorn and chocolate at the movies, reaching for a tray of baked goods at the holidays, or simply experiencing period-related food cravings.)

In any case, monitoring what and when behind your cravings can help you get to the bottom of them. From there, it may be easier to break the cycle.

4. Adopt mindful eating habits

Some of Pasquariello’s foolproof mindful eating tips to reduce cravings and decrease emotional eating patterns include:

  • Breathe between bites
  • Avoid distractions at mealtime
  • Introduce mindset changes such as eating 80/20 (that is, trying to eat nutrient-dense foods at least 80 percent of the time)
  • Reduce any noise related to food, nutrition and weight that does not suit you

5. Don’t deprive yourself (or demonize the craving)

Deprivation is something forbidden and that’s it. If you eat a healthy, balanced diet to begin with, you’ll have a better chance of keeping cravings for less healthy foods at bay. However, it may be better for you to indulge in an occasional treat… as long as you do it in moderation. “It’s well proven that ignoring your cravings makes your brain fixate on them even more, so trying to starve them or swap them for an alternative may not be enough,” Pasquariello notes.

The Amino Acid Takeaway…

In case you’ve heard that you can calm your cravings by prioritizing certain amino acids over others, doing so can create more work (and potential stress) than any palpable reward. Instead, becoming familiar with the true cause of your cravings (whether they stem from lifestyle habits, emotional triggers, certain environments, or dietary gaps) can allow you to reduce their intensity once and for all.

If you find that your cravings are stronger than you can control on your own, or if you think you have a deficiency of a particular nutrient that could cause intense feelings of hunger, consult a doctor or dietitian. “They’ll run blood tests and determine what specifically might be missing from your diet, if anything,” Pasquariello says.

Overall, though, Pasquariello notes that the magic trick to overcoming cravings is probably easier than it seems. Try to let go of the gimmicks and lofty goals, get back to the basics and take things easy. “Although it is difficult, I believe that a healthy balance can be achieved if we do not focus on numbers or reaching goals every day and, instead, we can learn to better tune into our body’s satiety and hunger signals,” he concludes. the dietitian

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