Walk into any fitness supplement store and you will be bombarded with pitches for the latest fat burning stimulant, muscle building compound or energy enhancing mineral. Of course 99% of these claims are nothing more than marketing hyperbole designed to convince us there are special ingredients missing in our quest for a fitter body.
On the flip side if you walk into a greengrocer, fishmonger or farmers market the foods on display will sit quietly on their shelves without any complicated jargon or dramatic claims but this does not mean they are without their own special weight-loss ingredients.
In his book Mindless Eating, author Brian Wansink describes the experiments of Dr Barbara Rolls who conclusively demonstrated how our feelings of satiety are triggered by food volume, not calorie volume. In one such experiment Rolls and her team made a small smoothie look bigger by simply adding air to it. Participants who consumed the bulked up version before their lunch ended up eating 12% less and claimed to feel more full afterwards.
Fibre is the indigestible portion of plant foods and serves a number of useful purposes in our digestive tract. From a weight-loss perspective fibre provides bulk and volume to our meals without increasing caloric-load. In similar fashion to Rolls bulking up smoothies with air this helps us to eat satisfying volumes of food without overloading on calories.
Water is an active ingredient present in many whole foods. Considered rather essential to human health water has the added bonus of being calorie-free which like fibre means it adds volume to our meals without increasing caloric-load. An easy way to visualise this is by comparing a cup of dry rice (no water present) to a cup of cooked rice (water present.) Same volume of food but the former contains approximately 675 calories whilst the latter contains approximately 206 calories.
The majority of whole foods come wrapped up with varying percentages of protein by default. Protein is a useful macronutrient for those looking to lose weight as it is known to promote satiety and reduce hunger which ultimately helps in eating less. Furthermore, along with resistance exercise, protein helps to maintain lean mass whilst running at a calorie deficit. This ensures the majority of weight loss stems from our fat stores not our muscle stores.
When it comes to weight loss one principle seems to rule supreme - energy balance! Expend more energy than we consume for an extended period of time and our body will lose weight.
With their not-so secret ingredients of fibre, water and protein whole-foods seem like the perfect supplement to help us do just that.