Apparently the idea that protein fills you up has been just that, an idea, because a recent study went ahead and confirmed the correlation for the first time. The study was published in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.

According to the study’s lead investigator Richard D. Mattes, M.P.H., Ph.D., R.D.:

“A good deal of evidence suggests that protein activates satiety hormone release and so should be most strongly tied with fullness ratings, but individual studies are often conducted in small populations or with different approaches that can make interpretation of results challenging. Our study combined multiple experiments to confirm the presence of an effect.”

Good to know. They went on to say that while the study confirmed the link between the two, it did not find out exactly how much protein is needed to create the fullness effect. (Partly probably because this matters person to person depending on metabolism, body weight, etc. )

What they did suggest from these findings, is that the best way to get the most out of the protein that you eat is to space it out throughout the day. That way it is more likely to keep you satiated over the course of the day and prevent you from snacking on non healthy food choices since you never reach that desperate hungry feeling if you take the edge off with protein.

The key of course is to always go for lean protein choices, as well as ones that are highly available to the body. The protein sources with the biggest bang for your buck (and fewest calories) include eggs, chicken breast, lean beef, tuna, and whey. It is good to switch things up however so that you don’t get bored, so you should also consider great protein sources like other seafood, hemp seeds, tofu, and the occasional pork.

To get the most out of your protein consumption you should break it up throughout the day and make sure that you get plenty of it at each meal. Some studies have shown that the body can only use so much of it as once, which is another really important reason to spread it out in addition to simply making you feel full long term.

If for example your goal protein intake is 140 grams each day, you should aim to get 35 grams at each major meal and then the rest of it when you have a snack. Always follow a workout with a protein heavy meal since that is when your body needs it the most to aid with recovery and keep you burning calories for hours after. A protein based snack is also a great choice for the end of the day post dinner if you tend to wake up hungry.

“Though this study did not specifically evaluate dieters, feeling fuller could help to reduce food intake, an important factor when dieting,” concluded Dr. Mattes. “If these effects are sustained over the long-term—and our study only looked at short-term effects—increased protein intake may aid in the loss or maintenance of body weight.”