What makes a meal satisfying?
When we were creating Ample, that was one of the most important questions we had to answer. How could we make powder in a bottle really deliver the satiety of a sit-down meal?
Our goal was to design a meal that leaves you comfortably full, with stable energy for several hours. After a good bit of research (and some trial and error), we’ve learned that fullness depends on a few things, including digestion rate, energy balance, and hormone response. We came up with a combination that hits all three:
- Several grams of fiber (including a couple particular types)
- Moderate fat (again, the type matters)
- Abundant protein
These three things contribute to Ample’s effect on satiety, and they’re also valuable for nutrition in general. You can try building meals around one or all of these guidelines and see if it changes the way you feel after you eat. Before you do that, though, let’s unpack each point in more detail.
Fiber: slow down digestion and increase nutrient absorption
Structurally, fiber is a carbohydrate.
But fiber is unique in the carbohydrate world. Starches and sugars (what most of us think of when we say “carbs”) break down and get absorbed by your body as they pass through your small intestine. From there, they become energy.
Fiber is a little different. Humans don’t have the enzymes to digest fiber, so it ends up moving through your system more or less intact. There are two major classes of fiber:
- Soluble fiber dissolves in water. It forms a gel-like substance in your large intestine, slowing down the rate at which you digest your food and allowing nutrients to absorb more fully .
- Insoluble fiber does not dissolve in water. Like soluble fiber, though, insoluble adds bulk to food as it passes through your large intestine.
Both types of fiber increase the sensation of fullness after a meal.
But how does that sense of fullness happen when you aren’t getting energy from your food?
Good question. When your GI tract is empty, little cells along your intestinal lining create a hormone called ghrelin and send it up to your brain. Ghrelin binds to receptors in your brain and tells you you’re hungry. That’s when your stomach starts rumbling.
The longer your stomach and intestines are empty, the more ghrelin you produce. Fiber is a strong regulator of ghrelin because it keeps your GI system full for a good long time [2,3]. And because you can’t digest fiber, you generally aren’t getting any energy from it. Essentially, you can eat fewer calories and feel just as full, which can make fiber great for gradual fat loss over time [4,5,6].
Fiber has a few other benefits that are worth exploring in another article. But to touch on them briefly:
- Fiber is anti-inflammatory. A recent study found that eating plenty of fiber linked to 63% lower C-reactive protein, a marker of inflammation .
- Some fibers benefit your gut bacteria. You as a human lack the enzymes to digest fiber, but the bacteria living in your gut will happily eat some of the fiber you don’t digest. Gut bacteria will ferment certain fibers (called prebiotic fibers) and use them for energy. The fermentation process produces short-chain fatty acids that keep your gut lining strong , and prebiotic fiber keeps the good bacteria in your gut thriving, while warding off more damaging types .
Ample has four specific types of fiber in it, designed to give you the range of benefits you just read about.
- Inulin, a component of chicory root and Jerusalem artichoke, is an especially satiating soluble fiber . Inulin doubles as a prebiotic, feeding good bacteria in your gut and keeping your intestinal lining strong .
- Psyllium husk is another soluble fiber that’s particularly good at regulating blood sugar [12,13]. It prevents insulin spikes and crashes, leaving you with stable fullness and energy.
- Green banana starch isn’t technically a fiber, but it behaves like one. It’s a resistant starch, meaning it resists digestion much like fiber does. Green banana starch is one of the best sources of food for your gut bacteria , and your bacteria produce a lot of gut-protecting short-chain fatty acids when they ferment it .
- Acacia fiber (also called gum arabic) is a favorite food of two specific beneficial gut bacteria: Bifidobacteria and Lactobacilli. They flourish when given acacia fiber . Acacia fiber is also very gentle on digestion. Your gut bacteria ferment it further down your intestine than most other fibers, which prevents a buildup of gas or bloating in people with sensitive stomachs . And acacia fiber is especially good for fullness and fat loss .
As a rule of thumb, vegetables are the best source of fiber around. Get plenty of greens in your diet; they’ll fill you up and keep the creatures in your gut happy.
Fat gives you energy without spiking blood sugar
Fat is another key to feeling satiated after a meal. It has a couple traits that make it useful as a source of filling, slow-burning energy.
The first is that fat doesn’t affect insulin. When you break down carbs, they end up as sugar in your bloodstream, and you release insulin to clear out the sugar. Insulin drives the sugar out of your blood and into your cells, which either use it as energy or store it as fat.
If you’re sensitive to insulin, this process isn’t a problem. But with the abundance of carbs (and particularly refined carbs) in today’s typical diet, many people constantly stimulate their insulin, which causes their body to become less sensitive to it over time.
When you’re less sensitive to insulin, you start producing too much of it in response to the food you eat. Too much insulin means you pull too much sugar from your blood. The result is low blood sugar, sudden hunger, and an energy crash.
Let’s sum that up in bullet points:
- Carbs increase your blood sugar
- You release insulin to bring your blood sugar level back down to normal
- Eating lots of carbs (especially refined ones) causes some people start releasing too much insulin
- Excess insulin causes a crash: low blood sugar, hunger, and fatigue
Again, this doesn’t happen to everyone, but plenty of people find they get hungry or don’t have steady energy when they eat too many carbs.
Fat skirts the issue entirely. It doesn’t stimulate insulin, meaning it keeps your blood sugar stable. For people who struggle with insulin sensitivity, fat leads to more satiety and no crash. For people whose insulin response is fine, fat is still a perfectly good source of energy.
Fat in particular also stimulates release of a hormone called cholecystokinin (mercifully abbreviated to CCK). CCK makes you feel full in a major way – for example, hungry monkeys injected with CCK will stop eating almost immediately .
When fat reaches your intestine it makes you release a lot of CCK . As such, meals with plenty of fat tend to be supremely satisfying.
We have three main healthy fats in Ample: coconut oil, macadamia nut oil, and chia seed oil. You can read about their particular benefits in detail here.
Protein: the most filling macronutrient
Protein is famous for being very satisfying. Plentiful studies support the importance of protein in satiety. Here are a few of them:
- When women ate protein before a main meal they felt more full than they did eating fat or carbs. They also ate less during the meal .
- Like fat, protein is a strong trigger of the fullness hormone CCK . It also drives you to release glucagon, another hormone that makes you feel full. 
- And like fiber, protein curbs the hunger hormone ghrelin. A high-protein breakfast kept people satisfied longer than a high-carb breakfast. It curbed post-meal ghrelin release for several hours and also slowed gastric emptying – food spent more time in the intestines .
- A large review of research on satiety found that protein is the most satisfying macronutrient – more so than fat or carbs – and that it simultaneously increases your metabolism, making it great for burning fat while feeling full .
This is why we made sure to formulate Ample original with plenty of protein. Ample original contains protein from grass-fed whey, grass-fed collagen, and peas. Ample V contains protein from peas and rice.
Whichever you choose, you’re getting a meaningful amount of complete protein with each bottle. And outside of Ample, a good rule of thumb is to get at least 20-30g of protein with each meal. It’ll keep you full for a good long time.
Ample is so satisfying because of three things:
- Lots of fiber
- Fat for stable energy
- Plentiful protein
Try combining these principles in your next meal – for example, pair some wild-caught salmon with a big serving of green veggies. See how you feel afterward. Is your energy more stable? Are you comfortably full for several hours? Play around with amounts of fiber, fat, and protein and see what works for you. Thanks for reading and leave your comments and questions below!