Podcast Episode 15 Transcript – Thoughts On Volume Eating

The Ideal Nutrition Podcast

Aidan

00:00:09 – 00:00:46

Hello and welcome back to episode 15 of The Ideal Nutrition podcast. I am Aidan Muir, and I’m here with my co-host, Leah Higl, and today we’re going to be talking about volume eating. So, volume eating is the concept of eating more food for the same or less amount of calories or- the way I prefer to describe it, it’s eating a larger volume of lower calorie foods basically, and it’s a useful tool for a lot of people, and I’m usually a pretty big promoter of it, to be honest, but it is just like a lot of other areas of nutrition. It is something that you can take too far, and you can cause a lot of issues with it. 

Aidan

00:00:47 – 00:01:02

And I think 95% of the population probably would benefit from implementing more concepts from volume eating and then- like maybe a small percentage of people take a little bit too far. So, it’s just talking about the pros and cons of it. That’s what we’re gonna go through today, and how it could be beneficial for some and not beneficial for other people. 

Leah

00:01:03 – 00:01:24

Yeah, so the biggest context we tend to see volume eating within is definitely weight loss or maintaining a healthy weight. So obviously, if we’re eating a high volume of low-calorie foods, it means we’re somewhat full, and we’re eating less calories. So, both of those things are going to be conducive to compliance with a diet. 

Aidan

00:01:24 – 00:01:41

Yeah, like in simplified terms, it’s a way that you could create a calorie deficit while feeling relatively full throughout the full process. One caveat that I always add on to that these days, in particular, is that, like, you’re in a calorie deficit for long enough, you’re probably gonna get hungry regardless. Like that’s probably going to- 

Leah

00:01:41 – 00:01:42

Hunger is inevitable. 

Aidan

00:01:42 – 00:01:50

It’s inevitable exactly, um, for almost everybody. But volume eating can be a tool that you can use to mitigate some of that, or most of that in some cases as well. 

Leah

00:01:50 – 00:02:33

Yeah, and I think sometimes it does come down to that very basic, eat enough fruits and vegetables whilst you’re dieting, or in terms of just maintaining a healthy weight. Like comes- like that’s what volume eating is realistically talking about. Like, if we’re eating an adequate amount of high fibre, low calorie foods AKA mostly fruits, vegetables, legumes, that kind of thing. Um, we’re going to feel full whilst eating low calories. So, it is very conducive to dieting. Um, on the flip side of that, I suppose you could talk about, uh, like, when you’re trying to gain weight, um, so utilising low volume, high calorie foods in order to work against, I suppose, your appetite, um, and be able to gain weight on, like, the flip side. 

Aidan

00:02:33 – 00:03:11

Exactly. Yeah. And there’s a- because I haven’t looked into this too closely. But I’ve seen there’s a diet called the ‘Volumetrics Diet’, which is basically like- my understanding is just following volume eating. It’s like making it a thing like, I am a volume eater, for example, like it’s making it a thing. But I view it as a spectrum. Just how you laid it out. It’s kind of like if you were struggling to eat enough calories, just go further up one end of the spectrum where you’re eating more calorie dense foods. If you’re struggling to get lean without feeling hungry all the time, you just go further down the spectrum where it is more fruits, more vegetables, leaner cuts of meat, um, less added sugar, less oil in some cases, like less added fats, all of those kind of things really add up. 

Aidan

00:03:11 – 00:03:34

And one of the ways to think about is it- is you can call it cleaner eating or healthier eating in a lot of cases. But there is tiny bits of nuance in that, or it’s like I typically think of nuts as a healthy food but like a handful of nuts is like 160 calories. So therefore, like three handfuls, like you’re getting nearer to that kind of 500 calorie mark, and it’s like that’s almost a small meal there, even though it’s like three handfuls spread across the day, 

Aidan

00:03:35 – 00:03:52

There’s not a lot of food, really is not that filling. So, it’s like there is like caveats in there where it’s like, okay, some really healthy foods can be high calorie, and don’t really fit into the volume eating approach, so it’s not that clear cut where it’s like healthy versus unhealthy, so to speak. But it is a useful way of thinking about it.

Leah

00:03:52 – 00:04:40

So, I don’t think a lot of people can really overdo the volume eating situation. So, for the most part, we know that fruit and veg intake, amongst the general population, is not great. Um, so the idea of someone taking it to the extreme of having 15 serves of veggies a day and, um, cauliflower instead of rice for every meal, and doing all those things is unlikely, but it does happen. Um, so I find that gastrointestinal distress is the first thing that will pop up when someone is over doing the volume eating. Um, so if you’re thinking of, I’m getting a ton of food volume in, it’s all really high fibre, um, you’re probably going to have some gut issues at a particular point once you get to a certain fibre intake, and a certain volume of food, and that is to be expected. 

Aidan

00:04:41 – 00:04:46

Have you ever had any clients who you would say, take it too far? You worked with anyone in that kind of position?

Leah

00:04:46 – 00:05:26

I actually have. Um, so I have had clients where they have really struggled to bring down their vegetable intake. So, they were having this gastrointestinal distress, but they were volume eating for so long that they really struggled to move away from it. I mean, it- they did, for these particular people, fall into the spectrum of disordered eating because they’ve taken it way too far. And I think for those people that do take volume eating way too far, I usually see it in people with disordered eating patterns, or- and or in people that are doing bikini or bodybuilding comp preps, as the main people I would see take volume eating to an extent where it’s causing them issues. 

Aidan

00:05:26 – 00:05:59

Yeah, exactly. Like I’m similar, like I’ve seen a few people, not a lot, but I’ve seen a few people do that like- talking like over a kilo of vegetables per day, and stuff like that, or even overkill and some meals and stuff like that as a tool to manage the appetite. And it becomes even more interesting in relation to, maybe you can implement more ends of the spectrum when you’re in a calorie deficit and getting leaner and stuff like that. But when it’s at the point that you’re maintaining your weight, and you’re doing those things still, that’s when it becomes quite questionable. And something that I also think about is that, 

Aidan

00:06:00 – 00:06:25

People who are professional eaters who do eating competitions, trying to eat as much as they can. One of the ways they often train is eating massive amounts of salad or vegetables or whatever, because it’s low calorie. They can use it to stretch their stomach, so to speak, allow them to eat more food. And they can eat a ton of food without eating too many calories. That allows them to then, when they want to unleash, like they can eat a lot of food. And that has always made me question being like, if you need a kilo of vegetables in a meal, 

Aidan

00:06:26 – 00:06:43

To feel that level of fullness that you’re chasing, what happens when you have meals that don’t have that? What happens when you just eat out with friends? Or what happens when you cook at home and have meals that aren’t like that? Do you now need large volumes of food to kind of meet that criteria? And I feel like that happens.

Leah

00:06:43 – 00:07:27

Yeah, yeah, when you go back to somewhat of a regular diet, where you’re not subbing out, because I guess what I see is- like okay, rice becomes cauliflower rice, and oats become zucchini oats, and you know they make all these substitutions to reduce their calorie intake, um, and to lose weight. So, they’ve never really dealt with reducing that hunger or that appetite, because I think part of dieting is going to be reduction in that stomach size and appetite so that you can maintain that weight loss long term. Um, so if you’ve never dealt with the fact that appetite is big, you have to stay eating all of these high-volume foods long term in order to maintain that. And that’s not going to be useful most of the time. 

Aidan

00:07:27 – 00:07:58

Exactly. And even going on with some of that stuff as well. Um, and as we kind of mentioned before, hunger tends to increase throughout the diet, kind of regardless. And something that once again I’ve really changed my views on a little bit over the years, is how I think about appetite, and how I think about strategies that were used to manipulate our appetite. Something that I noticed just in practise is, um, a lot of appetite curbing strategies 

Aidan

00:07:59 – 00:08:23

Only seems to work to a point. And what I’m getting at is like we know things like caffeine suppresses appetite. We know that diet soft drinks can be a tool to kind of suppress appetite. Like if you’re really hungry and you have a Pepsi Max, like some people are, it actually hits the spot a little bit and seems to help. Um, and there was a study that I read on nicotine gum, which really kind of seals the deal for my understanding. What I was getting at is like I see a lot of clients, 

Aidan

00:08:23 – 00:08:52

Who have, like, eight coffees per day, but would still weigh a lot as in they were eating a lot of calories. And like I was always curious, I’m like, how does that happen? Or like I had a client who would have, like, 10 Pepsi Max’s a day, and I’m like, how’s he eating that much food? Like I was always just wondering how that happens. And this study that I saw over the last couple of years, I really thought about since then. It was on nicotine gum, and it was basically showing that you have nicotine gum, and for the first month, your body weight actually drops if you’re having it regularly because it suppresses your appetite. 

Leah

00:08:52 – 00:08:53

Yeah, right. 

Aidan

00:08:53 – 00:09:30

But at the six-month mark, everyone’s back at the baseline, and it’s almost like ever since then I’ve been trying to pay attention. It seems to make sense to me now that it seems like your appetite returns to a baseline based on whatever tools you’re using, as in if you use an appetite suppressing tool- this doesn’t apply to all medications and stuff like that. I should be more clear. It is just like non-medical tools. But like if you use an appetite suppressing kind of tool like that and that leads to a calorie deficit, we know that a calorie deficit leads to increased hunger over time eventually. Like our hunger hormones adjust based on how many calories you have coming in. It’s almost like- I hate using this terminology, but you can trick your body for a little bit.

Aidan

00:09:30 – 00:10:04

But then when it realises, hey, this is my level of appetite and that’s constantly leading me to a calorie deficit, and I don’t want to be a calorie deficit all the time, I’ll increase hunger hormones; it relates to that. That appetite suppressant tool is now part of your new baseline, that your body is adjusting its hunger based on- um, that’s pretty theoretical and that’s how I think about. But that’s also the explanation as to why you can’t just volume eat your ways of being like- um, and it only works for so long, and that also ties into a lot of my other thoughts of being like, if you are striving for a deficit, it makes sense to be efficient with it. 

Aidan

00:10:04 – 00:10:36

It makes sense to not try and be in a deficit for long, long, long, long periods of time year-round, because if you go into a deficit for a moderate period of time, you can use some of these tools. Like you can use, um, call it diet structuring and call- or whatever. I don’t really care what you use. You can use more volume eating hacks and stuff like that. But you also probably need phases where you’re not attempting to do that, and phases where you are kind of resetting things and going back to a normal kind of structured eating. Um, does that all really matter? Does- like is that a hard and fast rule? Not really, but that’s how I’m thinking about things these days. 

Aidan

00:10:36 – 00:11:06

Something else I think I have heard you talk about is the different kinds of hunger in regards to appetite. So, whilst volume eating does take care of like that being physically full, it doesn’t necessarily mean you’re going to be satisfied after a large meal. And I think that’s a really big part to this discussion. Because if you don’t have a good amount of healthy fats in that meal or you know, it’s not hitting a craving for you, like you could still be left unsatisfied, and volume eating isn’t going to change that. 

Aidan

00:11:06 – 00:11:22

And I think everyone would- like when you hear that you can relate. So, everybody’s like, yeah, if you’ve tried dieting and like you’ve tried using some tools like this, you know that feeling most likely another point that you made up the other day, whole foods, plant based, no oil. 

Leah

00:11:22 – 00:11:24

Oh, yeah, that rabbit hole. 

Aidan

00:11:24 – 00:11:36

Yeah. So, like, it is basically what it sounds like. It’s whole foods, plant based, no oil. It’s like exclusively plant-based foods. The addition is that you don’t eat- you don’t have any oil. Why is there no oil in that? 

Leah

00:11:36 – 00:12:25

It’s- so basically that way of eating, they really rank foods based on energy density alone. So obviously it’s completely vegan, so there’s no animal products or anything like that as a starting point. But they’ll also differentiate between foods that are plant based, so things that are really low-calorie, high-volume, fruits, vegetables, legumes are all on the table. You can eat as much of those as you want, um, but when it comes to things like oil or even things that are like higher fat, um, so, like you briefly talked about before nuts, they’re all off the table. So, people on this diet- it’s basically extreme volume eating so really high fibre, low calorie foods all the time whilst trying to limit any kind of energy dense foods, even if they are nutritious. 

Aidan

00:12:25 – 00:12:53

Yeah, and your calories have to come from somewhere. Everyone has a decent calorie requirement, like some are higher, some have lower, but everyone has a decent calorie requirement. It’s going to come from somewhere and like as an example, like extra virgin olive, its consistently linked with positive health outcomes. Based on that kind of spectrum, is viewed as a food that you need to avoid just because it’s really calorie dense, which makes sense like I can understand that. But it is an interesting thing when you look at it from the big picture as well. 

Leah

00:12:53 – 00:13:24

And I think just looking into that community a little bit more, it’s very much a demonising of those higher calorie foods, which is what I personally, I guess, take offence to is that I’m like cashews aren’t a bad food, you can have those. It’s just, of course, if you’re trying to lose weight, it makes sense to limit them or have smaller portions of things like that and cook with less oil. But when you take it to such an extent where I’m like- where you’re like, oh, I’m only eating low-fat, low-calorie foods ever. That’s when you’re taking it a bit too far. 

Aidan

00:13:24 – 00:13:52

Yeah, for sure. And that does happen a bit, like the reason why I’ve been thinking about volume eating potential negatives and stuff like that because I’ve seen some people on Instagram were talking about it. Tyson The Trainer, I swear every week he’s talking about this, but I think- I’m just like, is he in this bubble where he’s just surrounded by, like, this really niche area of the fitness community, where it’s like a lot of bikini athletes and stuff like that who are coaches and, like they’re constantly sharing their volume eating kind of recipes and stuff like that. And, like every recipe involves, like 

Aidan

00:13:53 – 00:14:08

protein powder and, like other ingredients, have like minimal calories pretty much and like yeah, like I feel like that’s it. It’s like the big point that he always makes is like, yeah, that’s fine when someone’s prepping, but like these people are doing this in the off season, and they’re in a calorie surplus and they’re still doing it.

Leah

00:14:08 – 00:14:20

Yeah, like the general female following that bikini athlete does not need to eat zucchini oats, whatever they’re calling it, z-oats in the morning. So that can definitely- it’s not necessary. 

Aidan

00:14:20 – 00:14:39

Yeah, but going back to something more positive, as I was saying, I think that’s a bit of a bubble like that’s a bit of a- is that relevant to everybody? I’m not really sure. It is a very valid point, but like something that I see as the key takeaway, that we’ve spoken about before, less than 6% of Australians eat enough vegetables. That’s a pretty- like a pretty clear stat that’s like, 

Aidan

00:14:39 – 00:15:14

I don’t think we need to worry about, for most people, being like don’t eat over a kilo of vegetables in a meal, like I don’t think we need to be worrying too much about that one. It’s like very clear most people aren’t eating enough vegetables to start off with. If you take some of the positives from this approach, you’re probably going to improve your micronutrient intakes, so you are getting more vitamins and minerals. I always talk about eating greater than 30 different plant-based foods per week. And even though fruit might not be as low-calorie vegetable, it’s probably lower calorie than other snacks or whatever that you’re probably going to have. So, it is in this approach as well. Um, there’s heaps of positives to take away from it basically.

Leah

00:15:14 – 00:15:49

Yeah, I agree. So, I think volume eating in itself is a great tool for weight loss and maintaining a healthy weight. I think a lot of people are very far away from the optimal amount of low calorie, plant-based foods that should be in their diet anyway. And for most people, volume eating is not taken to an extent where it has become a negative thing in their life. Um, but yeah, I think you just have to be mindful of it. That’s about it. Um, so this has been episode 15 of the Ideal Nutrition podcast. Thank you so much for listening. And we hope you enjoyed this discussion. We’ll be back next week.