When first starting a keto diet, your body will take time to adjust to this. In this initial period, you may find yourself craving sugary treats or carbohydrates. Don’t worry, you’re not alone with this. We will take you through our tried and tested top tips on how to stop hunger on a keto diet. SPOILER ALERT: It’s not as difficult as you may think!
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Hunger on Keto
If you read any keto beginners guide before you started on your keto journey, you likely read that one of the benefits of keto, and eating fat for fuel, is that you will no longer constantly feel hungry.
Hunger is something that you have probably come to terms with on a low-fat, high-carb diet, traditionally known as a low-calorie, carbohydrate diet.
Well, this is true, however, this will only kick in once your body has entered ketosis.
If you are new to the term ketosis, check out our article on this.
If you don’t have time to read that now, in short, ketosis is the metabolic state whereby your body has transitioned from processing glucose (carbohydrates) as its primary fuel source, to burning fat.
Getting into the state of ketosis can take anything from a few days to several weeks depending on the individual and how dramatic their carb intake is.
From supporting over 100 people through this, the average time appears to be around three weeks in order to enter ketosis.
On a ketogenic diet, an individual should eat fewer than 20 grams of carbs per day, whereas somebody eating a low-carb diet, may eat anything from 50-150 grams of carbs per day.
During this time the body will keep looking for glycogen stores to burn as fuel. When these stores are running low, the body will trigger feelings of hunger (hunger signals) to tell the mind that it needs more glucose (food) for fuel.
This is when we feel real hunger (not emotional hunger when you ‘need’ the full tub of ice cream or other favorite comfort foods!).
Hunger cravings will occur and this may be combined with a depletion of energy levels until you are in ketosis and your blood sugar levels have stabilized.
You may see the term ketosis also being referred to as being;
Fat Adapted – i.e., your body is adapted to burning fat for fuel
Keto Adapted – i.e., your body has entered ketosis and is adapted from burning glucose to fat.
When we don’t give the body what it wants (glucose), it is like a petulant child and it will keep stomping its feet and we will continue to feel hungry.
After a period of time (days for some, weeks for others) the body will realize that there is no more ‘food’ (in the form of glucose) coming and that it will have to find an alternative source of energy in order to keep your body functioning.
The human body is truly a remarkable machine.
If you have been eating a low-carb diet it is at this point when the body has exhausted all of the glucose, the body will turn to fat for energy.
Rather than getting its fuel from carbs, it will get its calories from fat (calories being a measure of energy).
That is why somebody living a ketogenic lifestyle will try and keep their macros to 70% fat, 25% protein, and only 5% carbohydrates.
In order to do so, people will be focusing on eating high-fat foods.
It is these high-fat foods that will have off the hunger cravings.
Carb Cravings on Keto
When you are starting out on your keto journey and reducing the number of carbs you are eating (as discussed above) your blood sugar levels (insulin levels) will be lower as the body looks for more supplies.
This can lead to a craving for carb-laden foods like crisps, bread, potatoes, and pasta.
As our bodies have been used to a high carbohydrate intake we will feel ‘hunger’ as soon as it is not there.
This goes back to primitive times when hunter-gatherers would eat as much as possible when they could, as they did not know when they would find food again.
As discussed above, these carb cravings on keto should not last that long.
The average person takes around three weeks to transition into ketosis.
After the body has transitioned into ketosis, the cravings should stop.
If you are having sugar cravings on keto here are our top tips on how to curb them.
How to Curb Sugar Cravings on Keto
Tip #1: Drink More Water
Yes, I know, this is not an exciting one, but it really does help.
Make sure that you are drinking enough water, sometimes dehydration can manifest itself as hunger pangs.
Try and drink a large glass of water first thing in the morning and ensure that you keep refilling your glass or bottle throughout the day.
Checkout out this article for more on how much water you should be drinking on a keto diet.
Tip #2: Don’t Worry About the Calories
When people are first starting out on a keto diet, they can be obsessed would counting calories to ensure that they are in a calorie deficit, especially if you have moved onto the keto diet for weight loss as opposed to specific health benefits.
Do not count calories when you are starting out on the keto diet.
Ensure that you are meeting your macros (getting enough fat, and protein, and are not eating too many carbs) do not worry about the calories until you have transitioned into ketosis and are more settled in the lifestyle.
Ensuring that you are full up on fat will help keep the hunger pangs at bay.
Tip #3: Eat Good Quality Healthy Foods
Eat plenty of nutrient-rich foods such as fatty cuts of meat, eggs, low-carb vegetables to bulk out your meals.
Whole foods will keep you feeling fuller for longer. Do not try and avoid fat.
Over the years we have been conditioned to think of fat as the enemy, so for some, it is difficult to suddenly start eating fat in the proportions that are advocated on a keto diet.
Don’t fear the fat as it is this that will keep you feeling fuller for longer.
Tip #4: Have Keto Snacks at the Ready
The keto diet generally focuses on having three or fewer meals a day. Not a lot is said about planning a morning or afternoon snack, there is a simple reason for this.
Once you are in ketosis, you simply will not feel hungry in the same way as you probably always have on a low-carb diet.
Just ensure that you track these snacks to ensure that they are within your macros.
Tip #5: Research and Have a Plan
Try and plan your keto meals (and snacks) at least a few days in advance.
No, this won’t stop the hunger cravings, however, if you know what your next meal is and when you are having it, it can help with the psychological side of feeling hungry as well as understanding why your body is sending those hunger signals in the first place.
Tip #6: Cut out Alcohol
Alcohol can give us the ‘munchies’, we’ve all been there. During this initial period on the keto diet, our bodies are going through some fairly big changes.
Why not give your body a break and leave the alcohol alone or at least limit it for a few weeks.
This is likely to help stave off some of the keto-carb cravings.
This does not mean that you cannot drink alcohol at all and enjoy a keto diet, check out our ultimate guide to drinking alcohol on keto for more top tips.
Tip #7: Don’t Intermittent Fast
Intermittent fasting is something that is very popular with ketoers. If you are new to a keto lifestyle, you may have read a lot about it.
If intermittent fasting is not something that you have done before, please do not try it during this initial period. It is not going to help with the carb or sugar cravings at all. It is something that you should look into when you are settled and well on your keto journey.
If you have previously done intermittent fasting before ‘going keto’ and you are finding that your carb cravings are taking over, this is something that you may want to ease back on for the first few weeks, either try cutting down your fasting window or stop it altogether.
Tip #8: Reduce Physical Activity
If you have previously been a very active person, maybe try slowing down for these first few weeks. Your body will be burning through all of its glucose, and if you are exercising heavily it will be doing this even quicker.
This may result in you getting into ketosis quicker, but it may also exasperate your hunger feelings until your body has worked out that it needs to burn fat.
Tip #9: Go Carb Cold Turkey(!)
People chose different methods to transition onto a keto diet. Some go cold turkey and cut their carbohydrate intake to 20 grams or under from day one.
Other clients I have worked with have chosen to gradually reduce their carb intake down from anywhere 400 grams of carbs, gradually down to a ketogenic diet level.
There is a lot of psychology that surrounds which tact tic is right for you as an individual. However, my advice to the vast majority of people is to go carb cold turkey and get it over and done with.
This way you will only have to deal with feeling hungry for a short period of time.
If you are gradually decreasing your carb intake over a period of several weeks, or even months, your body is going to feel in a state of hunger for a longer period.
This will make it very difficult for an individual to stick with, without having a cheat day, which is completely counterproductive. Even more so at the beginning of your keto journey.
Get the keto hunger cravings out of the way and use the tips above for staving off the hunger and you’ll soon be through this phase.
Best Keto Snacks to Curb Hunger
Here we have lined up some of our favorite keto-friendly snacks to curb your hunger.
- Keto Coffee
- Fat Bombs
- Pork Rinds
- Full Fat Yoghurt with Chia Seeds
- Cheese Strings
For more on keto snack ideas, check out our guide for surviving keto at the movies.
Wrapping Up: How To Stop Hunger On Keto
Hunger is very likely in the early days for anybody trying to transition onto a keto diet. However, by understanding what your body is going through and having a few tools in your arsenal to deal with this, you can soon curb your hunger cravings.