Hunger on Keto: Constantly Hungry or Magical Appetite Control? [E16]
- March 12, 2021
Hunger on Keto: Constantly Hungry or Magical Appetite Control? [E16] was automatically transcribed by Sonix with the latest audio-to-text algorithms. This transcript may contain errors. Sonix is the best way to convert your audio to text in 2020.
Hey there, Tasha here. Welcome back! Today, we’re gonna talk all about hunger on keto. And I’m so excited to dive into this topic. Like so stoked to talk about this. It was going to be my very first episode, actually. But I wanted to lay some of the ground work and put out some of the basic how to stuff for you guys. So now that we’ve covered some of the basics, I think it’s time to move into some of the more troubleshooting aspects of doing keto and hunger and appetite or something. I get asked about all the time and it’s the whole spectrum from “why am I so hungry on the keto diet?” to “why am I never hungry on the keto diet?” So there’s extremes out there and lots and lots of questions about this. So I want to answer them for you guys because it’s important. Because it is really hard to troubleshoot your diet or anything if you don’t have any idea what’s actually going on. So once you understand what’s actually happening, this is going to be a whole lot easier, I promise. And you guys have lots of questions and I’m here to answer them for you. And I do discuss this in great detail in my book, Keto: A Woman’s Guide and Cookbook. So if you haven’t grabbed a copy of that yet, I highly recommend picking one up. It answers all of these kinds of questions and more. And it’s specifically geared towards the female body.
OK, rather than jumping around from question to question, I’m laying this out in more of a timeline structure, because ultimately that’s going to be the driving force behind what’s actually going on. And that’s usually my first response when somebody is struggling with their hunger or their appetite and they ask me what’s going on. I ask them, “how long have you been doing keto?” So first we’ll start with someone who’s brand new to keto, just getting started right out of the gate. Then we’re going to talk about the people who’ve been doing this for some time, let’s say a few weeks and or even a couple of months. We’ll cover the spectrum of what’s going on during these different time phases of carb restriction and more importantly, what you should be doing for the best results in the long run. So let’s start with hunger during the first week of keto. And the first thing I need to point out is that you aren’t fat adapted quite yet. The first few days of keto, the first week even, your metabolism hasn’t quite changed yet. OK, you’re still burning through your stored carbs and your body is still a sugar burner. You’re limiting carbs, making the transition into nutritional ketosis. But overall, nothing has dramatically changed and how your body is burning the energy. And so for some of the same reasons you might experience that brain fog and low energy, you may also be experiencing some pretty significant hunger.
We talked about keto flu symptoms a lot a couple of weeks ago. And while ravenous hunger doesn’t quite necessarily fit into that, mimicking the flu kind of way some of the other symptoms do. The reason behind it, the reason you’re constantly hungry when you first start keto is very similar. And that’s because your body’s not really efficient at burning fat for fuel yet. So as you cut carbs and your glycogen stores are depleted, you’re essentially forcing your body to burn fat for fuel only. It’s not good at doing it just yet. And this will change over time. But if your metabolism is clunky and your body is not effectively making use of the nutrients available to make energy, then it’s gonna try to get more energy. Now, how do you think your body gets more energy? By eating! Right? So hunger hormones kick off and your body’s on a mission to eat more, to get more energy because it may be thinking it, maybe sensing that it’s low on energy, even if it’s not, simply because that energy is not as readily available as it was before when you are burning carbs. OK, so for everyone who’s just gotten started and has been uncomfortably hungry, this is one of the reasons. OK, if you’ve been upset because everyone tells you keto is so great for appetite control only to find yourself constantly fighting off hunger pangs. Maybe this will give you some insight to why that is. Ok. And I have a few more reasons.
But first, what you can do about hunger related to your body not effectively using fuel for energy is give it time and patience. Because you will become fat adapted, your body will skillfully burn fat for fuel, your energy will skyrocket, and your appetite will be a lot more manageable. But you have to give it time and patience. OK. The other thing that I would suggest is not limiting calories right out of the gate. OK, your body’s making so many changes and jumping straight into severe carb restriction or calorie restriction can be a really difficult adjustment when it comes to hunger. The other thing, gradually reducing carbs to get into ketosis or first getting into ketosis and then gradually lowering your calories can make the transition feel a whole lot easier. The next thing that’s causing you to feel constantly hungry is you’re just thirsty and low on electrolytes. OK. Another reason for the constant hungry feeling is related to thirst, which really boils down to hydration, fluid balance and electrolytes. If you’ve been having pretty severe keto flu side effects, listen up because this is also likely to apply to you as well. Because it’s actually really common to confuse thirst with hunger. So this applies to any dietary pattern under the sun, but it’s even more prominent when you’re just starting keto because you dump a lot of water as you burn through glycogen and you deplete a lot of electrolytes, if you’re not actively replenishing them. And this is a really big mistake a lot of people make when they first start keto.
And I don’t want to go into the super detailed mechanisms here. Hit up the keto flu remedies episode if you want the nitty gritty details. But the point is you need to drink adequate water and make sure to replenish sodium in your diet. Or consider taking an electrolyte supplement. If you feel a lot hungrier than usual, consider that you might just really need some water, really need some sodium. Or at least if you’re doing keto right. Put the fork down, pick up a bottle of water, grab a sugar free electrolyte drink. See how that goes before eating everything in sight. And one of the ways that you can actually tell if you’re hungry versus just being thirsty is to listen to your stomach, because ghrelin is the hunger hormone that makes your stomach growl. If you think ghrelin. Gurr Gurr. That’s your stomach growling that gurr sound. If your stomach’s growling, then that’s your body’s hunger cue to actually eat something. Okay, so if your body’s hungry and it wants you to eat, it’s signaling to do that with the hunger hormone ghrelin and your stomach will growl. That means you’re hungry. That means you’re hungry instead of thirsty. Another thing to consider is you might be anticipating food based on your previous habits. OK, this is called “anticipatory hunger”. And this occurs before your body starts sending out any physiological signals to make your stomach growl right before your hunger hormones kick in.
This is based on circadian rhythms throughout the day, your usual food intake, all those things that your body is used to. Your body has learned hunger based on your previous habits. OK, so when you try to change things like limiting your food intake, restricting carbs, fasting or whatever, your body is still anticipating those previous patterns. It’s been conditioned to be hungry. It’s been primed to eat based on certain events, times, places. Right. Think of Pavlov’s dogs salivating at the sound of a bell. Right. And while you can dramatically improve your hunger levels by staying hydrated, replenishing electrolytes and doing a more gradual carb taper, it is so important to be realistic about what your previous habits were, what you’re used to, and understand that it actually takes time to condition your body to expect anything else than what you are doing the other day. OK, so if you’re only a couple days in, it doesn’t matter if you’re restricting carbs, it doesn’t matter what all what you’re actually doing with your diet. If your body is used to something else, you need to give it time to adjust. You need to give it time to recondition, OK? You’re not always going to feel like a bottomless pit. This will pass. It’s only temporary, so don’t sweat it. But I just want you to be realistic in your expectations if you’re going from eating all the time, all day long to fasting for 16 hours or whatever your your dietary habits are.
OK. There is a light at the end of the tunnel, though, so don’t worry if this all sounds very familiar. Now, if you feel like your appetite is completely out of control, there are a few things to consider including in your diet, to help you feel more satisfied with your meals when you do eat. And I’m going to call these “keto hunger busters,” because not only will they make your hunger go away, they will make you feel more satisfied and satiated throughout the day. OK. Now, the first thing on my list is protein. Protein is the most satiating macronutrient of all. And eating adequate protein is so important for so many different reasons. But in this context, it’s going to help get you full, keep you full, and it can make managing your appetite much, much easier. OK. And I always recommend building meals around a main protein source. So before you think about all of the other ingredients. Think about where you’re getting your protein from first, because this can help you meet your protein goals throughout the day. But it also makes your meals more substantial and satisfying than if you were just eating or snacking on sugar free convenience foods or eating low protein meals. And a lot of people doing keto–just all over the place, you’ll see it–they’ll recommend adding more fat to your diet to help with hunger.
Especially keto people will recommend this. But protein has been proven time after time to be more satiating than fat. More satiating than carbohydrates. It’s the most satiating satisfying filling macronutrient you can get. OK. So if you’re struggling with hunger, you want to prioritize that especially. And I’ve looked into this quite a bit. So I hope I don’t go on a tangent. It’s really fascinating to me. But I have geeked out on this, so you don’t have to. But ultimately, there is no difference between animal based protein and plant based protein sources when it comes to appetite control and satiety. So if you hear me say “eat more protein” or “build your meals around protein” and immediately jump to chicken breast or some other kind of meat. And that doesn’t appeal to you at all, you can opt for plant based protein sources if that’s your preference and you’ll have similar results. OK. So don’t think that you have to become a carnivore in order to be full on keto. You don’t have to do anything like that. OK. And that goes for protein powders too. There’s no real difference between, say, a whey protein and a pea protein or soy protein when it comes to satiety and fullness. It’s the protein in general. OK. That’s the biggest effect and impact right there. It doesn’t matter where it comes from necessarily. Next on my list is fiber. And as you know by now, especially if you’ve been listening to the show for any length of time, fiber is, technically a carb, but it can be discounted from our overall total carb count.
And that’s because it doesn’t impact ketosis or your metabolism. And in the grand scheme of satiety and appetite control and all of this kind of stuff we’re talking about today, that’s a great thing, right? Because fiber is also satiating. It’s highly satiating, just like protein, not as satiating. But it’s up there. OK. So meals built around protein and fibrous veggies are a good call. So skip the keto cookies and opt for protein and greens, especially if you’re starting out and you’re like eating a bunch of keto foods. Right. You’re constantly ravenously hungry. Eat something with protein. Eat something with fiber. You will be feeling so much better. OK. And the next thing I want to talk about our MCTs because MCTs or medium chain triglycerides, these are fat, but they’re also something that can be included in your diet or as a supplement to help stave off some of the hunger. And this isn’t necessarily due to the influence on satiety or being filling or anything like that, but because they offer your body a really quick source of fat. OK. So they’re metabolized a lot differently than the other fats in your diet and they give your body quick energy. So if your body is in that weird transition between sugar burner to fat burner and sending out more signals to eat, eat, eat and eat because it doesn’t sense that it has enough energy.
MCTs may help curb that process a bit and give your body that quick boost that it needs as it’s learning to efficiently burn fat for fuel. OK, so it can be a nice quick win for you during the transition, especially if you have the keto flu and you haven’t listened to that episode yet. If you have brain fog, low energy, MCT oils can help with that. OK. And as I’ve said before, electrolytes are important. Replenishing electrolytes is key for the thirst factor and hydration. Mealtime can be a really great opportunity to boost electrolytes, OK. High potassium, magnesium-rich foods and of course, sodium salt your meals in addition to your supplements. OK, so that is for all the hungry folks out there. But what about the notoriously not hungry keto dieters? What’s going on? Now, this doesn’t happen right away. And you’ll see people getting kind of frustrated like, “I thought keto is supposed to kill my appetite. I’m still hungry. I thought this was supposed to be appetite suppressing.” And the reason is because this doesn’t kick in until later. You have to stick with it for some time. And this doesn’t usually happen until at least several weeks. OK, so about a month into a keto diet. Let’s say you’ve been doing carb restriction for a month straight, and finally, finally, you have become fat adapted. And this takes at least a few weeks for your body to make the appropriate adjustment from sugar burner to fat burner.
But once it does that, your body has tons of energy readily at its disposal to burn through. Right. All that stored energy you’re carrying around your body fat is fair game now. So when you aren’t eating, your body is just tapping into that stored fuel source more efficiently. And even really lean people have a bit of body fat that’s put to this purpose. But if you’re really overweight and especially if you’re someone who’s using keto for weight loss purposes, then this is where keto really shines. OK. So instead of that signal to eat and eat and eat because your body senses that it needs energy, it’s sensing an abundance of energy in your fat store. All that adipose tissue, your love handles, your double chin. You know, the muffin top, all of that is stored energy that your body is tapping into. So you don’t have that constantly nagging hunger that you might be experiencing when you do other low calorie diets. And it’s really important to know, and I think it’s just worth mentioning in probably just about every episode, that a calorie deficit is required for any kind of significant decrease in body fat. OK. So if a calorie deficit is challenging to maintain in one of these more traditional dietary patterns, because that constant hunger is relentless and it never really gives up, then keto can offer that benefit of a more manageable appetite control once you’ve reached fat adaptation. Because it’s pretty easy to maintain a calorie deficit if you’re just not hungry.
Right. But again, this takes several weeks to get there. Of carb restriction. So it’s not a quick fix. It’s not something you’re going to do for 24 hours and then magically you’re not hungry anymore. OK. So be realistic. Keep that in mind. And another reason for this is that your hunger hormones are suppressed. And even more so, keto influences your hunger hormones over a long period of time. So this is really interesting as well. Nutritional ketosis inhibits ghrelin. Remember ghrelin gurr- the hunger hormone that makes your stomach growl, right? keto suppresses that hormone during weight loss over time. And this is pretty unusual for a diet because traditional weight loss diets don’t do this. OK. In fact, the opposite is true. In most diets, the hunger hormone ghrelin increases over time as more and more weight is lost. OK. Which is pretty unfortunate, right? If you if you become hungrier and hungrier as you lose weight, then you’re more likely to fall off your diet plan or binge. You know that one by turns into a three month all-you-can-eat bender if you’re super hungry. But if you’re able to lose weight and maintain control of your hunger over time, then that fight to eat eat eat is less likely to win out. Right. You might have a better chance of choosing healthful foods that align with your goals, opt for the nutrient-dense vegetables and the high quality food choices instead of just shoveling food into your body because you feel like you’re starving.
And I genuinely think that this is one of the reasons why keto has proven to be so effective for people when they want to lose weight. And that could just be my opinion based on experience. But there are some pretty interesting studies about keto and appetite control that really speak volumes if you’re interested about the actual hormonal mechanisms that drive this. Because you’ll see so many people go on keto after nothing else has worked and they finally lose weight. And of course, you can lose weight with any dietary pattern, but it doesn’t feel like you’re constantly fighting against your body to put the fork down and get the weight off when your appetite is a little bit suppressed. OK, now, unfortunately, this is also one of the reasons why I think so many people struggle to keep the weight off after they’ve done keto and go back to eating a high carb diet. Not necessarily because a high carb diet is bad or unhealthy, but because some people just really naturally inherently struggle with appetite control. That drive to eat is stoked again, right. Now, pair that with binge eating disorders or emotional eating habits like celebrating with food all the time. Or, you know, you’ve restricted yourself for so long and now you get to eat all of these fancy foods that you you weren’t able to eat on keto, you know, and they start bingeing out again.
So it’s definitely a balance. And I just want to say that you don’t have to do keto forever. But it’s good to be aware of the potential rebound that you might experience. If you’re finally doing something that is getting you on the right track and your losing weight and making progress, but your ability to manage your intake was driven by appetite, suppressing effects of keto versus actual behavioral changes, then you might be surprised when it all comes climbing back on. OK, so just keep that in mind. If you’re only doing keto temporarily and your like, “This is amazing.” But then you can’t control your appetite. As soon as you start eating carbs again, this can be problematic for some people. So I hope that it’s helpful that I bring it up instead of encouraging you not to do it. OK, so increased appetite control and reduced hunger is not usually something most people are worried about. They’re usually so excited and celebrating. “Finally, I can finally manage my appetite.” But sometimes I get questions from people who are concerned that they aren’t eating enough and they usually want to know if they should make themselves eat or not. Like, “I’m not hungry on keto should I still eat?” Or here’s one that I got recently.
“I diligently track my macros on a daily basis, plan in advance, make my meals, but I’m having trouble consuming the food that’s been planned and prepared and just never hungry and have a hard time consuming what’s on my plate. I get full very quickly. I’m concerned I’m not eating enough.” Or here’s this one. “Anyone literally not hungry once they’ve entered ketosis? I’m eating hardly anything these days, but I’m really not hungry. Am I living off my body fat? I keep losing inches and pounds and have lots of energy, but I’m worried I’m not taking in enough calories.” OK, so that’s the gist. That’s the context here. And here’s my take on it. I have a few pointers and key takeaways that I hope are helpful for you guys. And the first thing is that I want to emphasize the practice of mindful eating. Or an easier way to think about mindful eating might be to eat when you’re hungry and stop when you’re full. Because most of the people that say they’re never hungry are still actually eating and they’re still consuming adequate protein and calories overall. Okay. They just are comparing their current eating habits to what they were doing previously and they realize how much less they’re eating in comparison to what they would normally eat. And if your goal is weight loss, then that’s not necessarily a bad thing, right? If you’re eating portion sizes that align with a healthy weight, then it’s more of a matter of perspective then you aren’t actually eating enough, right? So some people are worried about not eating enough calories because they’re afraid of “starvation mode.”
And I won’t even go down that rabbit hole today. But if you’re eating adequate protein, then an aggressive calorie deficit is not necessarily going to slow your metabolism down. OK. That’s a whole nother can of worms. Not going there today, but all in all, it’s not something that you’re going to really have to worry about, OK? And I will never, ever, ever suggest that someone forces themselves to eat if they aren’t hungry, because that just reinforces those negative eating behaviors and habits that got us where we were struggling with our weight in the first place. OK, so listen to your body. I really think a more intuitive approach to eating is totally warranted in these scenarios. Listen to your body, eat when it’s hungry, stop when you’re full. Because there’s nothing wrong with doing that. You know who does that? People who don’t have to go on diets. All of your friends that are like, oh, they just eat whatever they want. And they’re skinny. They just eat whatever they want. But they stop when they’re full. They don’t eat when they’re not hungry. OK, that’s the difference between people who constantly feed and shovel food in their mouths. And they’re always constantly hungry and eating well beyond their bodies needs. And the people that eat whatever they want and don’t have to do diets, they have more control over their eating habits and they’re more intuitively eating.
OK, and that can be frustrating to watch people do that naturally. But this is your opportunity to start doing that. OK, if you are not hungry, then don’t force yourself to eat. OK. And just because you’re not constantly hungry and feeling deprived and starved, because you’re not eating constantly or eating a lot or a huge portion sizes or whatever it is that makes you feel like you’re not eating enough doesn’t mean that there’s not going to be days when you are actually hungry. OK. Those days will come and they will go and it will all kind of balance out. And for women especially, this is dependent on the time of your menstrual cycle, too. So the luteal phase is actually going to drive an increase in hunger. You’re going to have more food cravings. You’re going to eat more calories, especially if you’re intuitively eating and you’re not actively tracking or anything like that. Your energy intake will increase at least couple weeks out of the month. OK. It will all balance out. But instead of trying to meticulously track your macros and hit those certain goals, I really think a better approach is to continue building meals around protein, eating nutrient dense vegetables, and prioritizing those things in your diet so that when you do eat, you’re getting adequate nutrition. OK. So rather than nibbling on a bunch of foods with no real nutritional value, you’ll actually get the things that your body craves and needs and you’ll be nourishing yourself instead.
OK. Now, another thing to consider if you don’t feel hungry all the time is intermittent fasting. You might want to incorporate intermittent fasting because you don’t really need to eat three square meals a day and little snacks throughout if you are not hungry. OK. So this is where intermittent fasting can feel like the natural next step for some people. Keto and intermittent fasting often go hand-in-hand because of the appetite suppressing effects of keto. And if you’re not going to force yourself to eat when you’re not hungry and you’re only hungry for, you know, maybe six hours out of the day or something like that, then it might be a good fit. Time restricted feeding or intermittent fasting, however you want to structure your own dietary pattern and what works for you. Right. So instead of forcing yourself to eat three meals and a snack every day, eating two larger meals might work. Or something like alternate day fasting where you do eat the three meals all day long and you’re not even in a calorie deficit and then the next day you don’t hardly eat anything. You know, there’s a lot of different patterns that people do. It’s a bit of trial and error. And naturally it’s going to vary depending on you and your goals. Right. But the best thing that you can do is listen to your body, nourish it with nutrient-dense ingredients, and adjust as needed. OK. I hope that was helpful for you guys. I will see you next week.
Thank you so much for tuning into this episode of the Ketogasm podcast. You are awesome. I really hope the show’s added value to your keto journey. Making big changes to your eating habits can be a little tricky, but if you’re taking the time to listen and learn about keto, you’re well on your way. You got this. Be sure to visit Ketogasm dot com for the show notes with full transcripts, references, and resources to help you out, including a totally free course called Hello Keto. It’s helped over seventy five thousand people start keto with confidence. I’ll see you in the next episode. Bye!
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