Feeling hungry on a Keto Diet?
Still really hungry on Keto? It's NOT your willpower
One of the very best things about keto is that wonderful feeling of satiety..
When your hunger slips away and the cravings tune out – you get to experience FREEDOM from hunger!
But, if you’re still experiencing cravings and hunger on your keto diet – here are my tips to trouble-shoot what’s going on.. No will-power battles needed.
Table of Contents
Why might you be hungry on Keto..
Are you in ketosis?
First things first … Are you even in ketosis?
There can be some confusion when you’re starting out on a keto diet –
but simply put, eating some keto meals and snacks WILL NOT mean you will automatically change over to a ketone burning state.
So.. if you’re hungry on your keto diet the very first thing to do is to check whether you are in, and are maintaining, ketosis.
This isn’t something that I want to get into in too much depth in this article, because we created a free guide all about this. It’s called… why am I not in ketosis?
Are you eating enough fats?
The keto diet at its core is low carb, moderate protein, and high fat.
Eating healthy fats is a good thing on Keto. Especially in the early stages, when you’re changing over from glucose burning.
Many people focus on the restrictive part of the diet when they first start out and neglect to increase their fat intake.
But Fat is your friend. Not only is fat extremely satiating – but Fats also provide your body with a longer lasting source of energy, than carbohydrates do.
Neglecting to increase your fat intake can make you feel exceptionally hungry on keto.
If you’re not eating enough fat, you’re not alone. This is one of the biggest reasons why people don’t feel full up, and give up on keto.
Why don’t people eat enough fats?
Well, we’ve been conditioned to avoid fats. By our nutrition guidelines, media, food labels, health campaigns and the whole healthcare sector really…
We’re told that dietary fat causes weight gain and heart disease.
As a result we’re a fat phobic society.
Especially around eating saturated fats, from whole dairy, meats and eggs
– these foods will put you at risk of a heart attack, or so we’ve been told..
Now this is a very important area, and this is only a short YouTube video. But I will point you to some high quality studies that contradict the status quo on fats.
Dr Zoe Harcommbe, in the UK, has been a leading light in challenging recommendations on fats.
Her comprehensive evidence reviews have found that fat dietary guidelines introduced in the 70s and 80s were not supported by evidence. And, that our current dietary fat guidelines also lack a sound evidence base.
A more recent State-of-the-art-review of data found no beneficial effects from reducing Saturated fats on cardiovascular disease or mortality. Instead finding protective effects against stroke. [JACC 2020]
I have popped links to these papers below for you.
My strong view on fat consumption is that our guidelines need to be brought up to date..
If you want some inspiration on different ways to add in more healthy fats into your ketogenic diet then check out my video on this!!!
Do you have a micronutrient deficiency?
Our brain’s appetite centre controls our appetite and satiety – that’s the feeling of fullness and suppression of hunger after a meal. If the appetite centre receptors detect that we’re deficient in key nutrients, like iron, essential fatty acids, zinc, vitamin D, or B-vitamins, it signals for us to eat more, and more – triggering insatiable hunger.
And, we don’t necessarily crave foods high in the nutrients we’re low in…
Take pregnancy cravings, women crave all sorts of weird and wonderful combinations – pickles and ice-cream anyone..?
As a Junior Doctor I’ve seen cases of Pica – a condition where someone craves or eats non-food substances, like coal or clay.
The condition can happen to anyone, but it’s more common during pregnancy, due to the additional demands on the body.
IF you’ve started a ketogenic diet off the back of a nutritionally poor diet… one that’s high in processed foods. Then you may have deficiencies that need addressing…
Crush craving and hunger by eating a wide range of wholefoods, rich in natural vitamins and minerals. Think green, leafy vegetables, oily fish, organic eggs from hens that spend time in the sun, meats, seeds, avocados.
And there’s nothing wrong with supplementing. Look for a well formulated, age appropriate multi-vitamin supplement.
Are you getting enough protein?
A lot of focus is on the carbohydrate and fat aspects of the diet.
But what about protein…? Protein is arguably the most important macronutrient , but is sadly so overlooked. We just don’t talk about it enough…
Many keto ‘influencers’ encourage people to moderate their protein. And there’s a bit of ‘protein fear’.
Now I don’t want to get too deep into it in this video… but you really don’t need to be worried about protein consumption.
If you want to learn more about why… take a look at Dr Benjamin Bickman’s presentation on ‘Insulin vs. Glucagon.
Protein is key on a ketogenic diet.
Around 0.8 grams, per kilograms of body weight, is needed to avoid absolute deficiency.
So, a 100 kilo person needs 80g protein a day.
1 egg provides around 7g protein
That’s 12 eggs a day needed…. just to avoid protein deficiency…
Now I love eggs, but that’s too many in one day for me. Take a look at my recent video on Best Quality Protein Sources here.
Also, just to note that you’ll want to eat a bit more protein if you exercise regularly or vigorously.
And we need more protein as we age, to prevent muscle loss.
Are you fasting too much?
Fasting is a great tool for your body… I use different fasting patterns myself.
Fasting can work hand in hand with a Ketogenic Diet. Helping your body get into ketosis quicker and to drop more body weight.
There’s currently a big trend towards eating One Meal A Day.. And there’s lots of buzz around different intermittent fasting patterns.
But is fasting right for you? Your hunger could be a sign that you’re fasting too much, or too soon…
It’s really important to note that a keto diet does not mean starving your body.
Personally I generally eat 2 meals a day… as a minimum… sometimes more when I’m doing a lot of training… or when my body is telling me to.
Keep in mind that fasting is not necessary to reach ketosis. Simply following a healthy, well-rounded keto diet may be enough for you to improve health and drop weight.
Fasting should feel natural – not be forced – no willpower battles.. So if you’re hungry…listen to your body… and eat!
Are you fuelling enough for your exercise?
Another key cause of hunger on the diet is simply not eating the right amount for the level of physical activity that you do.
The amount you need to eat depends on the type of activity you’re doing, the duration, frequency, and level of exertion.
If you’re a very active person who exercises regularly, or enjoys high intensity sessions you’re more likely to need to eat more to fuel your body’s needs.
If you’re just starting out on a ketogenic diet…. I want you to understand that weight loss is 99% diet. You really don’t need to be exercising loads.
Not that exercise is bad… it’s great. But let me be clear – Exercise is not what helps you to lose weight.
Get the diet side of things right first… and build the exercise stuff in later.
Listen in to your body, and fuel it for the activity level you’re doing.
Are you drinking enough water?
Thirst is often mistaken for hunger.
And we lose water on a keto diet, especially in the early days and weeks. So you will need to make sure you’re hydrating throughout the day.
Drinking water can help to reduce feelings of hunger. Drink a glass of water or cup of green tea, then re-evaluate your level of hunger. This should help to reveal what it is that your body actually needs.
So, minimise hunger by making sure you are hydrating throughout the day. And keep up on your electrolytes as well. You can do this by eating foods high in magnesium, potassium, and sodium (like pumpkin seeds, avocados, leafy greens).
Are you getting enough sleep?
There are multiple studies on sleep and hunger. Not sleeping means craving more foods. So part of nourishing your body is letting it take a peaceful sleep!
When you’re sleep deprived the hormones responsible for satiety and hunger can become imbalanced. Triggering hunger.
Your lack of sleep could be causing you to feel hungry on keto. Try getting more sleep, there are some great books and podcasts on the importance of a good sleep routine that can help you to achieve this.
If you’re well-rested and still hungry, there may be another piece of the puzzle to figure out.
Are you even hungry..?
If the above tips have not quelled your hunger.. This last point is for YOU.
Are you actually hungry at all? Really..?
It could be time to review your hunger triggers. Do you eat out of habit – boredom – stress – to reward yourself?
Let’s be real here, this is something that we all do from time to time, and it can be hard to break away from these habits.
Start by noting your own personal hunger or craving cues in a journal or in list form – this can be very enlightening, and can help you to de-code what is underlying your hunger.
Next, put simple strategies in place to get past your daily triggers. Setting yourself up for long term habits that work better for you..
The keto way of life can be truly satisfying. Your hunger can be totally revolutionised, once we get past some hurdles.
And please make sure you’re not depriving yourself – there’s no need to stress about rapid weight loss or short-term goals.
Let me know which tip you plan to try – or have I missed anything..? Share what worked well for you..