Are you a little lost about managing your hunger while on a Keto diet?
We’ll you’re in the right place! In this guide, you’ll learn:
- What does it mean if I am not hungry on a Keto diet?
- How does Keto affect your hunger?
- Should you eat when not hungry on Keto?
- What to do when not hungry on Keto?
- And a whole lot more!
One of the key determinants of successful weight loss is management of hunger and cravings.
Coincidentally, one of the revered benefits of the ketogenic diet is it’s effect on satiety and reducing overeating (making it a pretty effective approach for weight and fat loss!).
Energy restriction leads to compensatory increases in hunger; a reason why so many diets fail. The ketogenic diet may be a possible solution to this issue…
What Does it Mean if I am not Hungery on a Keto Diet?
That means congratulations are in order because you’ve officially entered ketosis!
It also means that you’ve started to follow a higher protein diet. Protein is incredibly satiating, as digestion is relatively slow and it helps to regulate blood sugar levels.
Protein is also an effective stimulus for the release of specific gut hormones which trigger a satiety signal telling your brain that you’re full!
Many will also begin to add in fibrous fruits and veggies (to reduce their net carb intake). Fibre has a similar effect to protein on mitigating hunger and improving blood sugar regulation.
How Does Keto Affect Your Hunger?
Once you’ve entered a state of ketosis your hunger levels should decrease and your cravings should come under control. This has been reflected in numerous pieces of work on the subject.
Ketosis has an anorexigenic effect (loss of appetite) via its effect on cholecystokinin (CCK). CCK is a hormone which influences digestion and appetite.
It improves digestion by slowing down the emptying of food from the stomach as well as stimulating the production of bile in the liver and from the gall bladder.
Bile acts like a “detergent”, making fat droplets smaller so that enzymes can break it down more easily. CCK also increases the release of fluid and enzymes from the pancreas to break down fats, proteins and carbohydrates.
CCK seems to be involved in appetite regulation by increasing the sense of fullness after a meal (rather than between meals). It may do this by affecting appetite centers in the brain and delaying emptying of the stomach.
Combining it’s anorexigenic effect in tandem with its effect on orexigenic signals, it’s no wonder those who successfully employ a ketogenic method have so much success with their weight loss (both short and long term)!
Should You Eat When Not Hungry on Keto?
This depends entirely on your goals.
Whilst it’s never smart to force yourself to eat (as this may develop a poor relationship with food), if you’re not actively pursuing weight loss then reducing food unnecessarily could result in unwanted weight loss whilst even increasing the risk of malnutrition.
It would be wise to trial tracking your energy intake whilst monitoring your weight and if it changes too much in a direction you’re not aiming for whilst following the keto approach then simply reduce or increase your intake.
Keto is an amazing tool for health. However, the fundamentals of weight change still apply if the energy we take in is greater than what we expend we’ll gain weight and vice versa.
But, if intake and expenditure is equal then we will maintain weight.
What to Do When Not Hungry on Keto?
While this is clearly not a major issue if your goal is to lose weight, it can be quite an odd experience for those who are using keto for another purpose; be that body recomposition, athletic performance or even treating a specific condition (like epilepsy) whereby weight loss is not the primary goal outcome.
We now understand why appetite may be suppressed but what exactly can we do to work around that?
The easiest step to take is to simply include more energy dense food sources in your diet, a fairly straightforward feat on a predominantly fat based diet.
We’d advise shooting for those fat sources richest in polyunsaturated fats and then monounsaturated fats (limiting your intake of saturated and trans fats best you can for health and body composition reasons).
Read Also: Intermitten Fasting Guide for Beginners
Some great, energy dense examples include;
- Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Another fairly simplistic method would be to incorporate liquid calories on top of your whole food intake.
Simply blend together cruciferous, fibre rich veggies (spinach, kale etc.) which are naturally low in net carbs, a few berries (packed full of goodness and also relatively low in net carbs) and a couple of handfuls of low carb nuts and seeds (pecans, brazil nuts, chia seeds, macadamia nuts and flax seed are all great choices and rich in health boosting fats!).
A dash of unsweetened almond or coconut milk would also not go amiss; a really awesome smoothie for any time of the day!
Our final recommendation, outside of just ensuring you’re in line with your energy intake goals, would be to go for smaller, but more frequent meals.
This could simply be taking your three main meals (breakfast, lunch and dinner) and diving them into two, meaning you’d have six smaller meals across the day rather than three main ones.
Folding in some snacks in-between if you’re still struggling to achieve your energy intake, like the odd handful of nuts, is a great go to strategy to pair with more frequent meals!
Why was I not Hungry on Keto but now, I Want to Eat Again?
Many in the keto community have become perplexed by this situation; “I thought that after I’d adapted to the diet my hunger would stay away, but it’s back again!?”
Whilst ketosis may play a major role in keeping hunger and cravings away for a time, there are many interrelated factors which can impact your satiety and cravings.
We eluded to the benefit of fibre earlier in the article and those statements stand true for what we’re about to say next.
Many keto dieters will reduce their intake of fruits and veggies based on their total carbohydrate content, foregoing the impact of fibre and the uniquely keto consideration that is “net carbs”.
Whilst our goal is to obviously minimize carbohydrates to sustain a state of ketosis, one’s ambition should not be to deprive themselves of fibre too.
Fibre has a whole host of important roles in the body; from blood sugar regulation to being linked to having a protective effect against certain types of cancers.
As discussed earlier, fibre also plays an important role in mediating hunger and cravings.
So, instead of avoiding them completely, look for foods, particularly green leafy vegetables, which are relatively low in net carbs but good sources of fibre (at least 3 to 5g per serving).
We’ve also discussed the beneficial properties of protein intake on improving satiety. This is another scenario where tracking can come in incredibly handy.
Monitor your protein intake for around a week and see what your average intake looks like. Pushing towards 30% of your total energy intake coming from protein appears to have a significant effect on improving satiation (and would also preserve your ketosis!).
Your current level of hydration can also impact on your hunger levels. Hydration status has a direct effect on our mood state which, in turn, may impact our food intake (typically the more depressed we become the greater food intake gets).
Ensure your urine is straw yellow to clear as best you can, as this is an indicator of an adequate to optimal hydration state.
Poor sleep quality is also linked to impaired hunger control, leading to increased energy intake and more snacking.
This is likely down to a number of core factors including; more time and opportunities for eating, increases in psychological distress, greater sensitivity to food reward, disinhibited eating, more energy needed to sustain extended wakefulness, and changes in appetite hormones.
Chronic life stress appears to be associated with a greater preference for energy- and nutrient-dense foods, namely those that are high in sugar and fat (a potential hazard for your ketosis).
Many individuals use food as a coping mechanism for the stressors of life and this can often lead to over-consumption and ultimately put them at greater risk of becoming overweight or obese.
This effect appears to be most apparent in men, however I’m sure our female audience can agree that it affects them just as much!
How do I Decrease my Hunger on Keto?
To give a brief overview of the topics we’ve touched on so far in the article that’ll help you manage your hunger;
- Increase your protein intake (pushing towards 30% of total energy intake if possible)
- Ensure you’re getting adequate fibre intake (The American Heart Association recommends are between 25 to 30g a day)
- Ensure you’re adequately hydrated and even throw in some carbonated zero kcal drinks to help improve your satiety if you are still struggling!
- Ensure you’re getting quality sleep and around 7 to 8 hours if you can (8 hours preferably!)
- Ensure you’re managing the stressors in your life well
- Exercise every day (at least 30 minutes of relatively intense work)
How Do I Increase My Hunger on Keto?
Likewise, we’ve already covered the strategies to improve your hunger and or at least increase your energy intake in spite of lack of hunger. Here are those points summarized;
- Increase your intake of energy dense food sources.
- Add in some liquid calories in the form of nutritious shakes to get your food intake up!
- Decrease your intake of foods higher in food volume or richer in fibre
- Decrease your fluid intake (if you’re adequately hydrated but consuming more so on top of that)
- Monitor your caffeine intake (caffeine can suppress hunger and reduce total food intake. Many will use it to get them into ketosis faster!).
- Go for smaller more frequent meals with snacks interspersed
Keto can be an incredibly effect tool for controlling your hunger; from its effects on the secretion of certain hormones to its regulation of blood sugar and the fact that it usually encompasses a higher protein intake – it really tackles the hunger issue from all angles.
Dieters beware however as general principles of satiation still apply; don’t skip on your fibre, protein, sleep or hydration and always be mindful that you have to work towards a stress managed life.
The science is there, the research supports it, now it’s just about correct application and, with these tools, strategies and insights on the how’s and why’s of ketosis and hunger, you’ll be able to apply the diet expertly and optimize your results!