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Not Hungry on Keto? Here are 5 Things You Need to Know

If you are finding that you are not hungry on keto, then I have to give you some kudos. You’ve likely made it through adaptation and your body is now in fat burning mode. Whoohoo! This happens to be one of the BEST side effects of ketosis.  Keto plays a huge role in keeping the “feeding center” of the brain switched off. If weight loss is your goal, this is EXACTLY what you want – no hunger while losing weight! Since when was that ever possible!?

The fact is that if you are doing keto, you should EXPECT to have a reduced appetite. This is ESPECIALLY true for those of us who have excess weight to lose. If you are overweight, you will be able to pull a greater amount of energy from fat stores. You’ll also be able to handle longer duration fasts much better.

As you approach your weight loss goal, you should expect your hunger to return. You will be using up your internal fat stores. At this point, your body is telling you that it needs calories from external sources.

With that being said, keto is definitely an amazing appetite suppressant tool. But, that does not mean you can eat whatever you want and still expect to lose weight. You still need a balanced diet with real foods and a healthy amount of vegetables. When you are not hungry on keto, you still need to be providing your body with the vitamins and minerals it needs. These nutrients are ALL very important.

So, let’s get to it!  Here are 5 things you should know about keto and hunger management.

1. You Now Have Better Control Over What You Eat

Being Not Hungry on Keto is Awesome! Cutting out carbs will suppress appetite.

Simply cutting out carbs will cause a huge decrease in overall hunger. And, as a result, you’ll be eating less food without even thinking about it. Studies have tested the effect of limiting carbs to 20g per day in obese people. They have found that these participants dropped total calories from 3100 per day to 2100 per day by their own choice. [1]

What this means is that you can cut out carbs and reduce your calories by 32% WITHOUT HUNGER. So, without even thinking about it… you’re eating less. You simply become not hungry on keto. This is what makes the ketogenic diet such an effective weight loss tool.

Furthermore, the ketogenic diet has been shown in studies to make people less hungry and to reduce the desire to eat. Very Low Energy Diets (VLED) where a person is still eating carbohydrates have NOT been shown to have this same effect. VLEDs have ONLY been shown to increase fullness and satiety, not the initial desire to eat. From this, we can say that it is the CARBOHYDRATES that are making us more hungry. [*]

2. Keto Affects Hunger in Several Ways

We don’t know with absolute certainty all areas of the body that ketosis impacts to affect hunger. But there are a few presumed ways that ketosis either increases or decreases hunger. Brace yourself, we’re about to get nerdy…

Ways that ketosis either decreases or increases hunger:

  1. Ketosis releases cholecystokinin which then causes the release of bile, enzymes, and an increased feeling of fullness/satiety in the body. [*]
  2. Management of GABA levels (either up or down). GABA normally increases hunger in the body. [*] [*]
  3. Ketone Bodies can increase hunger through AMP-activated protein kinase (AMPK) phosphorylation. This is a key enzyme involved in appetite regulation. [*]
  4. Increased production and release of adiponectin. This is a hormone that is involved in regulating glucose levels. Increased levels of this hormone would lead to a greater feeling of hunger. [*]

3. You’ll be More Hungry During Adaptation

If you ever have to go through adaptation again, the hunger is going to come back.

There was a 2017 study done among obese participants where they were put in a calorie deficit to lose weight. The researchers found that people experienced increased hunger starting on day three and that continued until about 3 weeks in. After that three week marker, they didn’t see any further increases in hunger. [*]

We don’t know about the history of these people before the study. But, I believe it’s safe to say that none of them were fat adapted beforehand. The hunger and cravings would match their level of adaptation which was “nada”. Three weeks would mark the point to where their bodies had adjusted to fat burning. When you adopt a ketogenic lifestyle, you are in it for the marathon, not the sprint. It may take some time, but you will eventually find that you are not hungry on keto if you stick with it.

There are a couple factors that come into play during keto adaptation that may impact hunger. They aren’t all related to burning fat. Here’s one example. Your gut microbiome still needs a healthy amount of fiber to survive. If you are eating a bunch of sour cream and bacon without any vegetables, your microbiome could be starving for fiber. This may cause you to feel more hungry than ever.  Vegetables will help keep your gut healthy.

“Hunger can be eliminated by eating a copious amount of vegetables and healthy fats.” -Stephen Phinney and Jeff Volek [2]

Green leafy veggies are VERY Important for many reasons, not just the added fiber. Spinach, for example, is also jammed packed with healthy vitamins such as Magnesium, Potassium, Vitamin A, Vitamin C, Vitamin E, Vitamin K, Vitamin B6 and other essential nutrients. All of these are SUPER important while doing keto. You can essentially eat as much spinach as you want and not have to worry about it kicking you out of ketosis.

4. How to Further DECREASE Hunger on Keto

Even if you are in ketosis, you can still experience cravings and hunger. And when that happens, here are few tips that can further help reduce them.

  1. Further Reducing Carbs – We know that carbs cause a big increase in food consumption.
  2. Eat More Fat – Not only is fat extremely satiating, it promotes what we are going for here…ketosis.
  3. Eat Bigger Meals – Eating one or two big meals a day is going to reduce any insulin response between those eating periods. It is also important to not be snacking all day long.
  4. Coffee and Intermittent Fasting – These are great tools to push you further into ketosis as well as boost dopamine.
  5. Eat Green Leafy Veggies – Your gut microbiome needs the fiber from veggies. You need the vitamins that vegetables provide. Bacon all day long isn’t going to cut it.
  6. Hydrate – We lose enough water on keto as it is. Make sure you are hydrating throughout the day. It will help to reduce hunger – especially during intermittent fasting.
  7. Get Restful Sleep – There are multiple studies around sleep and hunger. Not sleeping means craving more calorie dense foods. Nourish your body by letting it rest!

5. How to INCREASE Hunger for Weight Gain on Keto

For some, this may seem odd. But, if you are trying to put on muscle OR gain weight, not being hungry on keto COULD be an issue. Often times people think of the ketogenic diet as a weight loss diet. But, there are PLENTY of bodybuilders who are doing keto with awesome results.

  1. Intense Exercise – Particularly resistance training if you are trying to put on muscle.
  2. Consume Less Coffee – Coffee acts as an appetite suppressant.
  3. Eat More Often – This is counter to most keto advice, but increasing meal frequency will aid in your ability to consume more calories throughout the day.
  4. Reduce IF – Reduce the amount of intermittent fasting you are doing. Intermittent fasting is extremely healthy but is more geared to burning body fat.
  5. Reach your weight loss goal – If you have weight to lose, you will find that you are not hungry on keto. After you lose the weight, your hunger will return.

Offline Sources

[1] Art and Science of Low Carbohydrate Living Chapter 13

[2] Art and Science of Low Carbohydrate Living Chapter 5

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