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Intermittent Fasting and Hunger

author avatar Dr. Eric Berg 08/30/2023

You started intermittent fasting, along with going on the keto diet, because you want the health benefits. You’ll lose weight. Have more energy. Your brain fog will be replaced by a delightful mental clarity.

But what if you’ve been trying intermittent fasting and keto, and you’re feeling miserably hungry between meals? It can really test your willpower. You might be tempted to give up on fasting rather than continue to feel as though you’d gnaw your arm off from hunger.

 In this article:-

Before you decide to abandon intermittent fasting, let’s take a look at what might be causing your hunger, and what you can do to get back on the productive fasting track.

First, a little background on fasting.


The Basics Of Intermittent Fasting

Intermittent fasting isn’t a diet. Rather, it’s a pattern of eating alternating with deliberate periods of not eating. Fasting has been popular for centuries for medicinal and religious reasons.

We normally fast overnight while we sleep then we break it. Hence, why our first meal of the day is called breakfast. So you already know one of the key principles of successful fasting, which is to do a part of your fasting period while you sleep.

Nowadays you’ll discover a lot of information about structuring each 24 hours into, for example, 16 hours of fasting and 8 hours of eating, or 20 hours of fasting and 4 hours of eating. These are often referred to as 16:8 and 20:4.

You eat your meals only within those 8 or 4 hour periods each day, and abstain from food for the rest of the 24 hours. You may eat once or twice a day, and if you see the term OMAD it refers to One Meal A Day.

Here’s a sample schedule: eat only between 12 pm and 8 pm, then fast from 8 pm to 12 pm the next day. You can see that a good size portion of your fasting period will be done overnight while you sleep, which is good. Especially when you first start fasting, you may find it easier to go without food when you’re asleep and not thinking about what you’re going to eat because you feel hungry. 

And when you combine fasting with the low-carb, high-fat keto way of eating, you make it much more likely to be successful at fasting because the high amount of healthy fat you’ll be eating will keep you full longer so you can more easily go longer between meals without feeling hungry.

Usually, it takes at least a few weeks of being on keto while fasting to become what’s called fat adapted. That is, your body has switched from burning carbohydrates for fuel to fat for fuel. This is what you want! In fat-burning mode, you'll experience weight loss without counting calories or testing the outer limits of your willpower.


Why Am I So Hungry?

a hand-drawn sign that says Hangry

Interestingly, hunger is one of the best indications you have to let you know if you’re in keto-adaptation; that is, if your body is fully in fat-burning mode. But I’m talking about a specific feeling of hunger. When you fast, it’s perfectly fine to feel hungry but still energetic, cheerful, and alert.

But it’s not normal during fasting to feel ravenous with the following symptoms:

  • Lightheadedness
  • Dizziness
  • Irritability
  • Sugar cravings
  • Brain fog

These are all symptoms of hypoglycemia. If you have them while fasting you’re going to have to change how you’re fasting and get yourself back on a successful fasting track. It means you haven’t quite achieved fat-burning mode yet. Your body is still burning mostly carbohydrates, spiking your Fat Storing Hormone high enough to result in a blood sugar crash.

Read on to discover how you can fine-tune your fasting for best results.


How You Can Get Your Fasting Back On Track

Here’s how you can address that feeling of being so hungry you could eat a horse:

You may need to add in one more meal per day for now because it’s possible you dove into fasting a little too aggressively. Perhaps you went right to 20 hours of fasting with a 4-hour eating window. Your body responds by telling you in no uncertain terms that you’d better eat, now!

Adding high-quality MCT oil to your diet either in coffee or by taking a spoon full by itself will give you energy, it's good for your brain and heart and MCT oil will not break a fast.

Ideally, you’d ease more gradually into your fasting and eating periods. Instead of 20 and 4, see how you do with cutting out all snacks and having just three meals a day until you can go from meal to meal without significant hunger with that blood sugar crash.

Then, after you get up, go as long as you can without eating. This helps you to stretch your fasting period until you naturally move to two meals a day, and can easily move to the 16:8 fasting pattern.

As well, add more healthy fat to your meals to see if that helps you lengthen your fasting time without experiencing debilitating hunger and that low blood sugar hangry feeling. It’s all about timing, and everyone’s body is different. Don’t be hard on yourself - fasting can be a long-term lifestyle choice for you. There’s no need to have to do it perfectly all at once.

a pie chart showing ratio of fat, protein, and carbs for the keto diet

Another thing to try: if you know you can go 12 hours before you experience a hunger crash, try having a meal after 11 and one-half hours of fasting. If you successfully avoid a blood sugar crash with your hunger, see if you can lengthen out your fasting period to 12 and one-half hours the next time.

Listen to your body. You don’t need to rush into long periods of fasting; you’ll still get the benefits if you ease into it, and you’re less likely to give up if you make it as easy for yourself as you can.

As well, try adding extra electrolytes too; either add the powder into your water or increase your intake of bone broth. Or both, if your hunger dictates you need to.

Potassium is an especially helpful electrolyte. It will help to reverse what’s called Fat Storing Hormone resistance, which is when your cells no longer absorb the Fat Storing Hormone they need to function, yet your body keeps producing more and more Fat Storing Hormone because it thinks there isn’t enough Fat Storing Hormone for your cells. Fat Storing Hormone resistance is a pre-diabetic condition that is destructive to your health over the long term.

Keep your vegetable intake high. When you follow my Healthy KetoTM  diet, you’ll consume 7-10 cups of vegetables each day. This will ensure you get an adequate supply of vitamins and minerals for your overall health, as well as help keep you from experiencing severe hunger with the blood sugar crash.


No Need To Suffer From Severe Hunger

I know that you can reap the benefits of intermittent fasting and keto. And despite what you may have been told, you don't have to grit your teeth and suffer your way through debilitating hunger that makes you want to snap everyone’s head off.

It’s possible to feel cheerful and energetic while you fast. In fact, it’s completely possible to fast and not feel hunger for hours on end.

If you find yourself feeling ravenous, don’t suffer! Try the tips I’ve given you here. If you started a very aggressive fasting regimen, back off a little and give your body time to adjust. Work with your body instead of against it, and you’ll soon find yourself enjoying the fasting lifestyle.

picture of a smiling healthy woman eating a large salad

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Disclaimer: Our educational content is not meant or intended for medical advice or treatment.

Editor’s Note: This post has been updated for quality and relevancy.

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