Do you find yourself craving sugary treats and carbohydrates often?
As a beginner on the ketogenic diet, it isn’t uncommon for carbohydrate cravings to get the best of you. And while everyone slips up on their diet once in a while, these cheat meals could be ruining your keto efforts.
Fortunately, cravings can be minimized by strategically approaching your nutrition.
In this Keto Beginners Series, we’ll talk about the most effective ways to fight hunger and cravings.
What are Carbohydrate Cravings?
Carbohydrate cravings are characterized by an extreme desire for foods like pasta, bread, rice, candy, donuts, pizza, and more.
These cravings typically occur as you’re first starting out on your ketogenic journey for several reasons.
Before you’re keto-adapted, your body is used to running on carbohydrates and sugar as a source of energy. So when you remove your body’s main source of energy, you’ll experience hunger pangs like no other.
Symptoms of Sugar Cravings
Glucose from carbohydrates is your body’s preferred energy source because it’s fast-acting and can be stored in the body for later use[*].
But sugar (glucose) is a very bad source of fuel. Here’s why – the moment your body no longer has a full tank of glucose – you’ll start to experience the horrible effects of low blood sugar.
These side effects come in the form of:
Luckily, following a low carb, high fat ketogenic diet and shifting your main energy source to fats, can get rid of these unpleasant symptoms of carb addiction.
How to Prevent Hunger and Cravings
Most people who aren’t following a ketogenic diet are addicted to carbohydrates without realizing it.
That’s part of the reason why the sugar industry is a multi billion dollar market and people would rather eat cereal for breakfast rather than a healthy, keto meal like steak and eggs.
If you’re experiencing hunger pangs and cravings as a beginner ketogenic dieter, here are our top tips for preventing sugar addiction from getting the best of you...
#1. Eat Whole Foods
The majority of your ketogenic diet should consist of nutrient-dense whole foods like fatty cuts of meat, eggs, beef, low-carb vegetables, and healthy fats.
It’s fine to enjoy a keto dessert like low-carb cookies every once in a while but you should use them as a treat.
Whole foods will help you stay full and give you the right amount of nutrients you need to prevent cravings.
#2. Restrict Carbs Almost Completely
Instead of slowly tapering off from your carbohydrate intake, it’s best to just go cold turkey from eating carbs. While it may seem like the right thing to do to slowly remove carbs, this will only make it more difficult.
To start burning ketones effectively, your body must have empty glucose stores which means keeping carbohydrates under 30g of net carbs per day.
If you’re consuming more than 50g of carbs while you aren’t yet keto-adapted, it’ll be more difficult for your metabolism to adapt to fats for fuel.
#3. Stop Using Cheat Days
Especially as a beginner, cheat days and cheat meals will only set you back during your ketogenic journey. Not only will your carb cravings come back even stronger, you will never be fully keto-adapted.
Every time you have a cheat meal, you’re interrupting ketosis and confusing your body as to what fuel source you should be running on. This will also re-introduce symptoms of the keto-flu.
#4. Drink More Water
Make it a habit to drink a bottle of water first thing in the morning and anytime you start craving carbohydrates.
Often times, your hunger pangs just mean that you are dehydrated. A good way to determine if you’re drinking enough water is by gauging the color of your urine. If it’s light yellow to clear, then you’re drinking enough.
#5. Don’t Eat at a Calorie Deficit Yet
Try to eat at a calorie maintenance or even a surplus as you start your ketogenic diet. Not only will this help you stay fuller, but you’re also allowing your metabolism to shift its main fuel source from glucose (from carbohydrate) to ketones (from fats).
If your main goal is to lose weight, eat at a calorie maintenance for at least one week to allow your body get used to this new way of eating. Then you can slowly start decreasing your calorie intake from there.
#6. Let Your Body Become Keto Adapted
Allowing your body to become keto-adapted is a crucial step to conquering your hunger cravings. Since you’re used to eating carbohydrates your whole life, it’s important to give your body some time to adjust.
It will take around one to two weeks before your body is fully keto-adapted. Once this happens, sugar cravings will become almost non-existent.
Carb Cravings are a Temporary Side Effect of Keto
Carb cravings are normal during the beginner stages of the ketogenic diet. It’s more important during this transition period than ever to keep your carbs as low as possible so your body adjusts to using fats for energy.
By simply following the steps above, you can minimize - or even mitigate - your carb cravings entirely!
Carb Manager is the easiest and most powerful way to count carbs and live the low carb life. In this blog, we've invited experts on LCHF to contribute their views on everything low carb.