how to deal with hunger pangs when fasting

Illustration of man eating during feeding window while intermittent fasting

Dealing with hunger pangs during intermittent fasting is most definitely the main culprit of failure. Here's how to deal with it

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    Intermittent fasting is a popular weight loss regime among athletes, bodybuilders, and just about anyone looking to shed some pounds.

    People hear the words “intermittent fasting” and instantly think it’s going to be a typical fad diet that will lead to failure.

    Yes, in many cases, individuals who think they can simply jump in and introduce a feeding window while eating whatever they want during this time will lead to melting pounds of fat from their frame – not quite.

    What is Intermittent Fasting?

    Intermittent fasting 16/8 fasting clock

    For those of you who don’t already know what intermittent fasting is. Simply put, it is a method of introducing an eating window whereby you consume your “daily calorie allowance” within this time frame. For the rest of that time, you do not consume any calories.

    Note that this does not mean you can eat what you want. During this time, you still need to stick to your target daily calorific deficit to lose weight. It is still very easy to reach a caloric surplus when intermittent fasting which will result in weight gain.

    There are several intermittent fasting timing plans; however, the most common is 16/8 – 16 hours fasting with an 8-hour feeding window.

    The idea of intermittent fasting is, if you can deal with hunger while fasting (your body making you feel like you NEED to eat) and temptation to eat during the fasted window, you can later gorge on an abundance of calories during a smaller eating window. For some, this works well. For others, well, not so much.

    Those who fall under the “not so much” category (eating all their meals spread throughout the day) – Failure at the first hurdle usually occurs with managing hunger pangs while fasting.

    Thankfully there are ways to curb intermittent fasting hunger pangs to manage cravings and urges to eat during your fasting window, and what’s more, we have created a comprehensive article to assist those in such need.

    Intermittent Fasting and Hunger Pangs

    Before we delve into techniques with how to cope with hunger during the fasting window when intermittent fasting, we should investigate the reasoning as to why and how our bodies control our appetite and how exactly our bodies signal when we are full.

    Hunger is a signal from a hormone called ghrelin (which stimulates hunger). Ghrelin is released when another hormone known as motilin enters the bloodstream. Motilin is released when the stomach, small and large intestines empty following your last meal.

    A sense of feeling full or satisfied is triggered when the nerves stretch receptors in the stomach, which send signals to the brain to notify that you are now full, and therefore can stop eating.

    When intermittent fasting, you will often find yourself particularly vulnerable to craving sugary/calorie-dense foods – this is normal. Usually, if you possess the willpower, your body will adapt, making the hunger pangs more manageable.

    Don’t feel defeated with this, it’s to be expected. Ghrelin starts to rise naturally around the times you would typically eat your breakfast, lunch or dinner. These “normal times” for your typical day will now fall inside of your “fasting window”. Meaning you will now have to allow your body to adapt to the 8-hour feeding window (in the case of a 16/8 fasting schedule).

    I mean, just about anyone on the planet will feel hungry while fasting and thus experience the urge to want to eat something (usually sweet or high in carbohydrates) despite having just recently eaten a satisfying meal.

    The name of this phenomenon is known as “hedonic hunger”, which means the urge to eat for the primary purpose of satisfying your pleasure rather than to fuel your body to keep you functioning. Another more commonly used term for this might be considered “comfort eating”.

    Hedonic hunger is not fully understood in science; however, plausible it’s to do with the reward scheme in our brains that affects our understanding of metabolic satiety.

    Hunger can be felt in two ways; physiological, when contractions happen in the stomach (hunger pangs), and psychological, which is the urge to eat something despite being in a state of satiety due to emotions (such as feeling stressed, upset, or even happy).

    Now, back on topic with how to stop hunger pangs when fasting. Maybe you are thinking of starting or already have, and now scouring the web to find answers to help?

    In what’s to follow are some tips to help you succeed with controlling hunger when intermittent fasting.

    Tips to Help Manage Hunger While Intermittent Fasting

    As mentioned already, when starting an intermittent fasting plan, it is guaranteed you will suffer from hunger pangs while fasting. It is just how your body works. However, from my own experience, I can promise it gets better as time goes on.

    Your body will eventually adapt to your new eating pattern and will know when to release certain hormones. Once your body has adapted, you will find it easier to manage huger pangs while fasting.

    The following tips are to help you avoid hunger while fasting. These tips and ideas will help you successfully manage your way through your fasting process to achieve the results you want.

    Some of these intermittent tips for fasting may work for you, others may not. It’s all about trial and error and finding what works for you and your body.

    The following hunger hacks while fasting cover ideas for what to eat to feel fuller, how to manage hunger while fasting, and how your mindset can be a big factor in your success throughout this period.

    Manage Hunger Pangs With Food Consumption Methods:

    Starting with ways to optimise your food intake to feel satisfied and full during, and after your feeding hours.

    Eat More Protein

    Eating more protein during feeding hours is a great way to make sure you’re feeling fuller for longer.

    Eat a variety of protein sources to keep your meals enjoyable and satisfying, and make sure all your meals during feeding hours have 20/30% protein.

    This is to make sure your body is getting enough protein to function, and to keep your muscles fuelled to avoid muscle loss.

    Eat Fibre-Rich Foods

    When eating fibre rich foods, your stomach stretches, releasing hormones to your brain to tell you it is full, and then empties slowly.

    Meaning you will feel fuller for longer. So, during the hours of fasting, you won’t be starving, and you are less likely to feel the hunger pangs while fasting.

    Fibre-rich foods also bring on the release of fatty acids when the food starts to ferment in your stomach. These fatty acids will also aid with feeling fuller for longer and increase satisfaction.

    Ways you can add more fibre into your diet and feeding times are.

    • Consume more beans, chickpeas and other pulses.
    • Eat more whole-grain foods like whole grain rice, bread etc.
    • Include fruits, vegetables and nuts into your calorie intake.

    Not only will this help curb hunger during intermittent fasting, eating more fibre rich foods will benefit you in the long run. The types of foods listed above have tons of nutrients and vitamins that are great for your body.

    Choose Solids Over Liquids

    Of course, this may be an obvious one…

    Don’t choose a smoothie over an actual solid meal.

    Liquids will not keep you very full for long since the lack of chewing means your fullness hormones are less likely to be released.

    You also won’t feel that satisfied once you have consumed a liquid instead of a solid meal.

    Drink Coffee

    Coffee is a great liquid to consume whilst you are intermittent fasting.

    Coffee can help curb appetite while fasting, so drink a black coffee or even green tea in the morning to buy you a few hours of feeling satisfied.

    This happens because coffee releases peptide YY, which is a hormone produced in your gut that also promotes the feeling of being full.

    De-caff black coffee is also said to reduce your hunger for up to three hours!

    Drink More Water

    Don’t dehydrate yourself during fasting hours.

    You still need to consume enough water for your body to function and feel good.

    Drinking enough water can also stretch your stomach enough to give you the sense of feeling full. 500ml is said to be enough to have you feeling full until you eat your next meal.

    Carbonated water is a also a great option assuming it is plain carbonated water or a sweetened version that contain zero calories.

    So, if you’re feeling hungry while fasting, drink a large glass of water, and stop thinking about eating!

    To stay hydrated, ensure you drinking plain water with electrolytes

    Eat Fats and Carbs

    Be sure to have a balanced intake of fats (predominantly healthy fats like those found in nuts and avocados to name a few) and carbs in your diet.

    These are the foods that help you feel satisfied after a meal. Without feeling satisfied, you’re going to want to binge on something that will give you the feeling of satiety.

    If you’re eating a low-fat diet whilst fasting, this will impair the hormones that are released in your stomach to show that you’re enjoying your food. Making your meals boring and decreasing satiety.

    This isn’t to say eat a ton of fatty foods, because you don’t want to do that. Just make sure you’re including a balanced amount following the 80/20 rule.

    Eating a low carb diet will affect your training whilst fasting, you may not have as much energy since your energy sources will be used up very quickly.
    Low carb diets can also decrease your mood and your sleep.

    Your mindset and how rested you feel deeply impacts how you will manage your intermittent fasting hunger pangs.

    Eat Bigger Meals – Use 80/20 Rule

    Eating bigger meals will aid with making sure you consume enough calories during your feeding times, making sure you feel fuller for longer.

    You can also follow the 80/20 rule when eating to ensure you’re getting 80% nutrient-dense foods, and 20% whatever you want to consume. You still need to have some fun…

    This makes the whole fasting process easier, less stressful, and means you can still go out for meals during feeding hours and not have to be so hard on yourself.

    Manage Hunger Pangs with Management and Mindset Techniques:

    You may not think it just yet, but your mindset is everything.

    Your mood controls a lot of your actions, and your amount of sleep has a huge effect on your body.

    Feeling low, tired and unmotivated will make intermittent fasting less enjoyable, and harder to keep up with.

    Eat Mindfully

    Be sure to eat mindfully, and to take your time whilst eating during your feeding hours.

    Rushing your meals or being distracted whilst eating might mean your brain hasn’t recognised signals from your stomach to identify that you are full and satisfied.

    So, eat without distraction, take your time, and enjoy the foods you are consuming.

    You can also visualise the foods you are going to eat, during your fasting. This kind of tricks the brain into thinking you are consuming something…

    However, it could have the opposite effect and make you feel hungrier!

    Listen to Your Body

    If you are feeling particularly hungry one evening after fasting, allow yourself to consume a few more calories. You may also want to do this if you have completed a bigger training session.

    If you choose to consume more one night, then be sure to track your calories and consume less the next night.

    Track Your Process

    Tracking your process is a great way to make sure you’re consuming the right number of calories during your feeding hours because remember, you need to be eating enough!

    You can also track how you’re feeling during your fasting hours to correlate with the meals you have eaten. For example, did that last meal make you feel full and satisfied? If not, how could you improve this for next time?

    By tracking your calories, or macros, you can make sure you’re eating enough to sustain yourself throughout the fasting period.

    Tracking your macros might work better for you if you’re focusing on consuming the right amount of protein, fats and carbs.

    Tracking your process also helps to hold yourself accountable and helps to create a solid routine that works for you.

    Get Enough Sleep

    Muscular man sleeping illustration

    Getting enough sleep is important for your overall bodily function.

    You know how awful it feels when you’ve had a bad night, or you’ve not slept enough.

    You can imagine how much harder this is when you’re also not going to be eating any breakfast (if that’s how you’re working your fasting hours).

    When you are intermittent fasting, sleep is key for a few reasons.

    • You don’t feel hungry whilst you are sleeping.
    • Getting enough sleep (7 hours a night) will reduce your hunger levels.
    • Feeling well-rested will overall improve your physical and mental health.

    Think about a time when you didn’t get enough rest. You always wake up feeling hungry or wanting to indulge in something you shouldn’t throughout the day.

    So, set a time to go to sleep and when to wake up. Stick to this routine and see what happens for you.

    Reduce stress levels

    The feeling of stress will bring on ‘emotional eating’.

    If you are incredibly stressed or worried about something, your mind will force you to want to eat. This is because stress releases cortisol. A hormone that is linked to giving you cravings for food, (most likely something sweet or indulgent).

    Stress may also reduce your fullness hormone levels. Making you feel hungry while fasting sooner, even if you have just eaten a big meal.

    By reducing your stress levels, you will reduce your food cravings while intermittent fasting, and you won’t feel hungry as much.

    Ways to reduce stress levels are.

    • Take time out from daily life.
    • Meditate, relax, switch off your phone.
    • Lightly exercise (don’t push it too much whilst fasting).
    • Talk about how you are feeling or write your feelings down.

    Eliminate stressors i.e., reduce workload, tidy your space.

    Find Your Reason Why

    Finding your reason as to why you are intermittent fasting will help you feel motivated.

    Think about how this process will make you feel internal, and externally once you have achieved the results you want.

    For example, think about how having the body and mindset you’re working towards will change aspects of your life. Striving for a fitter and stronger body isn’t just about having bigger arms or bigger abs, you need more than that in your mind to make the whole process feel more worth it.

    Prep Or Pre Plan Meals

    When it comes to your feeding hours, you’re going to want to make sure you’re consuming enough calories and the right foods.

    So, to avoid the stress of figuring out what to eat in the evenings, plan your meals.

    Either make sure you have the ingredients ready, or you can even prep during the day or for the week ahead.

    This saves you time, and you can make sure you’re creating food that contains the calories and nutrients your body needs during your fasting period.

    Other Intermittent Fasting Hunger Tips:

    Keep Busy

    Try to stay busy during your fasting hours. Occupying your mind will help avoid the thoughts of eating.

    Moments of boredom can lead to feeling hungry or wanting to snack.

    Keep your to-do list full to pass the time quicker and avoid those cravings while fasting.

    Eventually, you won’t even think about the fact you are fasting, and not eating during these hours will feel normal.

    Reduce Training, Do Less Cardio

    Be mindful about how you are training when fasting. Listen to your body…

    It’s a good idea to train lower, using lighter weights and maybe more reps, than using heavy weights and exhausting yourself quicker.

    A high level of training will increase your hunger while fasting and your need for food.

    You should also do less cardio, since cardio has the same effect, making you feel hungrier and tired.

    Wrapping Up

    Hopefully, this article has given you some ideas as to how you can optimise your intermittent fasting period to achieve your full potential and how to overcome hunger when fasting.

    Keep trying different hunger hacks while fasting to see what works for you, and in no time you you will realise fasting hunger pangs are a thing of the past. It will soon become second nature.

    About The Author

    Michael Collins

    Michael Collins

    Michael is a gym enthusiast with experience that spans more than 20 years. He started his exhilarating journey of keeping fit in his late teens, and over the years, he has immensely grown to become a resourceful gem in matters of fitness.

    He has been writing for many years, focusing on answering all the questions you may have on nutrition, muscle building and fitness. Keeping fit and staying healthy is his main passion, and this is evidenced in the articles he writes in a simple and understandable language out of intensive reading and real-life experiences.