Every young lady and woman on planet earth can define its grip, visited upon by insatiable cravings for carb-laden and sugary foods at least one week a month since our early teens: at Konscious Keto, we know carb cravings are real, and they are powerful!
Granted, eating per the USDA's suggested food pyramid, with the majority of your diet comprised of carbohydrates, is a surefire way to spike a voracious desire to consume increasing amounts of carbs during the day—it's a vicious cycle.
But some factors contribute to the insatiable craving we sometimes have for sweets, beyond just eating carbs, more on that below.
What Are Carb Cravings?
Before we cover how to eliminate carb cravings, we're well served to examine what they are and why they occur, especially as we seek to understand how to avoid them.
You know, it's that strong draw to the kitchen to reheat some pizza or call dibs on the remaining pint of ice cream that you plan to devour unapologetically while curled up with a good book.
Carb cravings are essentially the unreasonably strong desire we all have from time to time, some more often than others, for our favorite carb-heavy eats—and this is true for even the most disciplined among us.
It goes something like this: you're doing great all day and then the 3 p.m.-lull rolls around and you're suddenly overtaken by a raging 'hunger monster' whom you do not recognize and cannot seem to tame—at least this is commonly the case when eating a Western meal plan full of refined sugars.
Again, it's important to reiterate; carb cravings exist within a vicious dietary cycle. When we eat foods that spike glucose and release insulin in the bloodstream, we ignite our hunger signals to crave more carbs and sugars—providing the body with energy quick-fixes but zero staying power.
Alternatively, eating a ketogenic diet that's abundant in healthy fats and void of refined carbs and sugars disarms our hunger centers and informs the body to run more efficiently on fat and ketones for fuel.
As it relates to the ketogenic diet, some people experience cravings or some form of withdrawal when they begin—with the intensity of symptoms being dependent on a person's level of sugar and carb intake before their transition.
Don't feel entirely discouraged if you are one generally subject to cravings for cookies, pies, and, pizza—not only will your appetite become suppressed and altered once in ketosis, but we also know of a lot of ingredient swaps to make alternative variations of carb-heavy favorites that make it easy to keep it keto without missing a bit of flavor.
You may be aware of the adverse effect of eating sugar-laden foods on weight loss progress, but there are compelling health-related reasons to abstain from the excessive consumption of carbs and sugar, as well.
Again, heavy consumption of refined sugars and carbohydrates leads to frequent surges in glucose and insulin in the body. So, the elevated presence of insulin that cannot be processed and efficiently used by the body leads to metabolic disorders and diseases like the following:
- Insulin sensitivity and resistance
- PCOS (for our female keto family)
- Type 2 diabetes
- Obesity and weight gain
- Certain cancers
- Heart disease
Now, there's good news for those of you who've decided to follow a ketogenic diet and learn how to stop carb cravings. Restricting carbs and increasing fats and proteins in the diet is an excellent approach to accelerate fat loss and suppress the appetite, thanks to the satiating nature of both macronutrients.
The food cravings you may have experienced in the past become a thing of the past once your body becomes fat-adapted on a ketogenic diet. It's kind of like being reintroduced to food, re-learning your preferred dietary palette, and even recalibrating the frequency and volume at which you consume food—keto is a game changer!
What Carb Cravings Feel Like
If mild, a carb craving is a gnawing and persistent taste for a carb-rich food and at its height feels compelling enough to impact our mood—we'll often blame our behavior during these moments as being 'hangry.'
Listen, our body's ultimate strategy is to achieve any given goal in as few steps as possible—to conserve energy for use in other physiological and brain functions. It is for this reason that the body enjoys the quick-acting, despite the short-lived, effect of sugar-based energy. A closer look at glucose for fuel on a macro level exposes its inefficiency in comparison to its fat and ketone-based energy rivals.
So, in addition to driving food cravings, the dip in blood sugar that proceeds the surges mentioned above also cause many to experience the following:
- Intense hunger and thirst
- Exhaustion, fatigue, and excessive tiredness
- Feelings of nausea
- Anxiety, irritability, and mood swings
While increasing healthy fat would be a more sustainable approach to crushing cravings, the eating of carbs begets the consumption of more carbs and the growing difficulty in abstaining from them as cravings intensify.
Look at it this way: your body responds to sugar like a kid in a candy shop, desiring intake in excess and without restraint.
The body enjoys using sugar as it is a fast and cheap burst of energy, as we've mentioned—and since the body looks to achieve the most with the least possible effort, as we also mentioned above; if unchecked the body will drive us to eat more and more quick and cheap forms of energy (e.g., glucose and carbs) to stoke its metabolic oven, even to its potential detriment.
Fortunately, drastically reducing carb intake and elevating fats and protein will usher your body into a state of ketosis before long. In addition to its many health benefits, including accelerated weight loss, ketosis is an excellent tool to crush cravings for good—finally placing you in the driver's seat of your health and wellness journey.
Why Do You Get Carb Cravings?
Carb cravings can occur for many reasons from the intake of carbs exacerbating a desire for more carbs, to hormonal fluctuations, or the impact of chronic stress throughout the day.
However, among the most common causes of carb cravings, there are some that are most common and worth noting to help you avoid them on keto:
#1: YOU’RE LIMITING CARBS QUICKLY
There are two types of people who start a ketogenic diet, those who gradually reduce carbs and others who pull off the proverbial band-aid and ditch the carbs en mass, cold turkey!
Although eliminating almost all carbs at once is helpful to usher along metabolic ketosis in a timely fashion, it can be a bit harsh for some—particularly women for whom the transition may prove more challenging.
Again, transitioning to keto as a woman poses alternative and unique challenges.
While the all-or-nothing method may work for some, if the absolute elimination of carbs has you feeling less than your best, consider removing carbs slower and easing into ketosis.
Even though gradually entering ketosis, with a slower separation, does often invite lingering carb and sugar cravings while working to get into ketosis it may be the more realistic option for you.
#2 YOUR MACROS ARE OFF
Everyone's macronutrient needs are different, directly dictated by your goals. And just like on any eating plan, it takes a little experimentation to identify the ideal macro targets to achieve your decided outcomes.
Carb cravings may arise if your fat or protein intake is insufficient, leaving you less than satisfied.
If you feel ravenous, fiend-like, hunger is gripping you, you may want to increase your fat or protein calories to boost satiety and increase endogenous ketone production which will naturally suppress your appetite.
Note how you feel with what and how much you eat to identify your sweet spot. If you're feeling a bit sluggish, you may want to increase protein intake.
However, if you're experiencing overall feelings of hunger and a lack of satiety, consider bumping up your fat macros.
#3: NOT ENOUGH FIBER
With foods like wheat bread, pasta, and beans off the table on a ketogenic diet, you may be wondering the best way to get in enough fiber to ensure healthy digestion and elimination.
Fortunately, there are some keto-friendly foods to consume to help keep fiber levels sufficient while managing carbs.
Aim to consume between 30 to 40 grams of fiber a day and look to get fiber from low-glycemic foods like asparagus, avocado, pecans, chia and flax seeds.
So go ahead, diversify your fiber sources to keep your meal options exciting while achieving balanced digestive and colon health along the way.
#4: NOT DRINKING ENOUGH WATER
You may have heard the assertion before that the feeling of hunger is the body expressing dehydration and thirst—and there's something to this notion.
Interestingly enough, hunger presents many of the same symptoms as dehydration, and the following are the pesky chameleons to look out for to determine your exact dietary needs—whether food or hydration—when a hunger pang strikes. You may experience any of these symptoms with hunger or thirst - so try drinking water first:
- Trouble focusing and concentrating
- Lightheadedness or dizziness
There are so many health benefits to drinking water; hey, our bodies are mainly comprised of water!
Make sure to keep track of water consumption, especially on a ketogenic diet when body fluid and electrolytes are released as glycogen stores are depleted with the elimination of carbs from the diet.
#5. YOU’RE STRESSED
Stress can play a significant role in our body's appetite signals and sensors, as well as how our hunger is driven, based on our emotional state—shout out to all our fellow emotional eaters out there!
If a bad day at work can result in downing a pint of double chocolate chip ice cream or a break up is the perfect inspiration for the scarfing of a pizza, you may be an emotional eater with your appetite being profoundly affected by your emotional and overall mental state of wellbeing.
The key to thwarting this possible diet derailer is learning to discern between actual physical hunger as opposed to a possible emotional level of dysfunction.
Look, life is challenging, and we know stressors are bound to arise during the day.
Use the following easy tricks to divert your mind just long enough to make a more self-serving decision that will benefit your health in the long-run:
Plan for success:
Plan your meals ahead of time to ensure you're always prepared with keto-friendly eats on hand to make it easier to stay on track.
Go for a walk:
In addition to helping to stimulate healthy lymphatic function, taking a walk is a great way to shift your attention from binging on carbs to setting your vision and intention powerfully for the new life you're creating with the help of the ketogenic diet.
Yoga, meditation, or relaxation practice:
Whether you prefer releasing stress via hot yoga or by quieting the mind and harnessing the stillness, finding a grounding practice to help regulate your mood and direct your thoughts with intentionality is essential. Find a method that works for you and commit to doing it regularly.
Brush your teeth:
No, we're not in cahoots with your dentist! Brushing your teeth is a simple but effective trick to prevent overeating.
Think about it; everything tastes terrible when co-mingled with the taste of minty breeze toothpaste. Hey, don't knock it, this trick works, give it a try!
#6. YOU’RE DOING “LAZY” KETO
OK, you've eliminated the common culprits that stall weight loss on keto (e.g., bread, rice, potatoes, etc.), good job! Carb cravings may still occur though if you're not tracking your carb intake and consuming more than you realize each day. This may result in sudden desires to tear through a bag of chips.
If you find yourself suddenly experiencing cravings again on keto or you're struggling as you look to become fat-adapted, focus on the basics.
Simplify your keto meal plan. Return to eating primarily whole foods and limit processed food items, even if their macros fit within your caloric budget, to give your body a chance to reset.
#7. HIDDEN CARBS
If you have begun on keto, something about the food industry is likely clear: carbs and sugars are everywhere, even places you'd least expect!
From sauces, probably the worst of all hidden-carb landmines, to dairy products and almost all beverages, sugars are often called by another name and can fly under the radar of even the discerning consumer.
Keep a close eye on labels, and preferably stick to organic, whole, foods that are free of packaging and processing.
How to Curb Carb Cravings
The carb cravings some experience in their day-to-day life can be significantly reduced when following a ketogenic diet and reducing them is exactly our number one suggestion for anyone looking to banish the cravings and regain their highest level of vitality.
We all live crazy-busy lives and sometimes keeping our meal plans balanced can become a challenge—especially those weeks where we're burning the candle at both ends—maxed out in both our work and home life.
Adding a delicious, keto-friendly, meal replacement like Keto Shake to your daily plan is an excellent and fool-proof way to ensure the intake of adequate vitamins, nutrients, fat and protein throughout the day to help you reach your wellness goals, and to curb carb cravings.
The combination of hunger-suppressing inulin, clean grass-fed whey protein, and a potent punch of MCTs comes together beautifully, made even more appetizing by glucose-neutral stevia and monk fruit sweetener. It's the perfect meal replacement to meet your low-carb, high-fat, macros while allowing you to enjoy a delicious and nutritious, frosty, strawberry cheesecake shake that’s perfectly formulated to support fat loss and ketosis.
The takeaway here is to shift your dietary mindset to one that's trusting of and reliant upon fat and protein to facilitate fat loss and improved overall body composition; being able to stop carb cravings will naturally follow once in ketosis.
Besides, the increased fat and protein advised on any iteration of the ketogenic diet are likely inherent to be very satiating and provide ample nutritional value as well as an additional appetite-suppressive benefit.
Compose the majority of your meal plan with organic, whole, foods, and source cold-pressed and grass-fed fat sources to help keep you full and mentally sharp, so you can now focus on—for a welcome change—something other than counting calories or feeling like a slave to sugar. Say goodbye to carb cravings!
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Wait, M. (2007). Magic foods for better blood sugar: Live longer, supercharge your energy, lose weight and stop cravings. Pleasantville, NY: Readers Digest Association.