< Blog < Eat Well < Diets & Fasting < Hungry During Intermittent Fasting? Learn How to Manage Extreme Hunger

Hungry During Intermittent Fasting? Learn How to Manage Extreme Hunger

8 min read
a woman is holding a tip of the fork in her mouth, hungry on intermittent fasting
Melissa Mitri post Reviewer Melissa Mitri post Reviewer
Verified by Melissa Mitri
MS, Registered Dietitian, Former President of CT Academy of Nutrition & Dietetics

Do you feel hungry during intermittent fasting? Here are 5 tips to curb your hunger when fasting and keep up with your schedule.

Table of Contents

If you’ve ever tried any form of intermittent fasting, one challenge you might have had to deal with is hunger. This may especially be the case during the first few days of your fasting journey. 

Why do you feel hungry during intermittent fasting, and how can you curb hunger when fasting? In this post, you will learn 5 scientifically proven ways to manage your intermittent fasting hunger pangs.

Is It Normal to Feel Hungry During Intermittent Fasting?

Yes, it’s totally normal to feel hungry during intermittent fasting. You don’t need to be a brain surgeon to understand this, but science can explain why you feel hungry when you’re going without food. 

Simply put, hunger is mainly controlled by hormones in your body. There are two major hormones that are important in managing hunger—ghrelin and leptin.

Ghrelin, the hunger hormone, signals your body that it’s time to eat, and leptin tells it when to stop [1].

When ghrelin levels in your body are high, you feel hungry. Ghrelin is secreted by your gut based on your typical eating hours, and levels begin to rise just before your usual meal times [2]

After you eat, leptin levels go up to signal your brain that you are full. 

Now what will happen when you skip meals during fasting? Your ghrelin levels will increase as they anticipate a meal, which will make you hungry. But since you won’t be eating and your stomach doesn’t fill up, no leptin will be produced. When this happens, you may remain hungry for a while.

This means it’s expected to encounter hunger during intermittent fasting. The good news, however, is that you can control your hunger by following certain tips. In a later section, we will discuss how not to feel hungry while fasting so you can successfully complete your fasting period. 

5 Reasons You Feel Hungry While Fasting

As we explained, it’s normal to feel hungry during intermittent fasting to an extent. However, a few missteps you may be making can make matters worse. Here are the main reasons why you might be feeling extremely hungry during your fasting window.

#1 Your Body Has Not Yet Adapted to Your New Meal Schedule

This one is not actually a slip-up but an inevitable experience for most at the beginning of their intermittent fasting adventure. 

Your gut will produce ghrelin with the expectation of your next meal, thus making you feel hungry. With no leptin to curb hunger, this feeling will continue to bug you for some time until these hormone levels stabilize.

#2 You Didn’t Eat Enough During Your Eating Window

One simple reason you might be feeling hungry during your fasting period is that you’re eating too little when you are eating. This can happen if you’re overly restricting your food intake in the hopes of losing weight quickly or if you’re new to this eating schedule and are unsure how large your meals should be. 

It’s definitely not a good idea to cut down your meal portions drastically to lose weight fast. To help you better adjust to intermittent fasting, you can slowly adjust your portion sizes to achieve a slight calorie deficit but still eat enough to feel satiated during the fasting period.  

You may also like: Root Causes for Not Losing Weight on Intermittent Fasting

#3 You Are Eating Too Many Carbs and Too Little Protein

Research suggests that high-carb diets lower your blood sugar too quickly, thus making you hungry sooner than low-carb diets [3]. Not getting enough protein has also been shown to increase ghrelin levels, thus increasing the desire to eat [4]

#4 You’re Not Drinking Enough Water While You’re Fasting

Ghrelin levels can increase when you’re dehydrated, and drinking enough water can bring ghrelin levels down [5]. Oftentimes when you think you’re hungry, you might just be thirsty because you haven’t drunk enough water.

#5 You Are Not Getting Sufficient Sleep

If you’ve ever felt ravenously hungry after a poor night’s sleep, you can thank your hormones for that. Lack of sleep has been reported to raise ghrelin concentrations in your blood while reducing leptin concentrations, thus raising your hunger levels [6].

How to Manage Intermittent Fasting Hunger

Now that you know why you might be feeling hungry during intermittent fasting, let’s see what you can do about it.

Give It Some Time

Don’t be discouraged if you feel hungry during the first few days of fasting. Give your body some time to get adapted to your new eating routine. Once you get past those first few days, follow the additional tips below. 

Eat a Suitable Amount of Food During Your Eating Period

Eat enough—but not too much—during your eating window. Figuring out the right portions for you and the right types of food to keep you full will help lessen fasting hunger. 

If you start following one of the advanced types of intermittent fasting, like 20/4, and you constantly feel hungry and cannot get used to eating for only 4 hours a day, consider switching to a milder regimen, like 18/6 or 16/8.

Eat Plenty of Protein and Fiber

Protein-rich foods such as chicken, turkey, fish, tofu, eggs, dairy, beans, and lentils have been proven to lower ghrelin levels, thus reducing hunger sensations [5]

Foods high in dietary fiber (including whole grains, fruits, and vegetables) have also been noted for their ability to increase fullness and control hunger [7].  Include these foods in your meals to curb hunger during your fasting period.

Drink a Lot of Water

Water has been shown to suppress hunger and appetite [8]. Drink a glass of water (or two) whenever you feel hungry, and you’re likely to feel less hungry. 

Get a Good Night’s Sleep

As we explained, lack of sleep can induce imbalances in hunger-related hormones and can make you feel ravenous. Not having enough sleep can also make you more susceptible to mood swings, stress, and emotional eating. 

Get some restful sleep to control hunger and improve your willpower. You can achieve this by going to bed and waking up around the same time each day. It also helps to create a relaxing bedtime routine, such as reading, meditating, or some gentle stretching before hitting the hay.

If your fasting window happens to include nighttime and you find it hard to go to bed hungry while fasting at night, consider changing your eating and fasting windows to better manage your hunger levels. 

What to Consume if You’re Hungry During Intermittent Fasting

You can have water and other calorie-free drinks such as plain tea, black coffee, and herbal teas during fasting windows. You can even add a little splash of creamer to your coffee, depending on the nature of your fast and the type of creamer you’re adding. 

If you’re feeling extremely hungry and having symptoms like dizziness, shakiness, and trouble focusing, you should cut your fast short and eat something that gives you a surge of energy.

Will Hunger Go Away With Experience?

If you’re wondering how long these hunger pains last, you’ll be happy to know that they go away fairly quickly.

Experts say that intermittent fasting can eventually decrease ghrelin levels and increase leptin levels, thus making you hungry less often and helping you achieve a feeling of fullness faster [9]

However, keep in mind that each individual is different. As a result, the way your body tolerates fasting and hunger can differ depending on your physiology. While some people have hunger pangs that resolve in a few days, others may take a little bit longer to adjust. 

Be patient with yourself and try these tips to control your hunger while fasting.

Final Words

If you feel hungry during intermittent fasting, know that it’s absolutely ok. It is a normal situation most experience when they first start intermittent fasting, and it is part of the adjustment period. 

You can try changing your diet, meal portions, hydration habits, and sleep routines to control your hunger. 

Always seek medical guidance on how to manage your hunger while intermittent fasting, especially if you have a history of an eating disorder or other medical conditions.

Disclaimer This article is intended for general informational purposes only and does not address individual circumstances. It is not a substitute for professional advice or help and should not be relied on to make decisions of any kind. Any action you take upon the information presented in this article is strictly at your own risk and responsibility!

You may also like

We recommend reading