Many followers of the low-carb life experience quick fat loss, lower hunger levels, and stable energy. But, those who have undergone the “low-carb switch” can attest, the early fat loss often comes at a price. Not only can you experience physical hunger with low-carb diet, but you may have the hunger for food when you feel tired, bored, depressed or annoyed. As your brain and body struggle to adapt to post-glycogen life, you might be downright “hangry”. The good news is that feeling “hangry” — the combination of hungry and angry — is often temporary.
Check out this list of ways to manage your “hangry” pains as you adjust to a low-carb diet.
1. Plan your meals around lean proteins and healthy fats.
The reason many people fail at low-carb diets is because they are buying foods like low-carb chips, bars and drinks. These options are not always nutrient dense. They can leave you with a lack of satisfaction, increased hunger and the dreaded rebound binge.
Instead, opt for real food. Find options that make you less hungry and more satisfied. Focusing on foods that are good sources of protein and healthy fats will help. A 2011 study found increased protein in the diet helped to satisfy hunger and promote weight loss. Choose protein options found in nature, like tofu, white meat poultry, fatty fish, eggs and beans. Also, add in more olive oil, full fat dairy, nuts and avocados as another hunger-suppressing tactic.
2. Take baby steps
Dramatic and speedy dietary modifications (like ghosting carbs) are troublesome to maintain and sometimes come with disagreeable unwanted side effects. The ideal place to start out is to cut foods that include empty carbs; however doing so progressively can reduce unwanted side effects and provides your body time to adjust. You can start by skipping the sugar in your espresso or limiting sweet treats to twice every week.
3. Change your meal pattern
While what you eat makes a big difference in your health, blood-sugar control and weight, the timing of your meals may have just as equal of an impact.
A 2016 study demonstrated people who adhered to a restricted feeding approach (a pattern in which all your calories are front loaded in the morning and afternoon — with your last meal consumed in late afternoon) had less hunger. They also established a more efficient pattern of burning carbohydrates and fat.
Another similar approach would be to skip dinner all together. The theory? The body’s internal metabolism clock is most efficient earlier in the day and begins to run out of steam by evening. Another study found similar results. Researchers showed when individuals ate later in the day, the body responded with a negative alteration of fat metabolism that impacted weight gain. Therefore, to reduce pounds and increase your metabolism, you may need to change your meal timing.
4. Pick a power-up combo
A snack or meal containing only one food group will not do the trick. You need a blend of nutrients to prevent that roller-coaster feeling. Whole-grain carbs raise serotonin levels to give your blood sugar a boost and provide that “ahhh” feeling. Carbs get digested faster than protein and fat. Good sources are whole-grain breads, cereals, whole-wheat pasta, beans and so on. Protein such as turkey, chicken, fish, cheese and tofu, as well as healthy fats such as nuts, avocado and oils are digested more slowly to give you staying power and keep you feeling fuller longer. In other words, a quick handful of pretzels in the afternoon could have you snapping at co-workers in no time, but if you dip those pretzels into almond butter, you’ll be more productive and perhaps a little more pleasant, too.
5. Drop the cold-turkey approach
To function properly, the brain relies heavily on glucose. That’s why when you cut out carbohydrates (the source of glucose), your blood sugar can plummet. Your brain backfires in the form of headaches, fatigue and a lack of clear thinking. The whole purpose of a low-carb diet is to keep carbohydrates low — it’s not a no-carb diet.
To avoid these unpleasant side effects (e.g., constipation), you’ll need to feed your brain the carbs it’s relying on, without going overboard. One way to do this is to focus mainly on carbohydrates that provide a good source of fiber, as well as protein and/or fat. Examples include bean-based chips and pasta options, sprouted whole grain breads, seed and nut-based crackers, quinoa and lentils. These carbs provide protein and plenty of fiber to keep you full.
6. Eat extra food that includes tryptophan
Since not eating carbs can affect a decrease in tryptophan, eating foods that contain this helpful amino acid will help regulate your temper by giving your brain a dose of serotonin it needs. Adding more cheese and turkey, for example, to your diet might do wonders for your temper.
7. Incorporate a fibre rule
The reason fiber is the golden nugget of weight loss is because the body can’t digest it. It slows down the digestion process and helps your body absorb nutrients. This comes in handy when choosing which carbohydrates to fit into your plan. For every 10 grams of carbohydrate, aim for at least 4 grams or more of fiber.
8. Eat every meal
If you miss a meal, you miss the opportunity to provide energy to your mind and body. Waiting too long between the times that you eat can create a drop in blood sugar, which could become seriously dangerous in some cases, causing lightheadedness, a faint feeling or disorientation. You should not go more than four to five hours between meals, and for most of us, snacking between meals is essential.
9. Stay Hydrated
Dehydration is often confused with hunger. Avoid this diet mishap by drinking plenty of water, coffee, tea and water-rich foods, but avoid drinks that contain added sugar (even the artificial kind).
10. Know your sugars
Keeping blood sugar stable doesn’t mean you should do so with sugar per se. Although sugar fuels the brain to help you stay alert and exert self-control, foods that list sugar or any of its cohorts (high fructose corn syrup, organic cane juice, sucrose and such) as starring roles on their ingredient lists can make you initially feel content, but then lead to a crashing sensation soon after ingestion. Go for items that list whole grains as a first ingredient and contain a good source of fiber (around 5 grams per serving).
Remember, fruit also has sugar. Best of all, it also plays a role in supplying your entire body with free radical scavengers that reduce your risk of disease.
Consider pairing your fruits with proteins or fats. Fructose, the sugar found in fruit, is easy to digest, however, the process slows down when fiber is attached. Protein and fat are also hard to digest. Therefore, when the fiber-rich apple has a tablespoon of almond butter spread on it, your body now has to worry about metabolizing fat, too, which is a good thing!
11. Listen to your body
While you work, sleep and play, your body is taking care of its main priority: keeping you alive. One of the many mechanisms in which it does this is by telling you when to eat and when to stop eating. When your cells are depleted and looking for food, the stomach releases ghrelin to tell you to “fuel up.” When the tank is full, it releases leptin to tell you to stop. If you’re hungry, fill the cells, but don’t over fill. Ignoring ghrelin and starving yourself may lead to a desperate search for carbs later.
If you want to lose weight, or manage type 2 diabetes, you don’t have to cut out an entire food group. Opt for smarter carbs. Don’t eat more than you need. Lastly, fit in plenty of movement (planned or unplanned) throughout the day.
12. Select the best foods
Managing your diet and your mood can be overwhelming. But, there is a proven weight loss strategy that can guide you throughout your journey. There is a little-known health plan called the 2 Week Diet that actually teaches you what to eat and when. This increases your metabolism, allowing you to shed weight and shed it FAST. Those on the diet report losing 12-23 pounds and 2-4 inches in a matter of 2 weeks – all backed by science. Watch this video to learn more about how the 2-week diet works.