While hunger is an expected and normal side effect of fasting, there are ways to manage it. If you implement the right strategies, feelings of hunger while fasting should not interfere with your day-to-day activities.
So, what steps should you take to reduce hunger while fasting? In short, you should stay hydrated, strategically schedule your fasting/eating windows, and eat a high protein high and high fiber diet. You should also get adequate sleep and stay as busy as possible during your fasting window.
Below I’ll discuss 9 tips to avoid hunger while fasting, but first, you need to know what causes hunger during a fast so you know what can trigger it.
What Causes Hunger During Intermittent Fasting?
The feeling of hunger is quite normal after a long period of not eating any food (fasting). This is mainly caused by hunger hormones known as ghrelin and leptin. You can think of ghrelin as your “I’m hungry” hormone and leptin as the “I’m satiated” hormone.
When you haven’t eaten for a long period, ghrelin levels increase, which will increase your appetite and feelings of hunger.
Additionally, during long periods of fasting or calorie restriction, leptin levels in the body decrease, which are responsible for telling the brain that your body has enough calories.
Therefore, increases in ghrelin and decreases in leptin play a large role in hunger while fasting.
It is important to note that there is a difference between actual physiological hunger (stomach grumbling, inability to focus, low energy) and psychological hunger (increased appetite due to cravings or boredom).
Sometimes, if we are used to eating often and begin to fast, it can feel as if physiological hunger is there when it is really just boredom or a desire to eat (psychological hunger).
While feeling hungry during a fasting period is quite normal, it should not be persistent; in fact, the feeling of hunger will often disappear after 10-20 minutes. Of course, this also depends on a few different factors, which we will discuss in the sections below.
Will You “Get Used” To Being Hungry While Fasting?
Feelings of hunger when you first start fasting can feel never-ending, but your body will adjust to this new way of eating. A decrease in hunger can be felt anywhere from 1-2 days to about a week after you start fasting.
If you have previously eaten frequent meals throughout the day and you are now transitioning to only eating during a specific “window”, then you will likely experience more hunger due to a dip in glucose (blood sugar) levels.
This low blood sugar hunger feels different from true physiological hunger in that it can often feel very urgent or sudden (otherwise known as feeling “hangry”, a combination of hungry and angry).
The good news is that your body can adjust to this new way of eating, and while you will still likely experience some physiological hunger, any constant, nagging hunger pangs caused by blood sugar fluctuations will dissipate.
- Related Article: 34 Tips For Getting Used To Eating Less
How To Avoid Hunger When Fasting: 9 Tips
Here are 9 tips to follow to avoid hunger while fasting:
- Ensure that you are staying hydrated
- Schedule the majority of your fast during the time that you sleep
- Stick to high protein and high fiber foods in your eating window
- Consume black coffee or tea
- Stay busy during the final hours of your fast
- Optimize your sleep routine
- Reduce stress levels in your life
- Choose realistic fasting and eating windows for you
- Start and end your fast at the same time every day
1. Ensure That You Are Staying Hydrated
When you are dehydrated, feelings of thirst can often be confused with feelings of hunger and it’s easier to become dehydrated while fasting because you are not getting any water from your food intake during this time.
To prevent dehydration, it’s important to drink water throughout the day. I highly recommend starting your day with around 0.5-1L of warm lemon water with a pinch of Celtic Sea salt.
The small amount of lemon will help to prime digestion for the day without breaking your fast, while the salt will ensure you are still getting in essential electrolytes necessary to maintain the balance of fluids in your body.
Not only will water help prevent dehydration, but it will also help increase feelings of fullness in your stomach which can help make your fast more manageable.
2. Schedule the Majority of Your Fast During the Time That you Sleep
Depending on how long you decide to fast, you may be able to schedule a good chunk of it during the hours that you sleep.
It’s recommended to get around 7-9 hours of sleep, which would account for a large amount of your fast.
For example, if you were following a 16:8 fasting schedule (fast for 16 hours, eat for 8 hours), then you could schedule your fast from 6:00pm to 10:00am the next day. During this period, you would be sleeping for roughly 8 hours, meaning that you would only need to be awake for about 8 hours of your fast.
Sleeping through as much of your fast as you can will help make your fast more tolerable because when you’re asleep you won’t be feeling hungry.
3. Stick to High Protein and High Fiber Foods in Your Eating Window
To maintain stable blood sugar levels and feel full for as long as possible, it is recommended to consume a diet filled with high-quality protein and fiber.
Since fiber slows the rate at which your food is digested, it can reduce the feeling of hunger hours after a meal. Protein also helps to keep you full for longer because it is slow to digest and it suppresses your hunger hormone ghrelin better than any other nutrient.
In contrast, you should avoid eating refined carbohydrates that are low in fiber and nutrients if your goal is to reduce feelings of hunger while you fast.
These types of carbs can cause dramatic spikes and drops in your blood sugar, which can result in you feeling hungry more quickly than if you were to have eaten a meal high in protein and fiber.
- Related Article: Check out our list of High Fiber Low Calorie Foods.
4. Consume Black Coffee or Tea
Consuming black coffee and/ or tea during your fast can be helpful if you feel like you just need a little “something” while you are waiting for your first meal. These beverages have no calories (as long as you aren’t adding cream and sugar), which means they won’t break your fast.
Drinking moderate amounts of these drinks during a fast may actually have other added benefits such as reducing inflammation and improved brain health. The caffeine might also help you with a little boost of energy you might need while you are in your fasting window.
Having something to sip on that you look forward to during your fast can decrease feelings of hunger, increase satisfaction, and improve adherence to your fast.
5. Stay Busy During the Final Hours of Your Fast
While you shouldn’t be feeling hungry the entire time you fast, you might start to feel hunger set in during the final hours of your fast. When you’re nearing the end of your fasting window, I recommend that you stay busy by scheduling tasks that will distract you from thinking about how hungry you might be.
For example, activities such as exercise, work tasks, cleaning, or scheduling appointments during the final hours of your fasting window are great to help distract you from feelings of hunger.
Note: Keep in mind that it is not advised to push through feelings of hunger for hours and hours at a time, especially if this is accompanied by feelings of low energy or lightheadedness.
6. Optimize Your Sleep Routine
Getting enough sleep can affect your hunger levels and the number of calories that you consume.
This is because your sleep can directly affect your hunger hormones ghrelin and leptin. If you’re not sleeping enough, then your ghrelin hormone (I’m hungry hormone) tends to be out of whack, causing you to feel more hungry than you would normally be.
To ensure you are getting adequate sleep, aim to go to bed and wake up at the same time every day, and aim for the same quantity of sleep every night (around 7-9 hours per night).
7. Reduce Stress Levels in Your Life
When you are under a high amount of stress, whether it’s physical or emotional, the body produces a higher amount of cortisol (the stress hormone) which has been shown to increase appetite and cause overeating.
If you are trying to fast but you have chronically elevated stress levels, you will likely find it difficult to make it through your fast without feeling hungry.
Additionally, it is common for individuals experiencing chronic stress to use coping mechanisms such as emotional eating to suppress or soothe negative emotions.
8. Choose a Realistic Fasting and Eating Window for You
If you have just started fasting but you are dealing with intense hunger, then it might be better to start out with a more conservative fasting window, meaning that you spend less time during the day fasting.
If you previously ate multiple meals frequently throughout the day and immediately transitioned to a 16:8 fasting schedule (fasting for 16 hours: eating for 8 hours), this might be too much of a transition for your body to handle at once.
For example, a 16:8 schedule could look like you eating from 10:00am to 6:00pm and fasting from 6:00pm-10:00am the next day.
Instead, try moving a little more slowly by adopting a 14:10 fasting schedule, and working your way up to larger fasting windows.
For example, this would look like you adjusting your eating window to 8:00am-6:00pm so that you only have to fast from 6:00pm-8:00am the next day.
9. Start and End Your Fast At The Same Time Every Day
Your body loves consistency, and if you are trying to implement intermittent fasting but are constantly shifting the time of your fast, this will likely result in feelings of increased hunger during your fasting window.
To reduce feelings of intense hunger while fasting, I suggest that you keep a consistent fasting/eating schedule every day.
For example, if you like to fast between the hours of 7:00pm and 11:00am, make sure you stick to this fasting schedule every single day.
The more you do this, the more your body will get used to this fasting/ eating schedule, and the more manageable your hunger will be.
What To Do If You’re Still Hungry While Fasting
It is important to note that if persistent hunger continues while fasting even after you have implemented the tips mentioned above, you might need to take a look at how many calories you are consuming during your eating window.
If your calorie intake is too low, then it is unlikely that the feeling of hunger will go away until you increase your calories.
While a calorie deficit (eating fewer calories than you need to maintain weight) is required for fat loss, if calories dip too low, it can cause issues such as incessant hunger and low energy levels.
To make sure you are eating enough calories during your eating window, I recommend calculating your Total Daily Energy Expenditure (TDEE) to determine how many calories your body needs in a day:
- You can estimate your TDEE here.
- Once you have determined your TDEE, you can either keep your calories the same as your TDEE for weight maintenance, increase your calories by 250-500 for a bulking phase, or decrease your calories by 250-500 for fat loss.
- If you calculate your recommended intake based on your goal (maintenance, weight gain, fat loss) and are still too hungry to stick to a fasting schedule, then perhaps fasting isn’t the right approach for you and it would be better to eat more intuitively (eat when you’re hungry, stop when you’re full).
Frequently Asked Questions
When Do You Stop Getting Hungry While Fasting?
How long it takes to experience reduced hunger levels while fasting depends on the individual, but it is likely that hunger levels will stabilize anywhere from a few days to a few weeks after adopting a fasting schedule. If incessant hunger persists past a 2-week period, you may need to increase your calorie intake.
Is It Normal to Go to Bed Hungry When Fasting?
When you are fasting, you might feel some hunger prior to going to bed, especially if your eating window ends more than a few hours before you go to sleep. While this is considered normal, you want to ensure you aren’t going to bed too hungry, since this can disrupt your quality of sleep.
Other Fasting Resources
- Intermittent Fasting vs Carb Cycling: Which Is Better?
- Refeed After 3 Day Fast: 7 Rules To Follow & What To Eat
About The Author
Colby Roy is a holistic health and nutrition coach. She is certified through Precision Nutrition and has a passion for all things nutrition and healing the body. More specifically, Colby likes to work with clients who want to optimize their gut health and energy levels.