As a keto coach I get a lot of repeat-questions: most people after all go through the same stages when they start their keto lifestyle and come across the exact same issues. The ‘Ask your coach’ segment on the blog helps you get reliable and realistic answers to everyday keto-problems.
Q: I have been on this keto lifestyle for four months now and everything was going just fine. But the last three days I have been fighting these awful cravings! There are moments I have to almost physically restrain myself from eating everything in the fridge. I don’t get it it: I eat good meals, or at least I think I do, and it was not like this before. Am I doing something wrong here?
I get a lot of questions just like this one about what to do when cravings hit, but more specifically, what to eat when cravings hit. While it would be easy for me to give actual food suggestions or to point to the food list here I feel it is more important to figure out what is causing you to have these cravings in the first place. You can then deal with those specific causes first.
When doing keto correctly you should not have physical cravings and in most cases mental cravings should also not occur. But if they do, try to pinpoint possible causes first and do not look to keto snacks as a first resort. Consider things like:
You are not eating enough
Or simply put: you are under-eating on your macros. So check if you are in fact following a correct set of macros. If for some reason you have stopped tracking with an app, I advise to start doing so now. If you are practising intermittent fasting or doing OMAD you must also keep in mind you still need to eat to your full macros during your eating window. Do you need help with your macros? You can always contact me here.
You are fire-starting your own cravings
You freely eat craving inducing foods such as keto baked goods, low carb sweeteners, dark chocolate, low carb fruits but also nuts and cheese because you are under the assumption these are always okay to eat. Yes they may be okay for keto in general but they may also make you long for more. If you feel you have become too reliant on these types of foods try cutting back or leave them out for the time being.
You eat foods you think are keto but are in fact not
This is a very common one: falling into the trap of consuming pre-packaged ‘keto’ foods. Products like Slimfast, Atkins, Quest, Premier, any type of diet soda and the vast majority of products labeled with the words ‘low carb’ or ‘keto’ are really not suitable for the ketogenic lifestyle at all: they always contain a variety of non-keto ingredients. And these non-keto ingredients can lead to very severe cravings, not to mention the fact they are simply bad for health.
The word ‘keto’ is not a legally protected term and as such will be mis-used for profit by food companies simply jumping on the keto bandwagon. So always read labels, never assume something is keto or suitable for keto just because it says so on the packaging. For a list of non-keto ingredients look here.
Bullet proof- or fat coffees, but also fatbombs by the way, are very much known to cause cravings. Fat is always best eaten as and/or with proper foods and not consumed in liquids. The actual act of eating (i.e. chewing/swallowing/digesting) alone helps give the signal of satiety. Research also suggests the body does not see liquid calories as the same as calories coming from solid foods which in turn may cause you to eat more at your next meal.
Stress, boredom, emotions and lack of sleep
If you find yourself having cravings and mindlessly eating for these reasons you need to take a step back and try to deal with the underlying issues first. This may prove more difficult than you imagine and sometimes professional help can be helpful. It is up to you to decide if you need this outside help, during my coaching these issues do of course also arise and I will always help my coachees as best as I can. Here are some ways to help you reduce your stress levels:
- try meditation techniques; you can take zen meditation classes but meditation can be done anywhere anytime and there are also plenty of apps you can try. A lot of people are using Headspace, you can also try InsightTimer;
- avoid too much cardio exercise: excessive cardio raises those cortisol levels. So skip the daily running and try resistance training or HIIT instead;
- step away from social media, turn those electronic devices off; invest some of your time in actual social interaction for a change or take up some more relaxing activities such as walking or reading;
- try to get good sleep as well: you are much better equipped to handle stress well rested. So make sure you have good sleep hygiene: go to bed early, preferably at the same time every night, and make your bedroom a quiet, dark and comforting space. For more tips on good sleep go here.
Simply put: you are not drinking enough water. Dehydration may feel like a craving or actual hunger so keep your water intake up. As a general guideline 30ml of fluid (and this includes tea and coffee) per kg of body weight is the norm. This is however just a general rule that intends to find a common intake that will prevent dehydration.
Too much of anything is not a good thing, including water, but on keto most people find they do need to drink more than the above recommendation. How much more depends on biochemical individuality and food intake so go by how you feel, pay attention to your body.
Any imbalance in electrolytes (magnesium/potassium/sodium) can lead to cravings. It is very important you always stay on top of this. Please note the below recommended daily amounts are only averages, supplement needs may differ per individual and depends on bio-chemical individuality and types of food eaten. Do not rely solely on these numbers but always listen to your body.
- Take a good brand magnesium supplement, use magnesium spray oil or add Epsom salt to a (foot)bath.
recommended daily amount of magnesium: 300-500 mg
- For potassium add LoSalt to your water. Never supplement potassium in pills, that should only be done after consulting your dr.
recommended daily amount of potassium: 3000-4000 mg
- Salt food with Himalaya salt.
recommended daily amount of sodium: 3000-5000 mg
If you are are regularly drinking alcohol it may increase your appetite and cause dehydration at the same time, both of which will make you feel inclined to eat. It is always best to avoid alcohol or at least try not to consume it regularly. For more information about alcohol on keto go here.
Snacking in general
If you snack too much in general it will increase your insulin spikes. And too many of those will make you want to eat even more. Always make sure to eat two or three healthy filling meals per day and simply do not snack.
Something is missing in your daily diet which then manifests itself as a craving:
Do you have questions about the above or a comment of your own? Please let me know in the comments!
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