Keeping fit and eating healthily is a difficult task, especially when you are dealing with late-night cravings and hunger pangs. While there is nothing wrong with giving in and snacking on a few snacks to keep your stomach satisfied, it is essential to make sure that what you consume does not disrupt your fitness plan and undo all of your hard work.
This article will address questions like when do hunger pains go away while fasting and how to deal with them when it occurs. It’s also a good idea to understand why you’re hungry in the first place before you completely cave and grab a midnight snack from the fridge.
Defining Intermittent Fasting
According to reports, the most difficult aspect of fasting is the first day, and that is usually just if you eat a high-carb diet and/or are not used to going lengthy periods without eating1.
The idea behind IF is to allow your body a chance to refresh and recover itself from the constant “stress” of digesting meals every day.
An intermittent fasting regimen, like any other diet with an eating window, has the inescapable side effect of hunger. While some people find hunger utterly excruciating, there is a way to effectively deal with hunger symptoms even with your busy schedule2.
After eight or nine hours of sleep, you usually awake hungry. You might be ravenous by late afternoon, hours after you ate lunch. So you have a healthy appetite.
Your appetite represents your desire to eat. Hunger can drive appetite, but it does not have to. If you’re walking around your neighborhood and see a bakery with freshly baked cakes in the window and start drooling and feeling your tummy rumble, this isn’t due to hunger, especially if you just ate lunch3.
Your appetite might dictate how much food you want to eat, as well as the type of food you feel like eating. Hunger on the other hand is your body’s way of recognizing that it needs more food and sends a signal to your brain to eat.
Most people are unaware that a slew of hormones regulate hunger, appetite, and post-meal contentment. Their levels and signals alter when your diet and body fat percentage change. In addition, there is some evidence of a gender difference in response to them.
These hormones, which are generated by numerous organs and tissues, have a direct impact on hunger and how well or badly feeding is regulated in the brain. The hormone ghrelin and another produced from fat cells known as leptin are two of those directly involved in appetite regulation that plays a significant role1.
Fasting And Ghrelin
Ghrelin increases hunger, encourages fat accumulation, and decreases energy expenditure. Increased meal frequency tended to maintain consistent ghrelin levels throughout the day, whereas reduced meal frequency induced greater changes in ghrelin.
The content of the meal that breaks the fast is also important in maintaining ghrelin levels in check. Fats have the least effect on ghrelin, but carbs frequently produce rebound hypersecretion.
Increasing protein, in particular, is one approach to control appetite and may even maintain satiety in the face of excessive ghrelin. Ghrelin levels are also higher when sodium intake is low, thus keeping a healthy salt intake may help1.
It has been suggested that chronically high ghrelin levels are linked to changes in body fat. Further studies linked elevated levels of ghrelin are connected to increased activity in the brain’s reward system and emotional eating.4.
Fasting And Leptin
Leptin is a master hormone that influences other appetite-related hormones. A decrease in leptin is known to increase hunger and create weight loss plateaus. Overweight or obese people often have high amounts of leptin but are resistant to it, whereas slimmer individuals may have lower levels but higher sensitivity.
Because leptin sends signals to the brain that govern fullness, a lack of leptin means the brain may not recognize contentment and hunger may remain excessive.
Fasting also reduces neuropeptide-Y, a hormone that stimulates hunger for carbohydrates. In terms of leptin, it appears that the normal modern lifestyle (fast food, little or no exercise, too much stress, and not enough sleep) contributes significantly to its disruption, with lack of sleep being a key culprit.
So sleep the recommended 8 hours a day if possible. If not, sleep more in general as your body makes less leptin if you don’t get enough rest. If you’ve ever felt hungrier the day after a poor night’s sleep, this could be because your leptin levels have dropped1.
When Do Hunger Pains Go Away While Fasting?
A hunger pang is an empty stomach cramp. When you reach the point when you feel hunger pains in a non-fasted state, your ghrelin levels have grown, and your brain and stomach are signaling you it’s time to eat.
But what if you’re fasting and can’t eat? The realistic anticipation is that the hunger pains will worsen as time passes. But this is not the case. Usually, the first few times of your fast may be challenging, even agonizing, and all you can think about is when your next meal will be. Just know that if you can make it past the first or second day, you’ll feel better about it.
Basically, the duration and intensity of hunger pains while fasting can vary depending on the individual and the length of the fast. For some people, hunger pains may subside after the first day or two of fasting, while for others they may last throughout the entire fast.
Your body will adapt to fasting by switching its source of energy to fat, thus reducing hunger sensation over time, which is why some people find that hunger pains decrease as they continue to fast.
To add, less leptin in your system may make you more prone to overeating, which can happen after a fast. Some fasters may have an increase in leptin during and after their fast. You may be prone to overeating as your hunger returns, so watch what you eat in the hours and days following a fast3.
It’s worth noting that if you’re going to fast for an extended period of time or for health reasons, it’s important to consult a healthcare professional to make sure that it’s safe for you to do so and that you’re aware of the risks and any potential side effects.
How To Deal With Hunger Pains?
When feeling hungry, occupy yourself and your thoughts by drinking water, enjoying a cup of herbal tea, or simply going for a jog or watching a movie.
Intermittent fasting might cause some discomfort in your body over the first few days. Hunger and energy fluctuations are totally natural at this stage. Fortunately, there are few tips for curbing hunger waves and allowing your body to adjust to its new eating pattern3.
1. Consume Healthy Fats
Intermittent fasting purists argue that even a single calorie consumed breaks your fast. If you want to lose weight and you feel hungry, you should consider eating healthy fats during your fasting period. By doing so, you maintain another fat-burning condition known as ketosis, which can help you extend your intermittent fast for a few more hours. Consider using butter or coconut oil5.
2. Stay Hydrated
Water, black coffee, and green or black tea are all acceptable beverages during intermittent and longer-term fasts. Outside of hunger, drinking throughout the day is a good idea. Because eating provides around 20% of your daily hydration, you must compensate by drinking fluids.
You’ll also find that if you drink water or tea on a regular basis, your hunger pangs will be less intense. True, a gut full of liquids isn’t the same as the satisfaction you receive after a nice meal, but it’s better than nothing3.
3. Avoid Alcoholic Drinks
If you don’t know it yet, drinking alters blood glucose levels. Additionally, the carbohydrates in alcoholic beverages raise the level of the hunger hormone ghrelin in your body, which promotes appetite even when you aren’t hungry. In fact, up to 5 hours after consuming alcohol, hunger hormones can surge2.
4. Have The Right Intermittent Fasting Plan
If you’re new to intermittent fasting, it may appear complex and puzzling at first. There is no one perfect intermittent fasting regimen, but your success is determined by the strategy you employ. As with any healthy eating regimen, it’s vital to experiment and figure out what intermittent fasting type works best for you2.
5. Drink Bone Broth
Bone broth, like healthy fats, may technically break the fast but still allow for many of intermittent fasting’s benefits to occur. It contains a variety of beneficial minerals and vitamins that might help you feel full and lessen hunger cravings5.
6. Have Proper Sleep
Make sure your bedroom is cool and properly aired. Some of the best ways to have proper sleep include practicing these:
- Keep to a regular bedtime that is not too late.
- Blocking out noise and light.
- Not eating at least 3 hours before bedtime.
- Avoiding screens and blue light an hour before bedtime.
- Wind down with a book.
- Incorporating exercise into your day.
A good night’s sleep will almost surely reduce your stress levels. You can also use stress-reduction practices such as yoga, meditation, exercise, journaling, and counseling to increase your serotonin (happy hormone)6.
There are various intermittent fasting regimens, and some people perform far better on specific protocols than others.
As with anything, some people are more prone than others to losing control of their food intake upon breaking the fast. However, it appears to be more true for people aiming to restrict themselves to a single meal.
Some hunger is inevitable during a fast, but it should stabilize and decrease as you adapt to your fasting regimen.
Finally, becoming aware of the emotions that drive eating and distinguishing between a hedonistic impulse to eat, i.e. being interested in food and boredom, and actual hunger might ease the transition to fasting and help you deal with these hunger pains as well.
1 Diabetes.co.uk. (2022, September 8). Fasting may change the body’s hunger response – here’s what to do about it. Diabetes. https://www.diabetes.co.uk/in-depth/fasting-may-change-bodys-hunger-response-heres/
2 Schellekens, H., Finger, B. C., Dinan, T. G., & Cryan, J. F. (2012). Ghrelin signalling and obesity: At the interface of stress, mood and food reward. Pharmacology &Amp; Therapeutics, 135(3), 316–326. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.pharmthera.2012.06.004