Not Hungry on The Keto Diet? Should You Eat More?

not hungry on keto dietYou embarked on the ketogenic diet journey and now you aren’t hungry.

Eating fewer calories in an effort to lose weight and improve body composition typically conjures up the idea of feeling hungry while counting calories.

After all, doesn’t calorie restriction make you hungry? For the average dieter, this is the case.

If you’re used to eating 3,000 calories a day and suddenly restricted yourself to 1,500, you can imagine how hungry you’d feel (and you’d probably be right to some extent).

But not all diets are the same, nor are their effects on hunger. The ketogenic diet has the opposite effect on dieters.

Studies suggest that ketogenic dieters are less hungry despite eating fewer calories than they would without restricting calories (1, 2).

That’s fantastic, right?

But where did your appetite go? You’re not hungry on keto, why?

Let’s find out!

The Role of the Brain

The ketogenic diet affects appetite and much of it comes down to the role that the brain plays in regulating hunger.

When your body requires more food, it’s the brain that communicates this fact. This may sound simple enough, but the process doesn’t always work optimally in every person.

Some people who continue to feed themselves despite being severely overweight may have an impairment in how the brain signals satiety.

As a result, they tend to take in far more calories than they require.

The hypothalamus of the brain manages the feeling of fullness after meals. Once we eat a certain amount of food, the hypothalamus controls the communication that we no longer need to feed ourselves (3).

But how exactly is this satiety regulated in the brain?

One theory suggests blood glucose levels have a huge impact on feelings of hunger.

As the level of sugar in the blood decreases between meals, signals are sent to receptors in the brain, after which appetite increases.

The basis behind this “glucostatic theory” is that a reduction in glucose utilization in the brain leads to hunger, while increased glucose utilization leads to a reduction in hunger (4).

In addition to the levels of glucose in the blood, other factors play a role in appetite stimulation, such as the number of calories consumed and the types of macronutrients ingested.

But the ketogenic diet looks a little different from other diets when it comes to hunger levels. While this diet is associated with the consumption of fewer calories, it’s also linked to a decrease in hunger.

Keto dieters are supposed to steer clear of carbohydrates, leaving only protein, fats, and certain vegetables to feast on.

Since carbs tend to make up the majority of the typical diet, it makes sense that a large chunk of calories are slashed when carbs aren’t depended on to fill the daily caloric total.

The ketogenic diet allows participants to eat as much as they like as long as they focus their calories on specific proportions of macronutrients.

There is no calorie counting involved.

Yet despite the fact that there is no need to count calories, participants in ketogenic diets tend to consume less food simply because their hunger is satisfied.

And with less food consumption and caloric intake comes a decrease in weight. But what is it about the ketogenic diet that has dieters feeling less hungry?

Ketones’ Role in Suppressing Hunger

Some studies suggest it’s the actual ketones themselves, the energy byproduct of ketosis, that influence appetite regulation (5, 6).

But what exactly do ketones do to help suppress the appetite?

One theory could involve the stabilization of blood glucose.

In a state of ketosis, the body does not experience fluctuations in blood glucose levels, as is the case on a typical carb-filled diet.

Such flatlining of blood glucose levels could lead to better signaling of hunger (7).

Obviously, a suppressed appetite is good for keeping the number of calories consumed at bay.

The basic premise of weight loss involves consuming fewer calories than are expelled. The fewer calories you eat compared to the number you expel, the more weight you’ll lose.

However, it’s not always so simple.

Hormones and Appetite Regulation

Your appetite is controlled by how hormones and the brain interact with each other. Unfortunately, the average American diet often causes impairment in hormone function, leading to an increase in hunger (8).

On the other hand, the ketogenic diet has been linked to a reduction in hunger symptoms by having a suppressing effect on hunger hormones (9).

In particular, two hormones come into play for the regulation of appetite: leptin and ghrelin.

Leptin is released after an increase in food intake or body fat.

This hormone is able to tell the hypothalamus the current state of the body’s energy level.

Leptin basically tells the hypothalamus that the body has enough fat, which should lead to a reduction in food intake in a healthy individual (10).

Ghrelin is a hormone that’s secreted by the stomach and depends on the food being eaten. Before the body is fed, ghrelin exists in elevated levels in the body.

This is when the brain is told that the body is hungry and needs to be fed. After eating, the level of ghrelin decreases and the body is told to stop eating as no more food is required (11).

As such, both leptin and ghrelin are important regulators of appetite.

In a state of ketosis brought about by following the ketogenic diet, an increase in ghrelin is suppressed, which can reduce feelings of hunger.

In fact, studies have shown an association between ketone production on the ketogenic diet and the suppression of ghrelin, which partially explains why dieters don’t feel as hungry despite the cut in calories (12, 13).

Not Hungry on Keto, But Are There Side Effects?

Not having much of an appetite can be positive for those striving to shed unwanted body fat. But are there are drawbacks to losing your appetite while on the ketogenic diet?

Yes, there are certain negative side effects associated with long-term loss of appetite, including the following (14):

  • Fatigue
  • Lack of motivation to participate in activities
  • Weakness
  • Less stamina and endurance
  • Mental exhaustion
  • Bowel issues

Not having much of an appetite may help you lose weight, but it could also be a deterrent in allowing your body to get the food it needs to function properly.

In the end, counting calories while on the ketogenic diet might be a good idea because going under a certain caloric amount could lead to negative effects on your health.

The Bottom Line

There are plenty of things that can sabotage weight loss efforts and hunger is perhaps the most significant. A raging appetite can lead to consuming far more calories than the body needs to create a calorie deficit and lose weight.

One of the great things about the ketogenic diet is that it can help suppress appetite despite a reduction in calories. Studies have been conducted on ketosis and appetite suppression, so there’s science to back up this claim.

Just be careful that you’re feeding your body with food in healthy proportions so that you maintain your overall state of wellbeing while on your way to weight loss.

20 thoughts on “Not Hungry on The Keto Diet? Should You Eat More?”

  1. I’m on keto diet since January and lost 24 lbs so far. I do not want to lose weight anymore but I do not have an appetite and in fact food doesn’t appeal to me as it used to. I have to force myself to eat a little everytime. Especially when I get up in the morning and if I try to do much, I feel sick, faint and get dry heaves.

    Is there any food that will turn this around?

  2. I have virtually no appetite two weeks into ketogenic eating but today I also have the side effects, especially lack of motivation to participate in activities. I guess I better just eat something anyway.

  3. I have been on keto diet for 5 weeks. I’ve lost 20lbs and yes my appetite has been suppressed. My only worry is that when I return to carbs ( normal diet) I will put some back on which I don’t want to do!

    1. Philippa Ramirez

      I’m in much the same boat, I’ve been on keto for three weeks and have lost nine pounds and I’m never hungry. Today I feel nauseous as we had scrambled eggs with cut up pieces of hamburger in it. Sounds gross I know but it’s left me feeling sick. I plan to keep going as I have fifty pounds left to go.

    2. Are you still keto? I’m at the end of week 3, and down 8lbs. I have the same concern, but My doc said you have to gradually increase your carb intake over the course of a few weeks as to not gain the weight back.

  4. Similar results for me. 5-weeks in and I have lost 22 lbs….but I sometimes have to convince myself to eat…and as others have said….have experienced some fatigue and weakness. Never thought I’d so look forward to a simple salad as I do now.

    1. Yes! Three weeks in and have no appetite and the only thing that sounds appealing is a simple salad. I’m for big myself to barely reach 800 calories a day at this point.

  5. I started kito diet 3 days ago and since yday my appetite is so low that after I eat simple salad I feel like throwing up (but I still make sure I eat enough calories) and if I don’t eat I feel a bit of weakness. My bowel is making some noise and I had short time diarrhea yday evening and my pee smells funny. Just wanted someone to tell me if I’m on right track. Thanks in advance.

  6. I am doing Keto, but feeling very confused. Hoping it’ll help me lose the weight and tone up. Any suggestions for a newbie would be appreciated!!

  7. I’m in week 6 of the keto diet, I now have absolutely no appetite! I can’t even eat one egg without wanting to throw up.

  8. On Keto for 5 weeks now. I have no appetite and have to force myself to eat. I’m also on intermittent fasting but the scale only went down 5 lbs. what’s happening?

    1. Jernej Theuerschuh

      First of all count all the calories you eat in a regular day and you will see where you stack up to what your body is ideally burning.

      Secondly, the scale is a horrible way to indicate your weight. Measure yourself. Do it now.

      Go take a tape measure and measure your belly, breasts, arms, legs and all of it. And then do the same next week. You will see that while your scale is steady you are shrinking. I guarantee it. If you are eating less than you are burning you will see that you are shrinking.

      Do not be discouraged. Be smart. Be vigilant.

      1. Thanks Jernej. I’m entering my 3rd week and am stagnant at 11lbs. I was getting concerned but I’ll start tracking my measurements to see if my waist and other areas are shrinking.

    2. Dulce Hernandez

      I am trying to eat 6 meals a day including snacks since I bike and go to the gym… I’ve noticed my hunger being so suppressed I only get hungry to eat twice a day. My weight hasn’t gone to down. My workouts are very heavy and I’m concerned since I haven’t been showing progressive weight loss.

  9. I lost 80 lbs in one year. Slowly gained back 20 over the next year “celebrating”. Back on for 5 days, 5 lbs down and I full Ketosis. I don’t want to eat at all. My energy has increased though. Snack on small amount of nuts or cheese.

  10. Hello,
    I have been on keto for a little over 15 weeks. I also do intermittent fasting so I don’t eat for 16 hours. During my fasting I get hungry right around the same time every day. It is usually three hours before it is time for me to break fast. Or around lunch time. I am thinking of shortening my fast to actually eat when I am hungry. After that thirty minutes or so of hunger I am not hungry anymore. I have to go and eat to break my fast but I have never actually been hungry when breaking my fast which is around 2 in the afternoon. Once I eat at 2 I am not hungry the rest of the day. I force myself to eat dinner sometimes but most times some olives or quick snack of cauliflower crackers and cheese just to add some more calories to my day.

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