You embarked on the ketogenic diet journey and you are not hungry, right?
Eating fewer calories on a diet in an effort to lose weight and improve body composition typically conjures up the idea of being hungry while counting calories.
After all, wouldn’t calorie restriction make you feel hungry? For the average diet, that would likely be the case.
If you’re used to eating 3,000 calories per day and were suddenly restricting yourself to 1,500, you would think that you’d feel hungry, and you probably would to some extent.
But not all diets are the same, nor are their effects on hunger. The ketogenic diet has an opposite effect on dieters.
Studies suggest that ketogenic dieters have fewer hunger pangs despite eating fewer calories than they would without restricting calories. That’s fantastic, isn’t it?
But where did my appetite go? I am not hungry on keto, why?
Let’s find out…
The Role of the Brain
The ketogenic diet affects the appetite, and much of it comes down to the role that 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 this process doesn’t always work optimally in every person.
It is believed that some people who continue to feed themselves despite being severely overweight and still feel hungry may have an impairment in how the brain signals satiety.
As a result, these people tend to take in far more calories than they require.
The hypothalamus of the brain is what controls the feeling of fullness after meals. Once we eat a certain amount of food, it’s the hypothalamus in particular that controls the communication that we no longer need to feed ourselves.
But how exactly is this satiety regulated in the brain?
One theory suggests that it is blood glucose levels that 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 the 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.
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 would be slashed if carbs cannot be 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 an inevitable 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 that it’s the actual ketones themselves that influence appetite regulation.
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 the fluctuations in blood glucose levels as is the case on a typical carb-filled diet.
Such flatlining of blood glucose levels could lead to the better signaling of hunger.
Obviously, a suppressed appetite is good for keeping the number of calories consumed at bay.
The basic premise of weight loss is consuming fewer calories than expelled. The fewer calories you eat compared to the number you expel, the more weight you’ll lose.
It is as simple as that.
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, which therefore leads to an increase in hunger.
On the other hand, the ketogenic diet has been linked to a reduction in unnecessary hunger symptoms by having a suppressing effect on hunger hormones.
Two hormones, in particular, come into play when it comes to regulating the appetite: leptin and ghrelin.
Leptin is released after an increase in food intake or body fat. This hormone is able to tell the hypothalamus what the current state of the body’s energy level is.
Leptin basically tells the hypothalamus that the body has enough fat, which should lead to a reduction in food intake in a healthy individual.
Ghrelin is a hormone that’s secreted by the stomach and relies 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.
As such, both leptin and ghrelin are important regulators of appetite.
In a state of ketosis brought about by following a 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 a ketogenic diet and the suppression of ghrelin, which partially explains why dieters don’t feel as hungry, despite the cut in calories.
Not Hungry on Keto — Are There Side Effects?
Not having much of an appetite can be seen as a positive thing for those who are striving to shed unwanted body fat. But are there are drawbacks to losing your appetite while on a ketogenic diet?
Yes, there are certain negative side effects associated with loss of appetite, including the following:
- Lack of motivation to participate in activities
- 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 enough food that it needs to function properly.
Counting calories 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 one of them is hunger pangs. A raging appetite can lead to consuming far more calories than the body should have in order to create a calorie deficit and lose weight.
One of the great things about the ketogenic diet is the fact that it can help suppress the appetite, despite a reduction in calories.
Studies have been conducted on ketosis and appetite suppression, so there’s science to back this claim up.
Just be careful that you’re feeding your body with food in good proportion so that you maintain your overall state of well-being while on your way to weight loss.