Carb cravings are inevitable on Keto. We want what we can’t have.
But carb cravings aren’t just psychological. There are physical reasons we crave carbs, especially the sweet class of carbohydrates called sugar.
Dealing with carb cravings requires a comprehensive mind-body approach. It also requires a bit of patience.
In this article, you’ll learn eight tips—both psychological and physical—for controlling carb cravings on Keto. Before getting there, though, let’s talk about what causes them.
What Causes Carb Cravings?
Carb cravings result from either:
- Physical causes
- Psychological causes
Obviously, the two categories overlap. The body affects the mind and the mind affects the body. But splitting them up makes carb cravings easier to understand.
When you digest carbs, those carbs end up in your bloodstream as blood glucose. This glucose supplies energy to your cells.
Going Keto entails reducing your carbohydrate intake. This reduces your incoming supply of glucose.
To compensate, your body activates glucose backup systems to keep your blood sugar at normal levels. But this compensation doesn’t happen immediately.[*]
And so blood glucose often dips in the early stages of switching to a Keto lifestyle, leading to a low blood sugar state called hypoglycemia. In turn, hypoglycemia triggers hunger.
Sugar withdrawal can also trigger cravings. In fact, researchers have found that eating sugar triggers similar areas of the brain as addictive drugs.[*] When the drug gets taken away, we crave more of it.
Imagine smelling something good. Baked cinnamon, maybe.
It would make your mouth water, wouldn’t it? Even if your stomach was full, you’d crave the treat.
The point is that your environment—what you see, smell, hear, taste, and touch—can stimulate cravings, even if your nutritional needs are 100% satisfied.
Hunger is also habitual. If you eat a bowl of ice cream every night at 9 PM, your body will start anticipating that ritual. You’ll get hungry at around 8:45. The trigger is the time of day.
In the 1890s, the scientist Ivan Pavlov started ringing a bell every time he fed dogs. Eventually, the dogs started salivating at the sound of the bell.[*] The hunger response had been conditioned by the bell.
What’s your bell? The smell of baked bread? The sight of an ice cream sandwich? In the next section, we’ll talk about minimizing hunger triggers to curb your cravings.
Menstrual Cycle Cravings
If you’re craving carbs before your period, it doesn’t necessarily mean you’re pregnant. Sweet cravings—driven by hormonal shifts in estrogen and progesterone—are normal and common for many women, especially during the luteal stage (latter stage) of menstruation.[*] Keep this in mind, and follow the below tips to get a handle on your sweet tooth.
13 Ways To Control Carb Cravings
To control carb cravings on Keto, it helps to have a plan. The following tips will help.
#1: Keep carbs low
The main rule of the Keto diet is to keep carbs low. Keeping carbs low helps your body transition from burning sugar to burning fat.[*]
When too many carbs invade your Keto diet, it blocks this transition. Your body gets confused. Are you trying to burn sugar or fat? If it thinks the answer is “sugar”, then that’s exactly what you’ll continue to crave.
On Keto, a good rule is to keep net carbs under 10% of your daily calories. Use the Carb Manager app to log your meals and make this easy.
#2: Control your environment
When you minimize the sights and smells that trigger cravings, you minimize cravings themselves.
Think of your kitchen as a science experiment. The purpose of that experiment is to encourage healthy eating behaviors.
This means keeping carbs out of the house if possible. If that’s not possible due to kids, partners, or friends, do your best to keep them out of sight. (By “them” we mean the carbs, not the kids).
#3: Eat low-carb vegetables
When building your Keto plate, don’t forget the non-starchy vegetables. Low-carb veggies like kale, spinach, broccoli, and asparagus are some of the most nutrient-dense foods around.
One of those nutrients is an indigestible carbohydrate called fiber. Fiber may be a carb, but it won’t kick you out of the fat-burning state called ketosis.
Quite the opposite. Fiber helps fill you up without adding calories.[*] Don’t skimp on it.
#4: Get enough sleep
If you aren’t sleeping well, your ability to resist carbs will plummet. Sleep deprivation, it’s been shown, increases your hunger hormone, ghrelin.[*]
That’s why getting plenty of sleep is essential for managing cravings. Get your seven to nine hours and you’ll be glad you did.
#5: Hydrate with water and electrolytes
On a Keto diet, your fluid and electrolyte needs go up.[*] Thirst is a good indicator of fluid needs, but electrolytes like sodium and potassium may need more planning.
What you think is a carb craving might be a sodium craving. It makes evolutionary sense. Sodium was scarce in ancestral times, so we evolved to crave salty things. The research bears this out.[*]
The solution? Add a few shakes of salt to your water and a few more to your food. You may find your “carb” cravings dissipate.
#6: Don’t restrict calories
If you want to lose weight, it makes sense to eat slightly fewer calories than your metabolism requires. Then your body starts dipping into its own supply (body fat) to meet your energy needs.
But the initial phase of Keto isn’t well-suited to calorie restriction. With your body adapting to a new fuel source, cravings will be inevitable. Why amplify them by limiting calories?
#7: Allow time to Keto-adapt
Adapting to using fat for energy—also called fat-adapting or Keto-adapting—happens at different rates in different people. Some may transition overnight, while others may take a few weeks.
If you’re coming from a high-carb diet, your Keto-adaptation probably won’t happen overnight. With the aid of the tips above, you may need to ride out a few cravings.
But once your Keto diet is dialed in, you should experience progressively fewer carb cravings. You’ll walk around feeling stable, satisfied, and complete. And that’s a very good place to be.
#8: Balance Blood Sugar
When blood sugar levels are out of balance, a host of symptoms (including carb cravings) can ensue.
A well-managed Keto diet can help support blood sugar levels[*]. But just because you’re cutting carbs, you needn’t become complacent.
Regularly consuming balanced meals of high-quality protein, healthy fats, and low-carb veggies will help maintain healthy blood sugar and keep cravings at bay.
#9: Consume Healthy Fats
On a Keto diet, you use fat instead of glucose for energy. This fat can come either from dietary sources or from your body.
Dietary fat in particular is crucial for satiety. By suppressing your appetite, it can prevent overeating.[*]
By loading up on healthy fats at every meal, you’ll be less inclined to reach for the carbs.
#10: Focus On Protein
Protein is crucial for recovery and repair. It creates the foundation for healthy muscle growth and maintenance.
Just like healthy fats, high-quality protein is satiating and leaves you feeling fuller for longer.[*]
When protein is balanced with Keto-friendly fats and low-carb veggies, you have a winning combination for reducing carb cravings and managing blood sugar levels.[*]
#11: Reduce Stress
If you’ve felt the urge to gobble sugar when stressed, congratulations: you’re a real human being.
Our brains are hard-wired to receive a temporary high from sugary foods. They literally make us addicted.
Unfortunately, a high-sugar diet is linked to myriad health complications, including the current obesity epidemic.[*]
Managing stress can go a long way towards cleaning up your diet. Cultivate healthy habits like spending time in nature, meditating and nurturing relationships to minimize everyday stresses.
#12: Adjust Your Macros
If you’re struggling on Keto—symptoms, weight loss plateaus, etc.—consider reassessing your macros.
Dietary needs vary from person to person, so the “standard” Keto macros may not be optimal for you. For starters, play around with your daily carb intake. If you need to add back some carbs to reduce cravings, there’s no shame in that.
#13: Let the craving pass
Hunger is a transient phenomenon. It arises and passes away.
A pleasant aroma will trigger a craving, but if you leave the environment, the craving will pass.
Even during a fast, hunger has limits. For instance, one study found that a 12-hour and 36-hour fast had similar effects on ghrelin levels.[*]
Even though hunger was higher during the longer fast, the primary hunger hormone remained steady. This suggests that psychology is driving the cravings.
With a different outlook on hunger, the cravings will be more likely to pass.
Staying in Control of Cravings
Instead of letting your cravings control you, follow these 13 tips to stay in charge of your sweet tooth. It won’t always be easy, but with the right environment, the proper nutrition, and the right mindset—it’ll be easier than you expect.
BlithesomeKale452576 a year ago
Thank you, after having a terrible day of cravings because of my frustration of not loosing any lbs for the last three weeks, I just wanted to give up, but I really didn’t wanted to throw away all my effort after loosing my 30 lbs. then I read your article on cravings and really brought me hope thanks for such a great App.😊💕
RousingCauliflower293854 a year ago
Thank you for your help on ways to stay in control of my cravings. I needed this.
Tamtam a year ago
I loved this article. Good refresher for me! Doing as this article says to do, definitely is the healthy road to my weight loss goal!! Thanks so much!
BlithesomeKale452576 a year ago
Great article, after me doing so good for almost two months, all of a sudden got the sweet tooth for a couple of days and felt so terrible that was ready to give up but I thought no! Can’t throw away what I had achieved so here I am reading this helpful article and back on track thank you 😊 so much.
AwesomeKale969246 a year ago
FavourableAvocado790211 2 years ago
I feel like I am doing ok and I am in ketosis. I must admit I have pinched a few french fries off my husband's plate. Generally speaking the cravings stopped after about 3 weeks
KetoPotato90 2 years ago
Thanks so much for these tips 💪 awesome article!!
Fran2.0 2 years ago
This article is on-point! I’ve been on Keto Lifestyle living for over a year and the cravings to go! Yes stop cold turkey or you’re setting up set-backs on a daily. Follow everything to a T! Once your body goes into ketosis mode - it’s all “gravy” from there 😃 Cravings are gone & you’re not even going to realize until someone mentions it lol I now cheat but I hit my goal weight and I live Keto so when holidays roll around I’m feeling golden to enjoy all types foods
MarvellousCauliflower144024 a year ago
Congratulations on hitting your goal!
Fran2.0 2 years ago
Stay focus beginners if you need to chat or motivation I’m happy to stand by your side. I lost over 50lbs in less than a 6-months span (trust the commitment may not be for all; everyone is different). Take baby steps in your comfort don’t go crazy. Stick with what makes you feel happy when you eat it 😃 TBH I stayed eating the same dish for 3-months until I truly learned Keto way of living. It was too much for me to learn and scan every food going into my mouth. So once I knew what dish would stay btwn my Leto #’s and put me into ketosis- I just ate those 3 dishes until scanned everything else I was interested in and I learned. Sorry for the novel but I hug you all!!
Happyhart69 2 years ago
Vette 2 years ago
Great article used it the first time. I need to refresh my mind now that I'm back. I need to lose 40 pounds that I regained during the pandemic. I need to chant this article every day......lol
Cadamygirl 2 years ago
Very informative article. I feel a lot of it is mental state. We are so used to consuming sugar and carbs that we crave it, like a drug. I've been "detoxing" from sugar and carbs for 8 days. Its starting to feel better 😌
TrudiC 2 years ago
This does not answer the question if someone has been doing keto for a while and still feels hungry. I'm not craving simple carbs, I don't feel satisfied after a meal.
RayRay 2 years ago
Take a look at yours Macros and the amount of good fats you are eating. Your don’t have to hungry on Keto. Read as much information as you can on good fats and incorporate them into your diet. Purchase a good high quality keto bread. Costco and Aldi‘s have good no carb bread. Spread a good quality of soften butter on the bread. Good luck. Think Good Fats.
eatingcleanketo 2 years ago
I use 3T of butter, 1T of heavy cream and 1T of MCT in my coffee. I started with 1tsp of MCT for a couple weeks so my body could adjust.
Patrícia 2 years ago
Hi! Please, how can I do the coffee ? That one with the Mac oil and butter?
LedgendarySharp 2 years ago
Then simply eat more fatty meats. Well marbled ribeye steak, not fish or chicken. Eat the fat all of it from your steak. Cook your eggs with low carb Carrizo with black skin Avocado, add a couple pieces of bacon. Eat before you get hungry. When you do eat only do it for eight hours of the day. Don’t eat tomatoes and onions. I love onion so eat green onions. Your coffee if you drink it put a tablespoon of butter in it use Splenda for sweeter. If you are the hungry Keto keep your fats at 80% for 3 weeks. Soon you will be able drop your calories down do 1200 or less and not be hungry. Exercise all you can. Once your body makes a real change to ketones. You will be done with hunger. When you get hungry in the future eat fat first, than protein. To much protein is a mistake.
BlithesomeAvocado289488 2 years ago
Trudi, I have the same problem and feel that ppl don’t understand what we are saying. Im hitting my protein, fat and carb macro goals according to the calculator provided here. I’ll go for a few days feeling ok with the meals then suddenly I feel really hungry and unsatisfied for a few days, even when hitting my fat and protein targets for a 1300 cal diet plan
Pip 2 years ago
Simply up your fat; such as avocado oil or olive oil...Even a bit of butter, cream cheese and so on... If you are not consuming enough fat, you will feel less satisfied.
Chinadoll1520 2 years ago
That's my issue I dont crave sweets just feel hungry some days I have a 1300 cal a day limit
France 2 years ago
Do you eat enough? Fats and meats are prioritized in Keto. Maybe a fatbomb could help.
SpectacularCauliflower277527 2 years ago
Excellent information. It is good to know that carb cravings are normal and the adjustment period can take about 3 weeks.
Kathy 2 years ago
Keep positive🌺 you are doing a good job! My go to when I am hungry is a packet of pork scratching, then a nice big glass of water. I always carry a bag of pork scratching around with me in my handbag...... keep the munchie carb gremlins away. I also cube mature cheddar cheese and about 10 olives handy in the fridge to munch on through the day. Do not worry about past setbacks, praise yourself for starting this amazing journey that you are on.🌺
Lethel2020 2 years ago
Agreed, very informative but unfortunately I have yet to remain on plan for 3 straight weeks. 😢