Dealing with Sugar & Carb Cravings on a Low Carb Diet
If you are just starting to reduce the amount of carbohydrates in your diet, you may be feeling especially hungry and sluggish and, on some nights, you could really go for a dessert…
This is a completely normal and common experience that many people have when they cut out carbs from their diet all at once. Your body becomes accustomed to the diet you regularly follow – whether it’s clean or not – and so the initial switch to a new diet will always send a shock to your system. Luckily, there are many ways to help reduce these cravings and satisfy them in a way that will not ruin your progress!
What Causes Sugar & Carb Cravings?
Carb or sugar cravings are really just your body’s reaction to not having its usual fuel source, glucose. When your body is reliant on a high amount of carbs and sugar for fuel, it is regular to a certain metabolic cycle, which includes drastic blood sugar spikes and constant secretion of insulin levels. It is actually used to being thrown into overdrive on a daily basis, and so these cravings can feel very intense when you finally cut them out. But, sustaining your body in the long run with a high amount of carbs and sugar (and depending on your genetics) can have very serious negative consequences for your health. The goal should be to get your body to run smoothly throughout the day on consistent, clean diet rich in nutrients, so you don’t have to deal with the short and long-term physical effects of a sugary diet.
Sugar Cravings and Ketosis
It takes your body about 6-8 weeks to fully enter ketosis, that is, the metabolic process of converting fats into energy (ketones). During this time, you may experience sugar cravings since you will be cutting your normal carb intake down to 5-10% of your daily consumption.
Sugar cravings are easy to identify. They can feel like:
- Extreme tiredness
- Uncontrollable hunger and thirst
- Intense desire for high carb foods (not necessarily just sweet things)
The good thing is that once your body has completely switched over to ketosis, the carb cravings should disappear as your body learns what it needs instead (fats). Until then, it is important to stay on track of your ketogenic diet and understand that while the transition may be difficult, it will only be temporary.
How to Reduce or Manage Cravings
There are some unexpected causes of sugar cravings. Learn what they are below and how you can better manage cravings for a more pleasant transition into ketosis.
- Don’t cut out carbs too slowly, or too quickly.
There are two ways to cut carbs, either all at once or more gradually. The key to both is measuring your macronutrient intake (daily percentages of fat, protein and carbs). It is extremely important to keep track of your macros if you are trying to reach or stay in ketosis. There are several apps that can help you do this, as you may not know the exact amount of net carbs in your fruits and vegetables, for example.
Going cold turkey on carbs can help reduce sugar cravings more quickly as your body becomes accustomed to its new source of fuel. However, sometimes going cold turkey can be more difficult. However, if you choose to go the more gradual route, be aware that sugar cravings may persist longer.
Whichever route you choose, here’s a quick list of low-carb products to reassure that the transition doesn’t have to be painful and unsatisfying:
- Make sure you’re getting the right amounts of macronutrients.
Usually, your body craves sugar when you de-energized since it is converted into energy (glucose) very quickly. Remember, our bodies are programmed to keep us alive; although we live in a modern society, our bodies are always prepared if we enter “starvation mode.” Instead of sending your body into an emergency response mode, make sure you are feeding it enough of what it needs and at the right time. Timing can play a big role in getting used to a new diet, try to plan your meals around the same time each day so your body gets into a rhythm, again making it harder to fall out of balance.
When you are in ketosis, your body will try to convert fats into fuel. But if you are not consuming enough fats, your body will panic and send you signals to get more fuel, FAST! And this is when the sugar cravings start.
Make sure you brush up on exactly how many grams of fats, proteins and carbs you need each day for your specific dietary needs. Typically for a ketogenic diet, the percentages of your daily macronutrient intake should be 5-10% carbs, 20-25% protein and 70-80% fats. For a list of FAQ, please visit our blog article here.
Also, if you constantly feel hungry, adding more protein to your diet may be the answer. Nick’s Sticks 100% Grass-Fed Beef Sticks and BUFF Artisan Bison Meat Sticks are both great protein-packed snacks to have on the go and in between meals. Fibre can also keep you fuller longer, and it does not count as a net carb. Try adding more vegetables to your plate during meals or try Smart Sweets Stevia-Sweetened Gummies as a high-fibre, low-carb snack – each package contains 28g of fibre and just 3 net carbs! Aim for at least 30-40g of fibre each day. Another great source of fibre is raw seeds such as chia, flax and pumpkin. Anthony’s Goods Organic Flaxseed Meal can be added to smoothies, yogurt or low-carb granolas. Nud Fud and Rawnata Crackers are both made with whole, raw seeds and are high in fibre. Both of these are low-carb and great for dipping and topping, so pair them with your favourite kind of cheese, hummus or guacamole to increase your intake of fat – a highly satisfying midday snack!
- Drink enough water.
Sometimes your body confuses thirst with hunger. Signs of dehydration are very similar to hunger (why? Water can also be found in foods, such as fruits and vegetables, but eating heaping amounts of these is probably not the best way to get the amount of water your body needs). If you drink a glass of water and still feel hungry, then reach for a snack. No matter which diet or lifestyle you choose to pursue, always aim for 2-4L of water a day (depending on body weight and gender).
- Your emotions and stress levels could be playing a role.
Emotions affect your hormonal levels, and when your hormones and brain chemicals are imbalanced, your body can react in all sorts of ways to help rebalance them. For example, if you’re feeling down, the dopamine and serotonin rush you get from downing a tub of your favourite ice cream can really hit the spot. But this can lead you into a cycle of ups and downs, cravings and guilt – not to mention you definitely won’t be in ketosis anymore.
Before you make a major change to your diet, make sure that your mental health is in check. Adding the stress of trying to navigate a strict new diet can be extremely difficult if you are not ready. You can start by gradually replacing things with healthier alternatives. The good thing is that with a cleaner diet, you will also notice improvements in your mental and emotional states as your hormones will be more balanced.
- Plan your meals in advance.
When you are new to a diet, it can be tempting to revert back to old ways. That’s why we recommend taking a moment to plan ahead for the week or so. Plan what you will eat for each meal and make sure you have a stash of healthy snacks for those moments of weakness. Even plan for dessert cravings by stocking up on low carb snacks and sweet treats that can help you along the way. Some great examples are sugar-free chocolates, low-carb baked goods, or protein bars that come in delicious flavours. Learn the differences between all the different types of bars in our blog article.
Another great way to keep a stockpile of diet-friendly treats is to bake them right at home! Use sugar-free sweeteners in place of regular cane sugar – there are tons of options that bake very similarly to traditional sugar. Check out all of The Low Carb Grocery’s keto-friendly baking products.
Reducing the amount of decisions, you have to make on a busy weeknight after work can help you make better decisions in the long run. We all know too well how easy it is to order food or pick up food after a long day, and this can ruin days or weeks of progress. Help your future self by taking a couple of hours on your days off to prepare meals ahead of time, at least until you are more comfortable with your new diet and are ready for a change!
Get Started Today!
If you liked this article or have other tips for curbing sugar cravings you’d like to share, leave us a comment on Facebook or tag us on Instagram! We also love to stay connected through our Weekly Newsletters and we welcome all feedback on your experience with us through Google Reviews.
With the right low carb foods, you can beat your sugar cravings into submission – so stock up on all the best low carb and sugar-free products today at The Low Carb Grocery Store.