How hungry should I be when dieting? This is the million dollar question, so many of us want the answer. How hungry should I be? What is a typical degree of hunger while in a calorie deficit to lower body fat? During my weekly check in with clients, I do ask them to describe how hungry they are feeling, when they are the most hungry, and to attach their logs to take note of the foods they had surrounding those time periods. Unfortunately, being in a calorie deficit will be uncomfortable and come with occasional bouts of hunger that will need to be navigated in a way that does not increase your daily calories. I know most of us will think “if my body is telling me I am hungry, I surely do not have enough food.” While this may be true (considering real physiological hunger vs. emotional hunger), you want enough of an intake to make a deficit to give you the results you desire (should your goal be to shed a few L-Bs and decrease body fat). I know, I know, this is a “lifestyle”, so it’s not a diet- but you should not continue on low calories for the rest of your life so for lack of a better term we are going to say dieting. Cutting if you will. IE not maintenance, not reversing.
(Karey, just answer the question…. )
Yes, you are going to be uncomfortable at times during a caloric deficit. Hence why dieting doesn’t usually make it to the top of the list of fun things to do.
As you all know, I am a proponent of flexible dieting (IIFYM “if it fits your macros”). The reason I have adopted this way of dieting is the damage “clean eating” did to my relationship with food. I had a list of “good” and “bad” foods and negative emotions of failure and guilt associated with eating any of the foods on my “bad” list. From there, I ended up with uncontrollable cravings and a negative mindset after my 11th competition. I was a head case, and my life started to revolve around my “good” and “bad” food lists. With IIFYM, I have been able to look at food as low and high quality and not spiral out of control if I eat a once deemed “bad” food. I am a perfectionist by nature, and “failing” my diet by eating something off my previous clean eating plan would cause me emotional distress.
With that said, filling your day with low-quality foods will cause you to be even hungrier than you typically would be in a calorie deficit. Low quality, calorie dense foods, are low volume. High quality, nutrient dense, lower calorie foods are high volume and can be more filling.
What can we do to make being in a calorie deficit more comfortable? Follow my 3 top tips below to silence those hunger pangs.
1. Fiber. Fiber is a carbohydrate that is not easily digested by your body. So it passes through your system slowly, keeping you feeling full longer. It also does not cause the typical blood sugar rise of other carbohydrates for this reason. When blood sugar rises, insulin is released, ultimately lowering your blood glucose levels. The greater the rise (lots of sugary food), the greater the drop, and that can leave you feeling hungry.
Women will want to aim for approximately 25 grams of fiber per day. Men should shoot for about 35 grams.
How to hit your goals: Choose foods rich in fiber such as whole grains, fruits, and vegetables. There are also fiber supplements that can be used to meet your goals like Fiberlyze or Fiber DX. (Check out our store to snag it HERE)
2. Dietary fat with satiety: Another option would be to consider tweaking your macros to allow for more dietary fat without increasing total calories. Dietary fat, when consumed, sets off a cascade of signals which releases specific hormones that regulate appetite leaving you feeling full and satisfied- winning!
Try adding nuts, avocado, olive oil, coconut oil, cheese, fattier cuts of fish to your diet by exchanging some of your carb allotment for fat grams. Keep in mind that one gram of fat is nine calories versus 1 gram of carbohydrate that is four calories. Experiment with your ratios to see what works for you. If you are constantly hungry with lower fat, you are less likely to stick to your plan. The best plan is the one which you can adhere. Period.
3. Protein with carbs: Another way to control the blood sugar spikes and drops is to pair carbohydrates with protein that will also slow their absorption. Avoid having sugary treats or refined carbohydrates solo. Match up that Pop Tart with a protein shake!
Before you give up on dieting in its entirety, take a look at your food logs and see if you can incorporate these tips. I promise you it will make the lower calories more tolerable.
I’d be happy to look at your food logs and suggest specific changes- you can reach me directly at [email protected]