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  • Dr. Norbert Martin, DPT

10 Effective Strategies to Crush Hunger and Cravings During Intermittent Fasting

By Dr. Norbert Martin, DPT



Healthy hydration during fasting

Imagine this scenario: You’re on your third day of intermittent fasting, and you’re feeling great. At this point, you’ve lost some weight, your energy levels are high, and on top of that your skin is glowing. Needless to say, you’re confident that you can stick to this lifestyle and achieve your health and fitness goals.


But then, around 11 a.m., it hits you. A wave of hunger and cravings that makes you want to devour everything in sight. As a result, you start fantasizing about pizza, ice cream, chocolate, and chips. Sadly, you feel like you can’t go on another minute without eating something.


Sound familiar?


If you’ve ever tried intermittent fasting, you probably know how challenging it can be to deal with hunger and cravings. They can turn your day upside down, sabotage your progress, and tempt you to give up on your fasting plan.


But don’t worry, I am here to tell you that there’s hope. Hunger and cravings are not inevitable or insurmountable. In fact, they can be managed and even prevented with some simple tips and strategies.


In this blog post, I’ll share with you some effective strategies to help you crush hunger and cravings during intermittent fasting. Whether you’re new to fasting or a seasoned pro, these tips will help you make fasting easier and more enjoyable.


But first, let’s understand what hunger and cravings are, and why they occur during fasting.



Understanding Hunger and Cravings

Hunger and cravings are two different things that often get confused or used interchangeably. But they have different meanings, causes, and effects on your body and mind.


Hunger is the physical sensation of needing food. It’s your body’s way of telling you that it needs energy and nutrients to function properly. Hunger is influenced by various factors, such as your metabolism, hormones, activity level, and meal timing.


Cravings on the other hand, are the psychological desire for specific foods or flavors. They’re not necessarily related to your physical needs, but rather to your emotions, memories, habits, or environmental cues. Cravings are often triggered by stress, boredom, mood swings, or social situations.


Both hunger and cravings can be intensified during fasting. This is because fasting causes several changes in your body that affect your appetite. For example:


  • Your levels of ghrelin, the “hunger hormone”, increase during fasting. Ghrelin is produced by your stomach and signals your brain that it’s time to eat.

  • Your levels of leptin, the “satiety hormone”, decrease during fasting. Leptin is produced by your fat cells and tells your brain that you’re full and satisfied.

  • Your levels of insulin, the “storage hormone”, drop during fasting. Insulin is released by your pancreas and helps regulate your blood sugar levels.

  • Your levels of cortisol, the “stress hormone”, rise during fasting. Cortisol is secreted by your adrenal glands and helps you cope with stress.


These hormonal changes can make you feel hungrier and less satisfied during fasting. They can also affect your mood, energy, and cognitive function.



However, hunger and cravings are not always reliable indicators of your true nutritional needs. Sometimes, you may feel hungry or crave certain foods because of other reasons, such as:


  • Dehydration: When you’re dehydrated, your body may mistake thirst for hunger and send signals to eat more.

  • Habit: If you’re used to eating at certain times or in certain situations, your body may expect food even if you’re not really hungry.

  • Emotions: If you’re feeling stressed, anxious, sad, or bored, you may crave comfort foods to cope with your feelings.

  • Cues: If you see, smell, or hear something related to food, such as a TV commercial or a friend’s post on social media, you may crave it even if you’re not hungry.


Therefore, it’s important to learn how to manage hunger and cravings during fasting. Not only for your physical health but also for your mental well-being. By following some simple strategies, you can reduce hunger and cravings during fasting and make it easier for yourself to stick to your fasting plan.



Benefits of extended fasting graph
Early Time-Restricted Feeding Improves Insulin Sensitivity, Blood Pressure, and Oxidative Stress Even without Weight Loss in Men with Prediabetes. Sutton et al 2018


Proven Strategies to Tackle Hunger

One of the most common challenges of intermittent fasting is dealing with hunger. Feeling hungry can make you feel irritable, tired, or tempted to break your fast. Fortunately, there are some proven strategies that can help you tackle hunger during fasting and make it more manageable. Here are some of them:


A glass of water with lemon slices

Tip 1: The Power of Hydration

One of the easiest and most effective ways to curb hunger during fasting is to stay hydrated. Drinking enough water can help you feel fuller, flush out toxins, boost your metabolism, and prevent dehydration headaches. Water also helps regulate your appetite hormones and signals your brain that you’re not hungry.

Aim to drink at least 2 liters of water per day during fasting. You can also drink other fluids like black coffee, green tea, or any other herbal tea (as long as they don’t contain calories or sweeteners). These beverages can also help suppress your appetite and provide some health benefits.


To make water more appealing and flavorful, you can add some lemon, cucumber, or mint to it. You can also use a water bottle with markings or a timer to remind yourself to drink water regularly.



Tip 2: Gradual Fasting Window Extension

If you’re new to intermittent fasting or want to extend your fasting window, don’t try to do it all at once. Instead, gradually increase the length of your fasts over time. This will allow your body and mind to adjust to the new routine and reduce the shock of hunger.

For example, if you’re used to eating three meals a day with snacks in between, start by skipping one snack or meal per day. Then gradually increase the time between meals until you reach your desired fasting window. You can also use apps or trackers to monitor your progress and motivate yourself.


Some popular types of intermittent fasting are:

  • 16/8: You fast for 16 hours and eat within an 8-hour window. For example, you skip breakfast and eat between 12 p.m. and 8 p.m.

  • 18/6: You fast for 18 hours and eat within a 6-hour window. For example, you skip breakfast and lunch and eat between 2 p.m. and 8 p.m.

  • 20/4: You fast for 20 hours and eat within a 4-hour window. For example, you skip breakfast and lunch and eat between 4 p.m. and 8 p.m.

  • 5:2: You eat normally for five days and fast for two days. On the fasting days, you limit your calorie intake to 500 calories for women and 600 calories for men.


Experiment with different methods and find the one that fits your schedule and preferences.



Tip 3: Balanced Meals

What you eat when you break your fast is just as important as when you eat it. Eating balanced meals that contain protein, healthy fats, complex carbohydrates, fiber, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants can help you feel fuller for longer and prevent blood sugar spikes and crashes that can trigger hunger.

Some examples of balanced meals are:


Avocado toast with eggs
  • Scrambled eggs with spinach and avocado on whole-wheat toast

  • Grilled chicken salad with quinoa and olive oil dressing

  • Salmon with roasted vegetables and brown rice

  • Greek yogurt with berries and nuts !

  • Lentil soup with whole-grain bread


When breaking your fast, avoid eating too much or too fast. This can cause indigestion, bloating, or nausea. Instead, eat slowly and mindfully, savoring every bite. Stop eating when you’re comfortably full and satisfied.



Tip 4: Protein-Packed Choices

Protein is one of the most hunger-fighting nutrients because it takes longer to digest than carbohydrates or fats. Protein also helps build and maintain muscle mass, which boosts your metabolism and burns more calories. Eating enough protein can help you feel more satisfied after breaking your fast and reduce hunger during your next fast.

Aim to eat at least 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight per day. Some good sources of protein are:



A plate of shrimp in coconut broth
  • Lean meats like chicken, turkey, beef, or pork

  • Fish and seafood like salmon, tuna, shrimp, or sardines

  • Eggs and dairy products like cheese, yogurt, or cottage cheese

  • Plant-based proteins like beans, lentils, tofu, tempeh, or edamame

  • Nuts and seeds like almonds, walnuts, sunflower seeds, or chia seeds



Tip 5: Filling Foods

Another way to curb hunger during fasting is to eat foods that are high in volume but low in calories. These foods are usually rich in fiber and water, which fill up your stomach and make you feel full. Fiber also slows down digestion and helps regulate blood sugar levels.

Some examples of filling foods are:


A plate of radicchio salad
  • Fruits and vegetables like apples, oranges, berries, carrots, celery, broccoli, or cauliflower

  • Whole grains like oats, barley, buckwheat, or millet

  • Soups and stews like chicken soup, vegetable soup, or bean chili

  • Salads with leafy greens and other veggies

  • Popcorn (without butter or salt)






Effective Techniques for Beating Cravings

Another common challenge of intermittent fasting is dealing with cravings. Cravings are the intense urges to eat specific foods or flavors that are usually unhealthy or high in calories. Cravings can be triggered by various factors, such as emotions, memories, hormones, or environmental cues.


Cravings are not the same as hunger. Hunger is a physical need for food, while cravings are a psychological want for food. Cravings are often more difficult to resist than hunger because they involve emotional and mental aspects. However, there are some effective techniques that can help you beat cravings during fasting and make them less frequent and intense. Here are some of them:



A woman working on a laptop

Tip 1: Staying Busy

One of the best ways to beat cravings during fasting is to stay busy and distract yourself from thinking about food. Engaging in activities that require your attention and concentration can help you forget about your cravings and focus on something else. These activities can also boost your mood and reduce stress.


Some examples of activities that can keep you busy are:


  • Working on a project or task

  • Reading a book or magazine

  • Listening to music or podcasts

  • Watching a movie or show

  • Playing a game or puzzle

  • Exercising or doing yoga

  • Meditating or breathing exercises

  • Cleaning or organizing your space

  • Calling or texting a friend or family member



Tip 2: Mindful Eating

Another technique that can help you beat cravings during fasting is mindful eating. Mindful eating is the practice of paying attention to your food and eating experience with all your senses. Mindful eating can help you enjoy your food more, eat less, and avoid emotional eating.


To practice mindful eating, follow these steps:


  1. Before you eat, check in with your hunger and fullness levels. Are you really hungry or just craving something? How full are you after eating?

  2. Choose a food that you really want to eat and that will nourish your body and mind.

  3. Sit down at a table and eliminate any distractions like TV, phone, or computer.

  4. Look at your food and notice its color, shape, texture, and smell.

  5. Take a small bite and savor its flavor, texture, temperature, and sound.

  6. Chew slowly and thoroughly before swallowing.

  7. Pause between bites and put down your utensils.

  8. Notice how your body feels as you eat. Are you still hungry or getting full?

  9. Stop eating when you’re comfortably full and satisfied.



Tip 3: Using Spices and Herbs

Another technique that can help you beat cravings during fasting is using spices and herbs to add flavor to your food. Spices and herbs can enhance the taste of your food without adding extra calories or sugar. They can also provide some health benefits like antioxidants, anti-inflammatory properties, and digestive support.

Some examples of spices and herbs that can add flavor to your food are:



natural herbs display
  • Cinnamon - Adds sweetness and warmth to oatmeal, coffee, tea, yogurt, or fruit.

  • Ginger - Adds spiciness and freshness to soups, stir-fries, salads, or smoothies.

  • Turmeric - Adds color and earthiness to rice, curries, eggs, or milk.

  • Basil - Adds freshness and aroma to pasta, pizza, sandwiches, or salads.

  • Mint - Adds coolness and brightness to water, tea, fruit salads, or yogurt.



Tip 4: Meal Planning

Another technique that can help you beat cravings during fasting is meal planning. Meal planning is the process of deciding what you’re going to eat ahead of time. Meal planning can help you avoid impulse eating, save time and money, eat healthier, and reduce food waste.


To start meal planning, follow these steps:


  1. Choose a time frame for your meal plan (e.g., weekly, biweekly, or monthly).

  2. Check your pantry, fridge, and freezer for what you already have.

  3. Plan your meals and snacks based on your fasting schedule, nutritional needs, preferences, and budget. You can use online tools, apps, or cookbooks to find recipes and ideas.

  4. Make a shopping list of the ingredients you need and buy them in advance. You can also batch cook some meals and freeze them for later use.

  5. Stick to your meal plan and avoid buying or eating foods that are not on your plan. You can also prepare your meals and snacks in advance and store them in containers or bags for easy access.



Tip 5: Consistency

Another technique that can help you beat cravings during fasting is consistency. Consistency means following a regular fasting routine that suits your lifestyle and goals. Consistency can help you establish a habit of fasting, reduce fluctuations in your appetite hormones, and make fasting easier and more natural.


To be consistent with your fasting, follow these tips:


  • Choose a fasting method that works for you. There are different types of intermittent fasting, such as 16/8, 18/6, 20/4, or 5:2. Experiment with different methods and find the one that fits your schedule and preferences.

  • Set a clear start and end time for your fasting window. Use a timer, app, or calendar to remind yourself when to start and stop eating.

  • Follow the same fasting schedule every day or week. Try to avoid changing your fasting window too often or skipping fasts.

  • Be flexible and adaptable. If you have a special occasion, travel, or illness that prevents you from fasting, don’t stress about it. Just resume your normal fasting routine as soon as possible.



Fasting and Your Lifestyle

Intermittent fasting is not a one-size-fits-all approach. Different lifestyles may require different strategies for managing hunger and cravings during fasting. For example, if you work in an office or have a busy schedule, you may face different challenges than someone who works from home or has more free time.


Here are some common challenges that you may encounter while fasting and how to overcome them:


A group of people eating at a table
  • Fasting while working: If you work in an environment where food is readily available or where you have to attend meetings or events that involve food, it can be hard to resist temptation and stick to your fasting window. To cope with this challenge, you can try these tips:

  • Inform your colleagues or clients about your fasting schedule and ask for their support and understanding.

  • Bring your own food or snacks to work and eat them during your eating window.

  • Avoid the cafeteria, vending machines, or break rooms where food is displayed.

  • Drink water, coffee, tea, or other calorie-free beverages during your fasting window.

  • Schedule your meetings or events outside of your fasting window or decline invitations that conflict with your fasting schedule.

  • Fasting while socializing: If you enjoy going out with friends or family for meals or drinks, it can be hard to balance your social life and your fasting routine. To cope with this challenge, you can try these tips:

  • Plan your social outings around your eating window or adjust your fasting window accordingly.

  • Choose restaurants or venues that offer healthy options that fit your dietary needs.

  • Order water, sparkling water, or unsweetened tea instead of alcoholic or sugary drinks.

  • Eat mindfully and moderately when dining out. Avoid overeating or bingeing on unhealthy foods.

  • Enjoy the company of your loved ones more than the food. Focus on the conversation and the experience rather than the food.



The Role of Sleep and Stress

Sleep and stress are two factors that can greatly affect your hunger and cravings during fasting. Lack of sleep or high levels of stress can disrupt your appetite hormones, increase inflammation, lower your metabolism, and impair your cognitive function. This can make you feel hungrier, crave more junk food, eat more calories, and have less energy.

Therefore, it’s important to get enough sleep and manage stress during fasting to optimize your health and performance. Here are some tips for improving sleep quality and managing stress during fasting:




A woman sleeping on a bed
  • Sleep at least 7 to 9 hours per night. Aim to go to bed and wake up at the same time every day. Avoid caffeine, alcohol, nicotine, or heavy meals before bedtime. Make sure your bedroom is dark, quiet, comfortable, and cool.

  • Manage stress with healthy coping strategies. Identify the sources of stress in your life and try to eliminate or reduce them

  • Practice relaxation techniques like meditation, breathing exercises, yoga, massage, or aromatherapy. These can help you calm your mind and body and reduce the effects of stress.

  • Engage in hobbies or activities that make you happy and relaxed. These can be anything that brings you joy, such as reading, writing, painting, gardening, or playing with your pet.

  • Seek support from friends, family, or professionals if needed. Talking to someone who understands and cares can help you cope with stress and feel less alone.



Final Thoughts

Intermittent fasting is a powerful way to improve your health, weight loss, and longevity. However, it can also come with some challenges, such as hunger and cravings, that can make it hard to stick to it.


By following the tips and strategies discussed in this blog post, you can crush hunger and cravings during intermittent fasting and make it easier and more enjoyable for yourself.

You can also reap the benefits of fasting, such as improved metabolism, blood sugar, inflammation, brain function, and more.


Remember, intermittent fasting is not a diet, but a lifestyle. It’s not about depriving yourself of food, but about timing your food intake to optimize your health and performance.

So, what are you waiting for? Start implementing these tips today and see the difference for yourself!



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Reference list

  • Harris, L. , Hamilton, S. , Azevedo, L. , Olajide, J. , De Brún, C. , Waller, G. , Whittaker, V. , Sharp, T. , Lean, M. , Hankey, C. & Ells, L. (2018). Intermittent fasting interventions for treatment of overweight and obesity in adults: a systematic review and meta-analysis. JBI Database of Systematic Reviews and Implementation Reports, 16 (2), 507-547. doi: 10.11124/JBISRIR-2016-003248.

  • De Cabo R and Mattson MP. Effects of intermittent fasting on health, aging, and disease. New England Journal of Medicine. 2019;381(26):2541-2551. doi: 10.1056/NEJMra1905136.

  • Deborah L. Drazen, Torsten P. Vahl, David A. D’Alessio, Randy J. Seeley, Stephen C. Woods, Effects of a Fixed Meal Pattern on Ghrelin Secretion: Evidence for a Learned Response Independent of Nutrient Status, Endocrinology, Volume 147, Issue 1, 1 January 2006, Pages 23–30, https://doi.org/10.1210/en.2005-0973

  • Elizabeth F. Sutton, Robbie Beyl, Kate S. Early, William T. Cefalu, Eric Ravussin, Courtney M. Peterson, Early Time-Restricted Feeding Improves Insulin Sensitivity, Blood Pressure, and Oxidative Stress Even without Weight Loss in Men with Prediabetes, Cell Metabolism, Volume 27, Issue 6, 2018, Pages 1212-1221.e3, ISSN 1550-4131, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cmet.2018.04.010.

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