Carb cravings
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Are you fighting carb cravings on keto?

Wondering why you get them and — most importantly — how to make them go away?

Since the struggle is all too real, we’re getting to the bottom of carb cravings in today’s guide to find out:

After you learn what they are, you’ll never feel hostage to a carb craving again. So that’s exactly where we’ll begin.

What Are Carb Cravings?

This isn’t a trick question: a carbohydrate craving usually takes the form of an intense desire for foods in the carb family.

That may mean pizza, nachos, ice cream, pasta, chips, beer — you name it.

Carb cravings occur most often at the beginning of your keto transition even though there are several reasons you may encounter them down the road (more on this next).

Pre-keto, your body will be used to operating on sugar and processed carbs for energy.

Eat a meal high in carbs and sugar and you’ll also have a rise in your blood sugar levels. Your pancreas then sends out insulin to deal with all this glucose chillin’ in your bloodstream.

As you probably already know, constantly high blood sugar and insulin levels put you on the path to metabolic syndrome, which puts you at an increased risk for developing[*]:

When you finally stop the sugar train with a low carbohydrate diet like keto, your body tends to go a bit berserk instead of thanking you.

And this monster is what’s known as a carb craving.

What a Carb Craving Feels Like

Your body loves working on glucose; it’s fast-acting and you can store it for later in case you get lost in the desert without food.

But sugar’s a terrible energy source.

The second you run on anything less than a full tank of glucose, your body throws a temper tantrum and becomes a burden to deal with.

You’ll experience the side effects of low blood sugar levels, which include:

  • Fatigue and excessive tiredness
  • Extreme hunger and thirst
  • Irritability, anxiety and mood swings  
  • A hollow, churning, nauseous feeling in your tummy

Since your body associates carby foods with energy, feeling full and happiness, it will start to crave sugar as a quick fix for all those negative symptoms we just covered.

Your body’s addicted to sugar the same way an addict needs their next fix[*].

But there is a light at the end of the seemingly never-ending tunnel: once you get in ketosis, carb cravings all but disappear and your taste buds will literally change for the better.

Your body will get used to and prefer working on fat and ketones and perform better.

But, again, that’s only after you reach ketosis.

If you’re not quite there yet, you may have to keep on fighting off carb cravings.

Other than sugar withdrawal, there are other issues that can make you start craving sugar and stand in your way to carb-free nirvana, as we’ll see next.

8 Reasons Why You Get Carb Cravings (+ How to Stop Them)

As we just learned, most carb cravings are the result of sugar withdrawal. But they can also strike if you make any of these common mistakes on the way to ketosis.

So let’s identify and learn how to fix them:

#1: You’re Limiting Carbs Too Slowly

There are two ways to approach starting a keto diet:

  1. Go cold turkey on carbs and immediately start day one with your goal carb macro set. Most people reach ketosis by limiting their daily net carbs to 25g.
  2. Gradually cut carbs until you reach your goal. So you’ll track your normal carb intake pre-keto and then cut 50g of carbs per day until you reach your goal (i.e., 25g per day).

Many people go cold turkey on carbs since it’s the fastest way to reach ketosis.

However, it’s a much harder shock to a woman’s body to drastically cut carbs like this — and may even cause weight gain.

That’s why women may find better results with keto by gradually easing their bodies into the low carb life.

The only downside here is the carb cravings can take longer to shake off.

Since you’re still feeding your body carbs, even in decreasing amounts, your body will always crave more.

Stop eating carbs completely and you may have to deal with carb cravings for a week or month until you’re in ketosis. Go slowly and you’ll take the same time, plus the weeks it takes to wean yourself to your daily carb goal.

How to fix this: If you can go cold turkey without any ill side effects, that’s your best bet for fast-tracking carb cravings and crossing the ketosis line.

But if you have to cut carbs slowly, that’s totally okay too. Just stick it out!

Adjusting to your daily net carbs is the hardest hurdle you’ll have to jump over on your keto journey. But once you find your sweet spot it will be smooth sailing from there.

Adjusting your macros, on the other hand, is a chore you’ll face more than once. And if you’re not doing it right, it could trigger carb cravings as well.

#2 Your Macros May Need Tweaking

It’s almost impossible to get your keto macros right on the first try.

On a low carb diet, carb cravings are sometimes your body’s way of saying you’re hungry for more protein or more healthy fats.

Protein and fat are both satiating so they’ll curb your hunger and leave you less likely to crave carbs.

How to fix this: Recalculate your macros using the Perfect Keto Macro Calculator and experiment from there.

Eating 4 oz. of protein or snacking on high-fat foods like keto fat bombs will both stop a carb craving in its tracks — but you have to know which one your body needs.

Load up on the wrong macro and you may not see the weight loss and body results you’re hoping for.

Generally, if you’re feeling hungry and sluggish, more protein may be the answer; but if you’re just a bit hungrier, fat may be the better choice.

The only way to know how your body responds to protein or fat is to track everything you eat and how you feel afterward.

Fiber is another important staple you may need more of on keto.

#3: You Forgot About Fiber

Carby foods like rice, pasta and oatmeal fill you up even if they’re not nutritionally satisfying. Fiber does the same, except it’s better for your health[*].

See, fiber is a carb your body can’t digest. Since it takes a while to pass through your system, studies show you’ll feel less hungry, crave fewer carbs and eat fewer calories the more fiber your diet contains[*].

Fiber also helps your digestion run smoothly so you don’t face common troubles like constipation on keto.

If you’re missing your fiber mark, you’ll find yourself constantly grazing for food in the carb world though nothing will ever quite fill you up.

How to fix this: Aim for at least 30-40g of fiber every day. The best sources of fiber on a ketogenic diet include healthy carbs like:

  • Veggies like asparagus, broccoli, brussels sprouts, cauliflower, radishes, zucchini, artichoke, spinach and swiss chard
  • Fruit like avocado, blackberries and raspberries
  • Nuts such as almond, pine, pistachio, hazelnut and pecan
  • Seeds like chia, flax and pumpkin

Another biggie you’ll want to keep track of in addition to fiber is your water intake — especially if you want to lose weight.

#4. You’re Not Drinking Enough Water

Did you know sometimes prowling for carbs may actually be your body’s way of saying you’re thirsty?

It’s true; the signs of dehydration are so similar to hunger you may not know the difference if you’re new to listening to your body. These include:

  • Fatigue
  • Headaches
  • Lightheadedness or dizziness
  • Trouble concentrating or focusing

It doesn’t take a lot for your body to become dehydrated — just a 1-2% drop in your normal fluid levels is enough to feel the effects. And if you’re chowing down when you should be hydrating, your waistline will show it.

In one study, researchers found a link between adults with poor hydration and those with higher BMIs[*].

The scientists concluded those who weighed more needed to drink more water, but were actually eating instead of drinking because they couldn’t tell the difference between actual hunger pangs and signs of thirst.

How to fix this: Drink more water. Period. And check out this guide on electrolytes and dehydration for more help.

Another time you may mistake carb cravings for real hunger is when you’re in the wrong headspace.

#5. You’re Stressed, Bored or Prone to Emotional Eating

If you’re the type to smash a pint of ice cream after a breakup or eat a whole pizza when you’re stressed, the first few weeks of keto may be a challenge for you.

And that’s because certain cravings can be a response to your emotional state and stress.

For example, researchers tell us cravings for sweets align with times when you’re either happy or want to be happier[*].

And when you’re frustrated or angry, it’s not uncommon to seek out crunchy or spicy foods of equal emotional intensity[*].

Studies even show those with diets high in processed foods and refined carbs have a higher risk of depression[*].

Since eating carbs triggers brain chemicals that make us feel rewarded, going for them may be a form of self-medicating when you’re sad, worried or lonely[*].

So whether you’ve been keto for a month or a year, your carb cravings may indicate a deeper need to satisfy an emotion you’re experiencing but may not be aware of[*].

Every time you use carbs to fill your boredom or provide temporary joy, you only reinforce the cycle of needing them to be happy or fulfilled.

How to fix this: Learn the difference between real hunger and emotional malnourishment.

When you’re actually hungry, your symptoms start gradually and go away with healthier foods such as protein or fat.

Emotional eating tends to come on quick and strong, triggering those specific coping mechanisms like reaching for “comfort foods” and snacks out of a vending machine.

Since carb cravings go away in less than an hour, focus your attention on a more positive activity while they subside, such as:

    • Brushing your teeth, which suppresses your desire to eat carbs or anything else.
    • Going for a walk, which will increase dopamine and boost your mood and energy levels. Research shows a 15-minute walk also lowers cravings for sweet snacks in overweight people[*].
    • Meditation, yoga and grounding in nature will also help lower your stress and help unpack your thoughts and feelings.
    • Keto menu planning. Figuring out what you’re going to eat for the week — including snacks and desserts — will ensure you always have keto-friendly options around when you’re in no mood to think healthy.

Meal planning is key to losing weight and winning keto. You may just be spinning your wheels if you’re doing anything less as you’ll see next.

#6. You’re Still Cheating or Doing “Lazy” Keto

Without tracking your food intake, it’s all too easy to fall into the trap of eating too many carbs and stalling fat adaptation.

If you’re still having cheat days to give in to your carb cravings, they’ll never leave you alone.

That’s why many experts agree you can’t have cheat days on keto. One day of cheating has the potential to put all your hard work to shame and bring you right back to square one.

You’ll have to go through the dreaded keto flu and fight off carb cravings on your way back to ketosis. Not so fun.

How to fix this: Get to the root of your cheating and learn why you’re doing your body a disservice when you cheat on keto. You’ll be less likely to jump off the wagon to satisfy your sweet tooth in the future.

Start replacing the carby cheats you’re craving with keto-friendly alternatives.

If you do fall off the wagon, you can take Perfect Keto Blood Sugar Support to help stabilize your blood sugar levels and curb energy crashes.  

Don’t forget to stock your keto pantry with the best keto foods and snacks, including:

  • No- or low sugar beef jerky
  • Cheese
  • Seeds, nuts and nut butters
  • Hard boiled eggs
  • Pickles (bonus: pickle juice is full of electrolytes)
  • Pepperoni (try baking in the oven for crunchy chips!)
  • Coconut oil

A perk of being more strict with your diet is sleuthing out hidden carbs before they have a chance to derail you.

#7. Hidden Carbs May Be Sabotaging Your Work

Carbs are everywhere — even in foods you may not consider keto-unfriendly.

From carbs in low fat dairy to confusing names for added sugar, if you’re not tracking your food intake with an app like MyFitnessPal, you’ll never know how many of these hidden carbs quickly add up before you blow your macro for the day.

How to fix this: Check out this guide on the worst hidden carbs on keto. Stick to whole natural foods and avoid suspect ingredients, preservatives and questionable additives.

Tip: Whenever you eat hidden carbs by accident, you can take Perfect Keto Blood Sugar Support to ensure healthy carb metabolism and help stabilize your blood sugar levels.

Whole food sources will also provide the necessary vitamins and minerals your body needs. If you’re only doing lazy keto, your carb cravings could be due to missing out on these.

#8. Your Cravings May Signal a Nutritional Deficiency

Sometimes your body craves specific nutrients it needs because you’re not eating enough of them via your diet.

Salty, carby food cravings may signal the need for tryptophan or chloride. It could also point out an electrolyte imbalance.

Specific cravings for bread or toast, for example, may mean you need more nitrogen in your system. You’ll want to reach for protein-rich foods like meat, fish, cheese and nuts to satisfy this craving on keto.

Sweet, starchy carb cravings like cupcakes, ice cream, cookies and fruit may be a sign you need more[*]:

  • Chromium, a mineral to help regulate blood sugar levels.
  • Phosphorus, which your cells use to produce energy.
  • Tryptophan, one of the precursors to the neurotransmitter, serotonin, which helps you feel calm and content.

Chocolate carb cravings may indicate a lack of magnesium in your diet.

Good thing you can have chocolate on keto!

When you need a chocolate moment, just make sure it’s at least 75% dark chocolate or higher, which means there’s a higher ratio of healthy cocoa to milk and sugar. The darker your chocolate the better.

You can also find stevia-sweetened chocolate. These cause zero blood sugar spikes like regular chocolate and taste delightful in recipes and on their own.

How to fix this: Besides eating these specific craving-satiating foods, consider taking a multivitamin so you don’t miss out on all the vitamins and minerals your body needs on a low carb, high fat diet.

Ketoers report positive results fighting off carb and sugar cravings when also supplementing with:

  • A microgreens blend full of vitamins and antioxidants
  • Vitamin E
  • Biotin
  • Zinc
  • Chromium
  • L-Glutamine

If you’re doing keto as a vegetarian, you may want to supplement with B vitamins since most ketoers will get all they need from eating meat.

You may also want to speak with your doctor or health care professional for medical advice before you start supplementing.

Carb Cravings Fade. Your Desire to Stay Keto is Stronger

You’ll never starve or die from a carb craving — despite what you may feel when you’re in the middle of one.

If you ride out the pain and crankiness, you’ll be rewarded by making it one step closer to ketosis and ridding yourself of carb cravings for good.

If you feel one sneaking up, just think about all the damage carbs and sugar have done to you in the past. Remember all the times you couldn’t get off the couch or became a hangry monster around someone you love.

No carb craving is stronger than your desire to take control of your life, end this vicious sugar cycle and finally have the energy and willpower to lose those stubborn pounds.

Follow today’s tips and it’ll be easier to give your carb cravings the cold shoulder for the rest of your keto life.

Fact-checked by Dr. Anthony Gustin, DC, MS

Written by Lauren Ciccarelli

Lauren Ciccarelli is a writer and former carb addict. Since going keto has lost 35+ pounds and banished her PCOS symptoms.

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