Most diets aren’t sustainable. Anyone who’s lost weight on a diet initially but gained the weight back afterwards will know this. That’s because most diets leave you feeling hungry and unsatisfied much of the time.
This is where the ketogenic diet provides a nice advantage that can make it more effective for weight loss than other eating plans: it helps suppress hunger and appetite. If you’re wondering how to use ketosis for hunger suppression, this article will walk you through how exactly this can be done and why it’s a better method than other diets.
Ketosis Vs Traditional Dieting
Ketosis is achieved through either intermittent fasting, eating high-fat and very-low-carb, or a combination of both. It’s also importatnt to note that ketosis and intermittent fasting aren’t interchangeable. While the ketogenic diet has a structure to follow, there are some big differences between eating for ketosis and following a traditional diet plan.
Let’s start by talking about the traditional practice of calorie counting for weight loss and why it alone is ineffective.
Why Calorie Counting is Impractical
Short-term weight loss is pretty easy for most people. Any of us can follow a strict diet for a short period of time to shed pounds, but for most dieters that weight gradually comes back over time — and often leaves them weighing more than they did to begin with.
The typical calorie-restrictive diet leaves us with hunger pangs and food cravings, not taking nutrition or satiety into account. This is ineffective because:
- The body doesn’t process all calories the same. Quality matters.
- Many traditional diet foods, especially packaged foods, are not healthy for us or filling.
- The focus becomes too much about how many calories you’re eating and not enough about what the foods are doing for your body.
Plus, when we lose weight through calorie counting, without putting much thought into the type of quality of food we’re eating, it can change our hormones and satiety levels to actually work against us, thus gaining the weight back.
What matters for long-term health is being able to keep the weight off for good, so we need a way of eating that will be sustainable and not have our thoughts consumed with food all the time.
Using Ketosis for Hunger Suppression
Eating a typical low-carb (like Paleo) has many benefits, but there’s something special about the ketogenic diet and ketosis when it comes to weight loss and hunger suppression. That’s because ketosis literally changes your metabolism so that the body begins breaking down fats for fuel instead of carbohydrates, producing ketone bodies as fatty acids are broken down.
When the body is in a state of ketosis, appetite is usually naturally reduced — and so are cravings for foods that typically lead to overeating, like sugar and carbs.
How Ketosis Works
Here’s a quick breakdown of how ketosis works in the body and how it’s beneficial for hunger suppression:
Ketosis is most commonly triggered in our modern world by the ketogenic diet, which has us eating a high amount of fat, moderate protein, and very low carb. Make sure to check out our list of ketogenic diet foods.
When carb intake is drastically reduced and fats are high, this causes the body to turn to fat for its fuel source instead of using carbs (glycogen) as it would otherwise.
When the body begins burning fat, it produces ketones instead and the body is sent into a state of ketosis.
Avoiding carbohydrates and focusing on high-fat and moderate-protein helps us stay full and satisfied, which leads to a reduced appetite as well as less need for snacking or overeating during the day.
Besides these foods just simply being satisfying, ketones themselves can help control important hormones related to weight loss , including:
- Ghrelin, a hormone that causes increased appetite, triggering the feeling of hunger. On typical diets, ghrelin levels rise
- Cholecystokinin (CCK), a hormone that causes you to feel full
Ketones also appear to have a positive effect on leptin signals and the brain’s hypothalamus region, which can prevent the slowing of our metabolism like what happens in other diets.
Ketones are also beneficial for the brain, heart, and other muscle tissues of our bodies because they allow them to conserve blood sugar while using ketones for energy instead.
Other Benefits of Ketosis for Appetite
There are other benefits of ketosis that go hand-in-hand with hunger suppression and can lead to sustainable weight loss and better health long-term. Besides improving mental clarity, energy levels and mood, ketosis benefits also include:
With the ketogenic diet, we’re able to eat a lot of high-quality, nutrient dense foods. So instead of stressing about total caloric intake for the day, our bodies are able to naturally eat less calories because we’re feeding them foods that are satisfying.
The best way to use the ketogenic diet for hunger suppression is by following it! That means eating for ketosis, which means a lot of healthy fats, nutrient-dense low-carb vegetables, high-quality, fatty proteins, and avoiding carbs.
Think about how that compares to a diet full of carbohydrate-rich choices and other foods that are lower calorie, yet not as nutrient-dense. The body burns through carbohydrates first, so even if the calorie count is low, it’s not long before we’re feeling the need to eat again.
It’s far better to focus on foods that provide a high level of satisfaction while feeding yourself food nutrition at the same time. We’re then able to savor the foods we eat and feel more satisfied with less — while avoiding the hunger pangs and discomfort that comes from following a diet that leaves you hungry.
No Blood Sugar Swings
More nutrient-dense, low-glycemic foods means less of the blood sugar spikes and dips that the average person experiences on a standard carb-heavy diet. Fluctuations in blood sugar can lead to an intense appetite, even soon after eating, making it hard to ever feel satisfied. This is the last way you want to feel when trying to lose weight and reduce hunger.
Don’t Forget to Test Ketone Levels
To ensure that ketosis will continue working for hunger suppression, it’s important to continue testing your ketone levels on a regular basis. This will let you know if there’s any need for adjustments to keep your body in ketosis and reaping these benefits. You can read our guide on testing ketone levels.
Many people use ketosis for hunger suppression because it makes it easier to remain at a healthy weight, enjoy nutrient-rich foods that are satisfying, and not feel the deprivation or crazy blood sugar swings experienced on other diets. Just another great benefit of following the ketogenic diet!
Sources cited: Paoli, Antonio, Gerardo Bosco, Enrico M. Camporesi, and Devanand Mangar. “Ketosis, Ketogenic Diet and Food Intake Control: A Complex Relationship.” Frontiers in Psychology 6 (2015): n. pag. Web. 3 June 2017.
Dr. Anthony Gustin is a board-certified sports chiropractor, functional medicine practitioner, entrepreneur, podcast host, and founder of Perfect Keto.
After growing his sports rehab and functional medicine clinics to six locations in San Francisco, he shifted his mission to help as many people as possible achieve optimal health and well-being.