The Hunger Games

One question I often get is "how do I deal with the hunger pains I feel when fasting?" Today, I want to address this in full.

First off, hunger pains are normal.  So don't be deterred! The benefits far outweigh the costs. 

When we think of hunger pains we often picture ourselves completely starving for food. In most cases, that's not actually what I've experienced. In most cases I start the day out strong, then my energy diminishes and my hunger sets in around 3 or 4pm. Usually it's a dull hunger combined with low energy. Once I get over this trough, I usually feel my energy expand over the remainder of the day, and I feel my mental clarity improves significantly by the evening. Quite often I find it tough to sleep on fasting days due to the increase in energy.

There are times when I've been really hungry - it happened every week during my first month of fasting, then diminished significantly. Now the depth of the trough is usually very mild with a deeper hunger only hitting me once every 3 to 4 months. 

 

I haven't found a clear cause or set of causes for why I still get the hunger pains, or heard about any specific triggers from Fast Club members.  That said, I've found the following strategies have helped me considerably: 

  1. Eat a decent amount of carbs the night before.

    I've found that I don't need to overeat, but that if I eat a decent amount of carbs the night before that my hunger pains start much later in the day and are usually lower. If you do eat carbs, eat them with protein for a much slower calorie burn.
     
  2. Avoid sugar and alcohol intake the previous day.

    Sugars burn quickly and create a glycemic crash. Glycemic crashes make you hungry. 
     
  3. Avoid coffee because of the energy crashes.

    Coffee creates energy highs and lows. The energy low is usually triggers a hunger response. Additionally, coffee is acidic, and on an empty stomach, is really bad for you. Also, you are slowing down the process of your microbiome resetting itself when you drink coffee, so you're not getting the most out of your fast.
     
  4. Drink 3 times as much water.

    Most of the food we eat contains water that our body absorbs. When we fast, we have to make up for this water content. When my energy gets low, or I feel hungry, I drink 2 to 3 big glasses of water and usually feel better in about 20 minutes.
     
  5. Focus on the feeling of mastery.

    There's a huge psychological reward to completing a longer fast. Whenever I push through a particularly tough fast, I feel very strong mentally the next day. This feels great, and if you focus on the feeling, it can help create a reward mechanism that makes you want to continue fasting.
     
  6. Realize the benefits.

    Once you realize the benefits of fasting - eliminating allergies, mental clarity, higher energy, reduced sickness, psychological mastery, less dependence on food, reduced sugar cravings, and an overall sense of well being - you'll be more motivated to push through the hunger. 
     
  7. Remember that part of the pain is due to the habit of eating.

    I also think that there's a certain amount of psychological baggage due to patterns of eating. When you program yourself to eat every day at a certain time, and don't eat, your body reacts based on habit - it expects food. Breaking yourself of this habit takes time, so be patient!
     
  8. Remember that you're not alone.

    The primary purpose of Fast Club is to support you through the fasting process. At the time of this writing, there are 112 other members, many of whom are fasting with you. And I'm always here to help you through.

As you're going through your fast this week or in the future, remember this article and reference it if you need a boost. You can win the Hunger Games!

Happy fasting this week!
Prasanth