How to Deal with Hunger During Intermittent Fasting: Leangains

In this article you'll discover how to deal with hunger while doing intermittent fasting.

Additionally the information presented here is a summary of my own experience as a practitioner and coach plus everything I could find on topic through research.

  • If you prefer to watch a video version of this:

The Right Mindset When It Comes To Hunger and Intermittent Fasting

First thing we need to get out of the way is that you won’t starve to death from fasting.

This negative mindset with fear works like a self-fulfilling prophecy.

If you’re two minutes into a fast, suffering from hunger, convincing yourself it's impossible, and being obsessed over your next meal it's not gonna get you anywhere.

Human body has evolved to use fasting.

And to realize that here's an interesting study from Scotland: 27 year old man fasted for 382 days, lost 275 lbs of fat, suffered no ill effect 

So he started at 456 lbs and the doctors had him undergo a clinically supervised fast providing only daily doses of multivitamins and water.

By the end of the study he lost about 275 pounds.

And if you think about it there's really no evolutionary logic behind eating 3-5 meals a day.

In the wild there's no such thing as 3 to 5 sure meals every day.

Abundance of food just became possible in the recent years.

Know the difference between physical vs. psychological hunger

Researchers at Columbia and Rockefeller Universities have identified cells in the stomach that regulate the release of a hormone associated with appetite.

“Circadian clocks allow animals to anticipate daily events rather than just react to them,” said LeSauter, who ran and supervised the study’s experiments. “The cells that produce ghrelin have circadian clocks that presumably synchronize the anticipation of food with metabolic cycles.

Source: Scientists Discover Hunger's Timekeeper

What this means is that eating a set number of meals at particular times of the day is a trained behavior.

Physical vs Emotional Hunger Intermittent Fasting

And often when we think we’re hungry it's not that we're experiencing true physiological (body) hunger, but rather psychological (head) hunger.

Once we realize this then it's clear that all it takes is a little bit of unwiring until our body adjusts to an Intermittent Fasting Diet.

8 Proven Tips to Reduce Hunger While Doing an Intermittent Fasting Diet:

1. Balance Your Macronutrients (Protein, Carbs and Fats)

Martin Berkhan the author of Lean Gains said it himself that most people fail on Leangains because they go very low carb and keep entering a state of ketosis which is very detrimental for mental performance.

Carbohydrates: Minimum 0,6g per pound of body mass to stay out of ketosis.

I recommend even higher carbohydrates intakes while keeping fat between 25-30% of total calorie intake.

To find out more details on how to setup a balanced diet go setup a balanced flexible diet click here.

2. Don't Mistake Hunger for Dehydration

Hunger signals are often misleading – usually we just need water.

The get adequate amount of water carry a refillable bottle with you and aim for a gallon a day.

3. Tea and Coffee work wonders

I prefer Green tea as I'm not big fan of coffee. And I recommend getting a few kinds of herbal tea to find your favorite one. (Mine are chocolate and coconut tea)

4. Try Sugar-Free Diet Sodas, Flavored water (sugar free) and Sugarless gum

There's no evidence so far pointing that artificial sweeteners are bad for health so definitely give these a try if nothing else works and with moderation it should be fine.

5. Try a Tablespoon or Two of Psyllium Husk

Psyllium husk is a fiber supplement that helps massively with hunger, and it signals your brain that you have food in your digestive system.

6. Brush Your Teeth

This has been proven to reduce the feeling of hunger.

7. Keep Yourself Active and Flowing

Do something you enjoy, immerse yourself in activities especially during that morning period when you're most productive.

6-7 hours fly by very fast when you're in the state of flow.

If you don't have more work to do go for a short walk while listening to an audiobook.

By doing that you'll burn some extra fat, and learn more.

This is opposite what most people are doing by putting themselves in a low consciousness zombie mode with TV and Social Media

And we all know people eat because they're bored.

Stay busy, stay productive.

8. Get Enough Sleep

Shortened sleep time is associated with decreases in leptin and elevations in ghrelin which means more hunger.

A study comparing 2 groups that were on a 700 calorie daily deficit with 2 different sleep duration found that:

The 8.5 hour group lost about 50/50 fat and lean mass. The 5.5 hour group lost 20/80 fat and lean mass.

Sources: Insufficient sleep undermines dietary efforts to reduce adiposity

Research also found that:

“If you get 6 hours of sleep per night for two weeks straight, your mental and physical performance declines to the same level as if you had stayed awake for 48 hours straight.”

Source: How Little Sleep Can You Get Away With?

As you can see sleep is absolutely critical not just for intermittent fasting but for everything in your life.


Hunger during IF is only an issue for the first few weeks until your body gets used to the new schedule.

And the ideas I've outlined here will get you through those hard times.

Now, most people are not hungry anymore 4-8 weeks into intermittent fasting.

So it's safe to say that the hardest period is the first 2-3 weeks.

One thing that helped me a lot was thinking of this as a challenge.

And to be fair if you don't notice improvements after 4 weeks then maybe IF Leangains isn't for you.

Research scientists agree that it's not a universal must-do approach for everyone.

In that case simply keeping a balanced diet, managing your macros according to your goal and having 80% of your diet be healthy unprocessed foods will get you to your goals.


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  • Phill

    I’ve been intermittent fasting for a couple of months now and love the fact I can eat 2 big meals in a 8 hour window. This leaves me feeling full and satiated. The first two days I started I felt a bit weird and had the sensation of hunger but did not feel the need to eat. I rode this out and after 2 days I adapted. I’ve been pretty consistent with IF since and find it great. I guess as long as you reach your macros and calories the meal timing should not matter too much. Personally I prefer eating 2 larger meals than spreading my calories out over an entire day. Great article as always Mario.

  • Manu Montes

    Hi Mario !

    I’m going to test IF lifestyle but I have a question.
    Usually I train in the morning, should I train fasted ?

    Thx and great job 🙂

  • Hey Mario,

    I’ve been practicing IF for almost 5 years. Glad you gave Martin Berkhan a shout out in his post. Martin is one of the founding fathers of doing IF in a manner that allows you to lift weights and keep your muscle. His site leangains is just an awesome resource.

    Knowing the difference between physical and psychological pain is H-U-G-E if you want to make progress while on a calorie deficit. Fasting is just a great way to teach you what real hunger feels like.

    Good article.