Low calories causing headaches and fatigue

Answered on August 19, 2014
Created March 14, 2012 at 10:28 AM

Hey guys, I've been paleoing for nearly a month now. After a few days I started getting these dull tension headaches every day. At first I thought it was normal and it would just go away after my body adjusts, but I've had a headache most days now since. I also feel quite lethargic and can't stay awake much past 10 or 11pm. I get more than 7-8 hours rest each night.

One thing that I have read is that a low caloric diet can cause headaches and fatigue (obviously). I calorie counted a few days and was always just under 2000cal per day on average. This is obviously too low. However, I rarely feel hungry. Its a much more subtle feeling than it used to be. I feel tired or low on energy, so I know I need food, but I rarely feel empty. The real problem for me is the lack of bread. Bread has a lot of calories, and with a couple of sandwiches, plus some toast every day, I'd be fine. In fact this headache thing really only started once bread was cut out completely (it was the last thing to go cos its just so damn convenient as a quick meal). So between not feeling hungry, and not having anything high in calories and easy to feed on, is where ther problem is.

Here's my average daily diet:

Breakfast Home made gluten free cereal, (millet, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, cranberries, cocnut flakes, almond flakes, full cream milk and some banana) + protein shake with milk and a raw egg Or Bacon, eggs and avocado

Snacks (normally between main meals) Unsalted mixed nuts Carrot sticks Apple Kiwi Banana

Lunch (I usually eat late in the day 2-3pm) 1/4 chicken and greek salad or Tuna and salad or Beef burgers (not in a bun obviously)

At this point I dont really get hungry til around 7 or 8

Dinner Generally a meaty dish with some veggies or salad (chicken or beef is common)

I've also started increasing my electrolyte intake, I add earth salt to water and have some magnesium before bed but this hasn't changed much for me.

I'm interested in suggestions on how I can actively increase my calories. WHat are some really high calorie foods? I snack on nuts regularly, I probably get about 100g a day now. What else can I try?



on March 14, 2012
at 04:54 PM

What is Earth Salt? Is that a brand?

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5 Answers


on March 14, 2012
at 02:48 PM

There are plenty of high-calorie things you can eat-especially if you eat dairy - such as cream.

You may want to explore the amount of sugar you're loading on the early part of the day as the reason for your headaches.


on March 14, 2012
at 10:11 PM

Rob, consider the possibility that you need to drink more water. Fatigue and headaches can be symptoms of underhydration, and it is common to need a lot more water in the early days of low-carb eating than you think you do (I realize you're targeting paleo, not low-carb, but your diet sounds low-carb to me (not that there's anything wrong with that)). Is your urine clear or, at most, pale yellow?


on March 14, 2012
at 09:36 PM

Rob, how do you know it is the calorie level that is causing troubles? Have you tried having meat and vegetables for breakfast? Could be blood sugar going up and down, too.

How about hard-boiled eggs, beef jerky, small pieces of beef burger or roast for snacks?

If you wish more calories, beef fat and pastured butter are very satiating. They can be added to broth, tea, coffee, or eating with a spoon? Beef drippings are much nicer than nuts or chocolate, to some of us!

I agree with AuH2Ogirl about the sugar in the morning, and adding dairy. Brie or heavy cream might suit you, if you eat them. It takes experimenting. :)

I wish you all the best.



on March 14, 2012
at 11:29 AM

I get this too - so frustrating because I go through a whole afternoon wondering why I'm so foggy and exhausted when I slept fine the night before, only to belatedly realize that I'm actually hungry and as soon as I make myself eat something it's like instant energy.

Olive oil is a great way to add calories - you can throw even a little bit into a bowl of soup or drizzle it on your salad and it adds 100 calories without you even noticing it's there. Or coconut milk - you can cook curries and stuff with it and it's great because it's delicious and very high-cal. Or if you're just not hungry but know you need calories, it's easier to drink a glass of coconut milk than eat actual solid food.



on March 14, 2012
at 10:56 AM

Height/weight/activity level would be a big help. Looks like you're getting a good number of carbs though.

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