Calorie deficit headaches

I have just 15 lbs. to lose*. My weight's been stable for a year. Every time I start eating at a deficit, I start getting headaches about 3 weeks in. I wake up with a headache, take Advil which helps, but the headache comes back as soon as the Advil wears off. Eventually the Advil stops working, and I go back to eating at maintenance.

I am well hydrated- I drink more than 2 litres every day. I eat nutritious foods, except for a sweet snack about once a day (like a cup of hot chocolate, some Dove Promises, a cookie, something like that). I'm trying to be moderate, with the goal of losing just a half pound a week. I am very active. I drink a lot of caffeine (which is basically a prescription from my neurologist to treat my sleep disorder). Some days I have more or less, but I haven't noticed much of a connection with the headaches and the caffeine. I have good sleep hygiene and get enough every night (gotta be careful with the sleep disorder).

Is there any way to stop these headaches? Today is the 3rd day in a row I woke up with a headache, and it was bad enough that I skipped my morning workout. The Advil I took is helping...slowly. Is there some cause I'm missing?

*I just use the weight number to give an idea of how close I am to goal. My V02max went down, my RHR went up, and I think these were both functions of weight gain. My fitness and fitting into my clothes are my goals, not the number. I'm not doing this just to get to some weight number.

Replies

  • cmriverside
    cmriverside Posts: 32,388 Member
    I drink a lot of caffeine (which is basically a prescription from my neurologist to treat my sleep disorder)

    What? Caffeine should be a moderate-use substance and is probably causing your headaches. I would get a second opinion. Surely there is a less-dangerous pharmaceutical or lifestyle thing to use other than "a lot of caffeine."
  • kshama2001
    kshama2001 Posts: 25,699 Member
    Can I assume that with only 15 pounds to lose you are only using a very small calorie deficit - your weekly weight loss goal is set to a half pound per week? And you are eating back your exercise calories?

    If so, it's likely not the (small) deficit. Could it be something environmental? Have you changed laundry products recently? Are you already using unscented detergent? Regular fabric softener gives me a headache when my neighbors are doing laundry.

    Do you have new anything in your house, especially your bedroom - bedding, bed, carpet, paint, etc?

    Could there be an issue with mold in your house? Have you had any floods or water damage recently?

    Are you using personal care products at night that contain artificial fragrance?
  • amandaeve
    amandaeve Posts: 719 Member
    Wonder if your blood glucose is dipping during the night, does the headache retreat if you have a quick digesting shot of carbs, like a small glass of juice?

    I'm going to try this. Since eating does make the headaches better, I wonder if I can do a tiny carb shot and get better. Fingers crossed!
  • dralicephd
    dralicephd Posts: 343 Member
    amandaeve wrote: »
    Wonder if your blood glucose is dipping during the night, does the headache retreat if you have a quick digesting shot of carbs, like a small glass of juice?

    I'm going to try this. Since eating does make the headaches better, I wonder if I can do a tiny carb shot and get better. Fingers crossed!

    If that doesn't work, I second the electrolyte idea. Try something salty or high in potassium. Hope you get it sorted!
  • Speakeasy76
    Speakeasy76 Posts: 960 Member
    edited October 2021
    33gail33 wrote: »
    Are you eating something different when you are in a deficit? I would keep a food log and see if maybe there is a specific food that is triggering it - like maybe you are subbing something lower calorie that you don't normally eat when you aren't in a deficit - and that is causing headaches?

    This is what I was wondering, too. I wouldn't think a slight deficit would cause headaches, especially not until 3 weeks in. But, if eating makes it better maybe it's possible?

    By going on an elimination nation diet I discovered that 1--I was sensitive to too much caffeine (that was still within recommended limits) and some other foods, and especially some food additives and artificial sweeteners. Are you using protein powder, for example? Maybe start doing a little digging with any foods you start using that you normally don't.

  • rheddmobile
    rheddmobile Posts: 6,841 Member
    amandaeve wrote: »
    Wonder if your blood glucose is dipping during the night, does the headache retreat if you have a quick digesting shot of carbs, like a small glass of juice?

    I'm going to try this. Since eating does make the headaches better, I wonder if I can do a tiny carb shot and get better. Fingers crossed!

    Let us know if anything helps! If it is blood glucose, upping fiber and protein can help stabilize it.
  • elisa123gal
    elisa123gal Posts: 4,146 Member
    examine if you use any products or eat something different when you're in the deficit or eating on a diet. It very well could be a lotion, a supplement, or a food product you don't eat when you are not trying to lose weight. Maybe it takes three weeks to build up to a point of triggering a headache.
    I get headaches and sometimes anxiety from beauty and skincare products.. headaches for sure from some mascaras and eyelash growing serums.
  • westrich20940
    westrich20940 Posts: 526 Member
    Top thoughts here are things already stated:
    1. Are you eating the same foods when on a calorie deficit or are you cutting anything out when you do that?
    2. Glucose levels. You can alternatively get some glucose tablets, if you don't want to actually have a snack or juice. Shoot for something ~10/15grams of carbs. Better yet, if you do choose a snack, choose one with 10/15 grams of carbs and some protein too.
    3. Electrolytes. This can be the culprit - even if you think you are drinking enough water. Do you like bananas? Eat one every couple days and see if that helps. Sodium is easy to get - but other electrolytes can get out of wack quicker. I keep Nuun tablets around as a runner and use them often.


    Hope you figure it out!