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Headaches When Losing Weight

author image Laurel Tuohy
Laurel Tuohy was certified as a yoga teacher in 2009 after spending a year honing her craft in India. She has held editorial positions from music critic to lifestyle editor since 2000. She holds a degree in anthropology from Western Connecticut State University and her award-winning articles have appeared in publications around the globe from "The Mirror" to "The Times of India."
Headaches When Losing Weight
A woman is drinking water. Photo Credit Jupiterimages/Stockbyte/Getty Images

Dieting is challenging work. Counting calories, staying motivated and avoiding temptation are hardly easy tasks. Having a headache does not make any of it easier. Yet many dieters suffer from headaches for a variety of reasons. Most of these are caused by behaviors common to those attempting to lose weight and trim waists by cutting calories.

Hunger Headaches

If you restrict calories too much or too quickly, you can develop what is known as a hunger headache. These are triggered by muscle tension, low blood sugar and blood vessel dilation. They will often strike just before mealtimes, according to The National Headache Foundation. The easiest fix is to eat regularly and healthily; especially protein and complex carbohydrates.

Low Carb Diets

Atkins and other carbohydrate-restricting diets can also cause an aching cranium. These diets purposely keep your body's store of glycogen low, which restricts energy to your brain and can cause a headache. Another downside of low-carb diets is that they encourage fluid loss. This is why many people see such large weight losses in the early days of the diets.

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The Aspartame Connection

Many dieters supplement their healthy eating plans with diet sodas, sugar-free jello and chewing gum. These substitutions may seem like a good choice when tallying calories, but there is evidence that the aspartame that makes these treats sweet can cause headaches.


Many diets offer black coffee or tea as "free" foods -- ones that weight watchers can indulge in as often as they like. Coffee and tea also lessen the appetite of many people, so some dieters may drink several cups per day. Caffeine however, whether absorbed via coffee, tea, diet cola or energy drinks, can trigger temple pain as well, according to St. John Providence.

Keep Well Hydrated

Dehydration can be a major cause of headaches when you're losing weight. Your electrolyte balance is upset during exercise if you do not hydrate well before and immediately after -- and even during -- a workout. There is another theory that your brain's blood vessels may constrict when dehydrated, causing a headache.

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