Here is some information on sugar cravings that you may find useful:
Rid Yourself of Sugar Cravings Forever!
Have you ever felt an uncontrollable urge to grab a chocolate bar or a handful of lollies? Do you ever feel intense cravings for sugar in the middle of the afternoon or in the evening after dinner? If so, you’re not alone. Sugar cravings are very common. However, once you understand the causes, you can take a step closer to freeing yourself from their clutches forever! In this article we will cover some simple strategies that you can use immediately to ensure you never have sugar cravings again.
Cravings for sugar are generally caused by a state of hypoglycaemia (low blood sugar). Since your brain’s primary source of fuel is blood sugar, hypoglycaemia will induce an immediate desire for sugar.
Sugar cravings may also be caused by nutrient deficiencies. If your body is deficient in certain nutrients (particularly minerals) it may start craving them and you are likely to identify that craving as a sugar craving when in fact it is simply your body needing nutrients that are lacking in your diet.
Sugar cravings may also be caused by conditioning. This is when your brain has linked two activities together. For example, if you get into the habit of eating sugar-based foods for a mid-morning or mid-afternoon snack or when you sit on the couch in the evening and eat sugary foods, your brain links the two activities together. This means that in the future when you have a break during the day or sit on the couch you will automatically start craving sugar.
We will examine each of these causes individually.
Firstly, a state of hypoglycaemia may be caused by skipping meals, not eating enough carbohydrate during meals, particularly main meals (breakfast, lunch and dinner), by eating too much carbohydrate during meals, by eating only carbohydrates during meals and also by exercise. Therefore, in order to overcome the resulting hypoglycaemia it is best to do the following:
Eat 5 small meals a day
Eating small meals consistently throughout the day ensures that your body is constantly supplied with a slow release of glucose into the blood stream. This will help keep your blood sugar (glucose) level stable and by doing so will prevent the onset of sugar cravings.
The small meals will also ensure a smaller secretion of insulin by the pancreas, which means less sugar will be stored (and less fat) and more fat can be mobilised by the body and used as a fuel source.
Having 5 meals instead of 3 makes it is easier to keep your blood sugar stable. 3 larger meals means that you are likely to experience greater fluctuations in blood sugar, which may lead to sugar cravings. The same rule applies if you skip meals altogether.
Eat ‘complete’ meals
‘Complete’ meals means you consume a portion of carbohydrate, protein and fat with each meal. By having protein and fat with the carbohydrates means that the rate at which the carbohydrate (glucose) enters the blood stream is reduced. This again, limits insulin secretion. Protein and more so, fat and fibre, lowers the glycaemic index (GI) of the carbohydrate-based foods providing a sustained release of glucose into the blood stream.
If you goal is to burn as much fat as possible then it may be advisable to slightly reduce the carbohydrate and fat portions in your mid-morning and mid-afternoon meals (without cutting them out altogether) but not in the 3 main meals. This will ensure you provide your body with an adequate amount of protein, which will keep your metabolism elevated and will prevent your body from entering a catabolic state, which results in a loss of muscle and a slower metabolism.
Some people who want to reduce their body fat will only have carbohydrates up until lunch time or mid-afternoon and won’t have any after that and this is a common recommendation in the fitness industry. Even though this approach is sound in theory and is commonly used in bodybuilding circles, it has a number of drawbacks. Firstly, it is not sustainable long term and may also cause intense sugar cravings in the evenings due to major falls in blood sugar. Of course, this is something we’re trying to avoid.
Often people eat only carbohydrate-based food in their meals. For example, they may have only cereal and milk for breakfast, a piece of fruit for their mid-morning meal, perhaps a salad sandwich for lunch and a tub of yoghurt for their mid-afternoon meal. Even though many people may look at this diet example and think it is actually quite healthy, there are several problems with this approach.
Firstly, there is a greater likelihood that their blood glucose will increase dramatically resulting in big fluctuations in their blood sugar level and likely more cravings as well. It also means that they’re not providing their body with a constant supply of amino acids, which leads to a catabolic state and slows their metabolism.
Have a meal 30 minutes after exercise
Exercise tends to lower the blood sugar level because the body uses it as a fuel source during the exercise session. However, if you goal is to burn off maximum amounts of body fat, it is worthwhile to wait 20-30 minutes after the session before having a meal because your body will continue to burn fat during this post-exercise window.
You don’t want to wait longer than 30 minutes though because then cortisol will start to rise dramatically, which will breakdown muscle tissue and slow your metabolism. Also, your blood sugar will remain low and you will start to get intense cravings for sugar.
Take glucose disposal agents with lunch and dinner
Glucose disposal agents (GDAs) assists the body with disposing of glucose into the lean tissue sources of the body (muscle and organ tissue) and away from fat stores, which means less insulin is required. By reducing insulin, it is easier to maintain a stable blood sugar level. Also, less fat storage will occur and more fat mobilisation and utilisation (fat burning) will result. Overall, GDAs help the body maintain a stable blood glucose and by doing so dramatically reduce sugar cravings. GI Factor is a good example.
Take a multivitamin/ mineral tablet every day
These provide your body with nutrients that may be lacking in your diet. By supplying the missing nutrients to your body, it may help you overcome the nutrient cravings that you have mis-identified as sugar cravings. MultiBoost is a good example.
Re-condition your brain
When it comes to the conditioning aspect of sugar cravings it is best to start by identifying when the sugar cravings occur and what activity you are doing at the same time which has been linked by your brain.
Once you have identified any conditioned responses then you can go about re-conditioning yourself. This requires you doing something different than reaching for the chocolate or lollies as you have done in the past. If you get the cravings at your mid-morning or mid-afternoon meal time, select a healthy option instead. This will ensure you start to create a new habit that your brain will link to these meal times.
Also, if you sit down to watch TV in the evening and you start feeling cravings for sugar, immediately get yourself a big glass of water and drink it instead or call a friend and chat on the phone. It doesn’t matter what the action is, all that matters is that you do something different rather than eating high-sugar foods. Your brain will then link watching TV with this new activity.
If you suffer from sugar cravings on a regular basis give some of these strategies a go and watch the cravings disappear forever.
I hope you find this information useful.
Stephen is the part-owner of Body Concepts and Focus On magazine. Stephen has been involved in the health and fitness industry for over 18 years and has a science degree from UWA.