Why too much sugar is bad for us/ why minimizing sugar is great!
- Too much sugar leads to imbalanced blood sugar levels. (sugar crash)
- Minimizing sugar can stabilize blood sugar levels and create steady energy levels
- Too much sugar can lead to weight gain, specifically belly and liver fat
- Inversely, reducing sugar can help you lose weight, specifically fat.
- Too much sugar can cause inflammation, especially in the brain (mush brain as I call it)
- Too much sugar can lead to prediabetes
Ways to reduce sugar in your diet and stop sugar cravings.
- Cut ties with added sugar. Get comfortable with reading labels. Try to avoid processed food and drinks that have added sugar in it. Natural sugars found in whole foods, like fruit, in moderation, are good for you. When cooking or baking don’t add extra sugar. You can use natural ingredients like dark chocolate or cacao powder, vanilla extract, and cinnamon to get a good flavor (some of these ingredients already have a naturally sweet flavor). Cutting ties with added sugar can mitigate some of the major risks of excess sugar.
- Eliminate sugar drinks. This is the most efficient way to reduce sugar. I found my energy levels to be more consistent when I dropped sugar drinks like soda, sports beverages, and sugar from my coffee. One trick to eliminate sugar in your drinks is to find a healthy electrolyte that has no added sugar. Add it to water when needed. This trick can provide that craving “fix” in addition to improving your hydration. Sidenote: be careful about finding sugar alternatives for these. Alternatives oftentimes are worse for your health. Drink water… lots of it. A good starting point is half your body weight in ounces (If you are 200 lbs drink 100 ounces of water a day).
- Increase quality protein/fat intake. Specifically increase proteins like grass-fed beef, wild Alaskan salmon, cage-free eggs, and chicken. Increase healthy fats like nuts, avocado, and extra virgin olive oil (get a nice glass bottle… mmm, sexy). Eating more of these foods can give you more sustainable energy and reduce crashes/ cravings.
- Minimize simple carbohydrates. Examples of simple carbohydrates are white rice, white bread, and sugar. You want to minimize these or get rid of them. Replace simple carbs with complex carbohydrates like vegetables, whole grains, beans, and nuts. Complex carbohydrates take longer for your body to digest, allowing your body to properly digest the carbs (sugar) and use it for energy. As athletes, this can be very important. Prioritize complex carbs before a competition to receive long-lasting energy levels and avoid a crash. Carbs are technically sugars.
- Optimize your sleep. Less than 8 hours of sleep can increase your hunger hormones and perpetuate your cravings. Focus on the optimization of sleep as well. 7.5 hours of elite sleep is far better than 9 hours of garbage sleep. Refer to our recent post on sleep to learn how to improve your sleep tonight. When we are sleep deprived, our brains turn into survival mode and will crave “weight-gain promoting and high-calorie foods”.
*Bonus tip. If you find yourself craving sugar, specifically chocolate you may be magnesium deficient. Mix in some broccoli, avocado, and seeds/nuts.
*A common theme: get your body moving. A few excellent options are weight lifting, walking, running. You burn fat faster when you have more muscle. This will lead to more energy too.
Resources, and links used:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BWGl3TIO00A (Dr. Mark Hyman, youtube video on reducing cravings )
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3763921/ (Sleep deprivation and hunger cravings)
The Prediabetes Detox: A Whole-Body Program to Balance Your Blood Sugar, Sarah Cimperman
Eat, Sleep, Poop, Theresa Freeman