One of the most common questions I’m asked is how to reduce sugar cravings. Let’s first discuss what a sugar craving is and why it happens.I actually had a sugar craving a couple days ago. I had gotten a massage, and as I was driving back to the gym, I started craving chocolate.
Now, I usually have chocolate once a week for what I’ve deemed “Chocolate Thursdays,” but it was Wednesday.
I paused to figure out why I was randomly craving chocolate in the middle of the week.
I glanced at the clock and noticed it was 12:30. Then it clicked. I hadn’t eaten anything since 9:30, so the craving that I thought was for something sweet was actually for some food. My blood sugar was low and my body was just hungry!
See, when you eat, most of the carbohydrates you consume are broken down into glucose, which is a simple sugar. This causes your blood sugar levels to increase, which helps signal your body to stop eating.
The hormone insulin is secreted to pull the glucose out of your blood and into your cells to convert into energy for your body to use.
The longer it’s been since you had your last meal, the more your blood sugar levels drop as the glucose is used.
Once your blood sugar level drops to a certain point, your body sends out a signal for you to eat again. It’s telling you it needs more sugar (glucose) to convert into energy because the glucose you ate earlier has been used up.
*cue sugar craving*
Your body wants food to turn into energy. It’s sending out a signal for sugar to get you to eat. And the longer it’s been since you last ate, the stronger that craving gets.
If you’re stuck somewhere without real food, you’ll find yourself looking around for the closest sweet thing.
You’ll start dreaming about chocolate or reach for the candy bowl or anything else sweet just to get our fix. The body is trying to preserve itself.
So, the first reason you may be getting sugar cravings is that you are waiting too long between meals and your body is signaling it wants food.
The next time you get a sugar craving, check to see how long it’s been since you last ate.
It’s common to get a sugar craving around three o’clock, so let’s think about that.
You’ve had your lunch around 11 or 12:00, so it’s been three hours. The food you had for lunch is GONE, unless you had a really big meal.
Now it’s three o’clock and your body is ready for the next thing. Expect to feel hungry around that time and come to work prepared with a healthy snack. Once you eat, the sugar craving will most likely subside.
The second reason you’re having sugar cravings may have to do with the last thing you ate. Think back to the last meal you had.
If you had a meal or snack that was really high in carbs, your blood sugar level spiked pretty quickly, and then it dropped quickly.
When you have high amounts of sugar in your blood, your body commonly overcompensates with the insulin and pulls the glucose out of your blood very quickly.
That quick drop in your blood sugar level leaves you looking around for more sugar again because your body wants to bring your blood sugar level back up.
When you eat, aim to eat balanced meals and snacks. If you eat a carbohydrate (like rice, potatoes, pasta, fruit, etc.), eat them WITH healthy proteins and healthy fats instead of eating them alone.
Eating carbs with fats and proteins helps slow down the digestion of the carbohydrate. It prevents that quick spike and drop to keep your blood sugar level more steady. Then it’ll be a longer period of time before you start getting hungry and have that craving again.
Going back to the example about the 3:00pm sugar cravings, aim to get your sugar fix from a naturally sweet source, like a piece of fruit. Then pair that fruit with a healthy protein or a healthy fat to keep your blood sugar pretty stable and prevent that spike and drop.
Another possible reason for your sugar craving is your emotional state. We often use food as an emotional fix when we’re feeling “some type of way.”
Ask yourself what’s going on right now internally?
It’s three o’clock. You’re ready for five o’clock. You’re bored, and you’re ready to go.
You probably just want something to eat because you want to pass the time.
We have an emotional connection to food. It makes us feel happier and more satisfied.
So, think about your emotions.
Are you bored? Are you lonely? Are you stressed? Just need something to do?
Your sugar craving may be causing you to reach for unhealthy foods because of your emotional state.
Even though you may just be getting hunger cues, you’ll end up satisfying that hunger with things that are unhealthy because of how you feel in the moment.
In summary, whenever you’re experiencing a sugar craving, check those three things:
1) how long has been since you had your last meal or snack? Is it just time for you to eat?
2) Did you have a meal/snack that was too high in carbs last time you ate so you’re prematurely feeling that craving because your blood sugar spiked and dropped quickly?
3) What’s your emotional state? How are you feeling? And how can you manage those emotions differently instead of just filling them with food and dealing with the actual issue? If you’re stressed, how can you de-stress? If you’re bored, can you do something else for the next two hours while you’re at work waiting to go home?
Sugar cravings rarely have anything to do with the actual food you’re craving. Take a step back and pause before you indulge. An orange and a small handful of almonds may be all you need to keep you from that Starbucks drink!