Let’s start by making it clear that sugar is not ‘bad’ or something to be feared. Basically, all of the food we ingest that is made up of carbohydrates gets broken down into smaller molecules (glucose) and is used by every cell in the body to generate energy and fuel the brain. Glucose is also the preferred fuel for the exercising muscle and we have a store of glucose in our muscle and liver ready-to-go during short and prolonged exercise.
So we know that ‘sugar’ is actually needed by the body for everyday processes. Where the confusion lies, is that ‘sugar’ often gets confused with ‘added sugar’. Carbohydrate sources such as wholegrain pasta, grains, legumes, sweet potato and pumpkin are all fibre-rich, nutrient-dense sources of foods that break down into, you guessed it, sugar. What we often want to limit is our consumption of foods with ‘added sugars’. ‘Added sugar’, includes table sugar, sweeteners, honey and fruit juices, and is extracted, refined and added to food and drink to improve taste. This is often in highly processed or packaged foods like pastries, cakes, biscuits, etc..
You may hear people talking about their ‘sugar cravings’. Keep in mind that carbohydrates get broken down into glucose or ‘sugar’, so this may possibly be a craving for ‘added sugars’. You don’t often hear people say they are craving sweet potato or whole grains but, more commonly, a craving for sweets.
In saying that, if you are someone who does have a lot of ‘added sugars’ in your diet from takeaway foods, processed foods or discretionary foods and have recently made an attempt to reduce your intake, you may feel like you have some ‘sugar cravings’.
If you’re feeling like sugar, firstly think, have I had all of my meals? Including snacks? And at least 2 litres of water? Am I physically hungry or emotionally hungry? Often people reach for something quick and easy that is sugary but may just be hungry in general and have not had enough real food!
If you’re indeed fully fed and watered, then there are a few ‘healthier’ options which might take away some cravings
Have a few squares of dark chocolate or sugar-free drinking chocolate. Often, the dark chocolate can take away those cravings, as they are full of antioxidants and minerals such as magnesium.
Jelly is a great way to hit those sweet taste buds but also not add any extra calories. You may make them up a few in advance to have in the evening ready to go.
Fruit! Now, this might not be the most exciting options but to really kill off those bad gut bugs that are making you crave sugar in the first place, try sitting down with a punnet of blueberries or raspberries. Berries in particular are powerful for correcting dybiosis in the gut (when the ratio of good to bad gut bacteria is out). Another great fruit-based snack is dates rolled in coconut or almond.
Choosing to make a homemade treat. This can be a healthier alternative, as you know the ingredients that are going into it. Cacao powder, peanut butter and coconut are ingredients which have healthy fats and are also nutrient dense. Having these healthier options in the rotation are a healthier alternative to store-bought brownies and is definitely a part of any healthy eating lifestyle plan.
BCAAS! I’m sure you’ve heard of this one, but it can be good to sip BCAAS to get through a craving. Just make sure to account for the caffeine (100-200mg recommended caffeine limit per day) and ideally not at night (as it may keep you up). But if you’re prone to bloating, be sure to just check the ingredients list first.
If all else fails, have a small piece of whatever it is you’re craving. As long as you feel no restrictions and guilt about having it then this sometimes is the only way. Don’t beat yourself up about it and just get back on track. It’s much better to ‘allow’ yourself to have a treat (such as a row of chocolate or a small piece of homemade cake) rather than denying yourself anything, placing restrictions on yourself, and then binging uncontrollably. If you know you’re going to have something ‘naughty’ at least own it, have a piece, enjoy it, move on, get back to the gym the next day. All will be fine.
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