Do you have a sweet tooth and often find yourself reaching for candy or sugary snacks?
Are sugary-drinks your go-to when you feel tired or bored?
There are many reasons we crave sugar, and I always remind my personal training clients that it’s perfectly reasonable to have the occasional craving for something sweet.
We all do from time to time, so remember that it’s not a character flaw or a sign of weakness.
The truth is that the desire for something sweet is hardwired into humans from birth since.
According to Lisa Cimperman, a dietitian at University Hospitals Case Medical Center in Ohio, "Humans are evolutionarily wired to prefer fatty and sweet tastes because they are a very efficient source of energy, and our bodies are wired for survival."
The desire for a sweet and indulging in a treat every so often is natural.
What’s also important to understand is that when we feel stressed or are sleep-deprived, consuming something sugary can be highly addictive since it stimulates the release of feel-good hormones that calm and relax us.
There are a variety of factors that contribute to sugar cravings and getting to the underlying cause is ultimately the key to getting a handle on this issue.
The good news is that many strategies can help you manage your sweet tooth and conquer cravings without making extreme changes.
Here are 5 science-based tips that my Boston personal trainer team and I have used successfully with our clients:
Avoid Artificial Sweeteners – If you’ve replaced sugar with artificial sweeteners in an attempt to reduce calories and lose weight, here’s what you should know: studies suggest that the use of artificial sweeteners can lead to weight gain since they may increase your sugar dependence and cravings. The reason: these alternatives to sugar trick your mind into thinking you ate something that is extremely sweet—far more than regular sugar. This may trigger your brain into craving more foods and beverages that are as sweet as what you just had. The solution: avoid common artificial sweeteners such as Acesulfame K, Aspartame, Saccharin, Sucralose, and Xylitol. Replace them with spices such as cardamom, cinnamon, cloves, and nutmeg. Link to spice blog
Don’t Skimp on Sleep - With a busy schedule, it's easy to lose out on sleep-time to complete your daily to-do list. Sleep is critical to your health and allows your body to refresh itself and make essential hormones. Research shows that when you skimp on sleep, even just for one night, your cravings increase. This is because poor sleep adversely affects your brain function and your internal clock, both of which play a vital role in regulating hormones that impact your hunger. By increasing your hunger and cravings, sleep deficits sabotage your waistline and your weight loss efforts. Aim to go to sleep around the same time each night and be intentional about shutting down all technology 30-40 minutes before bed.
Mind Your Microbiome – One of the most important factors behind your sugar cravings is the health of your gut, also known as your microbiome. Chronic antibiotic use, excessive alcohol consumption, and overeating highly processed foods and refined sugars all contribute to the overgrowth of “bad” bacteria in the gut, also known as dysbiosis. This creates a vicious cycle in which you crave sugar to feed the unhealthy bugs. At Aum Training Center, my Boston personal trainer team and I educate our clients about the advantages of healthy eating. We provide nutrition counseling and develop healthy food plans customized to your needs and designed to rebalance your inner ecosystem. One of the gut-healing tools we use is probiotics. Supplements and probiotic-rich foods like kimchi and sauerkraut bring good bacteria back into your gut to strengthen your microbiome. This reduces inflammation, improves digestion, and aids weight loss. As an added bonus, sour fermented foods can help naturally reduce sugar cravings.
Master Cravings with Minerals – Another common cause of sugar cravings is a deficiency of nutrients and minerals in your body. Eating foods that are high in the minerals magnesium, chromium, and zinc can keep your blood sugar levels more stable, and subsequently reduce sugar cravings. Magnesium-rich foods include dark leafy greens, raw cacao, seafood, chlorella, nuts and seeds, brown rice, legumes, quinoa, and avocado. You obtain chromium from foods such as broccoli, eggs, romaine lettuce, raw onions, green beans, fresh tomatoes, sweet potatoes, and apples. Zinc is abundant in pumpkin seeds, Brazil nuts, pastured eggs, oysters, beef, lamb, chicken, spinach, beans, mushrooms, and whole grains.
Fuel with Fat and Protein First - Eating healthy fats and proteins at the beginning of meals is an effective way to satisfy hunger and curb sugar cravings. Because protein and fats digest slowly, they keep your blood sugar stable and help you feel fuller for longer than refined carbs and sugars. In contrast, simple carbohydrates like white bread, pasta, rice, and processed foods raise blood sugar quickly with a subsequent drop that leaves you hungry and wanting more. Consume healthy omega-3 fats (EPA and DHA) from wild-caught fish and pasture-raised eggs and choose proteins like chicken, grass-fed beef, bison, chickpeas, and lentils.
If you’re not quite sure where to start, schedule your complimentary AUMazing Body consultation with one of our expert Boston personal trainers.
We designed this program to help busy professionals increase their energy levels, decrease bloating, balance their hormones, and help reach their weight loss goals.
Visit aumtrainingcenter.com/join/ to set up a time to visit our private fitness center located on Newbury St. in Boston’s Back Bay.