When we’re dieting and trying to lose weight and get fit many of us allow ourselves the occasional sugar treat so that we don’t feel deprived. In fact, many diets and nutritionists out there recommend it, because feeling deprived can cause our diets to backfire!
Eating is a pleasurable activity, and when we deprive ourselves of that pleasure, over time our minds may subconsciously rebel, and one evening we may find ourselves downing a tub of ice cream, promising ourselves we’ll be better tomorrow. What is the cause of this reaction? Do we really have NO willpower?
Whether you decide that the occasional treat is doable for you or not, it’s important to know the chemical reactions that take place in our bodies when we eat sugar. These chemicals act on our minds and can affect our eating behavior on a subconscious level. Weakness and lack of willpower are not to blame! Being familiar with these chemical reactions can help you keep those voices in your head at bay.
A Review of Blood Sugar
Whenever we eat carbohydrates, whether they are refined sugar, refined or whole grains, or fruits and veggies, our bodies convert them into glucose which is the body’s main source of energy. Glucose levels in the blood affect our hunger levels and energy levels, both of which are very important factors for those of us on a weight-loss or fitness plan.
In response to glucose, the pancreas releases insulin which pushes sugar into our body’s cells where it can be used for fuel. When we eat refined white sugar or heavily refined grains, they are processed very quickly into blood sugar because they’ve been stripped of their fiber stripped during the refining process. When this occurs the pancreas goes into overtime producing extra insulin to allow all of this blood sugar to be used for energy. This insulin surge signals to our body that there is plenty of energy available (from the sugar), and to stop burning fat and begin storing it for energy. This insulin spike also causes too much sugar to be transported out of our blood causing blood sugar and insulin levels to drop rapidly. This causes the sugar ‘crash’ feeling that leaves us hungry and without energy. It makes us want to eat something with a high sugar content again fast to make us feel better – and the vicious cycle begins. All of this creates havoc on both your energy levels (crucial, as you know, for getting the most out of your workouts) and your metabolism.
Sugar spikes and crashes can make our metabolism go into survival mode to conserve energy – and in this state it will not burn extra fat. Don’t forget that skipping meals, especially breakfast, has a similar effect! Your body needs regular fuel for energy, preferably in the form of good proteins and slow burning carbs (whole grains, fruits and veggies) to maintain a constant blood sugar levels throughout the day.
So What About Dessert Just Once In a While?
In terms of calories or weight loss, a dessert once in a while won’t directly affect your goals. For example, a moderate dessert has perhaps 300 calories – you can burn that in one good workout.
However, for some people sugar can have highly addictive qualities. In his book, Sugar Blues, William Dufty makes the case for the seriously addictive nature of refined white sugar. He goes as far as to compare sugar to heroin, as both are 90+% refined from their original plant source. That’s a pretty scary comparison!
Do keep in mind what occurs in your body with just one dose of sugar. If your body hasn’t had refined sugar in a while, you’re bound to feel it! You’ll definitely feel pretty revved up shortly thereafter, perhaps even sort of euphoric. It’s likely that you’ll also experience somewhat of a crash and get sleepy and low energy afterward.
The key is to watch what happens to your body and mind in the next 24 hours or so. Do you find yourself craving or thinking about more sugar right away? Later the same day? The following day at the same time of the day? Can you eat sugar one day and not crave the next? If even a small amount of sugar results in cravings, you might consider leaving sugar behind for good.
It depends on your body and your reaction to sugar. Are you the type of person who can eat a bite or two and quit – without wanting more? Or, (if you’re like me) perhaps a small taste of sugar leaves you wanting more. Usually if I have sugar in the morning (let’s say a mocha instead of a latte) I find myself craving in the evening too. If I can avoid giving in then, I often find that the following day thoughts of sugar plums are still dancing through my head!
If you tend to experience these issues, it may be worth trying to make a permanent lifestyle change – cutting sugar from your diet. Over time, having sugar just once in a while may cause you to give in to your cravings more often. This can keep you from achieving your weight loss and fitness goals, whacking out your metabolism in the process and priming you for a yo-yo diet cycle.
To keep away from the yo-yo cycle, you need a diet that you love and one you can stick with not just for a little while, but for life. In order to not feel deprived, you need to first eat enough to feel full! Second, choose food treats that you LOVE but don’t involve sugar. My favorite sweets craving killer, as I mentioned in last week’s article about Pre-Workout Snacks, is apples with peanut butter. It tastes like candy, but somehow, I never feel like I need a second apple. Do you love avocados? Make guacamole and eat it with carrot sticks. Indulge in your favorite fruits or use them to make a yummy protein smoothie.
Want help with a diet that won’t leave you wanting? Try Athlean-XX for Women….this is the last diet you’ll ever need! The Nutrition Plan is based around eating healthy foods that you enjoy – not limiting your calories. We also want you to eat 5 – 6 times a day – this will help even out your metabolism and undo any damage that a previous sugar habit may have caused. Eating well and eating frequently also preps your body for our hard-core, seriously effective workouts that will help you see serious changes in your weight and muscle tone. Our workouts are only 30 minutes per day!