Sugar cravings are perhaps the worst thing that can happen to a dieter. They can take you from a place of being in control of what you put in your mouth to a raging, out-of-control sugar addict, willing to eat almost any sugary treat to help curb the craving. Why do sugar cravings strike and turn you into a sugar monster? Well for one sugar is a powerful drug that can stimulate feel-good endorphins in the body, including serotonin. The problem is that once sugar is cleared from the blood, energy levels can start to dip – leading you to crave sugar again. It can be a vicious cycle.
Here are four sugar-busting suggestions to help you control your cravings for good and stay on the road to getting ripped.
SUGAR BUSTER #1: Increase Your Carbs
If you are constantly feeling deprived and not satisfied on your current diet, chances are it’s not high enough in carbs. Yes – it’s true. You need to reduce your carbs in order to shed fat off those hard-to-burn areas like your belly, but that doesn’t mean you need to eliminate them completely. Eating about 20 to 30% of your calories from carbs is plenty to help keep your blood glucose levels balanced throughout the day. Be sure to eat carbs that are high in fiber and low in sugar, and will digest at a slow and steady rate. Opt for non-starchy vegetables like sweet potato, broccoli, cauliflower and green beans, and whole grains like oatmeal and quinoa.
SUGAR BUSTER #2: Get Enough Appetite-Suppressing Protein
Protein is a highly satiating macronutrient. In fact, protein has a more satiating effect than carbohydrates or fats when compared in ad libitum dietary conditions. High protein diets can also stimulate thermogenesis to a greater extent than diets of different macronutrient ratios but equal in calories. Lastly, the more protein you eat, the greater your overall lean muscle gains, and with more muscle comes a higher metabolic rate – which means you burn more calories, even at rest. For best results, aim to eat 40 to 50% of your calories from protein. Go for lean sources like chicken, red meat, non-fat dairy, egg whites, or whey protein powder. Eat protein at every meal, about 5 to 6 times per day.
SUGAR BUSTER #3: Eat the Right Amount of Calories
Low-calorie diets, especially for prolonged periods of time, can lead to severe cravings and metabolic slow-down. Essentially the body thinks its not getting enough energy to sustain normal function, so it starts to reserve energy for times of starvation. If you start to give into your cravings, the result can be a condition known as hyperphagia – where your hunger hormones don’t shut-off so you constantly feel hungry and, as a result, you continue to crave food and have a hard time stopping yourself from eating. Instead of severe deprivation diets, try following a diet that is suited to your activity level, and will lead to sustainable weight loss for the long run, not a quick fix that could end up causing you to rebound and gaining back all of the weight you lost – and possibly more. Calculate your calories by multiplying your current weight in pounds by anywhere from 12 to 15 – depending on your activity level.
SUGAR BUSTER #4: Go to the Gym
If are looking to shed body fat you are obviously going to the gym regularly. Working out is an essential component when it comes to building muscle, but it also releases endorphins and hormones that can help decrease hunger post exercise. In a few studies, it has been shown that those who exercise regularly have better appetite regulation than those who do not. It has also been shown that when sedentary individuals take up exercise, appetite regulation can also improve. Another study showed that exercise could do both – control appetite but also stimulate appetite! This is probably due to the fact that exercise raises hormones such as adrenaline and noradrenaline that work opposite to hunger hormones – leaving you feeling less hungry after you work out. But be careful to make good choices, because hunger can start to come on fast once these hormones start to taper off.
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King NA, et al. Dual-process action of exercise on appetite control: increase in orexigenic drive but improvement in meal-induced satiety. Am J Clin Nutr. 2009. 90(4): 921-7.
Paddon-Jones D, et al. Protein, weight management and satiety. Am J Clin Nutr. 2008. 87(5): 1558S – 16S