Yes, there are those few lucky insulin sensitive people who are just don't care for sugar that much. Or those people with the will of steel making them resistant to the lure of sugar. But most people, yours truly included, aren't one of them.
We grow up with it. It is one of the first currencies our parents bargain with if they want us to make our beds ("With a spoonful of sugar... damn you Mary Poppins). It's the main ingredient of comfort foods at least as long as it's too early for a gin tonic. It's a time killer while starring at a huge screen and having to endure the trailer of another freaky Vince Vaughn movie.
- Get rid of all junk foods in the house.
Don't see it, don't feel it. This is the easiest thing you can do address sugar cravings.I went through my pantry and threw out all processed foods and treats. Processed foods are especially nasty as most of them have been designed to be hyper-palatable = super tasty. Lot's of them contain hidden sugars . If you read the label sugars can hide under a different name like dextrose, maltose, agave syrup. It's all sugar. And those foods marked low fat? Without the fat the producer needs something else to make it more palatable. Cue: Sugar.
- Figure out if there are certain times you are most likely to crave sweets.
Avoid being hungry during those times. For me it's usually in the evening. Have a healthy snacks at hand like a serving of fruit or paleo beef jerky. If the craving is really bad have a healthy dessert alternative at hand. As mentioned before I had a pronounced weakness for ice cream and cheese cake. So I came up with a healthy recipe playing on my preference for creamy cold sweet stuff. Meet my frozen berries with ricotta and crushed cinnamon cashew nuts dessert. It's highly satisfying and oh so healthy. I am also going to write a specific post for women how to cycle their diet and their workout based on their menstruation cycle to counter sugar cravings as well as weight gain and to improve their body composition.
- Never go grocery shopping hungry.
Entering a supermarket with a strong hankering for food is like leaving tipsy office interns and a copying machine alone in a room: Nothing good can come good of it. Don't challenge fate with isles of temptations. Or just bring your sober companion.
- Avoid artificial sweeteners. They will only bite you in the ass.
You cannot treat artificial sweeteners like a sugar-methadone. They won't help you kick your sugar addiction. It's actually quite the opposite. As already mentioned in my Paleo 101 post artificial sweeteners are the Gone Girl of sweeteners: too good to be true, promising sweetness without the baggage, but turn out to later stab you in the back. Artificial sweeteners trigger sugar cravings because when consumed the body still expects sugar and releases the same chemical reaction. It's comparable to expecting a hot stripper for your stag party but you get Bozo the Clown instead. Repercussions are in order.
- Avoid chronic stress and get enough sleep
An acute stress reaction preps us for an imminent fight or flight. The body opens the gates so you can get access to energy quickly to either kick some ass or run your butt off. Once the situation has been successfully survived the lost energy needs to be replenished as quickly as possible. Nothing is quicker than sugar when it comes to an energy boost. Now imagine you are chronically stressed, your body feels like it needs to chronically replenish energy pronto. Ergo: chronic sugar cravings. If lots of stress is part of your life and you cannot help it at least try to get enough good quality sleep. Aim for 7-8 hours. The less sleep the better the quality of your sleep should be. Good sleep does not only help you recover and recharge but it also makes you more resilient to potential stress situations. Missing the MTR might be less of a crisis when well rested and relaxed rather than being overly tired and exhausted.
- Spice up your food with Vietnamese/ Saigon Cinnamon
This is a trick I learned from Tim Ferris' book The Four Hour Body. Ferris, or Mr. Body&Marketing-Hacker as I like to call him, claims that cinnamon especially Vietnamese/ Saigon cinnamon helps reducing sugar cravings by lowering blood sugar by 29%. Not only does it improve your focus but also improves your recovery after a workout and it's anti-inflammatory. Adding cinnamon to your food gives it a sweet warm aroma without the negative effects caused by artificial sweeteners. By adding half a tea spoon to my coffee I was gradually able to enjoy my coffee without any sugar.
- Go dark chocolate
Go for at least 75% cocoa content. Cocoa is one of the most affordable superfoods. It boosts the happiness hormone serotonin and the motivation hormone dopamine. With these hormones up and running you are less likely to crave a sugar kick. You want to find the right chocolate ratio for you that still tastes good to you, has as much cocoa as possible and as low in sugar as possible. I found that for me 85% works best. It's low in sugar and still palatable. 90% is too bitter for me. My favourite brand is the 85% dark chocolate from Lindt. First of all they use natural vanilla instead of artificial vanilla flavour. Also it's available everywhere even in 7Eleven. Opt to buy the smaller pocket size packs to have a better control over your portioning.
Did you ever wonder why people gain weight in the winter? Ok, yes there are many opportunities for holiday debauchery and people prefer to cuddle up inside where it's warm and not go outside. But winter is also the darkest season. We need sunlight to make Vitamin D which is important for our immune system, cardiovascular system, healthy cholesterol levels and strong bones. But Vitamin D is also vital to activate appetite suppressing hormones. If those hormones are off people will tend to crave for more food even if they stuffed themselves already. Although Hong Kong is a fairly sunny country many Hong Kongers are actually Vitamin D deficient since they are mostly spending their time indoors under artificial lighting.
Soil Based Probiotics
Being on a high-carb diet by eating lots of processed sugars benefits the growth of gut bacteria that thrive on sugar and these bacteria become one of the dominant strains in your gut. What's so bad about that? These strains will try to get you to eat more sugar. So these nasty little buggers produce chemicals in your body which induce sugar cravings. Everyone has these bacteria but when they take over your gut they're bad news see Candida or SIBO. These bacteria can be so strong that when transferred into the gut of a healthy and fit person it can cause significant weight gain. To beat these bacteria into submission you need high-quality potent probiotics which are soil based.
L-Glutamine is an old friend from my days of doing ultra-endurance races. No matter how knackered I was after a trail running race I would always make sure to have a protein post-workout drink and two L-Glutamine caps after I crossed the finishing line. The reason is that L-Glutamine increases your recovery rate by supporting your immune system and repairing muscle damage. The result is that you might be less sore for a shorter time. It's my favourite amino acid as it has so many benefits and you guessed right, it also helps against sugar cravings by stabilising blood sugar levels, elevating your mood, and healing your gut lining.
L-Tyrosine is more of side-kick supplement. It is an amino acid supplement often recommended in Atkins diet books and often given to patients with a sluggish thyroid . You can take it as power pack in combination with L-Glutamine and 5-HTP (see below). The body needs Tyrosine to make dopamine, as mentioned before, it is the motivation hormone and influences how strong your will power is. Start with 500 mg once a day for a week. If you feel your sugar craving is still getting the better of you, you can increase to 500 mg twice a day.
Another side-kick supplement coming up. So while L-Tyrosine benefits the production of dopamine 5-HTP is a amino acid building block for the happiness hormone serotonin. As mentioned earlier it is most potent when taken in combination with L-Glutamine and L-Tyrosine. Since it is involved in making serotonin 5-HTP is known to be a mood and brain booster. The dosage is usually 100 mg once per day before bed time. You might want to experiment with the timing though. Most people have reported improved sleep when taking it at night but it can have the effect of a mild stimulant on some people so takiing it in the morning or mid-day might be a better option.