Updated: Jan 14, 2020
Who gets sugar cravings when they're eating healthy?... *slowly raises hand above head*
To be honest, I'm more of a savoury than and a sweet guy. But yes, occasionally, I will get irresistible cravings for sugar. There's lots of research into why we get sporadic sugar cravings. Some say it's when the body is low on certain minerals, others say it's an emotional response to dealing with stress.
No solid conclusions have really been drawn, but from my own experience in dealing with self confessed sugar addicts, there are a few things I know for sure:
We crave sugar the more we have it.
Hunger and hormonal changes (i.e. time of the month) are biggest triggers.
Resisting the urge to have sugar is HARD!
The last point applies to everyone, no one finds it easy to kick sugar. But your mind has to be in the right place to kick it for good. So if you're mentally ready to beat sugar, here are some methods I've previously used.
1. Substitute - This is something most people will have tried, but it's about picking the right foods. In an ideal world we're looking to cut out refined processed sugars for the naturally grown variety. However, sometimes the body just isn't fooled. So we cut our losses and substitute for a much lower calorie version. Here are some examples that have worked in the past:
Fruit - This should always be your go to. Fruit contains the most naturally occurring sugar of any food and therefore may satisfy your cravings whilst staying within calories.
Whey protein - Protein powder is well known for it's sweetness. Nowadays you have more flavours than you'll know what to do with so they'll be one that hits the spot.
Hot chocolate - Not an ideal substitution, but with it being sweet, chocolaty and lower in calories it's a stepping stone to better choices.
Zero calorie syrup - Last year I discovered this on Bulk Powders. When dieting for my holiday I wasn't allowed ANY sugar, but adding this into my morning shake worked a treat.
Coke Zero - Again, not an ideal choice. But switching your full sugar version to a Coke Zero will do wonders for eliminating sugar from your diet, whilst keeping the calories under wraps.
2. Eat regularly - In my experience the 2 biggest triggers for sugar cravings are general hunger, and time of the month. But what I've found massively counteracts both of these is eating regularly. If you're the type of person who skips breakfast and has a light lunch. You're much more likely to crave sugar.
Start by eating three meals per day. It's important to spread your calories out evenly across the day. Having the majority at dinner time will only encourage sugar cravings. If you're still getting cravings, you may want to add another meal. I've had clients on 6 meals per day simply to avoid cravings for certain foods.
Be aware, there is more planning and preparing involved. But the long term goal is to be sugar craving free and this is an important step. I've also found food tracking apps, such as MyFitnessPal really help to spread calories out evenly and plan ahead.
3. Weaning Off - If you're so far down the sugar rabbit hole that you're drinking or eating something sugary as you're reading, this one's for you. I have dealt on several occasions with people so highly addicted to sugar, that substituting simply wasn't enough. We're talking instances of serval sugary drinking per day, another was consuming 4 snickers per day, full bags of Haribo Tangfastics daily.
At this level, the body is so used to sugar that even moderate reductions would result in severe headaches, migraines, nauseous, feeling faint. It's totally reliant on sugar as it's main source of energy. This is when weaning is the only approach. As I mentioned above, the more we have sugar, the more we crave it. So priority number one is to very gently bring the sugar levels down, curbing the cravings.
Often at this level you're consuming so much sugar you actually lose track of how much you're having. I would begin with a food diary over 3 days to see what what the main sugar sources are. Then over serval weeks, you're going to slowly reduce that amount.
For example, a girl I dealt with who was having several cokes per day. We brought that down to 4 cokes per day. Then 2 cokes. Then 4x per week. Then once per week. Until she was on 1 per month. She actually went 3 month without having any form of coke. Quite a remarkable turn around - something to consider before you start substituting foods in.