We all crave sugar! And why wouldn’t we? Sugar in all its forms can provide a nice satisfying physiological and biochemical effect – both on the brain and body. As a result we can feel energetic and happy when we eat it! Sugar cravings can be the result of many factors including our hormones, stress or emotional triggers and of course what we eat. A sugar detox can help get a hold of your sugar cravings, and also provide some much needed health benefits!
What is a Sugar Detox?
A sugar detox, is basically removing any sugar in the diet for a set period of time. That’s not just the sugar in your coffee, or that afternoon chocolate bar you’re reaching for either, what I’m talking about is the sugar in all the foods you eat. You may not be aware, but sugar can be hiding in many foods, some culprits include bread, pasta, white rice, pretty much any processed food product and unfortunately in wine too!
Carbohydrates no matter the source, in its simplest form are sugar. In the body, all carbs get broken down into glucose – the simplest, single molecule of sugar. The simpler the food, the faster the breakdown; as glucose molecules enter the bloodstream, this causes a surge in blood sugar levels, which gives a rush of energy – also known as a sugar high!
Sugar also stimulates the brain to release dopamine – a chemical neurotransmitter that has a happy effect on mood. In the blood, sugar is grabbed by the shuttling hormone insulin, which brings it for packaging and storage in the liver, muscles and of course in fat. When blood sugar levels begin to decline, energy levels fall and dopamine’s short acting blissful feeling also takes a plummet. That short-lived energetic high soon turns into a low feeling crash, resulting in cravings for guess what? More SUGAR!
What Happens When You Quit Sugar – the Struggle is REAL
Excluding sugar from your diet is not an easy feat. In fact, its physiological effect has been compared to drug addiction – say what?! So if you’re a sugar junkie, you will need to seriously focus on getting clean off sugar. Understand where your cravings come from and how to handle them when they present themselves. Is it an emotional trigger, eating out of stress, boredom, feeling low energy and need a pick-me-up? Quitting sugar will result in withdrawal – low energy and even low mood. Sugar withdrawal will present itself within the first 3 to 5 days of a sugar detox. Here’s what to expect:
- Decreased Energy Levels
- Low Mental Focus
- Low Mood from Decreased Dopamine – the Happy Hormone and Increased Acetylcholine – the Pain Perceiving Hormone, who knew quitting sugar could be so painful!
The good news, after the first week, the symptoms above will subside, provided you’ve changed your diet to include healthy and more filling foods that will not only help deal with the cravings, but are also more nutrient and energy dense.
Benefits of Sugar Detoxing
One thing to remember when performing a sugar detox, is that it really shouldn’t be something that you completely stray away from EVER. A healthy diet should be pretty much void of sugary foods anyway. Fresh, healthy, whole foods deliver all the vitamins, minerals and fiber your body needs to fuel our metabolism, workouts and balance hormones in the brain too! So what are the benefits when it comes to sugar detoxing…
- Less Moody and Higher Energy Levels – balanced blood glucose levels, keep your mood and energy levels from shifting up and down.
- Higher Satiation – less hunger from a shift in your macro intake to more protein and less carbs. Protein has a high satiation factor, which means less hunger between meals.
- Higher Brain Power and Better Focus – when blood glucose levels are balanced you’re less likely to shift your focus.
- Less Inflammation – high levels of sugar in the blood can trigger hormonal responses that can over stimulate pathways of inflammation affecting everything from your skin to your heart!
- Increase in Lean Mass, Decrease in Body Fat – eating less, high calorie empty foods and shifting to a diet greater in protein and lower in carbs will shift your body composition to be leaner and tighter!
- Balanced Hormones – high sugar intakes are associated with hormonal dis-regulation increasing androgen levels and subsequently higher levels of estrogen, which can slow fat burning and muscle building. Lower sugar levels will result in better hormonal balance.
- Better Skin and Less Signs of Aging – there is a link between insulin – the hormone released when we eat sugar and aging. When sugar is high the oxidation process known as glycation occurs, where free radicals attack the collagen and elastin in the skin causing wrinkles, and even cellulite – which is the breakdown of collagen and elastin and seeping out of fat!
What to Eat on a Sugar Detox?
When it comes to your diet, a sugar detox diet should include food that is mostly from fresh, whole sources and as close to its natural state as possible. Eliminate foods that are high in sugar and are inflammatory. Consider following a low carb diet or a modified keto diet. Protein should be the biggest portion of what you eat, about 40% of your calories, while carbs should make up the smallest portion 20 to 30% maximum. This includes all carb sources from whole grains, fruits and veggies. Healthy fats can make up the rest of your calories. Here’s what to eat and what not to eat…
- Plenty of Fresh Vegetables – in any form, raw, sautéed, steamed, or however you prefer. Choose vegetables that are from a variety of colors and preferably those that are high in fiber and non-starchy. This includes veggies like broccoli, cauliflower, kale, spinach, green beans, asparagus, and root vegetables such as squashes, pumpkin, eggplant, sweet potato and zucchini.
- Some Fruit – yes fruit has some sugar but it’s also full of soluble fiber, which lowers its glycemic index and the rate at which it’s absorbed into the bloodstream. Choose small portions that are high in fiber such as apples, citrus fruit and berries.
- High Quality Protein – getting enough high quality protein in your diet will not only help cut your appetite and curb your cravings, but it will also help change your body composition too. Higher protein diets are associated with greater weight loss and greater gains in lean mass. Choose from chicken, lean cuts of beef, fish and whole eggs.
- Healthy Fats – fats are essential when it comes to your health, don’t skip over them during a detox. Include fats from avocado, nuts, chia and pumpkin seeds, flax, coconut and olive oil, and whole eggs.
- Gluten-Free Grains and Carbs – if you must eat some carbs, the best sources are those void of gluten. Stick to whole grains that are high in fiber, and even in protein. Such as quinoa, brown rice and amaranth. Also consider adding slow digesting carb sources such as lentils and beans, loaded in soluble fiber and even protein!
- Dairy – although dairy is a great source of protein, it does contain sugar. Dairy has also been associated with causing inflammatory reactions, on the skin and in the gut. Dairy can also falsely increase hormone levels in the body. Switch to non-dairy sources such as almond and coconut milk during a detox.
- Processed Food Products – this is everything from soda pop to food items you might think are healthy like energy bars, baked goods, instant oatmeal and stirred yoghurt that could have sugar hiding inside! The best thing you can do to cut out this food is get comfortable with nutrition labels! Understand the ingredients in the food you’re eating. Better yet, stick to eating mostly food that is fresh and whole, closest to its natural state as possible.
- Alcohol – when going on a sugar detox it’s important to cut out alcohol for at least a bit of time. Alcohol not only contains empty calories and sugar – especially wine, but it can also impact your body’s ability to process and metabolize food, cause inflammation, and increase cravings for food!
- Starchy Carbs – get rid of white pasta, white potatoes, white rice and of course white bread! These empty carbs are loaded in simple sugars, and will only spike blood glucose levels. Avoid them at all costs!
Lastly… a Few Tips to Survive
- Don’t Eat Out of Stress – recognize your emotional triggers and make different decisions!
- Don’t Eat When You’re Bored AF – you’re not a mindless zombie! Find something else to do; read a book, write, meditate, exercise, or get out of the house.
- Stay Hydrated – drink more water, it will help keep your stomach feeling fuller. Have a hard time downing plain water, make an infused water using citrus fruit, or try herbal teas.
- Get Your 25 g of Fiber – fiber will reduce blood sugar levels and keep you feeling fuller for longer.
- Try Dark Chocolate – just a small 1 oz square can help satisfy cravings.
- Eat Consistently – waiting long between meals will drop blood glucose levels resulting in cravings and overeating! Be sure to eat every 3 hours.
- Exercise Frequently – exercise does wonders – it not only burns calories and gets your mind off of food, but it also releases neurotransmitters that will make you feel energized, and less hungry!
- Have a Plan – it’s important to start a sugar detox off on the right foot, be sure to have a plan for what you will eat, and remove those foods that will be detrimental to your detox from your reach! Check your fridge and your cupboards for those sugar filled items that could be your downfall!
Until Next Time,
Be Fierce & Rule the World