We all crave sugar. And why wouldn’t we? Sugar, in all its forms, can provide a nice, satisfying, physiological and biochemical effect on both the brain and the body. As a result, we can feel energetic and happy as soon as we eat it.
Sugar cravings can be caused by many factors, including our hormones, stress, or emotional triggers, and of course by what we eat. A sugar detox can help you get control of your sugar cravings and provide some additional health benefits.
What is a sugar detox?
A sugar detox is basically the process of removing all sugar from your diet for a set period of time. That doesn’t just mean the sugar in your coffee, or that afternoon chocolate bar you’re reaching for. I’m talking about the sugar in all the foods you eat.
You may not be aware of it, but sugar can be hiding in many foods. Some of the main culprits include bread, pasta, white rice, and pretty much any processed food products.
In their simplest form, carbohydrates – no matter what the source – are sugar. In the body, all carbs get broken down into glucose, the simplest form of sugar. The simpler the food, the faster the breakdown or digestion. As glucose molecules enter the bloodstream, there is a surge in blood sugar levels, which gives a rush of energy, also known as a sugar high.
The struggle is REAL
Excluding sugar from your diet is not an easy task. In fact, its physiological effect has even been compared to drug addiction. So, if you’re a sugar junkie, you will need to seriously focus on getting clean of sugar.
Understand where your cravings come from and how to handle them when they present themselves. Is it an emotional trigger, are you eating out of stress or boredom, or is your energy low and you just need a pick-me-up?
Quitting sugar will result in withdrawal – low energy and low mood – which will present itself within the first three to five days of a sugar detox. You can expect to experience:
• Decreased energy levels
• Reduced mental focus
• Low moods caused by decreased dopamine (the happy hormone) and increased acetylcholine (the pain-perceiving hormone).
The good news is that after the first week, these symptoms will subside, as long as you have changed your diet to include lots of healthy and filling foods that will not only help you to deal with the cravings, but are also more densely packed with nutrients and energy.
Benefits of sugar detoxing
It is important to remember when performing a sugar detox that it shouldn’t just be a passing phase, but a way of life. Eating a healthy diet should mean you pretty much cut out all sugary foods for good.
Fresh, healthy, whole foods deliver all the vitamins, minerals, and fibre that your body needs to fuel your metabolism and your workout, and balance hormones in the brain. Benefits include:
1. Being less moody and having more energy – balanced blood glucose levels prevent peaks and troughs in your mood and energy levels.
2. Reduced hunger – shifting your macro intake by consuming more protein and fewer carbs means you’ll be less hungry between meals as protein keeps you feeling fuller for longer.
3. Improved focus – when your blood glucose levels are balanced, you are less likely to be easily distracted.
4. Reduced 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.
5. Increased lean mass and decreased body fat – eating fewer high-calorie foods and shifting to a diet that’s higher in protein and lower in carbs will shift your body composition so that you become leaner.
6. Balanced hormones – high sugar intake is associated with hormonal imbalances, increasing androgen levels and raising the level of oestrogen, which can slow the processes of fat burning and muscle building. Lower sugar levels will result in better hormonal balance.
7. Better skin – there is a link between insulin, which is the hormone released when we eat sugar, and aging. When sugar levels are high, an oxidation process known as glycation occurs and free radicals attack the collagen and elastin in the skin. This causes wrinkles and even cellulite, which is the breakdown of collagen and elastin and the 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 is as close to its natural state as possible. Eliminate foods that are high in sugar and cause inflammation.
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 at just 20% to 30%. This includes all carb sources, from whole grains, to fruit and veggies. Healthy fats can make up the rest of your calories. Here’s a breakdown of the best foods to eat…
• Plenty of fresh vegetables, in any form – raw, sautéed, steamed – take your pick.
• Some fruit – although fruits
do contain some natural sugars, they are also full of soluble fibre, which lowers the rate at which the sugar is absorbed into the bloodstream.
• High-quality protein – getting enough high-quality protein in your diet will not only help reduce your appetite and curb your cravings, but will also help to change your overall body composition for the better.
• Healthy fats – fats are essential when it comes to your health, so don’t cut them out during a detox. Include fats from avocados, nuts, chia and pumpkin seeds, flax, coconut and olive oil, and eggs.
• Gluten-free grains and carbs – if you must eat some carbs, the best sources are those that are free from gluten. Stick to whole grains that are high in fibre and protein, such as quinoa, brown rice, and amaranth.
Who is Lauren Jacobsen?
With more than 20 years of experience designing nutrition products, supplements, and meal plans, Lauren is one of
the most sought-after experts in her field and manages all nutritional information for the Kcal World group.
Lauren has worked with professional rugby and football players, as well as physique and fitness competitors, and she holds a degree in nutritional biochemistry, specialising in sports nutrition and supplementation, from Trent University in Canada.
Lauren is responsible for overseeing the development of new menus, meal plans, and macro assessments across each of the Kcal group’s concepts: Kcal Life, Kcal Extra, Fuel-Up by Kcal, Kcal Go, and Gourmet
Follow Lauren on Instagram and Facebook @sexyfitlauren, or read her blog, sexystrongfit.com (Photo credit: John Marsland)