It’s 3PM. You’re feeling a little lethargic, like you could use a pick-me-up to get your through the rest of the afternoon. You start taking a mental inventory of available options. There’s the candy dish, the vending machine, the box of donuts a well-meaning coworker brought in.
But you already decided to clean up your eating habits, and you know those snacks are only going to leave you feeling even more lethargic and moody.
Listen, sugar cravings hit the best of us. Feeling like a slave to the sweet devil sucks. Treats are necessary, but they should be planned and savoured!
Luckily, there are actually things you can do to crush a sugar craving. Next time the urge to splurge hits, try one of these strategies:
1. Move Your Body
One big reason our bodies crave carbs (also known as sugar) is a dip in serotonin levels. Serotonin (the feel-good hormone known for keeping us happy) requires the amino acid tryptophan as a precursor. When we eat carbohydrates, our body secretes insulin, which then pulls sugars and amino acids into our muscles.
Tryptophan, though, is immune to the signal. With all the other amino acids out of the way, tryptophan makes it into the brain where it becomes serotonin. This is why carbs literally make you happy.
Remember that high-glycemic, sugary carbs will inevitably lead to a crash and you will end up with another craving.
Instead of reaching for a chocolate bar, try going for a quick walk, jog or even doing a few minutes of jumping jacks. Physical activity can also boost serotonin. For best results, exercise every day and your serotonin levels will stay consistent!
Speaking of amino acids, l-glutamine is a powerful weapon against sugar cravings. While we are not exactly sure how it works, taking about 500mg of l-glutamine powder directly on the tongue seems to eliminate sugar cravings.
This could be because glutamine is an amino acid, and therefore a protein. Protein is known to balance blood sugar and reduce cravings. Whatever the reason, the brain seems to prefer glutamine to sugar, so when you take some glutamine your sugar craving should disappear quickly.
The easiest way to do this is to keep a bottle of l-glutamine capsules on hands. When a nasty craving hits you, simply break open a capsule directly onto your tongue. It’s inexpensive, safe, and effective.
3. Get Fresh
Peppermint has a powerful appetite suppressing effect, and is especially effective at crushing sugar cravings.
One simple strategy is to try brushing your teeth with minty fresh toothpaste when a craving hits. The cool burst of freshness may leave you craving-free.
Peppermint tea is another way to curb a sweet tooth. Brew a double-strength cup, and sip that instead of munching on a treat.
Another great way to use peppermint is to find some food-grade peppermint essential oil. Adding 5-10 drops to your water bottle can help keep you from craving sweets throughout the day while also keeping you hydrated (yay!).
4. Have a Balanced Snack
Sometimes, you might actually be hungry! If your lunch was a low-calorie salad, it may be time to top-up the tank. If you need to eat, be sure to eat something balanced, so your body will get the fuel it needs without a blood sugar spike and crash.
Choose something with some complex carbs, fat and protein. Good examples of a balanced snack include:
- A banana with 1 tbsp peanut butter
- Baby carrots with ¼ cup hummus
- An apple with 1 tbsp almond butter
- Walnuts and raisins
5. Consider Breaking Up With Coffee
If the thought of giving up your daily coffee scares the crap out of you, consider that your morning cuppa Joe could actually be the underlying cause for your afternoon sugar craving.
When you drink coffee, you are forcing your adrenal glands to produce cortisol… this is the same thing that happens when your body prepares for a stressful situation, like being attacked by a lion.
Every morning, your body prepares to fight a lion. But the lion never comes, and eventually your cortisol levels will not be able to keep up. When the caffeine wears off, you’re stuck with low cortisol, which leads to a sugar craving.
So next time that 3PM sugar craving hits, you will be prepared! Over time daily exercise, balanced eating, and moderated caffeine intake will naturally lead to fewer sugar cravings. Plus you'll always have a toothbrush and some l-glutamine in your emergency toolkit.