Find it tougher to avoid sweet cravings (or any other kind) at certain times of the day? You’re not the only one – here’s how to cheat them…
“Two hours after breakfast, your blood-sugar levels will have dropped, making you hungry,” says nutritionist Sarah Wilson, author of I Quit Sugar for Life. The bad news? According to a study in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association, women who ate mid-morning lost less weight and tended to carry on picking throughout the day. Step. Away.
The swerve: Get this: snack avoidance begins at breakfast time. Researchers in Louisiana, US, found that people who started their day with an egg had lower levels of the appetite-stimulating hormone ghrelin three hours later than those who started their day with cereal. Absolutely need a snack? Go for almonds – in a US study, people who ate 43g of them (1 047 kilojoule’s worth) as a mid-morning snack were so satiated that they consumed fewer daily kilojoules overall. Snack win.
That afternoon slump can be avoided by swerving a carby lunch, right? Not quite. “Your body’s circadian rhythms lead to a dip in energy levels after lunch that can occur no matter what you eat,” says chronobiologist Dr Victoria Revell. “This may be linked to a natural inclination for sleep every 8 to 12 hours.” But when napping isn’t an option, your brain seeks a nutritional energy boost: sugar!
The swerve: A University of Wyoming study found that an hour of moderate cardio at lunch can quash your appetite for the next two hours – if you stay hydrated. Meanwhile, your energy dip may be compounded by a drop in mood-boosting serotonin. “Your brain needs carbs to produce serotonin,” explains Dr Judith Wurtman, author of The Serotonin Power Diet. “You need around 30g of carbs for that quick serotonin lift.” Think a wholemeal bread roll, a banana or 50g dried apricots. Nibble away. Then stop.
It’s not just that painful episode of Don’t Tell the Bride sending you to the fridge: a study in the journal Obesity found that we may be programmed to crave sweet, high-kilojoule foods at night. “This tactic might have helped our ancestors when food was scarce,” Revell says. “Eating before sleep meant they stored the energy more efficiently.” Problem? You’re not a caveman.
The swerve: “Your body doesn’t metabolise food as well at night, so avoid munching,” Revell says. Try this trick to deal with cravings: “Take two teaspoons of coconut oil,” Wilson says. “It’s made up of medium-chain fatty acids (MCFAs), which deliver quick energy to your body, without producing an insulin spike in your bloodstream.” You can eat it straight from the jar, but for a more palatable option, pop a couple of teaspoons in some warm almond milk and sweeten with cinnamon. Cheers!
4am Freak Out
Terrorist threats, overdraft limits, the impact of climate change on the global goji berry harvest… It’s enough to keep you awake at night. But that early morning panic attack may not just be down to stress. “If you wake abruptly in the early hours, it may be the result of something called nocturnal hypoglycaemia,” women’s health expert Dr Marilyn Glenville says. “It’s caused by your blood sugar dropping – your body releases adrenaline to correct the imbalance, and that wakes you up.”
READ MORE: 3 Ways You Can Burn More Fat In Your Sleep
The swerve: Easy. “Have a protein-rich evening meal with minimal starchy carbs,” Glenville says. “Try grilled fish and veggies. Then, about an hour before bed, have a small complex-carb snack, such as an oatcake or half a slice of rye bread. This will stop your blood sugar dropping during the night.” And you’ll be less worried about the poor goji berries.
This content originally appeared in Women’s Health Shrink Your Sugar Belly Volume 2.