We’ve all experienced it at one point or another, for some of us it’s daily, for others, monthly, yet others seem to have it completely under control except for the holidays! Carbohydrate cravings otherwise known as carb cravings!!!
WHAT CAUSES THE CRAVINGS?
There are many causes to carb cravings: 1. Hypoglycemia(Lowbloodsugar)
2. Insulin resistance
3. Emotional eating
- Eating for comfort
- Eating disorders
4. Imbalance of hormones
5. Low levels of serotonin
6. Allergy (Generally allergic to the food we crave, sounds crazy, but true.) 7. Visual stimulus
8. Not enough healthy fats in the diet
THE MAIN CULPRIT - LOW BLOOD SUGAR
I think the biggest factor contributing to carb craving is an imbalance in blood sugar. Blood sugar MUST be maintained at ALL times. You see, when your blood sugar drops to low levels, you will immediately begin to experience cravings for not only carb’s but for the worst kind: refined. processed, packaged garbage! Your body is sending a signal to the brain to get help, and get it immediately. Processed, refined, ‘foods’ (I have a hard time calling it food), is the quickest way to bring blood sugar levels back up, and also the worst!
When someone consumes a high glycemic (GI) food, which all processed, refined foods are generally high GI, it shoots the blood sugar up, only to have it drop as low, or lower than before the processed carb was consumed. It creates another urgency to eat more crappy carb’s, and the viscious cycle goes on. Now if you happen to be one of the thousands who already have hypoglycemia (low blood sugar), this will spell disaster for you, and your health and fitness programs. By the way, hypoglycemia is just a step away from diabetes.
HOW DO I KNOW IF I HAVE HYPOGLYCEMIA
Go to your doctor and ask to be tested. They can perform both a finger prick test, as well as, a fasting test performed generally at a hospital. Also, look for these common signs of hypoglycemia:
1. Excessive thirst
2. Carb cravings
3. Water retention
4. Mood swings
Eat regular small, nutritious, fiber rich, nutrient dense food, real food, upon waking, and every 2-3 hours after! Try not to go any longer than three hours without eating!!!! Keep food in your car, your desk, your handbag, your anything you can think of. Keep cash with you at all times in case you’re in a fix. If all else fails, do what I do, carry around protein meal replacement powder for safety, as they are better than nothing, and will hold you over until you can get a bite of some real food! Stay away from white flour products.
SECOND CULPRIT - INSULIN RESISTANCE
Insulin resistance is what occurs in a person who does not yet have hypoglycemia, but indicates they are well on their way. Insulin resistance will cause the same cravings, same effects of fat storage and messed up signals in appetite.
THIRD CULPRIT - EMOTIONAL EATING
As you can see from the emotional eating list above, we all fit into at least one of those categories, at any given time. Children can be trained at an early age to comfort themselves with food, sweets particularly, high GI, refined, processed garbage. Johnny got an ‘A’ parents reward with food. Sally comes home with a skinned knee, parents take Sally for an ice cream, sounds silly, but this type of behavior becomes reinforced time after time. How many times have you gone to the kitchen out of boredom? Mad? Happy? Sad? It makes no difference, as carb’s have become a HABIT. The good news is HABITS CAN BE BROKE!!!!
First off, distinguish whether you are truly hungry or not. Ask yourself when the last time was you ate, etc. If you find you’re not really hungry, try one of the following:
1. Distract yourself. Read a book. Watch a movie. Wash your vehicle. Clean the house, garage, go for a hike, bike ride, study up on a topic that interests you, etc.
2. Learn to talk it out. Talk with your spouse, significant other, or trusted friend. The sooner you can talk about what’s ‘eating’ you, you’ll stop eating your problems!
3. Face your fears. That’s right. Choose something you fear, and face it straight on, over and over again, until the feeling of fear is something that’s recognized, dealt with, and gone!
THE OTHER CULPRITS
1. Hormones - Changing hormones can leave a woman, craving carb’s up to a week before her menstrual cycle is due to begin. Women need to be extra vigilant in maintaining regular meals, with a high amount of fibrous vegetables, and plenty of water. Be sure your protein sources are plentiful, as well as, your healthy fats, as the three of these (veggie carb’s, protein, and fat), make a strong foundation for which cravings don’t have a chance, because you'll feel full and satisfied. Leave any of the three out, have too little, or poor sources, and you could be in trouble.
Too many women I know either go on a rampage prior to their Time of the Month (TOM), or they try to completely starve themselves. Keep in mind, as a female you don’t want to dip below 1,200 calories a day, for males the minimum is 1,500 calories/day. Also, be mindful of sugar, salt, and caffeine, as all can trigger a carb craving response. Ditto artificial sweeteners.
Don’t kid yourself, hormonal changes occur with men also, just on a different time table.
2. Low serotonin - Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that helps regulate body temperature, sleep patterns, and sexual drive. However, when a person is under heavy stress, serotonin levels tend to drop.
Signs of low serotonin:
- Mood swings
- Lack of vitality
- Difficulty sleeping
Many people find by simply changing to a healthy meal plan, and getting outdoors, fresh air, sunshine, and enjoying activities helps to naturally raise serotonin levels.
3. Allergies - Yes, sometimes the very food we crave, we are allergic to. The only way to tell is to remove the food from your diet for a month or so, see an allergist, or someone who does Meridian Stress Assessments (MSA).
4. Visual stimulants - Every time you lay eyes on food, drink, a picture of either, a person eating or drinking near you, the smell of food or drink, etc., it can trigger a response similar to emotional eating. At this point, as with emotional eating, you need to decipher what is a real need and what is not.
WHY ATHLETES HAVE AN ADVANTAGE
Readers of my blog are generally getting a hefty dose of exercise. Athletes exercise to their advantage. Exercise is known to curb the appetite. As athletes are burning calories off, they’re also burning away unnecessary sugars that could spike blood sugar. Use exercise to your advantage folks, in every way, shape and form. If you’ve had a little indulgence Friday night, it might not feel great exercising first thing Saturday, but you’ll help to burn yourself clean again!
ARE THERE SUPPLEMENTS THAT CAN ASSIST THE PROCESS?
You know how I feel about supplementing. Supplements are to be used for a specific purpose, not as a crutch. The following is a list of items people have found helpful in helping them on the road to being carb crave free.
1. Chromium picolinate: General dosage is 200 mcg/day.
2. 5 Htp: 50-100 mg. 1-2 hours before bed. (Could also help relax you)
3. Protein : Salmon, flank steak, egg whites or whey protein. (25-40 gms. per serving)
4. Enzymes: If you find you have a hard time digesting a particular food, dairy, for instance, take an enzyme that will help assist in the breakdown, thus helping to eliminate cravings.
5. Fish Oil: Be sure it’s from a good, reliable clean source.
6. Muilti-vitamin: It can help to cover bases if you’re making changes in your diet.
Others have claimed glutamine, and creatine have helped them with carb cravings, but there is no scientific studies backing these theories.
There you have it!
Balanced nutrition, proper hydration, and sensible exercise makes for much less cravings.