Do you have afternoon sugar cravings? We have all been there. You know the drill, it's 3pm and you can't seem to keep your eyes open at your desk. Your body is craving caffeine, candy and a nap. So what can you do to avoid feeling like a sleepy, hunger monster every afternoon? How can we beat the sugar cravings and get back to being productive? Keep reading!
Before we talk about the fixes, I think it's important to address some of the main reasons why we often fall victim to the afternoon sugar cravings and feel tired, run down and exhausted. Here are some of the top reasons you are crashing every afternoon.
1. You are under eating at breakfast and lunch. This is common for dieters and busy people. For dieters, especially women, you find yourself playing the numbers game, eating only a small greek yogurt or a single egg with toast in the morning. Playing the (lack of) calorie game early in the day is only going to set you up for hunger and cravings later. Your body needs most of it's fuel while you are up and moving around.
Here is a good rule of thumb: you should be eating at least half your calories between your breakfast and lunch so you won't find yourself starving at 3pm or eating everything in your pantry at 8pm. Your body is smart, it knows you need the fuel. Exhaustion, cravings and hunger at 3pm might just be your body telling you to eat more food early in the day. Read more about calorie counting and some unknown facts about it!
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2. You are not sleeping. Yup I'm going there! We are all overworked and under-slept, and it shows in our choices! That sugary or carb filled craving at 3pm; that is your body looking for fast FUEL to stay awake. Quick carbs (from sugar and processed foods like chips and donuts) provide an immediate spike in blood sugar. This spike of blood sugar will instantly give you more energy. The downside is that this spike also makes your insulin skyrocket, trying to quickly remove the sugar from your blood. Since all you had was quick carbs, your blood sugar drops as quick as it spikes and you are left feeling tired, hungry and looking for more sugar. The sugar craving cycle continues and doesn't help your afternoon slump for long.
If you find yourself craving carbs in the middle of the day. Use this quick rule to help avoid that immediate crash in blood sugar. Pair your carbs with a protein or a fat. By pairing your carbs with fat or protein, the spike in your blood sugar will be less intense. No, this is not an excuse to eat a cream filled donuts :)
3. You are choosing all the wrong foods throughout the day! Let's recap from above. Many of us are on diets, hoping to lose a few pounds. You are also under sleeping, stressed, tired, and don't have extra time in your day. This lifestyle can cause us to lean heavily on packaged food. The problem with packaged foods are that they are often highly processed, stripped of nutrients, and they send you on the sugar cycle I mentioned above. Choosing foods that are high in nutrient density (amount of nutrients per calorie) is a great way to avoid afternoon sugar cravings. This means eating vegetables, healthy fats, lean protein and drinking a lot of water.
Unfortunately it is difficult to find processed foods that will provide all of these things. But I think that is because we often overthink things! Quick foods that are naturally full of vitamins, minerals, fiber and are portable include apples and bananas, paired with almonds, macadamia nuts or sunflower seeds. You can take this combo of healthy carbs, fat and protein with you anywhere and it's always delicious!
Here are some ways to beat your sugar cravings:
1. Eat more food early in the day. Fill up on non-starchy vegetables, lean protein, healthy fats and hydrate your body well! This means lots of water (not soda).
2. Trying to power through those cravings can be tough. This is why it's so important to pack healthy snacks and keep your body well hydrated. Did you know that a lack of sleep also causes you to have less willpower throughout the day? If you can't get more sleep, at least plan ahead for the sugar cravings that you know are going to happen at 3pm! Some great options to have on hand are chocolate strawberry energy bites, hemp protein brownie bites, simple chocolate protein pudding, chocolate chocolate chip protein cookies, nacho kale chips, smoked salmon cucumber bites or chopped veggies with artichoke hummus dip!
3. Get up and go for a walk outside. Sometimes we get into habits that can be difficult to break. Find a podcast and disconnect for 10 minutes outside in the fresh air. Many of these hunger pangs will go away without ever needing to indulge, it just takes some redirection and a change of scenery.
I think it is important to mention here that everyone is on a different eating schedule. Some people do better with 2-3 large meals a day. Others do better with smaller meals throughout the day. If you are trying to survive on the smaller meals throughout the day, it is 100% natural and expected that you will be hungry at 3pm. However this hunger should be expected. It is not caused by a slump in energy and cravings for carbs. It's just like the hunger signals you get at lunch or dinner time, and this hunger should not take you for surprise or be specific to a certain food. AKA all I want are carbs!!! If you don't like these pangs of hunger in the middle of the day, you may want to switch to eating more food with fewer feeding times.
Many people will argue that cravings are a sign of a deficiency in your diet, and I have to agree. I think many of the reasons for these deficiencies are our reliance on processed foods, the lack of sleep, the constant state of stress and the overconsumption of sugar in our diets. The constant craving for something sweet or crunchy carbs in the middle of the day is indicative of your body telling you that it needs fuel now! This means you are either improperly fueling throughout the day or not sleeping well! Adjust your eating and sleeping habits and you will be surprised how quickly these cravings disappear. Meal prepping on a Sunday can help you stay on track with your meals.
Check out even more sugar info and tips on sugar cravings here: