Do you experience an afternoon lull?
Many of us often experience a tired feeling maybe a couple of hours after lunch, when we just want to nod off or rest our eyes for a few minutes. Then we decide the best thing would be a little pick me up from the vending machine to help us push through until the end of the working day.
Why does this happen?
We have all read about the effects of sugar and its relationship to obesity, type 2 diabetes and other metabolic syndromes that are now so prevalent and how processed foods, sodas including diet sodas are all feeding this epidemic.
Why are those pounds so hard to shift?
Where do those extra few pounds we put on every year come from? We tend to blame it on age, the good old middle-age spread that we just have to learn to live with. Occasionally, as the summer holiday approaches we may make an effort to lose a few pounds, but generally only put them back on and more.
Let's take a look at what may be considered the average diet of a hardworking stressed individual, and see what it does to blood glucose levels?
Breakfast - A bowl of cereal with milk, orange juice and a coffee,
Mid-morning snack - flapjack and diet soda,
Lunch - a chicken salad sandwich, a packet of crisps and a low-fat fruit yoghurt,
Mid-afternoon- a chocolate bar,
Dinner - pasta with a ready-made sauce and maybe a pre-prepared green salad.
Throw in a couple of glasses of wine and then bed.
This poor body has received an onslaught of carbohydrates, many of which have a high glycemic load. Carbohydrates with a high glycemic load enter the bloodstream faster, creating a surge in blood glucose. Whilst we use glucose as energy, we require insulin from the pancreas to transport glucose to our cells. When we consume too many carbohydrates the bloodstream becomes flooded with glucose. Ever notice how people often change personality when they receive a sugar rush?
In general, insulin produced by the pancreas is not able to cope with such high surges of sugar. Thus the pancreas makes more insulin to adapt to high levels of glucose. All of our excess glucose is stored as fat. When we produce more insulin we get a sugar crash and become irritable and tired. Insulin requires its playmate sugar, thereby we end up with a craving for more sugar. So the cycle begins, we indulge in more sugar, store more fat and crave even more sugar. Sugar feeds sugar and sugar craves sugar!
Unfortunately, when we have insulin resistance, which would generally develop if we continued to eat in this fashion, we also create leptin resistance. Leptin is the hormone that in normal conditions lets the brain know we are full. However, if insulin resistance exists leptin cannot send the correct signal to the brain and consequently, we are always hungry.
How can we rid ourselves of sugar cravings?
If we maintain a diet based on low glycemic foods we should avoid both the rush of sugar into our bloodstream and any subsequent crash as we are keeping blood glucose and insulin working in harmony.
Endeavour to reduce unrefined carbohydrates from your diet and replace with lower glycemic alternatives. Ensure you eat protein with carbohydrates to slow down the release of sugar. Both protein and healthy fats are satiating. If possible, avoid snacking but if you feel the urge incorporate nutritious fats such as nuts, hummus, avocados and add olive oil to salads. Avoid fatty carbohydrates at all costs as they are the worst combination for health.
Many non-starchy vegetables and whole unrefined carbohydrates tend to have a lower glycemic index than refined carbohydrates which will help to reduce cravings. Also, low glycemic vegetables and fruit can be enjoyed ad infinitum if so desired.