What causes sugar cravings or carb cravings?
A question I get asked ALL the time. There is a lot to consider when it comes to cravings, it isn’t always as black and white as you may think.
First, lets take a deeper look into what causes carb cravings.
- A high sugar or carb diet. Once you start eating lots of sugar it can be hard to stop! Studies have shown that sugar and high GI foods – aka processed carbs, starchy foods, sweets, and sugary drinks – promote the release of the reward chemical, dopamine, in your brain. This can signal addictive properties in your brain with these types of foods.
- Unstable blood sugar levels. When you eat carbohydrate rich meals or high sugar foods this causes your blood sugar levels to go up. A spike in blood sugar is often followed by a crash in blood sugar. When blood sugar is low this can cause you to crave sugar or carbs, because your body is wanting a quick energy source to lift blood sugar back up to a normal level.
- Not eating enough protein and fat. Both play a role in keeping blood sugar levels more stable and elongated. Protein and fat are a lot more nourishing and also help to turn off your hunger hormones and help you feel satiated.
- Constant snacking. Eating too frequently can cause fluctuations in blood sugar levels, which can lead to more cravings, then snacking, then more cravings.
- Dehydration. A common cause for hunger!
- Lack of sleep. Not getting enough sleep can cause an increase in your hunger hormone ‘ghrelin’, and cause a decrease in a hormone called ‘leptin’, a satiety hormone.
- Stress! Busyness and stress can affect blood sugar levels, which then can impact your hunger levels. Also emotional eating can be tied to stress.
So, now you know a little more about why cravings can happen, what can you do about them? Here are 4 ways to kick those craving habits.
- Make sure ALL your main meals contain a protein source and a healthy fat source. Ideally you want at least 20g of protein per meal, minimum to support stable blood sugar levels.
- Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate! Aim to drink 2L of water daily, minimum!
- Get enjoy sleep! Never skimp on sleep. Aim for 7-9 hours each night, this will help to make sure your hunger hormones are more in check.
- Set yourself up for success. Your environment also matters! If you have sugary snacks or easy to grab carbohydrate rich meals around you, then you’re more likely going to reach for them. It can be hard to say no to these foods when you keep seeing them. So, remove all temptation! Hunger also isn’t just about habits or willpower, it’s also biological. When you see, smell or think about food your body begins releasing hormones that tells you it’s time to eat. So, instead of fighting your hormones, outsmart them. Only have healthy foods on hand available that you can reach for.
Hi I’m Natalie, a Registered Clinical Nutritionist, health influencer, blog writer & recipe creator. My own health complications prompted me to make positive diet & lifestyle changes, revitalize my health leading to a career change from the corporate world to nutritional medicine. I believe in a wholefoods approach to good health, focusing on simple strategies for modern, busy people.