Started a low-carb diet – but can’t stop craving carbs? Sugar and other refined carbs are addictive – almost like a class A drug. Getting hooked is easy. Breaking away is hard.
A low-carb diet is the best long-term solution to escape sugar addiction. But adapting to your new lifestyle might take a while.
And cravings can attack at any point.
Why does this happen? Is there anything we can do to fight back? Here are four most common types of carb cravings – and how to cope with them all.
1. You rely on sugar for energy
The main reason we crave sugar is not its taste. Sugar gives you an instant and powerful energy boost. Our bodies have evolved to seek high-energy foods – sensible if food is scarce, but detrimental when food is abundant and highly-refined.
But sugar energy is treacherous. It comes fast and disappears just as quickly.
Your blood glucose spikes and then plummets, leaving you tired and despondent. You start craving your next hit – a chocolate, a doughnut, a glass of juice… The compulsion gets worse if your energy is depleted for other reasons, for example, if you are not sleeping enough or when under a lot of stress.
Some of us get permanently locked on this rollercoaster, relying on sugar to get us through the day.
A low-carb diet breaks the addiction cycle. But your body is used to getting its energy from sugar and other fast highly-refined carbs. Until you become fully keto-adapted, you might struggle with tiredness and crave that fast easy energy.
Crank up the fat macro – in absence of carbs, dietary fat is your main energy source. During your first weeks on low-carb, aim to get most of your calories (70-80%) from fat. Your body needs to get used to burning fat instead of glucose. Once you are fully keto-adapted, you can review your macros and add more protein if required. How to eat more fat
Snack on fat – if you are hit with a strong sugar craving, have a fatty snack instead. It won’t feel like what you want at the time. But it will reduce or even eliminate your craving. Another possibility is a high-fat dessert with sweetener, like this Keto Chocolate Mousse.
Boost energy with caffeinated drinks – coffee is the obvious one, but the best choice for dieters is green tea, because it has a host of additional weight loss benefits. Avoid diet coke and other sodas, even if sugar-free.
2. You are missing out on essential vitamins or minerals
This type of craving usually focuses on healthier foods like fruit, freshly-baked bread or root vegetables.
A low-carb diet means cutting out fruit, grains and high-carb veggies. All these foods are rich in vitamins. You can still get the nutrients you need from low-carb foods. But their composition will be different. If you are not getting enough of specific micronutrients, you might get strong cravings for foods that contain them.
Eat varied foods – make sure your low-carb diet is as varied as possible. Spend your daily carb allowance on high-vitamin low-carb foods like green leafy vegetables, oily fish, grass-fed red meat and healthy oils.
Take a daily multivitamin – take a high-quality extra-strong multivitamin, ideally one designed for low-carb dieters like Nutri-Align Multivit.
3. You have high levels of yeast bacteria
Our digestive systems rely on bacteria to help us process and absorb nutrients from food. Some of these bacteria are very good for our bodies, others less so.
Candida yeast bacteria are naturally present in our bodies. But sometimes candida gets out of balance and grows above optimal levels. Two most common causes are taking antibiotics or prolonged periods of high sugar consumption.
Yeast bacteria feed on sugar. High levels of candida can cause strong sugar cravings.
Rebalance your gut flora with probiotics – try probiotic drinks like yoghurt, kefir or kombucha and fermented foods like sauerkrout or kimchi.
Supplement friendly bacteria – take probiotic supplements to deliver friendly bacteria directly to your digestive system.
4. You overdo it on sweeteners
Sugar cravings make us reach for sweeteners. Sure – it is better to have a zero-carb sugar substitute than the real thing. But sweeteners can still interrupt your diet and cause cravings.
Firstly, not all sugar-free products are as good as they claim. Many are higher in carbs than they claim to be, so you might be overconsuming carbs.
But even if a sugar-free product is genuinely low-carb, it can still cause trouble. Sweet-tasting foods make your body expect the sugary energy hit, which can create a craving.
Some dieters have observed a placebo-like effect when blood sugar spikes in response to sweet taste alone. Some of us get knocked out of ketosis even by zero-carb sweeteners. These effects have not yet been studied in-depth by scientists, but there is anecdotal evidence to recommend caution.
Be cautious with sweeteners – think of them as an occasional treat, rather than a free-for-all option.
These are the most common types of sugar cravings. There are other reasons you might crave sugar, including emotional and psychological triggers. But you can use the tips above to eliminate the obvious sugar craving traps.
Did you manage to overcome sugar cravings in the past? Share your story and tips in the comments below.