So, you have a sweet tooth eh?

I came across this really great article in Delicious Living magazine. I want to share it. And as a disclaimer, this is me paraphrasing the article pretty heavily. So I will not take credit for the research or opinions expressed below:

The article is titled : Reduce Food Cravings. It’s super awesome because it shares the opinions and advice from a Doctor, a Registered Dietitian, and a Psychologist on why we crave foods (especially sweet and delicious foods).

Doctor Walter Crinnion says: Many people crave sugar because it allows more of the amino acid tryptophan to reach the brain and bind to the endorphin receptor sites. When this occurs, the body produces seratonin – ya know, that happy feel good hormone ;). This is why we LOVE our sweets and we CRAVE them. They make us feel GOOD! He also mentions that food cravings often stem from adverse food reactions, AKA ,poor digestion. If you are not absorbing the healthy nutrients that you need, your cells will essentially feel hungry, and you’re body is going to start the cravings. This is a biological cue your cells send your brain that they aren’t being nourished. So make sure you’re gut is in check! Consider looking into digestive enzymes if you think it is necessary for you to acquire optimal digestion.

A final tip from the Doc is that sometimes food cravings aren’t about food at all. You know how when we are bored we suddenly crave snacks? It’s just because we are bored and our body is craving something to do. So the next time you want to jump up off the couch to grab some more gummy bears or peanut butter pretzels, think about why you are actually feeling cravings. A glass of water or a short walk may alleviate that craving desire you are experiencing.

Dietitian Jessica Crandall says: The most commonly craved foods are simple sugars like candies and white carbohydrates because they provide short burst of instant energy. They can stimulate us when we are feeling sluggish. Combat this by getting enough zzzz’s. Shoot for at least 8 hours (personally, I don’t think that’s realistic for anyone these days! But good luck!). Also, eating a balanced diet of complex carbohydrates, proteins, and fats prevent vitamin and mineral deficiencies that can also cause food cravings. For example, an insufficient amount of iron and vitamin D can contribute to cravings. So consider foods like meat, beans, and green leafy veggies (iceberg doesn’t count).

And of course, if you want your sweets you gotta have your sweets, BUT, do so in moderation. Try not to binge. If you crave ice cream, switch to frozen yogurt. If you crave potato chips or french fries, try a baked potato instead. And as always, control your portions when indulging. Portion out your chips and jelly beans, don’t eat straight from the bag.

Psychologist Wansink says: It is possible to “rewire” yourself to want foods that are good for you. For example, if you associate ice cream sundaes with happy occasions , slowly start to connect fresh bananas with light whipped cream with birthdays and parties instead.

Combat the urge. There is little evidence to suggest that giving into a food craving with satisfy your hunger. It will more likely ignite an appetite. So when you crave something unhealthy, occupy yourself with another activity to focus your mind elsewhere. And finally, it is ok to binge on an unhealthy food occasionally, but be sure to get back to normal eating habits as soon as possible so you won’t disrupt the good you have going.

I hope you have enjoyed this tid bit. I have been feeling extra snacky lately so I really needed this advice. Happy not giving into cravings too often!

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Carbo Loading

Carbohydrate loading is a technique used to maximize glycogen stores for long endurance competitions. Without careful planning, after a couple hours of strenuous activity, glucose stores can deplete causing dysfunction with the nervous system and will make continued exertion almost impossible. Let’s avoid this, yeah?

Thousands of studies have been conducted on this topic since carbohydrates were identified as the most efficient energy source over 80 years ago. Today the discovery goes on and on; does carbohydrate loading solely prevent fatigue? Can it actually improve performance? What is the best type: food, liquid, supplement? Does the timing of intake make a difference, etc. It’s overwhelming right now the piles of books, journals, and pages I have found just on this topic. For your sake, and my sanity, I am going to keep this basic.

I will begin by saying, that carbohydrate loading is pretty much unnecessary for athletes participating in events lasting less than 90 minutes. I mean, the orange slices at the soccer games, and spaghetti dinners the night before track meets are great, but the increasing load of carbohydrate intake days before an event and doubling your grams/kg/day amount is a little overboard.

So how does carbohydrate loading work? The key is to consume substantial amounts of carbohydrates a few days prior to the event and at the same time decrease the duration and intensity of training to assure plenty of endogenous glycogen stores. This sort of tricks your muscles into storing more glycogen and can possibly double muscle glycogen concentrations! Here is a good basic “how-to” chart.

Before the Event Training Intensity Training Duration  Dietary Carbohydrate
6 days Moderate (70% VO2 max)      90 min Normal (5g/kg body wt)
4-5 days Moderate      40 min Normal
2-3 days Moderate      20 min High-Carb (10g/kg body wt)
1 day Rest        — High-Carb

Some people (those who do not struggle with reactive hypoglycemia) do well to have a little bit of carbohydrates about 90 minutes before an event. Also, it is important to eat around 60 grams of carbohydrates immediately following activity to replete glycogen stores. And carbohydrate ingested during prolonged activity can help maintain blood glucose levels and even reduce the psychological perception of effort. Cool huh? This is when Gatorades and sports gu’s come in handy.

Those of you who exercise regularly and intensely, but do not fall under the endurance category, would do well to have a higher carbohydrate diet all around. 5-8 grams/kg/day is a good target for ya’ll.

SO…for some perspective, the following snack ideas provide around 60 grams of carbohydrates:

  • 16 oz sports drink and a small bagel
  • 2 pieces of toast with jelly
  • 8 oz pineapple juice and a granola bar
  • 1 large sweet potato w/ juice or sports drink
  • Other good concentrated carbohydrate foods include dried fruits, nectars, and athletic gu’s.