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As so many of you loved our previous article “How to use nutrition to get fantastic results”, we thought we would dig deeper into Christine Envall’s knowledge, our Aussie Muscle Guru and co-founder of International Protein. Who else would be better to get advice from a 3x World champion Bodybuilder, an IFBB professional and qualified food and nutrition scientist? In this article, we cover how to avoid a sugar crash, what are the foods that are tricking you into thinking they are healthy? And how to plan your meals.
How to Avoid Sugar Cravings
What many people want to know is how to avoid giving in those famous 3 pm sugar cravings. If like many people, you start to feel low mid-arvo, then we all know deep down, that reaching for the biscuits is the wrong answer!
What happens after sugar cravings is a sugar crash, and prevention is the key. Changing your behaviour is the solution to this; First, you need to ensure that you are hydrated, so if the urge ever kicks in, ensure you have a large glass of water, prior to reaching for the snacks. Your brain is often tricked into thinking that you’re hungry when in actual fact, you’re dehydrated. A hot cup or iced glass of peppermint or liquorice tea can also work wonders.
Hydration aside, Christine doesn’t crave sugar because she plans her meals to remain fulfilled throughout the day without having to experience the highs and lows of energy cravings. If you’re fuelling your body with what it needs, you simply won’t feel that strong urge for sugar, fats, carbs or anything for that matter.
It’s not the best solution to just ignore the cravings when they reveal themselves, because otherwise, you’re more likely to binge. Instead, eat before you hit that craving point. You need to look at why that’s happening at that time and what in your diet is causing it. If you’re trying to eat low carb, you’re depriving your body and is the most likely cause of why you are getting cravings – you’re not giving your body what it needs to function effectively.
What’s most important is that you need to have easy access to foods that are better choices. If you feel that you need something sweet, find something healthier than chocolate & cookies, instead, a low-fat yoghurt, fruit or International protein’s naturally sweetened, but sugar-free protein shakes.
Here are the alternatives that Christine recommends:
Christine is a huge fan of protein pancakes. International Protein offers a gluten-free High Protein Pancake Mix that really hits the spot. This is a pre-made pancake mix in a bottle, so all you need to do is add water in, shake it, and cook them in a pan. This is ideal if you’re after a warm meal but still want to access your protein hit without too much effort.
These protein pancakes are the ideal replacement for a sugary snack because they are natural maple syrup flavoured with exceptionally low sugar content, just 2.6g per serve (2 large pancakes). With Macro’s like this, you can eat them on their own or top with sugar-free syrup, fruit or make a ‘protein’ sauce using a little water with one of International Protein’s amazing products. Protein: 20.1g
Using Carni Strip or Amino Recovery (or combined) is a perfect choice because it has naturally sweet flavours, yet very low calories (5 cal per 100mL when made up as directed). Its sweetness tricks your brain into thinking it’s getting sugars, but without the calories. A great option for recovery and energy and focus while replenishing what your body is lacking.
One of Christine’s favourite protein powder recipes is to add protein powder to a low-fat yoghurt to change the texture of the yoghurt, thickening it, allowing the body to feel as if it’s more full and satisfied. You kill the sugar cravings without the calories. Look for low fat, no added sugar yoghurt in your supermarket, many yoghurts are loaded with sugars and are marketed as healthy. The YoPro and FIT Greek yoghurts are both very low in sugar.
If you’re craving carbs along with a sugar-hit, then adding a scoop of International Proteins, WPI Chocolate to a cup of oats, stir it in, and you’ll have a delicious dessert in under 30 seconds.
Beware of High-Calorie Density Foods
One mistake that many people make is thinking that if they are hungry in the afternoon, they can have just a small muffin or some other high calorie ‘healthy’ food, like the ‘smashed’ raw foods sold in supermarkets and at coffee shops. They think that by having a small amount, it’s okay.
Unfortunately, when you eat foods that have a high density of calories, it’s common for people to eat the whole thing and not start feeling satiated until around 20 minutes later because that’s when your brain catches up and you feel full. Again, hydration really helps this.
For that reason, it’s a great choice to eat foods which are slower to eat such as an apple, mini rice cake, or celery sticks. These take more time to eat as you have to chew them for longer than other high-density foods, with similar calorie intakes.
There are many high-calorie density foods which are often proclaimed as healthy. However, just because something contains good fat, it doesn’t mean that you can have as much of it as you want. We call high-calorie density foods ‘false friends’ because they seem healthy, but they aren’t if you eat too much of them. Here are some examples of ‘healthy’ foods with high-calorie density:
Take an avocado, for example. This is a food that has high-calorie density, so you need to be careful of how much you eat. You can eat it, but in moderation; most people chow down on half an avocado but an eighth of an avocado is a much better portion. However, you’ll need to eat it with something else to feel full.
Nuts are similar to avocado in terms of needing to limit your portions, as one serving is not that many nuts. A serving is said to be 23 almonds, however, this serving size gives you 14 grams of unsaturated fat. If you can fit this in your macros, go for it, otherwise, you may want to snack on fewer almonds and have something else with it.
Peanut butter is okay for you in moderation, but many people find it hard to limit because it’s so tasty! You should eat no more than a teaspoon of peanut butter, or maybe one and a half, in a serving, otherwise you can overdo the calories completely.
Just because something is raw or paleo or gluten-free, does not mean it is healthy. These could still contain a lot of sugar, fat, or empty calories that aren’t fuelling your body. These foods with all the labels proclaiming how healthy they are are often high-calorie density. They are designed to eat in small portions, but either people don’t realise that, or they end up bingeing anyway.
The best way to get around these 3 pm sugar cravings is to plan your day so that you have 5 or 6 meals that work around your schedule and your time. If you always want something to eat at 3 pm and end up with your hand in the cookie jar, then plan to eat a meal at that time.
Plan your day so that you have time to eat at 3 pm, or before the time when the cravings kick-in. This will give you the proper amount of energy to last throughout the rest of the day and feel sustained. It’s never a bad idea to take a break away from your desk as this can help you to reset and focus.
By having healthy options around and limiting your intake of high-calorie density foods, you can keep yourself on track to reach your goals. Thanks for reading this International Protein article about how to avoid the 3 pm sugar crash and what Christine’s advice is. Please ask any questions you have about sugar cravings in our comments section below, or post your question on our Aussie Muscle Guru Facebook page, and we’ll answer it in one of our next podcast episodes.
Over & Out.