If you’re serious about losing weight, building muscle, or transforming your body, you should be keeping track of what you eat.
But it’s a habit a lot of people resist at first? Why?
If you track everything you eat, sooner or later, you’re going to have to face your demons. And for a lot of people, that demon is added sugar.
Any idea how much added sugar you consume in a day?
The American Heart Association recommends no more than:
- 37.5 grams per day for men
- 25 grams per day for women
But most people eat a lot more than that. If you eat a lot of processed foods, you’re probably eating too much sugar. And if you count sugary snacks like soft drinks, candy, and desserts, it’s even higher.
In fact, the average adult consumes about 60 pounds of sugar a year, according to a recent study. In terms of calories, that’s equal to about 30 pounds of fat.
Not exactly the kind of diet that’s going to get you shredded, build muscle, or even improve your health. Too much sugar raises the risk for obesity, diabetes, heart disease, certain types of cancer, poor oral health, and a long list of other health problems.
If you want to get better results from working out, and eating right keeping your sugar intake in check can have a big impact on your results.
You might burn a ton of those calories from sugar if you’re highly active, have a physically demanding job, or supplement your gym workouts with plenty of cardio.
But if you don’t, too much sugar is basically the gateway drug to packing on pounds.
Need to curb your sugar cravings?
Here are 15 ways to cut back on sugar in your diet:
- Read food labels.
If you’re not doing this already, just start to make yourself more aware. The next time you grab a candy bar or soft drink, take a minute to look at the list of ingredients. You’ll probably see “sucrose” or some other form of sugar ending in the letters “ose.” Then check the nutrition facts panel for how many grams of sugar a serving contains. This is a good way to help you start making healthier food choices.
2. Drink up.
No not more soft drinks, energy drinks or other sugary beverages. Drink more water. Ideally, a gallon a day. But if that’s too much, consider half-gallon of water a day the minimum. Dehydration can make you crave sugar, and impact your mood, making you more likely to overindulge.
- Practice distraction.
If you’re stressed out, eating is often a way to calm your nerves. But if your go-to stress-buster is a bag of cookies, weight gain will follow. The next time a sugar craving strikes, distract yourself. Put the cookie bag down and read a book, go for a walk, drink a cup of tea (no sugar added), call a friend, or listen to music. Even tapping your toe, forehead, ear, or staring at a blank wall can help. Do something to take your mind off of the craving for a few minutes, and it will usually pass.
- Photo bomb your food choices
Here’s a spin on keeping a food diary. Take pictures of everything you eat and share it on social media. That’s what people did in a recent study. Researchers found that people were more likely to pick healthier options over foods high in sugar and empty calories. Basically, a little peer pressure to eat healthy can help you kick the sugar habit.
- Identify your sugar-craving triggers
Here’s where a food diary can really help you. Take a look at when you eat the most sugary foods. Coffee and donuts in the morning? A mid-day binge on chocolate? Or post-dinner dessert? Then look at what factors might contribute to those cravings like stress, boredom, anxiety, or letting too much time pass between meals and snacks. Once you know what triggers a sugar craving, you can prepare ahead of time with healthier options like fresh fruit.
- Sit less, move more
If you spend a lot of time sitting (commute, at the office, home, school), do you find yourself feeling hungry? Research shows that sitting actually leads to an increase in appetite caused by changes in hunger hormones (ghrelin and leptin). You might not need to eat, but you still get cravings. Fortunately, the solution is simple. Look for ways to be more active throughout the day.
- Get Your Zzzs
If you stay up late and get up early, or have trouble sleeping, research shows lack of sleep can have a negative impact on hunger based on changes in levels of the hormones ghrelin and leptin. One study found that just a couple of sleep-deprived nights was enough to cause a spike in sugar cravings. Yikes. One more reason to get to bed early and aim for 7 to 8 hours of quality sleep.
Want a nutrition and workout plan to help you achieve your goals? Check out my customized plans to help you get fit in just 8 to 12 weeks.
- Gunnars, K. (2017). Daily intake of sugar: How much sugar should you eat per day?. Healthline. From: http://www.healthline.com/nutrition/how-much-sugar-per-day#section1
- Welsh, J., et al. (20111). Consumption of added sugars is decreasing in the United States. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition: http://ajcn.nutrition.org/content/94/3/726.full
- Weil, R., et al. (2014). Effects of simple distraction tasks on self-induced food cravings in men and women with grade 3 obesity. Obesity Week. From: http://research.usc.edu.au/vital/access/manager/Repository/usc:14953
- Zepeda, L., et al. (2008). Think before you eat: Photographic food diaries as intervention tools to change dietary decision making and attitudes. International Journal of Consumer Studies. From: http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1470-6431.2008.00725.x/abstract
- Granados, K., et al. (2012). Appetite regulation in response to sitting an energy imbalance. Applied Physiology, Nutrition, and Metabolism. From: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22462636.
- Hanlon, E., et al. (2016). Sleep restriction enhances the daily rhythm of circulating levels of endocannabinoid 2-arachidonoylglycerol. From: https://academic.oup.com/sleep/article-lookup/doi/10.5665/sleep.5546