Looking forward to Halloween? It is easy to get wrapped up in the ceremony of eating endless candy, however just because it is a national holiday doesn’t mean our bodies give us a free pass to eat everything. Daily sugar intake should be limited to 25 g per day. This can look like one Snickers bar. When we choose to eat too much sugar from candy or even refined carbohydrates, like white bread, we get what I like to call the sugar hangover. Just like a hangover from alcohol, it is our body’s way of telling us it is unhappy. This can present as fatigue, increased cravings for more sugary food, inflammation or puffiness, mood swings and headaches. This is because sugar and highly refined carbohydrates reduce our bodies’ ability to produce energy. This leads to impaired cellular function and full body fatigue. Additionally, sugar causes a sharp dip in testosterone, which can perpetuate lethargy (Caronia et al., 2013). Impaired blood sugar levels can also cause shakiness, migraines, and changes in mood. So how do we support our bodies on the road to recovery from a sugar indulgence?
Drink water with electrolytes.
For every gram of glucose your body stores it uses three molecules of water (Berg et al., 2002). This means when you over indulge, you are dehydrating yourself and will become depleted of electrolytes like sodium and potassium. This is one of the reasons for your sugar crash headache. Drinking lots of electrolyte enhanced water or a NUUN tablet will help decrease these symptoms. Confused on how much water you should consume in a day? Simply divide your body weight in half and drink that amount in ounces. When exercising or rehydrating, add an extra 16-32 oz.
Prepare for withdrawals.
After a sugar binge, the reward centers in your brain will be craving more. These cravings can last for days after the initial slip up. Don’t let your brain trick you into eating more sugar, keep yourself stocked with satisfying snacks to prevent temptation. I find high fat and high fiber foods will do the trick for me. Try 85% dark chocolate with a handful of almonds or carrot sticks and guacamole.
Don’t skip meals.
It may seem appropriate to fast after going off the rails to compensate for the extra calories or let your body “detox.” However, this is the exact opposite of what you should do. Due to the imbalance in blood sugar, hormones, and dehydration, your body needs therapeutic foods to fuel it during the repair stage. It is important to focus on low glycemic foods to keep your blood sugar balanced. Additionally you must incorporate enough protein and fat to round out the meal. Think fiber-rich vegetables, with pasture-raised eggs, and grass-fed meats. Additionally, your body will be in a state of inflammation due to improper cellular function. Focus on wild caught salmon, cruciferous vegetables, green tea, avocados, and nuts.
Once you are fully hydrated and have had one appropriate meal it is time to exercise. A long walk or HIIT training can help your body reestablish blood sugar levels, burn through the glycogen stores, and stabilize moods. This is also one of my favorite tools to bust cravings. When I feel the need for something sweet, I immediately go for a walk or do 50 jumping jacks. This helps as a distraction and the short boost of endorphins satisfy my brain’s reward centers.
Life happens, and sometimes we slip up, but it is important not to make it a habit. Each time we eat, we are given a choice. We can feed our body with foods to help us grow and thrive or foods that do not support our overall wellbeing. This guide is not an excuse to go crazy, but a tool to help you get back on track. Remember, 25 g of sugar should be your maximum, using a food tracking app like My Fitness Pal is an easy way to keep an eye on intake. And if you’re looking for something really scary, I challenge you to a sugar-free Halloween, I promise it will not be as difficult as you think!
Berg, J. M., Tymoczko, J. L., & Stryer, L. (2002). Biochemistry (5thed.). New York, NY: WH Freeman.
Caronia, L. M., Dwyer, A. A., Hayden, D., Amati, F., Pitteloud, N., & Hayes, F. J. (2013). Abrupt decrease in serum testosterone levels after an oral glucose load in men: Implications for screening for hypogonadism. Clinical Endocrinology, 78(2). 291-296. DOI: 10.1111/j.1365-2265.2012.04486