When you want to get impressive gains, you need to develop a routine. You workout. You clean up your diet. Sugar goes out the door. However, when you start kicking out certain foods from your life, you start to feel the need for those very foods. Or maybe, you start craving foods you haven’t had for months. Then you suddenly give in and binge on the sugary, salty, and savory snacks in the pantry, negating your gains time and again.
Food cravings are frustrating, but you don’t have to be a slave to them. You can turn your cravings around and stop hurting your gains.
What Are Food Cravings?
A food craving is a sensation of want for specific food. The desire is perceived as uncontrollable, and the person’s appetite for this food will not be satisfied until they receive enough of that particular food they desire.
Many experts claim that the sensation of a craving will last about 3-5 minutes. If you can outlast that craving, the feeling will go away. While every person experiences food cravings differently and will want different foods. Most cravings are for sugar, fat, and salt.
Knowing this, you can tell that cravings are going to form major hindrances in your fitness journey. Whether you want to lose weight or gain muscle, giving into your cravings could add too many calories or improper nutrients, negating your progress.
What Causes Food Cravings?
Food cravings are all in your head—literally. Cravings are caused by three regions in the brain that are responsible to memories, rewards, and pleasure, like the hypothalamus. Any imbalances in hormones will cause a craving. Emotions can cause stress, and that will trigger a need for comfort. When a pregnant woman craves ice cream topped with pickles, it is because hormonal changes have changed their smell and taste receptors.
But we also cannot overlook the connection between hunger, cravings, and our diet. When your diet lacks certain vitamins, mineral, and nutrients, the body will “ask” for those missing pieces. That becomes a craving.
For example, when you crave meat, you have low iron. Need cheese? You need omega-3 fatty acids. Chocolate? You might be low on feel good hormones or magnesium. Need french fries now? You are probably low in calcium, zinc, and magnesium.
How Long Does It Take To Stop Sugar Cravings?
Stopping cravings, especially sugar cravings, is a different challenge for each and every individual. Some people can go cold turkey and be perfectly fine. But some people have lower willpower, and they cannot stop their cravings without other methods.
Most people will have sugar cravings for about 10 days to two weeks after quitting sugar. Yet, the cravings might continue to come and go. If at any time you indulge in your sweet tooth, you will likely get more cravings, since the brain will respond that sweetness.
So, if you’re just starting out with cleaning up your diet, assume that your cravings will be the strongest during the first 1-2 weeks.
What To Eat To Kill Cravings
Here is what to add to your diet to keep cravings from killing your gains:
Replacing simple sugars with high-protein foods, you will find that your hormones and blood sugar levels will be better balanced. Less sugar spikes will help fight cravings.
Quality protein sources include:
- Grass-fed beef
- Black beans
- Wild-caught salmon
- Dairy (yogurt, kefir, skyr)
- Whey-protein powder
- Plant-based protein powder
- Nut butters
While fat has a bad rap, when you transition to a low-sugar diet, you are going to need fat to keep your cravings on the down low. Since your body is tuned to running on sugar, if you don’t have enough, your body is going to crave it. However, when you dine on healthy fats, like extra virgin olive oil and avocado and nuts, you’re sating your hunger hormones while running on a cleaner fuel.
Gut health plays a key role in your cravings, too. Heavily processed foods will depress your gut health, because those kinds of foods are devoid of nutrients. Additionally, foods that have gluten, artificial sweeteners, and dairy can also harm the microbiome for some people.
If you want to appropriately feed the bacteria in your gut to cut down on cravings, try adding these foods to your diet:
- Chicory root
- Raw cacao powder
- Sweet potatoes
- Apple cider vinegar
You will find that these foods often are high in fiber as well. Fiber promotes the feeling of satiety and slows down digestion, helping you feel fuller longer. That means your body has less time to crave things.
When you are craving sugar, one of the quickest ways to revert that craving is to eat a sour food. The reason is that sour foods usually contain the mineral the body wants. Furthermore, sour foods are high in probiotics and support healthy bacteria growth while eliminating harmful Candida.
Other Ways To Stop Food Cravings
Find More Balance
Now, while food is important for helping you deal with your cravings, there is another reason you could be wanting more sugar and more calories and killing your progress. It could be because you are ruining your hormone balance by doing too much. If you restrict your calories too much and over train, your body becomes too sensitive. Therefore, you should avoid excessive exercise and dieting by finding balance in your daily life.
Get Enough Sleep
Sleep deprivation is an underlying cause of food cravings. Research has found that sleep deprived individuals eat 300 calories more than those who get a good night’s sleep. How does 300 extra calories a day add up? That’s 22 pounds gained in a single year.
The reason sleep deprivation increases food cravings is the disruption of appetite-controlling hormones, such as ghrelin, the hunger hormone, and leptin, the satiety hormone. When you sleep less, you produce more ghrelin. Thus, a lack of sleep switches on cravings, giving you a cause of munchies.
Humans have smart biology, but our brain doesn’t always understand that hunger and thirst are two different things. The reason is that thirst and hunger create similar sensations within the mind. So, if you find yourself craving foods that are juicy or sweet after just eating, it might just be thirst. By drinking plenty of water, you both clean out toxins and quench those intense cravings.
To successfully overcome your cravings, understanding how to stop them is critical. This can come from knowing where the cravings stem from, such as lacking minerals or imbalanced hormones. Then you can work towards countering those cravings with better habits and a more complete diet. Doing so will help you amplify your gains while kicking those cravings to the curb.
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