Five Tip to Reverse the Sugar Binge
Updated: Jun 14
If you've ever gone crazy with the sugar or carbs, you know by now that you are going to face some repercussions during the days that follow.
The effects of eating too much sugar can result in symptoms like:
Weight gain. If you’ve ever looked in the mirror or stepped on the scale after a heavy carb or sugar binge, you already know about this. You will put on a few pounds and look puffier than usual. Don’t panic. The extra weight is mostly water and it will come off when you return to prioritizing whole, nutrient dense foods.
Cravings. Science has shown that sugar hits all the same brain regions that addictive drugs like opiates do, and while it’s melodramatic to compare sugar to cigarettes or cocaine, you’ll still have to deal with pretty strong cravings as your body fights to bring itself back into balance. Further down in this post I offer some suggestions for combatting this.
Fatigue and Inflammation. I think the worst impact excessive sugar has on the body is by way of the inflammation it causes. In a small study of lean, healthy young men, refined carbs like sugar were shown to cause systemic inflammation. This can cause fatigue, joint aches, migraines, skin breakouts and difficulty sleeping. This taxes your energy production in two ways. First, rodent studies have shown that sugar impairs mitochondria, reducing the amount of energy cells can produce. Second, your cells have to spend a lot of their energy dealing with the stress of low-grade inflammation — the result of too much sugar.
Mood swings or irritability. Sugar destabilizes your blood glucose levels and causes withdrawal which can create instability in your mood. You may be unusually cranky, angry or emotionally down and depressed.
HOW TO COUNTERACT THE BINGE
Hydrate. You may be tempted to drink less then usual if you’re feeling bloated but the best thing to do is start getting some water down. Not only does H20 help you feel full and counteract suppressed leptin levels it also will encourage your body to flush out the excess stored water. Add some lemon which is a natural diuretic and try adding some electrolytes or sea salt and potassium. As you release all the water you took on, you’ll lose a lot of sodium and potassium with it. Make up for it with salt water and a good potassium supplement to decrease dehydration-related headaches and fatigue.
Stabilize your blood sugar. Start by NOT skipping meals. If you’re tempted to fast because you feel guilty about eating lots of sugar the day(s) before.... DON’T. All this does is open the doorway to disordered eating. The last thing you want to do is fall into the dangerous cycle of binging, fasting and then binging again. Shoot for meals high in protein, moderate in fats and pull carbs from nutrient dense whole foods , preferably low starch veggies. The protein and fat will help to keep you full, and consuming fewer starchy carbs will help encourage your body to burn all that stored-up sugar energy. Shoot for foods rich in fiber as well. Fiber helps build stable energy and can decrease cravings, as well as regulate your blood sugar. Fiber also feeds beneficial gut bacteria that may have been hurt by your sugar binge.
Eat anti-inflammatory foods. To help your body recover from the inflammation caused by a carb and sugar overload, stick to foods that are considered easy for your body to process with minimal potential for inflammation. Salmon, turmeric, dark leafy greens, walnuts, avocado, broccoli and olive oil come to mind as good options. Drink coffee (decaf or regular) and green tea for an extra dose of antioxidants, too. Antioxidant-rich foods will help your body facilitate repair and battle systemic inflammation.
Get moving. The worst thing you can do post sugar binge is sit around. Physiologically exercise stabilizes your blood sugar and helps you burn through glycogen stores faster, and psychologically, it helps you get back into your routine after you break it. It also releases endorphins which help you feel good and can counteract some of the lethargy and depression you may feel following a sugar binge. It can be tough to exercise on the heels of a sugar binge but you’ll feel much better afterward. Since sugar intake is one of the classic triggers for cortisol release, one thing I like to recommend is a nice low intensity walk, preferably outdoors. This helps RELAX the body, which is over stressed from cortisol consumption.
Forgive and forget. It’s in the past. You beating up on yourself won’t undo what’s done. Believe me when I say that I have coached my clients through setbacks of all kinds, and there is NO nutritional slip up that you can’t bounce back from. No one eats 100% perfectly all the time. I’m certainly not supporting binge eating, but I’m also very aware of how damaging it can be to attach feelings of guilt to food. So take a deep breath, forgive yourself, and keep on moving. Use your slip up as an opportunity for you to learn how you can better avoid similar binges in the future. Let it remind you of how good you feel when your dietary choices align with your self intentions and let it strengthen your resolve and commitment to a more nourishing diet.