I received a great question this morning from one of my YouTube channel followers. I figured I’d share the question and expand on my reply for everyone to read.
“I just watched your video on being a Sugar Burner or a Fat Burner. It answered ( I think ) a question of mine but has lead me to more questions. Over the past two years I have lost 87 lbs I workout about 7 days week for 2.5 hours a day No BS ! An hour of weights and an hour of cardio 30 minutes of light recovery cooling down like walking and/or stretching .
All of a sudden the past 8 weeks I have craved sweets, chocolate, desserts, and things I have never craved before now. I think I know why but what can I do about it ? It’s driving me crazy and I fear gaining the weight back.
Is okay to give in once in a while like a candy bar once /twice a week or cut it out completely? I have also cut back my fruit intake for fear of stimulating my cravings. I don’t want change my workout or do i need to ?
My response and expanded answer:
Hi, thanks for contacting me. First off congratulations on your success with losing 87 pounds in the last two years, this is awesome!
This is a great question and something I see quite frequently. What you’re experiencing is actually a GOOD thing. Your body is trying to tell you something. Two things are going on here.
Number one your rate of metabolism has gone up and you want to support it by increasing your energy intake.
The second thing is your body is experiencing what I call “false hunger.” It’s actually calling for more nutrients and not necessarily sugar.
You want to continue keeping the processed and refined sugar out of your diet (ex. candy bar) but you will want to provide your body with more fructose and glucose from fruits and veggies.
Adding fruit to your diet will NOT stimulate your sugar cravings. Instead it will provide your body with the micro and macro-nutrients it’s calling for along with more energy.
You’ll also want to look at slowly increasing more starchy vegetables and whole grains (sweet potatoes, wild rice, legumes, etc). This will help to keep your metabolism up along with your rate of lipolysis (fat burning).
While cutting back on all sugars is beneficial in the beginning to get insulin resistance under control you’re past that point and will now want to start adding back in some natural sugars from whole foods.
Based on your exercise, there’s no doubt you’re burning a ton of calories, you just need to support it with more fuel. Listen to your body and go slow but give it what its calling for…more energy and nutrients.
Hope this makes sense. Let me know if you have any questions.
Why the sudden sugar cravings come out of nowhere…
What this person is experiencing is very common. It’s important to remember the human body is a finely tuned machine and it will always send signals when it needs more or less of something.
When you overeat you’ll get signals of sluggishness, indigestion, energy crashes, etc.
When you eat foods that are lacking in nutrients, your body will send signals telling you to eat more. This is commonly referred to as cellular starvation. Your body seems like it’s calling for sugar when actually it just needs nutrients.
Fruits are nature’s sugar and contain the nutrients your body needs at the cellular level. It doesn’t expect processed and refined sugars and doesn’t get what it needs (nutrient wise) from these foods so the cravings won’t be subsided.
You’ll eat but won’t be satisfied and the strong chemical signals in your brain telling you it needs nutrients continue to be secreted.
Trying to use will-power and discipline won’t work very well. Anyone who has tried this can attest to the fact you can’t fight the biology of your body…not for very long.
The problem is we’re getting the correct signals but misinterpreting the message.
Let’s think this through for a minute using some common sense. The sugar cravings and hunger signals are real, there’s no denying that. But would your body really be calling for processed and refined sugar? Absolutely not!
There’s nothing in these foods it can benefit from. It makes no sense it would call for something it has absolutely no use for. Sure it wants sugar, but it’s looking for sugar in the simplest forms. Fructose and glucose from fruits and vegetables are mono-saccharides that your body loves.
There’s no need to break these sugars down as they can be immediately used by the cells. It’s perfect fuel for the body and the sources of these sugars also contain essential nutrients, minerals, phytonutrients, and anti-oxidants.
Nobody EVER developed a weight problem or suffered a degeneration of their health due to eating too many oranges for example.
The same thing can’t be said for processed and refined sugars. Your body doesn’t expect you to go find a doughnut tree. We’ve evolved as a species obtaining the fuel and nutrients our bodies needed by eating foods found in nature.
You simply cannot go wrong eating these foods. We’ve only begun screwing things up and misinterpreting the signals over the last 100 years or so since we’ve transitioned to eating man-made foods.
The exercise part of the equation…
You’ll notice in this person’s opening comments the particulars about exercising for 2.5 hours, seven days a week. We can assume there’s quite a bit of caloric expenditure from doing this much exercise.
In the beginning this person’s metabolism was undoubtedly slow as they were overweight and not exercising, at least not this much. While it’s certainly not necessary to do this much exercise to lose weight it’s what he/she did.
Over time this person’s metabolism has increased and hormonal imbalances have stabilized. The end result is he/she needs more energy to support the increased metabolism. It’s not getting what it needs so it’s calling for simplest form of energy….sugar!
This person is burning through most of their stored sugar (glycogen) with the 2.5 hour workouts and needs to replace the energy stores. They simply cannot continue with the same energy intake they had when they started. This is an important fact everyone needs to get their head around.
The more weight you lose and more your metabolism increases (due to lean muscle gains, hormone stabilization, and caloric expenditure through exercise) the more you have to eat to support your metabolism.
Failure to do so will only result in a catabolic state where lean tissue gets broken down for the glucose (sugar) it needs and fat loss comes to a halt.
The body works to avoid these catabolic states so it’s sending signals of sugar cravings and hunger to get you to consume more energy and nutrients.
This is much different situation however compared to sugar cravings that come when you first try weaning yourself off starches and processed and refined sugars during the beginning of a weight loss program.
These cravings are a result of your body literally being programmed to fuel of sugars and not fat. The hormonal signals are all messed up as there’s likely insulin resistance and other issues going on.
The best approach to breaking these cravings in the beginning is to completely remove all processed and refined sugars along with most starches. Yes, it will be uncomfortable for the first week or two but it’s the only way to break the cycle.
A Primal Blueprint or Paleo type diet is the best way to break a sugar addiction as it still provides the body with natural sugars from fruits and vegetables. You simply do NOT need the starches and the extra sugar that comes with them until you’re metabolism has increased and energy demands are much higher.
Once you condition your body to fuel off of more fat instead of sugar the cravings will subside as long as you’re meeting energy demands. As you continue to exercise more you’ll just want to make sure you’re giving your body the energy and nutrients it needs.
From an exercise standpoint, I recommend burst training as it’s much superior to other forms of exercise in producing a favorable hormonal response. The intensity is much higher than traditional workouts but the beauty is you’ll be able to cut your workout time in half if not more.
The bottom line is you don’t want to ignore the signals your body is sending you. Just make sure you’re interpreting the message correctly. It will tell you when you need more energy or nutrients, and will always prefer it to come from the simplest forms.
Don’t fall into the trap of thinking ALL sugars are bad for you and that you can’t lose weight while eating fruits. This is completely false. You can never go wrong with eating natural whole foods. Eat whenever you’re hungry and only enough until you’re no longer hungry (not full…big difference).
Do this from natural, whole foods, 80% of the time or more and you’ll be on your way to continued improvements in your health and waistline.
Shane Doll is a certified personal trainer, fat loss expert, speaker, and founder of Shaping Concepts Fitness Training Studios. If you’re looking for a personal trainer in Charleston, you can receive a FREE, no-obligations (2) session trial and consultation without risking a dime. Over 1000 Charleston area residents have transformed their bodies following our unique burst training workouts and simplified nutrition programs.