So you've heard the spiel… “Clean Eating” is the healthiest form of eating there is. That means no refined sugar and no processed grub.
Sounds like a pretty simple concept to follow – right? After all, it's just a matter of switching your snacks from those made with refined sugar to those without. For instance, instead of your daily treat of a couple of squares of chocolate, you should opt for a handful of nuts.
Rather than that slice of cake as your post spin session bite on a Saturday morning, go for a refined sugar free brownie made with raw cacao and all things “good.”
Truth is, going sugar free can be really friggin' tough! Like seriously, if you've worked your tail off both in work and at the gym all week, then surely, surely you deserve that slice of cake if you fancy it.
Sure, we all know that cutting down on our sugar intake is a good thing, but such a huge dietary change would force any one to question their motives! So if, like us, you've been on the fence about a sugar detox, don't worry, we've got your back…
According to Dr. Ian K Smith, author of Blast the Sugar Out, dumping sugar needn't be a torturous affair, at all; “The truth is, if you're able to gradually reduce your sugar intake and replace it with something else – like more fibre and more protein - you can stay off it [indefinitely].”
MASSIVE claim to make right there… but he continues, apparently it's all to do with foresight and knowledge. If you're mentally prepared for what's to come, you'll be more likely to ditch the sweet stuff for good.And, to be honest, the end result is pretty sweet in itself…
First off, you can't fully “quit” sugar. It's impossible. Why? Well, sugar provides your body with the fuel it needs to, basically, function and it's found in everything – fruit, veggies, whole grain grub – everything.
The problem is you need to become aware of just how much sugar you're ingesting. Even if your diet is pretty healthy, you could potentially be eating too much sugar without even realising it.
According to Dr. Smith, the best way to kick your sugar habit for good is to detox over the course of five weeks, rather than a crash detox. The idea here is to decrease your intake by 20 per cent every week.
And just remember, the RDA of sugar is 25g per day.
We're going to be honest here – this is a hard week, but it's manageable. Dr. Smith says; “The first thing people notice is they typically get headaches, similar to caffeine withdrawal … they also report have decreased energy levels and mental acuity.”
Doesn't sound too appealing… the thing is, the reason for these nasty side effects is because your body is effectively going through rehab. In fact, research has shown that quitting sugar has the same biochemical reaction in the body as ditching drugs.
Dopamine levels plummet, which acetylocholine – a neurotransmitter responsible for pain perception – rises.
The good news this horrid feeling doesn't hang around for too long, and if it becomes too much to bear you can always enjoy a sugary fruit like an orange to take the edge off.
This is cravings week, and trust us, they're gonna' hit you hard.
It's likely your brain fog will have lifted by now and, surprisingly, you'll feel pretty energised, but your body is still wondering where its lovely sugar fix went.
“In week two, most people take about residual cravings… They're beyond the withdrawal symptoms, but they're missing certain types of sugar substances,” says Dr. Smith.
To combat this, Dr. Smith recommends you chow down lots of healthy fats, protein and fibre with each meal giving you a feeling of fullness.
You've made it to the half way point – happy days – and you've more than likely managed to ditch the biggest sugar offenders.
The good news, all your hard work will be rewarded this week as you and your body begin to really feel the benefits of the low sugar life, “people usually have no cravings, no symptoms, and are losing weight,” says Dr. Smith.
You may even feel energised, motivated and you'll find it much easier to turn down anything packed with sugar when they cross your path.
Now is the time to watch out for temptation. You're out of the physical game, but now it's time for the mental one…
“This is a psychological week – that final purifying push,” says Dr. Smith. “While you're still having some sugar, the amount your having is less than previous weeks.”
The thing is, this is the week most people find themselves giving into the siren song of sugar because they've “made it this far and one bite won't hurt…”
By now, your relationship with sugar is going to be much healthier as “you realise you don't need sugar anymore… you understand the affect sugar once had on your body, because you feel so reinvigorated,” Dr. Smith says.
Going forward, it would be fine for you to indulge your sweet tooth every now and again, but portion control must take precedence.
Of course, we want to make it really clear that sugar is NOT your enemy. If you truly need that chocolate cake, then go ahead and eat that chocolate cake and enjoy every second of it.
After all, your life, diet and training regime are there to be enjoyed, not to be seen as a form of self inflicted torture when the guilt sets in for eating it. At the end of the day, moderation is key…