Do you often feel compelled to eat or drink sugary foods, especially mid afternoon? Ever wondered why you crave a chocolate bar or sweets mid afternoon? That 3pm slump happens to millions of people around the world so you're not alone, but have you ever wondered why it happens?
For some people, making sober and healthy food or drink choices is easy, at least up until mid to late afternoon. For some reason, sugar cravings have a way of exacerbating just at the most tempting time of the day - and just when clean eating isn't at the top of our minds. How, then, can you suppress them for good?
Why Do I Crave Sweet Treats Mid Afternoon?
There are many lifestyle and physiological reasons for this behavior. Here are the mains reason that this happens.
1. Dropping sugar levels
Two things happen as the clock drags to 3 p.m: First, you get physically worn out as a result of your working day, even if it's sitting in your desk for hours and, secondly, your sugar levels naturally tend to slump as the day pans out. When physical tiredness and low blood sugar levels combine, the result is a significant and sudden dip in your energy levels.
But you still have tons of work to do, so you can't call it a day just yet no matter how low the energy level gets. So what do you do? Your brain tells you to implement a quick fix and keep working, and there is no quicker fix than a sugar-filled food or drink!
Your sugar and energy levels risel immediately after eating a chocolate bar, but the this energy is only temporary, thew artificial spike in blood sugar will result in a crash a few hours down the line, meaning you are craving for sugar all over again. So this trend continues until a bad habit is formed....
2. You picked up a bad habit.
Do you know what the worst thing is about a bad habit? Well, it is the fact that you will hardly notice it, so breaking away from it can be extremely tough. If you develop a routine of running to the vending machine for a chocolate bar or to the biscuit jar every day at 3 p.m, you will not even have to be tired or have a sugar slump to eat sugar. You might not notice the craving for it, because you will be doing it instinctively.
So take time to look at your daily eating habits and make sure you aren't eating too much sugar without even thinking about it.
3. You ate too little or too many calories.
If you fail to give your body enough calories at lunchtime, it will soon start craving for a quick energy boost.
When you eat excess starch, a bowl of spaghetti, for example, without eating enough fiber, fats, and/or proteins, your body gets excess calories but still doesn't feel nutritionally satisfied. The carbs are converted to glucose and are absorbed fast and boom! Your blood sugar rises, resulting in a blood sugar crash mid afternoon, as a sugar craving shows its ugly face again.
So make sure you add veggies, lean protein, and some olive oil to your lunch pasta will easily break the sugar cravings cycle.
4. Bad sleep and bad eating patterns.
Not getting enough sleep can have all sorts of negative effects on your eating patterns the next day. Maybe you work multiple shifts or you are enrolled for an evening class, so you go to sleep too late? Maybe you are watching too much Tv late at night or spending too much screen time on your phone before you get to bed? There are so many things that can prevent us getting a solid 8 hours sleep these days, with a knockoff effect of getting up later, rushing out in the morning and not getting a proper, substantial breakfast in the morning.
Skipping breakfast means missed calories and to some extent, inadequate energy to push you through the day (at least not beyond 3 pm). To make up for the inadequacy, you find yourself running to the vending machine for a portion of unhealthy sugary food or drink. And it is not just skipping breakfast; not eating enough lunch will also lead to sugar craving in the afternoon.
Sleep deprivation can also decrease your leptin (satiety hormone), so you feel constant hunger even after eating a heavy lunch. That's why you crave for an energy boost (sugar) after lunch. Inadequate sleep is also known to cause high-level and chronic stress, which consequently increases your afternoon craving for sugary treats.
Did you know that staying awake at night increases your chances of eating a midnight snack? The more your body gets used to that midnight cookie, the more likely it is to crave a mid afternoon cookie.
5. Too much salt in your food.
Most processed and packaged foods have more sodium than your body needs. Salt is a contracting food which means that after eating too much of it, your body craves for expanding foods such as sugar in order to reclaim its balance. The more the salt you consume in a day, the more sugar your body will crave for too.
6. A rewarding system.
From when we are young, we develop the habit of celebrating key achievements by eating junk, sugary foods. That habit gets ingrained in us so prominently that even when we are old, we still find ourselves craving sweets as a reward for hard work. And, coincidentally, your day's efforts start to take shape in the afternoon. So if you've had a really productive day, and yo know it's close to finishing time, maybe you are giving yourself a treat and rewarding yourself without even realising it?
Again, maybe it's time to take a look at your eating patters in the afternoon, and see if you are using sugar as a reward?
Once you understand why you get sugar cravings in the afternoon, you'll have a far better chance at getting your sugar consumption back on track.
Eating excessive amounts of sugar can have some really negative effects on your overall health, as I'v outlined in my blog here, so it really is worth making the effort and getting your sweet craving back in control.
Five Actionable Remedies for Your Afternoon Sugar Cravings
To help you kick afternoon cravings, we recommend the following handy tips:
1. Eat regular meals and snacks
Eating a healthy and balanced breakfast and lunch, as well as multiple health snacks in between. Making sure that you are full will significantly lower your sugar craving.
Together with eating enough calories, ensure that you include proteins, vegetables, and healthy fats in your daily diet. And cut out fries and other packed, processed and salty foods in order to eliminate the chances of cookie and donut cravings.
In case you do feel hungry when physical tiredness eventually starts to take a toll on you, prepare a low glycaemic index (GI) snack in readiness for the imminent 3 p.m sugar slump. It could be a handful of nuts, an almond butter sandwich, or low-fat cottage cheese.
These snacks are naturally sweet so they will satisfy your desires for sugary treats and keep your blood sugar levels steady.
2. Stay away from sweetened beverages.
Did you know that a 20oz bottle of 100% fruit juice contains more than 10 tablespoons of natural sugar? Even worse, a 20oz bottle of soda contains not less than 18 teaspoons of added sugar. Just one drink can put you over the daily recommended sugar allowance of 25g (7tsp) for a woman and 35g (9tsp) for a man. The more you drink these sweetened beverages, the bigger your sugar cravings grow, and drinking too much sugar is one of the main causes of sugar addiction.
So, instead of sipping your sweetened energy drink all day, switch pure water to control your hydration levels. And speaking of hydration levels, proper hydration can dramatically minimize your afternoon sugar and junk food cravings as it suppresses the Ghrelin Hormone (the hunger hormone).
3. Avoid boredom
Are you truly craving for sugary foods or are you simply bored? For most stay-at-home parents, there might not be much to do in the afternoon, particularly after the baby takes his/her afternoon nap. If you are such a parent or if your schedule is way too relaxed in the afternoon, you can easily get sugar craving simply out of boredom. Or maybe you've been working on the same spreadsheet for hours? Or making the same sales calls? If you think this might be a reason for your unhealthy snacking, try to change up your routine, take a brisk walk, take five minutes out from the computer and grab some water, or nibble on one of your healthy snacks - just make sure you don't mindlessly reach for some chocolate!
4. Suppress your appetite using whole food carbs.
The importance of wholemeal (brown) carbs in maintaining a healthy, sugar-free lifestyle can never be overemphasised. Because of their richness in fiber, whole food carbs help to keep the rise and fall in blood sugars under control. They also keep your tummy full for longer, reducing your cravings for sugary treats.
On top of that, whole food carbs play a critical role in the production of serotonin, a chemical that suppresses excessive appetite in our bodies, among other key functions.
However, you should take note that refined (white) carbs such as white bread and pasta do not yield the same positive results as whole food carbs. These foods include millet porridge, potatoes, whole grain, and buckwheat flour pancakes.
To avoid going overboard with carbs, consider mixing them with high-fiber foods such as vegetables, legumes, fruit salad, and beans.
5. Make sure you get enough sleep
As we mentioned, getting enough sleep (about 8 hours a day) helps you to maintain high levels of the satiety hormone, among other critical benefits, then it is only wise to sleep adequately every night. Make sure you don't spend too long on your phone late at night as the screen interferes with our sleep hormones, and maybe cut out that afternoon coffee? A proper nights sleep is one of the greatest weapons we have in dealing with everything that the next day is going to throw at us!!
The bottom line:
Sugar cravings can lead to sugar addiction and in extreme cases, ruin your health and your life. The important thing to do is take a look at your eating patterns, and understand how and why you might be getting sugar cravings in the afternoon. Making smaller adjustments to your lifestyle can significantly help you in controlling your sugar intake, and if you would like more advice on cutting sugar from your diet you can read my post here How To Stop Eating Sugar - A Complete Guide
Would you love to break your sugar craving cycle but you somehow lack the resolve or strength to get do it alone? If so, you can sign up for my 21 Day Sugar Detox Program here.