How to Bounce Back After a Sugar Binge
Not feeling so sweet about all that candy? Here's your Rx.
Sugar. We're programmed to like it from birth, our brains get addicted to it like any other drug, but our waistline doesn’t love it quite as much as our taste buds do. Sometimes social situations or stress get the best of us and we indulge in more sugar and calories than originally planned. Other times we schedule cheat meals to reward our laser-like fitness focus. Regardless of the situation that landed you in sugar binge territory, remember that getting off track is normal—it happens to everyone. (That’s why the 80/20 rule is the gold standard for nutrition in the real world.) Here's what to do (and what not to do) when running diet damage control after that sugar binge.
What to Never Do After a Sugar Binge
"Starving Off" Your Sugar Binge. Don't starve yourself the day after a sugar binge. Instead, wait until your body feels hungry again and eat a small protein- and fiber-rich meal like broiled salmon and roasted broccoli. (Psst...check out our ultimate list of high-protein foods for inspiration.) A meal like this will keep your blood sugar in control and stimulate hormones that encourage your body to burn sugar that it has stored for energy (which you'll have a lot of because a big sugar binge can saturate your body's sugar stores). Drink a lot of water and continue to eat a higher-protein, lower-carbohydrates diet for the entire day after. This will help your body make use of that extra sugar, as well as the water weight that goes along with it.
"Blocker" Supplements. There are several supplements that claim to block the absorption of sugar and fat in your diet. Avoid them like the plague, both in the context of a normal diet and in situations when you would be consuming large amounts of the food that is supposed to be blocked. (Related: 10 Whole Foods That Are Better for Workout Recovery Than Supplements)
When the absorption of fat or sugars is blocked in your digestive tract, it continues to pass through your body, resulting in increased gas, bloating, and overall discomfort. The level of these symptoms is proportional to the amount of the "blocked food" you are eating. So if you take a fat blocker and eat a low-fat diet, you won't experience many of these side effects. If you take a fat blocker and have a very high-fat meal (like a splurge meal), the unwanted side effects will be much greater. Avoid absorption blocking supplements, as they will cause more harm than good.
What Might Actually Help After a Sugar Binge
Alpha-Lipoic Acid (ALA). ALA is a potent antioxidant that can improve your body's ability to use carbohydrates as energy (burn them off). Foods like spinach and broccoli deliver small amounts of ALA, but a supplement is required to really reap its "damage control" effects. Take 200mg before your meal to give your body an extra boost in insulin sensitivity. (Check out how one woman *finally* curbed her sugar cravings.)
Cinnamon Extract. Cinnamon is another compound that can improve your body's ability to metabolize and use carbohydrates. Research shows that you can experience this effect with one tablespoon of cinnamon added to a meal; but unless you are diving into a massive bowl of oatmeal, this flavor burst is probably not appropriate. This is when a cinnamon extract supplement like Cinnulin PF comes in handy. A 250mg dose of Cinnulin PF taken prior to your splurge and then another 250mg dose before your next meal might help your metabolic processes hum along.
How to Avoid Another Sugar Binge
While everyone gets off track occasionally, the best solution for a sugar binge is preventing it in the first place. Check out these easy substitutions for high-carb snacks that help reduce the potential effects on blood sugar—and the scale. (Bonus: Which is Really Healthier, Artificial Sweeteners or Sugar?)
- Trade: One large fast-food soda pop (32 ounces) for a smoothie with rolled oats, flaxseed, fruit, almond milk, and Greek yogurt. (Or consider one of these actually-satisfying healthy vegan smoothies.)
- Trade: 3 cups of orange juice for 1 orange, 4 whole-grain crackers, and 1 ounce of cheese.
- Trade: 14 fuzzy peach candies for 1/2 cup plain cottage cheese, 1 small peach, and 25 crushed pistachios.
- Trade: 5 tablespoons chocolate-covered raisins for a bowl of chocolate chia pudding made with 3/4 cup unsweetened almond milk, 1 teaspoon maple syrup, 1 teaspoon vanilla extract, 3 tablespoons chia seeds, and 1 tablespoon cocoa powder, garnished with 1/4 cup of berries.
The Bottom Line
If you know that you are going to be splurging on your diet and enjoying lots of sugary foods, the best thing you can do is exercise before you eat. If you don't or can't exercise before, try to get in some movement afterward. This doesn't have to be a formal workout (no one wants to take a spin class after eating a pint of Ben & Jerry's Chocolate Therapy), but going for a moderate or long walk is a great way to hop right back on track with your wellness plan.
And most importantly, remember that a sugar binge is only one eating occasion. Your health and body fat is determined by your long-term habits (such as avoiding these seven sneaky reasons you’re not losing belly fat). So if you eat a lot of sugar and didn't really want to at the outset of the meal or snack, don't beat yourself up too much—just get back on your plan with the next meal.