Ask the Diet Doctor: How to Erase a Sugar Binge
Regretting last night's splurge? Here's how to run diet damage control
Q: What is the best way to run damage control after a sugar binge?
A: Sugar. We're programmed to like it from birth, our brains get addicted to it like any other drug, but our waistline detests it. Sometime social situations or stress get the best of us and we indulge in more sugar and calories than we should. Other times we schedule planned cheat meals to reward our laser like fitness focus. My point is that getting off track is normal, it happens to everyone. Regardless of what brought on your sugar binge, here's what to do (and what not to do) when running dietary damage control.
What to Avoid
1. "Starving Off" your 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. 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 super-saturate your body's sugar stores). Drink a lot of water and continue to eat a higher-protein, lower-carbohydrates diet for the entire post-binge day. This will help you burn off that extra sugar, as well as the water weight that goes along with it.
2. "Blocker" Supplements
There are several supplements that claim to block the absorption of sugar and fat in your diet-avoid them like the plague. I don't recommend the use of these products in the context of a normal diet and especially not in a situation when you would be consuming large amounts of the food that is supposed to be blocked.
When the absorption of fat or sugars is blocked in your digestive track, 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.
Supplements that May Help
1. 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.
2. 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 splurging on 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 should help with your damage control efforts.
Planning Ahead and Exercise
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. Fitting in a short workout before you splurge is the biggest bang-for-your-buck strategy in this article. If you don't or can't exercise before your splurge, try to get in some movement afterwards. This doesn't have to be a formal workout (no one wants to take a spinning class after eating a pint of Ben & Jerry's Chocolate Therapy), but going for a moderate/long walk should be the minimum standard.
You can pick and choose which of these strategies to use or your can put them all into play at the same time. Regardless of what you choose, remember that a splurge is only one meal. Your health and body fat is determined by your long-term habits. So if you eat a lot of sugar and didn't really want to, don't beat yourself up too much, just get back on your plan with the next meal.