Sugar cravings can be difficult to overcome but intermittent fasting can help. When one begins fasting for the day, the hunger-suppressing hormone leptin levels initially increase, appetite decreases and sweet tooth desires lessen.
When one stays in a fasted state for a long period, leptin levels start to drop. This may cause feelings of increased hunger and desires for sugar the first couple of weeks. As leptin levels normalize, hunger and sugar cravings subside and in time the sugar craving cycle can be broken.
Chocolate, cookies, ice cream – a sweet tooth’s lover's dream! Indulging in an occasional treat is good for your emotional well-being. But when you consume sugar regularly, your body is never satisfied.
Of the more than 600,000 food products found on the typical grocery’s shelf, 80 percent contain added sugar. The average person consumes one pound of sugar a day (1).
Eating a lot of carbohydrates and sugar-laden foods fuels the body temporarily and rewards the brain, but it is never satisfied. Giving into sugar cravings reinforces the sugar-eating habit making it more challenging to break.
Sugar cravings can be mentally distracting and physically uncomfortable. Adopting an intermittent fasting routine and choosing whole, healthy foods can make the sugar cravings go away.
Sugar may be sweet, but it's not your friend. Minor and major issues can occur when you consume too much sugar, such as:
Once you start consuming sugar regularly, your body starts signaling it wants it all the time. It becomes a vicious cycle that looks like this:
Intermittent fasting includes set windows for refraining from eating and specific hours when you eat. No matter what method of intermittent fasting you follow, with consistent effort it can help you control sugar cravings. A reduction in sugar cravings often makes weight loss efforts easier and boosts success.
Intermittent fasting has an effect on the hunger-suppressing hormone leptin, which in turn will affect your cravings for sugar. Toward the end of a meal, the body releases leptin, which causes hunger signals to subside.
Leptin is released from fat cells (13). It creates a feeling of fullness and suppresses appetite for a period. It tells the brain you are full and to start burning calories for energy. When leptin levels increase, metabolism speeds up in normal-weight individuals.
Heavier people have higher leptin levels than leaner ones (14). Obese people become desensitized for leptin, which is called leptin resistance. They usually find themselves in some stage of the sugar craving cycle throughout the day. Their bodies need to release more significant amounts of leptin to achieve that sense of hunger satisfaction. High leptin levels are associated with obesity, overeating, and inflammation-related diseases, including pre-diabetes and heart disease (15).
Women may find it difficult to overcome leptin resistance because they naturally have higher leptin levels than men (16). Higher leptin levels may explain why women have more cravings for sugar and carbs. If you are desensitized to leptin, you will constantly feel hungry, have cravings, and your body doesn’t get the calorie-burning boost.
Leptin is also known to suppress the perception of a sweet taste (17). When one is in a fasted state, leptin levels initially increase, appetite decreases, sweet tooth desires lessen, and in time the sugar craving cycle can be broken.
When starting out, due to lowered leptin levels when fasting you may have a hard time dealing with sugar cravings during intermittent fasting (18). Short-term studies using the alternate day fasting method and prolonged fasting (fasts lasting typically 36-72 hours) both showed significant drops in leptin levels, leading to increased hunger (19, 20). However, this may be compounded by an unhealthy diet and lack of sleep.
Nonetheless, adopting a long-term intermittent fasting lifestyle has been shown to increase leptin levels (21). After a couple of weeks, many intermittent fasters report not feeling hungry very often and their sugar cravings go away.
Here are a few tips to help you with sugar cravings until your body can normalize leptin levels and the desires go away.
It may seem impossible, but you CAN overcome sugar cravings, and intermittent fasting can be a tremendous support. When beginning intermittent fasting you may initially find your hunger levels and sugar cravings increase. If you stick with it for a few weeks your desire for food around the clock and your sweet tooth, thanks to the appetite-suppressing hormone leptin, will be gone!
Sugar cravings can be physically overcome with intermittent fasting, but sometimes the mental sugar habit is hard to beat. Join our online community of intermittent fasting women for extra support.
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