Ten Tips to Help You Reduce Your Carbs and Why You Should

A Marine chief cook goes over the chow line.
U.S. Marine Corps Sgt. Isaac Harkless, chief cook, Headquarters Company, Headquarters Battalion, 3d Marine Division, conducts a food line critique with the cooks on watch at Mess Hall 4417 on Camp Courtney, Okinawa, Japan, April 6, 2017. (MCIPAC Combat Camera Lance Cpl. Jesus McCloud/U.S. Marine Corps photo)

The near immediate results of dropping simple sugars from your diet far outweigh the cravings you may have when you initially start decreasing or eliminating them. You have to treat them like a drug to which you are addicted. You always will want sugar, especially for the first 48-72 hours, but that want will decrease significantly in a few days.  

Here are more reasons why we should eliminate sugar from our diet, followed by some tips to help ease the cravings.

First, the main reason why you should consider dropping simple carbohydrates, sugar and sweets is for your health. This page on insulin resistance explains how it's one of the biggest health issues we face today. Insulin resistance is a precursor for heart disease, stroke and diabetes. Reducing sugar is critical for preventing this disease.

Second, reducing your sugar intake will help you tremendously with weight loss. Getting lean, having less body fat and maintaining your weight starts in the kitchen. Reducing sugars and sweets, breads, white rice and potatoes will produce weight-loss results fast. Try to eliminate bread, rice and potatoes from your diet for two weeks and see the difference it makes in energy levels and inches around your belt.

Here is how you do it. Trust me, quitting sugar is easier said than done. Science has compared the withdrawal cravings of sugar to that of cocaine and heroin, as it stimulates the same pleasure centers of the brain and dumps serotonin (feel-good neurotransmitter) into the bloodstream. It helps us to regulate sleep, mood, and appetite. The following not only helps us reduce the sugar cravings, but also can increase serotonin levels naturally, helping ease the withdrawal and daily cravings as well:

1. Replacement

Replace simple carbs and sugar with complex carbs that contain fiber and protein like brown rice, sweet potatoes, nuts, almonds and fruits like apples and vegetables like broccoli, onion and green leafy salads.  When cravings hurt the most (midafternoon typically), eat a fruit and go for a walk outside for 5-10 minutes and drink a bottle of water.

2. Eat more protein

Through the day, add in lean meats, fish, chicken and eggs. For people who prefer less or no meat, try protein powder, nuts, beans and other plant proteins. Try to have more snacks between meals so you are eating something small every 3-4 hours. A handful of almonds, a boiled egg or a piece of beef jerky can go a long way in reducing sugar cravings.

3. Exercise

Exercise burns calories and is a key factor in your weight loss and health, but it also helps you release many "feel-good" hormones as well as the ones we seek from eating sugar.

4. Be social

Get outside and get some sunlight. Or get under bright lights inside with friends. Increased light exposure and having people to bond with help with feel-good hormone releases. If at a party with friends, try to go no carb. It is tough during the holidays, but try.

5. Try to go cold turkey

Drop sugar entirely, not even fake sugars, for the first few days. It is tough but works the best statistically. Suck up the first 48 hours, and you are home free.

6. Think dentist and money 

Any prolonged consumption of sugars and simple carbs can break down the teeth and lead to the dentist drilling and filling in cavities.  Maybe this will motivate you to lay off the sugars and breads that linger and break down in the mouth.

7. Cheat day

Many do well with eliminating sugar completely during the week, but on one day of the week, have your favorite food or drink. Remember, though -- everything in moderation. Have some discipline if you want results.

8. Need a number

If you are more analytical with your thinking, try to limit any sugar you have in a day to less than 50 grams. Fruits and vegetables do not count.

9. Lay off salty foods 

After eating salty foods, you may have a craving for sugar within minutes.

10. Sleep well

Lack of sleep makes you crave energy, and your body will gravitate toward sugar and caffeine. Reduce caffeine at least 5-6 hours before your bedtime. Sleep in a quiet, dark and cool room. Stay away from electronics at least an hour before sleeping. 

Read a book or magazine (not an eBook or something on the computer) before turning off the lights to get your mind in a better sleeping mode. If you are having things pop into your head about the following day of to-dos, make a list and go to sleep with a plan to tackle them the next day instead of worrying about them in bed.

There are many low-carb plans on the market. The Paleo Diet, Atkins Diet, The Zone Diet and many others succeed by limiting or eliminating carbohydrates for a period of time. I have never been a fan of eliminating any macronutrients, as the possibility for missing vital nutrients exists. But eliminating sugar, sweets, candy, white bread and rice, enriched grains and white potatoes is a step toward being healthy that you never will regret.

Stew Smith is a former Navy SEAL and fitness author certified as a Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS) with the National Strength and Conditioning Association. Visit his Fitness eBook store if you're looking to start a workout program to create a healthy lifestyle. Send your fitness questions to stew@stewsmith.com.

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