Headache, tired, poor concentration, irritable, and overall grogginess.
These are the signs and symptoms of the classic hangover that can develop when having a big night out with alcohol. Yet there is a similar experience when we overdo another addictive food: sugar.
When we binge on huge amounts of sugar at one time, this moves into the bloodstream quickly and causes a spike in blood glucose. This spike is followed by a crash in blood sugar levels which may cause headache and fatigue, triggering even more cravings for sugar and potentially spiraling out of control.
Understanding how to manage this awful cascade of symptoms will help in preventing the unpleasantness you’re left with when you go on an all-out sugar binge.
Fizzy drinks and energy drinks are sugar-packed beverages and often our go-to when thirsty, replacing water.
Headaches are one of the first signs of dehydration. Studies have shown that dehydration of as little as 2% (the same as a 1.6L water loss for a 80 kg person) can affect functions of the brain, gut, kidneys and heart (related to blood volume)
Water is the ideal drink to hydrate as it’s natural sugar, caffeine, and energy-free. Make it a rule to always drink a glass of water with every meal. Keep water within arm’s reach, whether in a jug or a bottle. For example, make a habit of placing a jug of water on your desk as you get to work every day, and keep water bottles into gym bags, handbags, and the car. Both still or sparkling water, hot or cold, can add to your daily water quota for the day.
Add flavour to plain or sparkling water with fresh fruit (e.g. diced apples, assorted berries, orange slices), freshly squeezed or bottled lemon, or herbs (e.g. mint, basil, rosemary). You could also make healthy homemade iced teas by steeping a few of the FitChef herbal tea bags with hot water. Once cool, remove the tea bags and add one of the above-mentioned flavours and serve chilled.
Lastly, download a free water reminder app on your smartphone to help you form healthy water drinking habits in a fun way.
Don’t trigger the cravings.
Rather than just managing the craving, aim to prevent it, to begin with. Do this by making whole, minimally processed foods without added sugar the basis of your meals.
Fruit, vegetables, lean protein like skinless chicken, fatty fish and egg, plant proteins like beans, chickpeas, and lentils, and whole grains like brown rice, corn and oats are all good food choices.
When these healthier foods replace sugar-filled snacks, not only will you be loading up on nutrients and fibre for optimal health, but you will also stabilize blood sugar levels and manage the trigger for sugar. Our FitChef meals are proudly made of real foods and free from added sugar, preservatives, and colourants.
If you’re going to have sugar, do so on a full stomach.
If you do choose to have a sugary treat, trying to maintain some degree of self-control to lessen the impact of the sugar hangover is the way to go.
The best way to do this is to cheat on a full stomach. Have a small portion of the sugary treat, whether it’s ice cream or a slice of chocolate cake, after eating a healthy and balanced meal that includes a big helping of vegetables and/or salad, lean protein, and wholegrain, high fibre starch.
This way you limit the spiral of overindulging as you’re a lot less hungry to overeat the sugary food.
Treat yourself in other ways.
In 2013, a study published in Appetite found that participants who associated chocolate cake with guilt lost less weight than those associating chocolate cake with celebration. The truth is that sugary treats tend to be associated with celebrations and treating ourselves.
Try to find other non-food ways to treat yourself. Book a spa day with friends, go for a hike in nature, call your bestie, or snuggle into a favourite book.