Updated: Jul 25
If you have always thought that you have a ‘sweet tooth’ and that is the reason you have sugar cravings I want to tell you that your sweet tooth is not entirely to blame here. Yes, your love for sweets may play a role too, but there are things happening on a deeper level.
I could talk forever about the relationship with sugar we have, how it impacts our health, and why we truly need to quit it for good. So, today, I’ll make it short by taking on adrenaline, the acute stress hormone.
You may not realize that your sugar cravings are closely related to the level of stress you experience daily. Stress impacts almost every choice, especially when it comes to what you eat.
And here are just two scenarios to consider.
You often feel tired, or even exhausted by the end of the day. You may talk yourself into going to the gym because you need that energy! But too much adrenaline in your system will make you feel flat rather than energized.
Scenario two. You may have unhealthy self-talk especially when it comes to the food you eat. You may go through an emotional rollercoaster which will impact every decision you make throughout the day. And one of the most costly decisions is if you reach for the sugary snacks or not.
So, let’s have a look at the link between your sugar cravings and adrenaline.
Are you part of my community? Join my newsletter to get the latest action steps on how to eat a healthy plant-based diet, de-stress, manage your time better, prioritize yourself, and anything in between so that you INCREASE your energy, SAVE time, and INVEST well in your wellness!
The Role of Adrenaline
Adrenaline is the short-term, acute stress hormone (while cortisol is the chronic stress hormone), being produced every time your stress response is triggered.
The stress response, also known as the ‘fight or flight’ response, is your body’s reaction to what you may perceive as a threat to your life. Historically, the threat came from the outside environment such as a tiger, another tribe, or a famine. Today, the threat you perceive is psychological.
Just think about how you start your day. Checking on social media and comparing your worth to others. Putting out fires when you try to get yourself and your kids organised so you can leave on time for once.
Then you open your inbox and the stress levels go up, you reach out for coffee, have an important meeting, and by the afternoon your body is pumping with adrenaline.
It is very important to understand where your stress comes from because this will help you to learn how to manage it better. Don't get this wrong, adrenaline is not all bad. Understanding adrenaline production and how your body uses it will help you to maximize the benefits.
Like anything else in life, too much of something (even if it is good) can be harmful. It goes the same for adrenaline. Although adrenaline has its benefits, it was designed to last for a short period of time.
In today’s world, we are flooded with adrenaline almost the whole day. And too much adrenaline can alter our lifestyle choices.
Adrenaline and Hormone Imbalances
Adrenaline’s primary role was to get us into action. And you most likely have it today too. It will ring true to you, especially before an important meeting, competition, or exam you have. As a stress hormone, adrenaline tells your body that your life is in danger.
So you experience good reactions such as staying alert, fighting the opponent, or avoiding getting hurt. But the difference is that our ancestors worked out the excess of adrenaline.
Nowadays, on the other hand, we sit in front of a TV, munching on our faviourite food, and letting the adrenaline stay in our system for much longer than it was intended to. As a consequence our biochemistry changes.
Adrenaline production disrupts the distribution of other hormones which has an enormous impact on all areas of your life.
Because adrenaline is produced during stress response, every cell in your body is told that your life is in danger which means that your immune system or digestive systems stop working. After all, who cares if you get a cold or not or if you can digest your dinner if you are about to die?
Your immune system is your shield against infections, viruses, illnesses, and so on. It can't protect you if it is down all the time.
If you still don’t feel convinced that adrenaline impacts your life, you need to know that adrenaline influences progesterone production. Progesterone is linked to fertility. Think about it, who would want to bring a baby into an unsafe environment?
Now, you know that adrenaline, when at a normal level, is good for you. It can help you with making a quick decision, sprinting into action, or even motivating you. On the other side of the coin, adrenaline can make you feel tired but wired.
The link between your afternoon sugar drop, pick-me-up caffeinated drink, and a sugary snack goes back to adrenaline. And if you are high on caffeine and glucose (sugar) your judgment around food may not be the sharpest.
Adrenaline has a snowball reaction. You may feel tired, but unable to rest. You may feel hungry, although you have already eaten.
As you remember the stress response is triggered because your body ‘thinks’ you are in danger. This means that you need the energy to react, and adrenaline organizes that energy for you.
Our body converts energy from either carbohydrates (glucose) or fat. The distribution and effect of glucose are faster. And at the time of danger, you don’t have the time for the fat to give you the energy you need.
You need a quick reaction, therefore your body needs to use carbohydrates for energy.
What actually happens is that sugar is being delivered into your bloodstream so you can react quickly. And any sugar which is being used has to be replaced. If you stay in a state of stress for the whole day, your body thinks that you are in danger and would need sugar for quick use.
Therefore, it craves carbohydrates which can be quickly converted into energy.
I am telling you this so you can understand that it is not you, your lack of willpower or self-discipline. It is your biochemistry that drives your decisions if in the afternoon you will reach for a cookie or an avocado.
So, rather than fighting biochemistry, you need to fight stress and your perception of stress. When you get to the core of why you are stressed and what triggers stress in you, you would have better chances of controlling your sugar cravings.
How to Stop Sugar Cravings
Adrenaline is a very powerful stress hormone. When at good levels, it can motivate you, help you to make a quick decision, and get you into action. But when you live in a constant state of stress, adrenaline will disrupt other hormone production, the functioning of your systems, and the way your body uses energy.
Your body uses either carbohydrates or fat for energy. But if it feels like your life is in danger, carbohydrates become the first choice. And the more glucose (sugar) your body uses, the more you have to replace it, hence the sugar cravings.
It is not easy to always make healthy food choices if your body tells you otherwise. There is no point in fighting against your body’s biochemistry. You need to address the stress in your life to get your adrenaline levels in check.
Are you part of my community? Join my newsletter to get the latest action steps on how to eat a healthy plant-based diet, de-stress, manage your time better, prioritize yourself, and anything in between so that you INCREASE your energy, SAVE time and INVEST well in your wellness!