Experiment of One: Sugar

I had a total revelation last week (and it resulted in an awesome recipe, at the bottom of this post).

Since I’m no longer training, I decided to do a little nutritional “experiment of one” around sugar and stimulants (i.e. caffeine).  I was inspired by my sister who recently cut out all sugar – and I mean all sugar, even natural sugars like honey, fruit, dairy and anything else containing lactose, fructose or glucose – after learning sugar is one of her food sensitivities.  I figured I’d give it a try and see what happened.

Although I planned to start my no-sugar, no-caffeine diet on Monday, I only lasted until about 4pm so I didn’t technically start until Tuesday.  But seriously, not eating any sugar is freaking hard ’cause that stuff is in everything!  No raisins in my yogurt, no banana, no chocolate – definitely not something I could keep up long term.

So, I was only successful in doing one day of no sugar at all.  But over the rest of the week I started adding in sugar gradually, and I’ve still drastically reduced the amount I used to eat every day.  I also learned a couple cool things about how my body responds to sugar (and here I’m using “sugar” to refer to natural or refined because fruit has more or less the same effects):

  • Between 30 and 60 minutes after eating sugar, even if I’m not hungry, I get a strong desire to eat – specifically sugar and junk food cravings, but I just feel the need to eat something.
  • This craving goes away if I wait about 15 minutes without eating.

I spent most of the summer wondering why I constantly felt a need to eat even when I wasn’t hungry, but then I’d snack on fruit because it’s delicious and good for you.  Vicious circle ensues, leaving me feeling simultaneously guilty and unsatisfied.

But I also learned something else about sugar cravings this week: excessive sugar cravings are a sign of overtraining, according to page two of Avoiding Late-Season Burnout from Inside Triathlon.  I’d never made that connection, but it makes sense and might have made it’s own contribution too.

My final discovery this week was the BEST BREAKFAST CEREAL EVER.  Homemade, gluten-free/low, totally sugar-free (unless you put raisins in it like I do) and so many variations: basically pick any combination of seeds and grains, mix them with some sort of dairy or non-dairy milk or yogurt and let them sit for about 15 minutes then enjoy!  I throw it all together in the morning when I get up, and it’s ready by the time I’m out of the shower.

2013-11-10 21.11.36

Clockwise from top: chia seeds, hemp seeds, kasha, flax meal, rolled oats

Best Breakfast Cereal

Here’s what I put in one serving, but feel free to substitute (Bulk Barn carries most of these):
1 Tbsp chia seeds
1 Tbsp flax meal
1 Tbsp kasha (toasted buckwheat)
1 Tbsp hulled hemp seeds
2 Tbsp old-fashioned rolled oats
1 Tbsp raisins
1/2 cup milk

Mix everything together, then let it sit for at least 15 minutes so the chia seeds have time to gel.

2013-11-11 06.35.01

Nutritional info: 296 cal, 33g carbs, 8g fibre, 14g protein, 12g fat (healthy ones!)

Variations:

  • Add half a scoop of protein powder (I use Vega sport protein)
  • Use unsweetened almond or flax milk instead of dairy
  • Add cinnamon and apple chunks
  • Substitute steel-cut oats if you like a chewier texture
  • Add more rolled oats for texture or to increase the carbs
  • Mix everything in a small pot and eat it warm
  • Add a few spoonfuls of Greek or regular plain yogurt
  • Make it the night before and store in the fridge overnight so it’s ready in the morning
  • Flavour with vanilla extract or cocoa powder
  • Anything else you can think of!

Happy eating!

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