Are you caught in a vicious cycle of stress, sugar and stimulants? Do you crawl out of bed and need a strong coffee to get you going, or do you reach for the sugary cereals or toast and jam?
If either of these scenarios sound like you, you may be caught in a vicious cycle of stress, sugar and stimulants, with all its negative effects on your mind and mood.
Stimulants give us instant energy, but all they do is just make the problem worse. As you may know by now from my previous articles is, balancing your blood sugar is the keyto sustained energy and weight control.
Stimulants also promote the brain’s feel good chemicals. In times of stress, the adrenal glands release a combination of hormones, including cortisol and adrenalin, that break down stores of glucose and raise your blood sugar levels, tapping into your energy reserves to provide instant fuel to deal with the apparent danger (the flight or fight response)
Of course, today’s stressors take place mainly inside our heads (covid and all that comes with it, money worries, relationships etc) but these worries can still induce the flight or fight response (ever have a panic attack as a result of over thinking) this response also produces adrenalin, and that too raises blood sugar levels.
Stimulants have the same effect, stirring up adrenalin and dopamine seriously messing with your blood sugar and so encouraging your body to store fat.
The reason people get hooked on drinkingcoffee, especially in the morning, is because it makes them feel more energised and alert but after their first cup of coffee, coffee drinkers don’t feel any better than people who never drink coffee.
Coffee drinkers just feel better than they did when they woke up. In other words, drinking coffee relieves the symptoms of withdrawal from coffee.
It’s highly addictive! Also, the more caffeine you consume, the more your body and brain become insensitive to their own natural stimulants, dopamine and adrenalin. You then need more stimulants just to feel normal, pushing your body to produce more dopamine and adrenalin.
The result is adrenal exhaustion, leading to apathy, lethargy and an inability to cope. The obvious place Caffeine can be found is in coffee but it is also in coke and energy drinks and in smaller amounts in tea, chocolate and green tea, although drinking a weak cup of tea is unlikely to be a problem.
Don’t worry I’m not asking you to completely quit your coffee, but it’s advisable to cut back to a maximum or 1-2 coffees a day and drink them before noon.
Chocolate is high in sugar and stimulants and is delicious, so it’s easy to become a chocoholic. If you are like the many others who simply cannot eat one square of chocolate and then stop, it is probably better to commit to giving it up for one month. After that, you’ll find that you have lost all craving for chocolate.
Or if you really can’t give it up, swap for a high cocoa % dark chocolate (the higher the % of cocoa the lower the sugar) Cola, diet and energy drinks, again, are full of caffeine and sugar and will only inhibit weight loss.
Changing any habit can be stressful in itself, so it’s best to cut down gradually but be careful you do not swap one stimulant for another. As you gradually cut down you will feel more motivated to kick other bad habits along the way.
Sugar is a stimulant too
You may remember my article from a few weeks back where I covered the effects of too much sugar on our health and waist line! So here is a recap on the negative effects of sugar.
Sugar is an artificially refined substance thatworks more like a drug than a food! It knocks your blood sugar out of balance by giving you an artificial boost, closely followed by an energy slump. This sets up cravings and keeps you reaching for more (remember that 11am 3pm slump I mentioned in previous articles).
It also encourages you to eat more, as you try to summon up the energy you need to get through your day.
Addressing this imbalance will help you to feel calmer, more energised and alert without the ups and downs. You can begin to see how much easier it is to stick to a weight loss plan, if you are not trying to contend with this vicious cycle. Now let’s take a closer look at sugar and why it plays havoc to our health and weight loss.
Too much sugar can play havoc with your weightand hormones, it can cause fatigue, increased hyperactivity and tooth decay. Refined sugar is empty calories. We get no nutritional benefit fromit.
When sugar isn't needed, it's stored as fat. Eating sugar raises levels of the hormone insulin (the fat storing hormone) in your blood. This creates a risk for diabetes. Sugar can damage artery walls, making it easy for cholesterol and fat to build up and cause heart disease. Too much sugar affects the immune system by causing white blood cells to be sluggish, thus lowering resistance to disease. It can also increase hyperactivity.
It encourages overgrowth of yeast (candida) and leads to fatigue because of the rise and fall of your blood sugar level, and it can cause anxiety and irritability. Both sugar and insulin are highly inflammatory and not only aggravate any painful condition, but also fuel ‘silent’ low grade systemic inflammation.
Cutting down on sugar
One problem with sugar is knowing where it is. Remember I told you in my previous article how sugar has over 50 different names!You may not put sugar in your tea, or eat chocolate regularly but it is also found in many hidden places. Ketchup is 23.6% sugar for instance.
Cans of beans or tomatoes, cereals, flavoured yoghurts, so called healthy crunch bars, ready-made and processed meals, are often a hidden source of sugar. Check food labels for hidden sugars. Stay away from artificial sweeteners, linked to side effects such as migraine and some cancers. Furthermore, some studies show they can even stimulate appetite!
Highly refined products such as white bread orrice have a high GL. If you eat them you get arapid increase in blood sugar level and a surge in energy, similar to the effect of sugar.
This is followed by a drop as the body scrambles to balance blood sugar levels. This is why you often get an afternoon slump, having eaten a white bread sandwich and some chocolate or similar for lunch. This effect often leads you to reach for more chocolate or coffee for a new energy boost, to be followed by the same slump soon afterwards. It's a vicious cycle.
So, cut right back on sugar and stick to eating lowGL foods to keep your blood sugar stable. Avoid refined and processed foods. Keep active and do regular exercise, as you are most likely to snack when you are bored or inactive. Exercise will also give you some of the feel-good hormones that you also get from eating sugar.
After 10 days of cutting back on stimulants you will have increased energy, your emotions will be on a more even keel and, you will have lost the cravings for sugar.
Do you need help kicking the habits? Well there is no time like the present! My clinic is back open and I am taking bookings for new and excisting clients, so just pop me a message if you would like to schedule an appointment. contact details below.
Debbie Devane from The Nutri Coach is a qualified nutritionist and health coach, Debbie runs her clinic from the Glenard Clinic in Mountmellick and also offers one to one and group online consultations. Debbie is also Nutritionist to the Offaly GAA senior footballers. For more information or to make an appointment email Debbie at
Facebook: The Nutri Coach @debbiedevanethenutricoach
To download your free 28-day plan go to www.thenutricoach.ie