sleep

Curb Your Cravings With These Blood-Sugar Balancing Tips

Question of the week: “How do you deal with cravings?! I eat one sweet thing and then end up gorging all day!!!” 

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Our cravings are primarily related to blood sugar, stress, hormone imbalances, and food choices. By keeping nutrition quality high, getting adequate sleep, calming the nervous system, reducing stress, and getting in daily physical activity, you can help keep your cravings at bay.

Understand that cravings come and go and if you can accept their presence while trying to determine why they’re happening, you can change your reaction to them.

Here are a few reasons you might find yourself with a hankering for that 2pm cookie:

  • Low blood sugar

  • Consuming an imbalanced meal

  • Stress

  • Lack of sleep (less than 6 hours)

  • Dehydration

  • Hormonal changes during pre-menstrual period

  • Travel, especially with time-zone changes

  • Attempting to soothe boredom, anger, sadness, anxiety, depression, etc

  • Looking for a distraction

  • Overly focused on food and nutrition

The more honest you can be in recognizing your cravings, understanding the reasoning, and addressing them appropriately without giving in to them, the more you'll feel in charge of your own decisions.

How food choices affect blood sugar:

Don’t get me wrong, I love sweets and recommend you live a little, too. But understanding how and what affects your blood sugar can help you in making the right choice and how to prevent yourself from spiraling on the rollercoaster that can be the blood sugar response.

A diet consisting of a high intake of carbs with a minimal amount of fat and infrequent protein feedings (hello, American diet), eating carbs by themselves, or choosing high glycemic index foods (candy, sweets, bread, pasta, natural sweeteners, etc) causes frequent spikes and drops in blood sugar, which in turn, makes you crave more sugar and more carbohydrates.  

STRESS AND SLEEP:

Sleep, emotions and stress all negatively affect cortisol levels (the stress hormone), blood sugar, inflammation, hunger hormones, and mood, all which lead to more sugar cravings. And reversibly, your ability to control blood sugar can also affect your sleep, mood, and stress. Welcome to the vicious cycle.

To keep your blood sugar stable throughout the night, eat a snack before bed consisting of a healthy fat and carbohydrate. This is the only time I don’t recommend protein, as the digestion of protein can interfere with sleep.

A single night of inadequate sleep can elevate blood sugar levels and when we consistently don’t get enough sleep, our body enters a state of chronic stress. Improve your overall health by creating a sleep routine that enables a consistent 7-9 hours of sleep.

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Pre-Menstrual Period

While the hormonal effects during the a woman’s cycle varies from person to person, it’s not uncommon for there to be greater fluctuations during the pre-menstrual period. If you’re someone who tends to be more irritable and notices significant swings in mood, it may help to increase your exercise and decrease the amount of carbohydrates consumed during this week.

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Consistent blood sugar balance is KEY:

Begin your day with a healthy breakfast consisting of at least 15-20 g of protein, a high quality fat (like avocado, grass fed butter, or a straight tablespoon of coconut oil), greens, and a low glycemic carbohydrate (brown rice, quinoa, sweet potato, or seasonal fruit).

 

Ex: 2-3 eggs (12-18g protein), arugula, ½ an avocado, ½ c brown rice, lemon, olive oil, salt, tablespoon of pesto

Eat at consistent intervals throughout the day, feeding yourself every 3-4 hours.  Lunch and dinner should consist of a fish or animal protein (the size of 1-2 palms), 2 fists of vegetables, 2 thumbs of healthy fats, and an optional 1 cupped handful of whole grains.

Snacks in between meals can consist of seasonal fruit or vegetables and a smaller amount of protein such as a serving of nuts or a serving of greek yogurt. 

6 TIPS FOR STABLE BLOOD SUGAR

  1. Eat at consistent intervals throughout the day, feeding yourself every 3-4 hours. 

  2. Always eat a balance of protein, fat, and carbs and try to avoid eating carbs by themselves. If you can’t find all three macronutrients, choose at least 2 of the 3.

    - Lunch and dinner should consist of a fish or animal protein (the size of 1-2 palms), 1-2 fists of vegetables, 1-2 thumbs of healthy fats, and 1 cupped handful of whole grains.

    - Snacks in between meals can consist of seasonal fruit or vegetables and a smaller amount of protein such as a serving of nuts or a serving of greek yogurt. 

    - Eat a snack before bed consisting of a healthy fat and carbohydrate.

  3. Get adequate sleep (7-9 hours) for more stabilized blood sugar, more energy, less hunger, better decisions, and a happier mood.

  4. Take frequent “breath-breaks” throughout your day (10 focused breaths of a 5-count inhale and 5-count exhale) to calm the nervous system and lower stress hormones.

  5. Adaptogens can help regulate the hormonal imbalance in the body. Use this guide to help you in determining what your body might benefit from.

  6. If you’re a female, increase your exercise and decrease the amount of carbohydrates consumed during your premenstrual week.

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5 Tips for KICKING CRAVINGS when they arise:

  1. Keep healthy food choices on hand always, not only for balancing blood sugar quickly, but also healthier options for when you still need to satisfy that craving for something sweet -  keep these in your bag, in your car, in your desk drawer, etc:

    - avocados, olives, nuts, seeds

    - primal kitchen bars

    - chia seed pudding (3 tbsp chia seeds, 8 oz almond milk, vanilla, cinnamon

    - fresh pressed green juice with half an apple and half a lemon

    - coconut water

    - apples, berries

    - seasonal fruit

    - 70% cacao dark chocolate

  2. Drink a full glass of water

  3. Take a “breath-break” of 10 deep breaths (5 count inhale, 5 count exhale) and check back in

  4. Chew a piece of gum

  5. Eat a protein/fat combo or a serving of almonds (17) and then check in with your craving 10 minutes later.

MINDFULNESS:

When you first begin thinking about your craving, ask yourself if anything was missing from your last meal. Did it contain enough protein and fat to keep your blood sugar stable? Are you actually hungry? Is what you’re about to eat what your body actually needs in that moment? Eat it if you know it will bring you true joy and isn’t an attempt at filling a void, calming your stress, or your body’s cry to boost your energy levels.  If you do eat it, balance it, savor every bite, relax, and move on.

If you find that you still can’t kick your cravings after following this advice, you may want to consider getting your hormones checked.

Let’s Chat!

Do you have a question regarding blood sugar, nutrition choices, and your fitness goals? Do you have any words of advice for others trying to navigate creating a healthy lifestyle? Ask or share below or start the conversation on social using #runningwithforks.

Alcohol + Fitness: How to find a healthy balance - Part 1

The Science: How Alcohol affects our Bodies

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I frequently get asked if I drink alcohol and if I make clients cut it out, and if you know me, you know that answer!

It’s not uncommon for alcohol to be on the “avoid” list in the wellness community, and recent studies have shifted from the once held belief that alcohol in moderation can be beneficial to our health. Now, this doesn’t matter all that much if you’re someone who doesn’t care to drink, but for those that do choose to enjoy it, and want to keep it in your diet, it can be a confusing topic when it comes to your health and fitness.

If alcohol is something you’ve decided can be a healthy part of your life, I’ve compiled some clear information on how it affects the body and how to take care of and replenish your body before, during, and after in this 3-part series.

ALCOHOL AND METABOLISM

Okay, here is the simple science behind alcohol and how the body digests it. First, understand that alcohol is not processed like other foods and the body has no place to store it, therefore, it has to be immediately metabolized. 

As a general guideline, our bodies are only able to process about 1 drink per hour, which will vary with gender, weight, food intake, supplements, medications, etc. With that in mind, if you’re drinking faster than your liver can metabolize it, the alcohol hits the blood-brain barrier – which is why you start to feel tipsy and uncoordinated, those inhibitions go to the wayside, and your appetite is stimulated. Avoid drinking with an empty belly to help slow down the speed of absorption into the bloodstream.

Because alcohol elimination becomes top priority, your metabolism on the whole transitions to a fat-storing state until it’s eliminated. So, that pizza you think is a really good idea on your way home from drinks…not so great for your fitness goals. 

 

HEALTHY TIPS:

  • Slow down how quickly alcohol is absorbed by keeping a moderately full belly when drinking and primarily choose fat and protein combinations to help stabilize the blood sugar.

  • Limit your intake to no more than 2 drinks/day for men and 1 drink/day for women and no more than 8 drinks/week for both men and women.

EFFECTS ON BLOOD SUGAR:

Alcohol consumption interferes with your blood sugar, the hormones that help maintain healthy levels, as well as many other major bodily functions. So while you might be craving carbohydrates and are thinking it will help absorb some of the alcohol, in actuality, you’re craving carbs due to a blood sugar response and the effects of alcohol on hunger and inhibition. The bad news, refueling with carbs will only leave you crashing again a few hours later, or in the middle of the night, thus interrupting your sleep.

 

HEALTHY TIP:

  • It's ok to occasionally choose a fresh muddled cocktail or margarita (the real kind obviously), but if you plan to have more than one drink, fully enjoy, sip, and savor that delicious cocktail but then switch over to a low sugar beverage.

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EFFECTS ON SLEEP:

Have you ever noticed that you toss and turn a bit more on nights you’ve had a few drinks, or that you crash when your head hits the pillow but then lay wide awake at 3am? Alcohol elevates certain hormones that make you more alert, preventing deep REM sleep, and causes a nighttime dip in blood sugar (hypoglycemia) that can lead to restless sleeping.

So if you have plans for a workout the next morning, be aware that the lack of sleep, added fatigue, and impaired muscle recovery will in turn affect your performance.

If you’re someone who already has trouble sleeping or has issues with hormones related to blood sugar (insulin) and stress (cortisol), alcohol will only make matters worse. 

 

HEALTHY TIP: 

  • If you're feeling hungry before bed or know you experience nighttime hypogycemia, eat a small snack of healthy fats to help you stay more stabilized throughout the night.

HORMONAL EFFECTS:

The effects listed below are more likely related to alcohol intake above what is considered 'moderate consumption', but more than 1-2 drinks a day and you could start to experience problems and wreak havoc on your hormonal and long term health.

LADY  HORMONES…

Ladies – what doesn’t affect our hormones?! Seriously. Alcohol affects our hormonal cycles by increasing cortisol (stress hormone) and estrogen, and decreasing progesterone. If you’re someone who already wildly fluctuates with your hormones and your mood, you may want to consider how much you consume and begin tracking how your body reacts at each phase. 

Additionally, studies clearly show that alcohol creates a moderate increased risk of developing breast cancer. If you know you carry the gene for breast cancer, you may want to consider how drinking affects your long-term health and wellness.

 

ACTION: Use a tracking app such as Clue to track drinks, mood, and physical response and if you carry the breast cancer gene, speak to your doctor and consider cutting back or eliminating from your diet.

MANMONES…

Gents – (and the ladies too, actually!) – while your body is metabolizing alcohol, the liver is unable to produce testosterone. Testosterone is an important hormone for both men and women in regards to building muscular strength and making changes to your body composition, therefore, decreased levels may make it more challenging to reach your goals. If you have a specific goal you're working toward, it may be more beneficial in the short term to cut back or eliminate during this time. 

Additionally, low levels of testosterone can lead to symptoms such as fatigue, irritability, decreased motivation, decreased sex drive, and fertility issues. 

 

ACTION: Consider cutting back and moderating your intake if you experience the negative symptoms above or are having difficulty conceiving.

further READing/tips:

PART 2: ALCOHOL, NUTRITION, AND BODY COMPOSITION

PART 3: HEALTHY TIPS FOR BEFORE, DURING, AND AFTER

The Take Home Message:

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You can still enjoy moderate alcohol consumption and the social aspects of drinking and stay on track with your health and fitness goals. Determine how important your goals are, consider your personal bio-individuality and genetics, pay close attention to your motivations behind drinking, and follow my healthy tips for before, during, and after.

And make sure that whatever you choose to drink, that it’s totally worth it! Because life is too short for it not to be enjoyed and a good cab tastes extra delicious with a healthy meal. 

IMPORTANT: Make sure your consumption is enjoyable rather than a form of therapy, numbing, social anxiety, or peer pressure. Our relationship to alcohol, knowing our personal limits and how to maintain a healthy balance is extremely important.

Let’s Chat!

Do you have a question regarding social drinking and your fitness goals? Do you have any words of advice for others trying to navigate creating a healthy lifestyle? Ask or share below or start the conversation on social using #runningwithforks.

All About Omega's

Unless you're eating fatty fish 2-3 times a week, or bowls and bowls of kale, nuts, seeds and seaweed, you might want to consider supplementing your diet with this essential fat.

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Why? These fatty acids are extremely important in the day-to-day functioning of every tissue in our body and because we can't make enough on our own, and most likely don't eat bowls and bowls of the above, we must obtain them through our diets. Not to mention the modern diet creates an imbalance of Omega's in our body from over consumption of processed plant oils and processed foods...even more reason to supplement Omega-3 (too much omega-6 and not enough omega-3).

Deficiency and imbalance in these fatty acids can lead to a host of problems, symptoms and disorders ranging from organ and immune function, skin issues and mental health. No, thank you. But if you take care to ensure you’re getting adequate and balanced amounts in your daily diet, there are an incredible amount of benefits. Yes, please.

BENEFITS OF OMEGA-3 FATTY ACIDS:

  • Improves brain function and enhances memory

  • Promotes healthy skin

  • Reduces overall inflammation in the body

  • Fetal/Infant growth and brain development

  • Improves mental health and mood

  • Decreases the risk of depression

  • Helps with attention disorders

  • Moderately decreases blood pressure in those with hypertension

  • Reduced risk of cardiovascular disease, cancer and diabetes

  • Improves eye health

  • Increases metabolism and improves body composition

  • Aids in healthy sleep patterns

  • Involved in the repair and regeneration of cells

WHere to get 'em:

There are 3 compounds that make up omega-3 fatty acids:

EPA and DHA - Available in fish and algae and have been shown to be the most beneficial. Primarily derived from algae... fish then snack on the algae...and we snack on fish, or supplement with fish oil.

ALA - Found in plant-based foods like walnuts, flax, and chia seeds. ALA needs to be converted to EPA and DHA in the body. Not all that you consume is able to be converted, which is why it takes a lot of plant based intake to get your requirements. If you are purely plant-based, you most likely need additional supplementation.

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FOOD RECOMMENDATIONS:

  • Eat wild-caught, cold-water fish such as salmon, mackerel, sardines, and albacore tuna 2-3 times a week.

    • If, like most people, your diet doesn’t include that amount, then you’ll need to supplement.

    • Note: Not all fish are created equal! A farm-raised fish may contain less omega-3 fats, more omega-6 fats, and more contaminants. Research where your fish comes from, rotate the type, and choose WILD over FARMED

  • Include plant foods like flax seeds, hemp seeds, chia seeds, walnuts, green leafy vegetables, spirulina and seaweed

What to look for in a Supplement:

*Choose brand names that have proven reliability and you know they source well

*Make sure they are purified and have the USP verified mark (US Pharmacopoeia)

*Algae is the base of the food chain for fish and where they get all their EPA/DHA. Consider going directly to the source and choose a high-quality algae supplement

*If choosing fish oil, choose a high-quality oil that states it is highly-concentrated, molecularly distilled and purified with no heavy metal contamination

*Look for a company that doesn’t contribute directly to the depletion of fish and that uses smaller fish such as herring and mackerel that are less likely to carry toxins. 

*Avoid cod liver oil (cod are long-living fish that over time accumulate environmental toxins)

Supplement dosage recommendation:

ALGAE OIL – 200-300 mg/day if you have a balanced fat intake, 500-1000mg 2x/day for optimal benefits. Try this one

FISH OIL – 3-9g/day of total fish oil (1-3 g EPA + DHA) Try this krill oil

Let me know if you have any questions or need any more recommendations! 
 

Health Note: Check with your doctor first if you are on blood thinners such Warfarin, Coumadin, Heparin or if you regularly take baby aspirin.

10 LIFESTYLE CHANGES FOR LASTING HEALTH

Running With Forks 10 Lifestlye Changes for Lasting Health MindBodyGreen

Head on over to MindBodyGreen to read my latest post on healthy, lasting lifestyle changes for a better you!

The path to a healthy lifestyle, reaching your goals and making lasting changes has great rewards, but also plenty of obstacles that attempt to steer you off track. 

After years of working with a variety of clientele, as well as pushing myself, I've established a few tips and tricks I give all my clients to help them make a permanent shift to a healthier life. I hope these tools help guide you along the road to becoming your best self as well.

  1. Take a moment and determine what makes you happy...

  2. Set a schedule for your workouts, put them in your weekly calendar and stick to it...

  3. Make deeply restful shut-eye a priority...

  4. Think of food as high quality fuel...

  5. Add weights to lose weight...

  6. Cultivate a support system...

  7. Incorporate radical forgiveness into your life...

  8. Practice santosha...

  9. Ditch self-doubt, stay positive and trust in the universe...

  10. Don't take shortcuts...

ENJOY THE JOURNEY, HAVE FUN AND DO WHAT MAKES YOUR HEART SING!

WWW.MINDBODYGREEN.COM