Why We Crave Carbs
Do you ever find that you’re feeling really hungry and craving sugary food? If there’s anything sweet in sight, you just can’t control yourself. That piece of cake just looks so good. It’s because of feelings like these that some people think that carbohydrates aren’t good for them. They think that the key to losing weight is to avoid carbs. But actually, Americans have gotten fatter since low carb diets came on the scene. Today, over 60% of Americans are overweight or obese.
If you find yourself craving carbs it doesn’t mean that carbs are bad for you. Cravings are our body’s way of telling us that it’s missing something. In Americans, the cravings are often associated with one of two things: the American custom of eating three meals a day, or low calorie diets.
If you eat three large meals a day, you’re probably eating more at each meal than your body can handle. Even if you’re eating nutritious foods like fresh fruit and vegetables, cereals or lean meat, if you give your body more calories than it can use at the time they will be stored as fat.
When you eat, your body releases insulin to process the sugars in your bloodstream. Any sugar that isn’t required at the time is stored in your fat cells. Once the insulin is released, it keeps on doing its job until all the sugar has been processed. At this stage, the levels of both sugar and insulin in your blood will be very low. If this happens, you can be left feeling tired and irritable. This is why, if you have a large lunch and then don’t have another meal until that night, you start feeling hungry around mid-afternoon.
This mid-afternoon hunger and tiredness is your body telling you that it needs more fuel to keep it functioning. Remember, there’s no sugar in your bloodstream at this stage because the insulin has already processed it all and sent it to your fat cells. So you start to crave foods with lots of sugar because this is what your body desperately needs. If you give in to your cravings, your body then releases lots of insulin again to process the sugars and the cycle of highs and lows of blood sugar continues.
Maybe you managed not to give in to your cravings and didn’t have anything to eat between lunch and dinner. Your body still needed energy so where did it come from? If there’s no other source, your body will convert muscle tissue to sugar to use as energy. The end result of this is that your metabolism will become slower. Your body will become accustomed to burning fewer calories and you will build up more fat. This is what happens if you are on a low calorie diet.
So back to the two reasons you crave carbs that were mentioned earlier. If you’re eating just three meals a day you are constantly putting your body through a series of sugar and insulin peaks and troughs and not providing it with a constant supply of fuel to convert to energy. And if you’re on a low calorie diet, you’re forcing it to find fuel from your muscles and slowing your metabolism.
So what’s the solution? If you eat more regularly and have five small, nutritious meals throughout the day, you will keep up the fuel supply to your body. You won’t go through periods of hypoglycaemia (which is when you have used all the sugar in your bloodstream) and you won’t need to draw on your muscles to provide the sugar you need. Once you get into the habit of eating this way, you’ll find that your cravings for carbs are a thing of the past.