All Posts tagged caffeine

Decoding and Managing Cravings

A juicy burger. Salty fries. A cold, sugary soda.

Have we sparked a craving? Food cravings are unfortunate road blocks in many people’s diet plans. While some cravings are circumstantial and easier to resist (like salivating at the smell of a bakery) others can be persistent, frequent and much more physical by nature (like craving a cup of coffee in the morning). For those who eat a balanced, nutrient-dense diet, cravings should be minimal and controllable, but of course this isn’t always the case. Here are a few common cravings, what they mean for your body, and how you can deal with them.

pretzels1. Salt:
Your body requires a very small amount of salt each day. As an electrolyte that helps your body maintain regular, consistent fluid levels, salt is an important ingredient in your biological balance and health. Often we crave salty snacks, or foods that have an exorbitant sodium content that we may not even be aware of (check your canned soups as an example!)

Why do we crave it? Cravings for salt are often the result of your body’s conditioning. A high-sodium diet makes your body accustomed to lots of salt. When you try to cut back, your body reminds you. Excessive perspiration and dehydration can also trigger salt cravings, since our bodies lose sodium and other minerals when we sweat. It is also possible that salt cravings can be an indicator of more severe consitions associated with our endocrine / hormonal system so make sure to speak with a Health Care Professional if symptoms are unexplained or persistant.

How to manage the craving: Drink an electrolyte beverage after heavy exercise. Learning about proper endurance exercise hydration and electrolyte protocols are helpful for routine exercise. If your salt craving isn’t related to sweat, try  something crunchy and flavourful like seasoned rice crackers, a small handful of nuts, an algae product or dill pickle.  Follow up your snack with a big glass of water.

2. Sugar:
Sugar is another ingredient that hides in many foods and habits. Minimizing your sugar intake isn’t just about avoiding sweets like pastries and candy. It means being mindful of the sugar content in everything that you eat-from granola to peanut butter to juice.

Why do we crave it? When we consume a lot of sugar it causes a spike in blood glucose levels. You’ve likely experienced this- you eat something sweet and immediately feel good. Your energy rises and peaks and you may even feel happier. But shortly afterwards, your blood sugar dips again. This is the unfortunate reality of refined sugar; it sends your body on a roller coaster. When your blood sugar drops, your brain starts thinking it needs more refined sugar. Your craving returns. The cycle continues.

sugar cubesHow to manage the craving: Read your labels! Avoid products that have sugar added. Choose natural sweeteners like stevia or a touch of honey. You may also try satisfying cravings for sweetness with flavours. Add a pinch of cinnamon to your coffee instead of a sweetening agent. Use vanilla or nutmeg in oatmeal instead of brown sugar. And if you need a sweet fix, choose a tasty fruit like strawberries or watermelon. Remember to always balance out sweet fixes, even healthy ones, with some protein or healthy fat. This helps keep your blood sugar more stable and avoid the rollercoaster effect.


3. Caffeine:
For you coffee-addicts, you may find that your caffeine intake requires much more willpower to control than those cravings for sugar and salt. In truth, a single caffeinated drink triggers a significant reaction in your body, producing for many people a “rollercoaster effect” similar to that of sugar.

Why do we crave it? Caffeine triggers neural activity that stimulates the release of hormones. These stimulate your adrenal glands to produce that burst of energy you might experience after a dose of caffeine. When the “high” ends however, you may experience lethargy, restlessness, and an inability to concentrate. It’s a combination of taste and effect that brings most of us back to caffeinated beverages on a regular basis. With enough consumption however, your body will reach a state of adrenal exhaustion. It will require more caffeine to reproduce that desired high.

coffee mugHow to manage the craving: Ensure that you are getting enough sleep so that you aren’t depending on caffeine as a major source of energy. Try alternatives like herbal tea and natural coffee alternatives such as chicory. Any caffeinated beverage should be taken in moderation, to avoid putting your body through the unnecessary stress responses that caffeine can produce. Speaking to a Naturopath is a good way to identify if your adrenal glands need support and the best way to use herbs and lifestyle modification to help get your energy levels back up…sans caffeine!

 

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5 Reasons You Feel Lousy at Work

 

You’ve been there. You walk out of the office feeling as if you might not live to see another day. In spite of feeling fresh and energized when you started your day, you might notice that by the late afternoon you are exhausted, sluggish, sore or nauseous. You don’t skip meals, you try to get a good night’s sleep and you don’t smoke or drink excessively. So what gives?

Some of the most common cause-and-effect health factors could be to blame. You might not see the harm you’re doing to your wellbeing and energy levels with every day habits. See if any of these behaviours could be taking a toll on your health or mood during the weekdays.

#1. Caffeine crashes: If you’re overindulging in coffee as a way to stay awake and alert, you might wind up feeling tired and lethargic. When you consume caffeine, it stimulates your adrenal glands. Adrenalin produces the boost in energy that you experience after enjoying your coffee-likely first thing in the morning. The caffeine also causes a slight increase in dopamine levels. When these effects wear off however- usually right in the middle of your work day- you might notice a marked drop in your energy and mood.

#2. Low blood sugar: When you’re working a full day, even if you’re seated for most of it, you need to properly fuel your body.  Drops in your blood sugar could be making you feel tired, irritable, light-headed and unfocused. Try to remain very conscious of the nutritional quality of what you eat, and ensure that you get enough protein. You probably know by now that if you reach for something sugary as a pick-me-up, you won’t feel full for a sustained period of time. But beware- sugary doesn’t just mean candy. Take a hard look at your snacks- granola bars, juice cocktails, crackers and cereals can be very high in sugar. These simple carbohydrates won’t keep you full for long or provide you with any real nutritional value. Instead, opt for a high-impact snack that is low in sugar and contains protein and healthy fats. You might also try breaking up your munchies into several small meals throughout the day. This way you avoid the extremes of feeling drowsy or uncomfortably full after a large lunch, or experiencing a dip in your blood sugar mid-afternoon.

#3. Misunderstanding your sleep needs: Not everyone’s optimal night’s sleep is 8 hours. Many people require more, and others need less. Quality counts too. If you go to bed at 11 but keep the television on and drift in and out of consciousness for an hour, you aren’t benefiting in the same way as you would if you’d slept soundly for that same time period. Unplugging fully and getting the requisite number of z’s can be difficult, but when you make it a priority, you’ll notice the difference in your day.

#4. Poor ergonomics: Feeling stiff? Achy?  Tight? Make sure that your office furniture is properly adjusted for optimal ergonomics! By following a basic office ergonomics guide, you can help reduce strain to your upper and lower back, neck, hips and wrists. You may not notice discomfort right away with a poorly arranged set-up. Over time however, muscle strain from distortions in your body’s positioning combined with the effects of poor posture will take its toll. Spare yourself long-term damage to your alignment and avoid sore muscles by taking the time to adjust your desk and computer.

#5. Eye strain + immobility: Too much of a good thing just isn’t good. No matter how focused you are on your projects, or how attentive you remain to your inbox, it’s always a wise idea to give your eyes a rest and your legs a stretch. Make sure your screen is about an arm’s length from your face, and adjust your screen brightness settings so that you aren’t squinting. Ensure your work environment is properly lit, and try to look up and away from the screen about every 20 minutes, even if it’s just for 15 seconds. Every hour you should aim to stand and stretch your legs. Take a walk to the washroom or water fountain to improve circulation, or stand and stretch for 30 seconds to loosen your muscles.

These practices have the potential to grow into habit. Implementing these manageable changes to your daily practices on the job can drastically improve the way you feel at the end of the day. When you leave work still feeling healthy and energized, you’re far more likely to have a productive evening. With the momentum to make a home-cooked meal, hit the gym, or tackle a household project, you’ll keep your energy flow up, your metabolism humming, and your body happy right until bedtime.

So think about your habits and empower yourself with small changes. We guarantee you’ll feel better for it!

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