by Charles Poliquin
If a genie happened to magically appear, many people would spend their one wish on eliminating carbohydrate cravings.
No need to waste your wish on kicking delicious carbs to the curb! This article will give you thirteen incredibly practical ways to control the most intense carb cravings with ease.
What can you expect to get out of eliminating desires for those luscious but devious carbs?
• Leanness and easy weight management
• Better brain function and motivation
• Improved health and less inflammation in your body
• Less stress and anxiety
• A sane and simple approach to food
These solutions fit into two categories:
1. Quick fixes that won’t completely eliminate your intense desire to chow down, but will shore up your defenses.
2. Complex lifestyle solutions that address hormonal and metabolic imbalances for a near complete elimination of carb-love for life.
This article will start with the quick fixes. The complex solutions are important because they lay groundwork for you to understand how carb cravings work in the body. Naturally, the two approaches are interrelated and you can always go for the complete lifestyle overhaul down the road.
#1: Take Glutamine To Stop Carb Cravings Cold
Glutamine is a superior nutrient for getting rid of carb cravings because it can treat the desire for carbs that is associated with low mood or addiction for sweets.
Taking glutamine will help you eliminate obsessive thoughts about food because it is used as an energy source in the brain. Glutamine is so effective for calming compulsive feelings and keeping people steady that it is a primary treatment for alcohol and drug addiction.
Take 1 to 2 grams of glutamine in water before meals to reduce overall carb intake. Or, mix 2 to 10 grams of glutamine with coconut oil or heavy cream to eliminate temptation.
#2: Take Acetyl-L-Carnitine To Improve Fat Burning
Low carnitine levels can keep you from burning body fat. Carnitine is an amino acid that is responsible for the transport of fats into the cells to be used for energy in the body. Without adequate carnitine, your body will be slow to burn fat and energy levels will drop.
Beef has the highest content of carnitine—4-ounces of ground beef supplies about 90 mg. A cup of whole milk supplies 8 mg of carnitine, whereas chicken and fish provide even less. Research shows that to experience a measurable increase in carnitine stores, you need 500 to 2,000 mg/day, indicating a supplement is warranted.
#3: Take Magnesium for Insulin Sensitivity
Magnesium is the nutrient of insulin sensitivity, and poor insulin health triggers intense and repeated carb cravings. Plus, in surveys, a higher dietary magnesium intake is repeatedly associated with lower risk of developing diabetes and lower body fat.
Sports scientists suggest athletes take up to 500 mg because magnesium is depleted during intense muscle contractions. High-quality magnesium is bound to glycinate, ororate, fumarate, taurate, or succinate, whereas cheap magnesium that should be avoided is bound to oxide, citrate, or carbonate.
Using topical magnesium on the legs before bed can aid sleep as well and has the added bonus of reducing muscle soreness.
#4: Ensure Adequate B Vitamins, Particularly Biotin & Riboflavin
According to acupuncturist Chris Kresser, biotin (B7) helps the body convert carbs into glucose and metabolize fat and protein. Biotin is easily depleted by medications, antibiotics, stress, and poor gut health (a healthy gut actually produces biotin, but inflammatory gut bacteria don’t).
Riboflavin (B2) is used to make enzymes that are necessary for fat metabolism in the mitochondria (the part of the cell that produces energy). Lack of it can lead to sluggish fat burning.
Biotin is found in cooked eggs, (raw egg whites contain a protein called Avidin that interferes with the body’s absorption of biotin) sardines, nuts (almonds, peanuts, pecans, walnuts), most beans, cauliflower, bananas, and mushrooms.
Food sources of riboflavin include asparagus, bananas, okra, chard, dairy, meat, eggs, fish , green beans, tomatoes, mushrooms, and almonds. Both can be gotten in a B vitamin complex.
#5: Optimize Chromium Levels
Low chromium leads to carb cravings due to blood sugar problems. It also causes triglycerides in the blood, elevated cholesterol, increased risk of heart disease, and metabolic syndrome.
Americans are surprisingly deficient. The University of Maryland Medical Center estimates that 90 percent of American diets have low chromium. The elderly, people who do a lot of strenuous exercise, those who eat high-carb foods, and pregnant women are most at risk.
Food sources of chromium include meat, cheese, and some spices, such as black pepper and thyme. Most studies have found benefits from doses of 200 mcg chromium, 1 to 3 times a day.
#6: Increase Flavors With Spices & Sauces
Eliminating the hyperpalatable sugar and processed fat foods may take some time if they’ve had a regular presence in your life.
Have faith that it can be done, but you must identify delicious substitutes and prepare them in advance. Don’t be caught at work, at a party, or out with friends without a delicious, lower carb option.
Use these flavors to increase the palatability of foods: vanilla, cinnamon, mint, anise, cardamom, coriander, cumin, turmeric, nutmeg, cloves, garlic, onion, citrus, vinegars, pomegranate, berries, cherries, and cocoa.
In addition, an article on the web site Mark’s Daily Apple provides the following substitutions for carb cravings:
• If you crave salty foods such as chips or pizza, you may need tryptophan or chloride. Eat cheese, fish, sweet potatoes, spinach, and sea salt.
• If you crave chocolate, you may need magnesium or zinc. Opt for 70 percent or higher dark chocolate.
• If you crave sugar or bread, you may be dehydrated. Hydrate, add citrus to your water, and opt for fruit.
• If you crave processed fatty foods, eat a meal with protein and good fats, such as eggs cooked in coconut oil, meat and nuts, a slice of bacon with an egg and avocado, or meat/ fish slices and a piece of cheese.
• If you crave sugary candy, you may need sulfur. Try cruciferous veggies such as broccoli or Brussels sprouts with garlic and onion.
#7: Get Adequate Sleep
Lack of sleep increases desire for highly delicious carbs, boosting overall calorie intake. It also reduces your will power and breaks down any defenses you have in place to prevent carb cravings.
Studies show people feel hungrier, make poorer food choices, and eat more (as much as 300 calories a day) when they are tired. Plus, insulin sensitivity and glucose tolerance plunge when sleep deprived, and the body shifts (or stays) in fat storage mode.
#8: Don’t Exhaust Your Willpower But Do Face Up To What You Eat
Keep a true food journal that only you see, but make sure you see it. Own up to what you put in your mouth. If you’ve never done a completely honest food journal, you’ll probably be surprised at your numbers, but especially your carb intake.
Don’t feel ashamed or guilty! This is raw data you need to overcome your biological drive for delicious carby foods. Once you’ve got the data, identify low-glycemic carbs that are acceptable substitutes for higher carb foods. Figure out which foods help with your craving and which simply increase it.
#9: Get Metabolically Flexible
Metabolic flexibility refers to your body’s ability to burn both fat and carbohydrates for energy. It’s the ideal state, allowing you to maintain consistent energy, while enhancing exercise capacity. It also makes it easier to lose body fat.
When you’re metabolically inflexible, your body is overwhelmingly adapted to burn carbohydrates and unable to mobilize and use body fat. Eating a higher carb, lower fat diet creates this inflexibility, and it is worsened if you’re overweight.
Anytime blood sugar drops due to not eating for a few hours, you desire carbs to raise blood sugar and energy. If you live on high-sugar carbs, you’ll crave high-sugar carbs because sugar has an addictive quality, activating a sensation of pleasure in the brain.
• Avoid high-sugar carbs
• De-emphasize carb intake
• Get metabolically flexible
For normal-weight people, the ability to burn body fat can be increased simply by eating a higher fat, lower carb diet. But overweight people’s bodies don’t adapt so easily and obese people are actually metabolically inflexible and incapable of burning body fat.
This can be changed—it’s not a permanent state—but changing diet doesn’t appear to adapt the body to do it.
One way for overweight people to increase fat burning is to do strenuous exercise. Both intense sprint training and long endurance exercise act as a catalyst for the overweight to become more metabolically flexible. Strength training may also be effective.
#10: Eliminate Processed Foods In Favor Of Whole Low-Glycemic Foods
Processed carbs are your biggest enemy when it comes to carb cravings because they are scientifically engineered by food manufacturers to be extremely tasty. Research shows that eating these carbs actually changes your brain structure, generating neuronal adaptations to make you crave them constantly.
Processed carbs are similar to drugs for the brain. If you have intermittent access to them because you’re trying to not eat them, you’ll experience withdrawal symptoms. No bueno.
The solution is to get rid of processed foods in favor of whole, low-glycemic foods that are high in protein good fats. At first it will be hard, but over time, you will retrain your taste buds, brain, and behavior to enjoy whole foods just as much as you once loved carbs.
#11: Improve Your Insulin Sensitivity to Reduce Hunger for Carbs
Insulin is not technically known as a hunger-reducing hormone, but when you are insulin sensitive, that’s what it does.
If you’re insulin resistant, as overweight people often are, insulin doesn’t blunt appetite, and you still feel hungry. Studies show that not only does an individual’s degree of insulin sensitivity predict hunger in the hours after eating, it also predicts the ability to lose body fat.
The easiest way to improve insulin health is to exercise—strength training, aerobic exercise, and sprints all work.
Eating a low-carb diet is well known for treating insulin resistance but being too low for too long (on a ketogenic diet, for example) can cause insulin resistance. Prevent this by including higher carb meals ever 5 to 7 days.
#12: Fix Your Gut
A poorly functioning gut increases carb cravings for the following reasons:
• It leads to elevated inflammation, which makes you resistant to insulin’s satisfaction message.
• It leads to nutrient deficiencies because food is not being properly digested. Deficiencies of the B vitamins, chromium, magnesium, and carnitine are principally related to carb cravings.
• It can alter neurotransmitter function and increase depressive symptoms that are linked with a hunger for carbs. Studies show that low mood leads people to eat high-sugar foods to elevate mood.
Fix your gut by eliminating any foods you may be intolerant to (dairy, gluten are common).
Then, optimize your gut flora by taking a high-powered probiotic and eating lots of prebiotic foods (foods that the bacteria in the gut live off of) such as onions, leeks, Jerusalem artichokes, asparagus, banana, and chicory root.
#13: Deal With Your Stress
Stress causes a profound increase in carb cravings. First, serotonin, which is a brain chemical that makes you feel good, is synthesized out of the amino acid tryptophan, which is supplied in carbohydrate foods.
Serotonin gets depleted when you feel stress, leading to a strong desire for carbs to replenish it.
Second, elevated cortisol blunts the desire for non-carb foods that are less palatable, but increases cravings for highly palatable carbs. So you’re never going to want steak and Brussels sprouts, but you’ll be overwhelmed with a desire for a bagel, cake, or other high-carb delight.
Manage stress by doing meditation or some other form of mindfulness practice. It has been found to significantly decrease cortisol and optimize the stress response for calm resourcefulness.
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