Posted by on Mar 19, 2015

Chuck Gross has lost and kept off more than 200lbs. He’s passionate about helping others enjoy the journey of effective fat loss. Want to train with Chuck? Check out his latest Fitocracy Team, Extreme Fat Loss.

Cravings. We all have them. For women, cravings can be a regular, monthly occurrence. Dealing with those cravings can be a huge drain on willpower. Many people have turned to traditional advice on how to deal with cravings, and as a result, have considered that time of the month to be something that ruins diets. Fortunately, there is some new information that can help. If you are a guy, please keep reading, as this may help you too!

Traditional solutions for cravings lead to failure

As I mentioned, traditional advice as to how to deal with cravings, has been rather unhelpful. The specific advice that I have heard was to eat complex carbohydrates, to eat more fruit, or to eat more protein as a means to feel full and ignore the craving. The problem is that this advice is harder to stick to when you are craving something else, especially since that advice does not actually address the underlying issue at all. With the true cause being unaddressed, it is easy to fall into the trap of giving in to those cravings and hoping that eating to your cravings will cause them to stop. Unfortunately, it doesn’t seem to work that way.

So why do I have cravings, then? Men too?

The reason why I said this may benefit guys too, is that the reason for cravings is related to hormone levels. Since that time of the month greatly affects hormones, the cravings themselves are related to those hormonal changes. So any cravings may be due to changes to hormone levels. Guys aren’t immune to hormonal changes, especially as hormones do change in direct response to changes in energy level. Thankfully, there was a recent study done at MIT that specifically looks at what causes cravings. They found that cravings are directly related to a drop in the hormone serotonin, which is a hormone that regulates mood and appetite. So if you are having a craving, it’s likely due to a drop or decrease in serotonin.

There is good news and bad news

Increasing serotonin is technically easy, but there is good news and bad news.

The good news is that you simply just need to have a snack that has 30-40g of a starchy or sweet carbohydrates. The bad news is that anything with more than 2g of protein prevents serotonin from being made. You’d also want to avoid any fat intake so that you don’t overshoot your macros, especially since the fat isn’t required to increase serotonin. The snacks should be regarded solely as a remedy for the cravings, not as a source of nutrition. You should still track the snack, but be sure to try to change your viewpoint to positively reflect that the snack IS the remedy for a symptom caused by hormonal changes. You should not feel guilty about this at all!

So… which foods do I eat, then?

So the challenge is picking food choices that are starchy carbs without protein or fat. There are a few things that have shown not to increase serotonin, and those are alcohol, fruit, and any food made with high fructose corn syrup. Since figuring out the best craving fighters can be challenging, it’s probably best if you plan in advance, prior to having the cravings; that way you can have your very own “in case of craving, break glass” container on hand. You don’t want to go grocery shopping WHILE you have the cravings, but you also don’t want easy access to snacks when you aren’t having real cravings.

photo by Nathan Cooke

 

Some example snack choices include popcorn, fat-free fudge sauce (for chocolate cravers), sugary kids cereal without milk, an English muffin with jam, oatmeal with brown sugar, graham crackers, low-fat granola bars, very low-fat ice cream or frozen yogurt, low-fat rice or soy crackers, pretzels, and low-fat biscotti. Remember, that means no butter on the popcorn, and you will need to label check to avoid high fructose corn syrup. However, you can combine the popcorn with the the fat-free fudge sauce as shown above!

If you have cravings, give this a try, and let me know how it works!

What do you usually crave? For me, it’s sugary kids cereal! My favorite is Cap’n Crunch (peanut butter of course)! Leave a comment on my blog and let me know (or on Facebook or Twitter too!)

The featured image, “Emergency Chocolate” is courtesy of Sharyn Morrow and used under a Creative Commons License.
Popcorn image is courtesy of Nathan Cooke and used under a Creative Commons License.

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