How many times have you been here…you don’t get enough sleep the night before and the next day spirals into a crap-eating crapshoot just to get through your day?
You start out with whatever form of bread you can get your hands on and by 10 A.M. three bowls of Lucky Charms sounds like a good idea. It goes downhill from there but by the end of the day you feel MORE tired plus you’ve added feeling bloated and miserable on top of it!
Here’s what’s happening.
Your brain will WANT sugar and processed carbs when it’s tired in any form it can get…cereal, chocolate, granola bars, candy, soda, muffins, chips, Twinkies from the vending machine and french fries from the drive through.
Your body needs energy and your brain will look for the fastest way to get it in QUICK sugar that doesn’t have to break down and processed foods that turn into sugar soon after you swallow them!
The more processed a food is, the more “predigested” it is. Less work the body has to do to access the energy, so of course that’s what you’ll crave.
After you eat the sugar you’ll get an immediate surge of energy as your blood sugar spikes, but then what happens? Your body has to release a bunch of insulin to remove the excess sugar from your bloodstream because our bodies can only safely handle about one teaspoon of sugar in our bloodstream at a time! Did you know that? I was kind of floored when I learned it! The rest of the sugar must be removed and stored as fat.
The problem is as soon as insulin has done its job and tucked away all that extra sugar in our fat cells, your blood sugar then drops and you feel WORSE. Now you’re more tired! Your body will crave more sugar to stay awake and the cycle repeats.
This is what we call riding the sugar “spike and drop” roller coaster where you find yourself eating carbs all day long just to get through the day! We’ve all been there and know that feeling, even if we didn’t know what was causing it.
What To Do?
So what do you DO when you’re tired and craving sugar?? This is going to sound like a crazy answer, but the very best thing you can do is SLEEP.
When your body is tired it’s telling you it needs rest. If you’re able to take a nap…even a short one…it can give you the recharge your body needs. If you’re pushing yourself to stay awake at night to finish something by eating sugar, know you’ll be much better off, physically and mentally, going to bed and getting up early the next morning to finish!
Before you immediately dismiss this with the thought “I can’t” or “I don’t have time”, be willing to question that.
Is it really true you can’t? Or are you just telling yourself you can’t or shouldn’t? Is there a way to make it possible? How much time are you wasting slugging through your day at half speed, half focused? A short, power nap can give your body and brain a few more hours of energy and be just what you need.
Fuel Your Body
Though getting some sleep is ideal, we know that’s not always possible. So what do you do when you truly can’t take a nap? Instead of reaching for the temporary fix of sugar and carbs, FUEL your body instead!
If your car is sputtering and running on fumes what do you do? You fill it with fuel. The higher quality fuel, the better your engine will run. (My teenage son will disagree with that “marketing ploy”, but you get the point).
The same is true with your BODY.
Choose a healthy snack or meal and MAKE yourself eat it. This is not what your brain will want! Your brain will not want healthy food. Your brain will want pop tarts. Allow your adult brain to override your five year old brain and give your body what she NEEDS instead of what your toddler-brain is craving!
Choose something with protein, fiber and fat. A couple of eggs, an avocado, a handful of raw nuts and seeds, tuna or chicken plain, mixed with a little Mayo or even better, in a lettuce wrap!
A protein burger, protein salad or protein veggie stir fry are great options if eating out. Even GAS stations have healthy options nowadays! You just have to be willing to pass by the rows of sugar and seek out the hard boiled eggs, chicken salads and fresh fruit.
If you do decide to eat bread, eat high-quality bread such as Dave’s Killer Organic Seed Bread. A slice of this with a little natural peanut butter or almond butter tastes amazing and is a much healthier source of energy than a handful of Cheezits!
Eat whatever whole veggies you can get your hands on. Carrot sticks, celery or peppers with peanut butter, mini cucumbers that can be eaten right out of the bag or a mini relish tray from the deli. Whole veggies and fruit are packed with nutrition that science doesn’t even fully understand yet, but we know they are magic for our body and brain to function at their highest level!
Though fruit has natural sugar and some are higher than others, eating a piece of whole fruit for quick energy is an incredibly better option than grabbing a donut or Dr. Pepper! Peeling a fresh orange or eating a handful of grapes is much better than reaching for a box of crackers or M&Ms! The nutrients and fiber will slow down the absorption of sugar and give you a longer, steadier stream of energy than grabbing something out of a box or vending machine. Banana slices in coconut milk or an apple with peanut butter is my favorite pick-me-up when I’m tired!
Not only will whole food fuel your body, these foods fuel your MIND. Instead of making you tired and foggy an hour later, they help you think more clearly and focus throughout the day.
Your brain and body always need hydration but especially when you’re lacking sleep!
Beware the temptation for soda or juice! Your brain will think this is a great idea because it’s IMMEDIATE sugar. You can’t get a sugar fix any quicker than in liquid form. But nothing spikes your insulin and then DROPS it faster, which leads to feeling MORE drained.
Instead of drinking orange juice, eat the orange! The fiber will curb your appetite and help the sugar absorb more slowly into your system for a consistent drip of energy instead of all at once.
Be sure to balance your fruit sugar intake with some sort of protein to slow the absorption even more.
Drink a lot of water!
Keeping yourself hydrated will help your mind and body energy rise. Caffeine dehydrates you and creates the same dependency cycle that sugar addiction does, so go for the water your body and brain really NEED! You can flavor it with orange, lemon or lime slices to make it even better.
If you feel like you really need an energizing drink without resorting to a Monster, try a flavored protein powder mixed in almond, coconut or oat milk. My favorite brand is Clean & Simple Eats which comes in amazing flavors and they also offer a vegan option! Or try this quick PB Banana Green Smoothie at home:
PEANUT BUTTER BANANA GREEN SMOOTHIE
1/2 frozen banana (or fresh but frozen makes it thicker)
Handful ice cubes
1 1/2 c. Almond, coconut or oat milk (my favorite is unsweetened almond/coconut blend!)
Big handful of spinach (fresh or frozen)
1 scoop of PB FIT powder or natural peanut butter or almond butter
Add a little monk fruit sweetener for more sweetness if desired
Blend well and enjoy!
You can also add a little cocoa to curb a chocolate craving or add in a scoop of chocolate protein powder. Delish!
If you aren’t able to make your own smoothie, a premade low carb shake like Premier Protein is a good option. While I always recommend whole foods over blended (predigested) and homemade smoothies over processed ones, let’s face it. Going for a pre-made protein shake is a much better option than grabbing a Big Gulp!
Make Peace With Being Tired
Lastly, you CAN choose to accept you’re going to be tired today and just decide it’s not going to ruin it.
You can do tired.
We usually pile a lot of emotional fatigue on TOP of the physical fatigue by lamenting (even to ourselves) all day long about how tired we are, how miserable we feel and how unfair it is.
You may not have a lot of control over what’s happening physically, but you can decide to control your thoughts. Choose to focus on what you can do and give yourself some love for doing the best you can!
And remember, if you’re constantly feeling tired because you’re not getting enough sleep, figure out a way to get more of it! Sleep is so important for optimal health. There may be reasons you can’t control, like having a baby that wakes up often, but you can figure out how to schedule a nap when they nap, put everyone to bed earlier or take turns getting up with your partner.
Turning off your screens and bright light stimulation at least 30 minutes before bed signals your brain to start releasing melatonin, the natural sleep hormone, and creating a bedtime routine you consistently follow also trains your brain to start shutting down and helps you sleep more deeply.
If you still aren’t sure why you aren’t sleeping well, talk to your doctor to explore what’s going on.
In the meantime, give these tricks a try the next time you’re tired and craving carbs…your body and mind will thank you!