Sugar withdrawal is common for those following the keto diet, especially during the early stages.
The typical American diet consists of lots of sugar, with American adults consuming an average of 77 grams of sugar every day when the American Heart Association recommend 24 grams is the upper limit! (and that is too much in my view). Unfortunately, too much sugar could put your health at risk.
Related reading: No Added Sugar Diet for Immense Health Benefits
When you decide to live a healthy lifestyle by following low carb diets like keto, you must eliminate sugar from your diet. Giving up sugar often results in sugar withdrawal, which comes with unwanted symptoms like fatigue, irritability, depressed mood, etc.
What is Sugar Withdrawal?
Sugar withdrawal happens when you suddenly cut down on sugar. It’s your body’s reaction to the absence of sugar after being used to it for a long time.
Eating sugar can trigger the release of various chemicals, including endorphins, a mood-boosting hormone linked to pleasure and satisfaction. Sugar stimulates the brain’s reward system, which makes us feel good.
As a result, we tend to eat more sugar to satisfy our cravings. But when you suddenly deprive yourself of sugar, you start to develop sugar withdrawal symptoms. Sugar affects our bodies in the same way as drug addiction, provoking a cycle of cravings and relief.
Related reading: 5 Healthy Snacks That Kill Sugar Cravings
As a low carb diet, the keto diet requires you to eliminate carbs. Carbohydrates come in many forms, including sugars, which are present in many foods.
During the early stage of the keto diet, many people report harsh side effects known as the “keto flu,” which many believe are due to sugar withdrawal. Carb manager, however, states that there is no published data linking sugar withdrawl to keto flu.
Related reading: What is Keto Flu & How To Prevent It?
Sugar Withdrawal Symptoms
If you’ve just decided to follow the keto diet and are trying to cut back on sugar, it would help to know what symptoms you could experience. The severity of these sugar withdrawl symptoms will vary from person to person. Some will only last a few days, while others can last longer, (see tips below).
Here are some of the most common sugar withdrawal symptoms:
- Intense cravings for sweets
- Depressed mood
- Dizziness or lightheadedness
- Changes in sleep patterns
- Difficulty concentrating
These sugar withdrawal symptoms are unpleasant. Worse, the intense cravings are sometimes hard to resist, which could result in binge-eating behaviors for some people.
For ways of beating the side effects check out my article 15 Sugar Detox Effects and How to Beat Them on my Detox Blog.
If you give in to your sweet cravings, you could sometimes consume more sugar than before and could wreak havoc on your keto diet.
Binge-eating can result in a vicious cycle of sugar dependence and withdrawal. Sometimes, after giving in to the binge, some people could feel guilty and end up hating themselves, which may also lead to depression.
To feel good again, they will turn to sugar for the endorphins. And while endorphins will make you happy and satisfied while eating, they will not stick around for long.
Tips to Survive Sugar Withdrawal
The good news is sugar withdrawal is usually temporary and won’t last very long. Once your body gets used to not having enough sugar, you will start to feel better, allowing you to focus more on your keto diet.
There are many things you can do to ease the sugar withdrawal symptoms and avoid giving in to intense sugar cravings. Here are some tips to survive sugar withdrawal:
Most people have been turning to sweets as a form of reward. If we accomplish something, we reward ourselves by eating our favorite dessert. After a stressful day at work, some would indulge in their favorite pastries as a form of reward.
Related reading: Keto Holiday Desserts – Easy and Delicious
Some parents will even use sweet treats to reward kids for behaving well or achieving good grades. There’s nothing wrong with rewarding ourselves. However, you can turn to other pleasurable things as a reward instead of sweets.
Food is not the only reward you can give yourself. For instance, you can go shopping instead of turning to chocolates when you accomplish something. Or perhaps, you can treat yourself to a relaxing massage or movie night.
Sitting on a couch the whole day will make you crave more of your favorite treats. In fact, if you’re bored, that’s when your intense cravings start kicking in.
Keep yourself busy by getting active. You don’t need to perform rigorous exercises. A brisk walk or a few minutes on the treadmill should do just fine. Look for something to keep yourself busy. When you’re busy doing something, you can save yourself from unhealthy cravings.
Related reading: 3 Best Exercises for losing Weight on a Low Carb Diet
Opt for Healthy Sweet Treats
If you cannot fight off intense sugar cravings, look for healthy sweet foods to indulge in. You can have low-carb sweet fruits, such as watermelon and berries.
Nowadays, you’ll find many low-carb recipes online, from cakes to all kinds of desserts. So, refer to these recipes and see if you can find something to satisfy your cravings while still sticking to your low carb diet.
Keep Yourself Hydrated
One of the best ways to fight off sugar withdrawal symptoms on the keto diet is to stay well hydrated. We all know that clean water is good for our health. Aside from helping to flush out harmful toxins from the body, it can also help to beat unhealthy cravings. In fact, some of your sweet cravings may be water cravings in disguise.
Related reading: Boost Your Fat Loss Efforts By Drinking Water
Like starting any new diet, you need to stay motivated so as not to give in to sugar withdrawal while on keto. Whenever you feel like grabbing your favorite chocolate bar, remind yourself of why you are doing this in the first place. Is it for your health? Or perhaps, you want to look good by achieving your ideal weight?
Think of all the benefits that come with cutting back on sugar. Aside from helping you to stay healthy and fit, you will feel more energized and live longer. Besides, sugar withdrawal is only temporary. Once you get past this stage, you’ll start seeing the benefits of the keto diet.
Reducing your sugar intake by following the keto diet has many benefits. However, the journey does not come easy. Old habits are always hard to break.
So, if you are used to eating quite a lot of sugar it’s likely that you will suffer from some degree of sugar withdrawal symptoms once you eliminate sugar from your diet. Eliminating slowly and gradually can help.
Remember, these symptoms are only temporary and part of the journey. This journey will take you to a healthier tomorrow, so stay motivated.