Your morning routine of popping into the local donut shop for two breakfast crullers is a habit that might not be serving you. Those delicious pastries sprinkled with sugar and filled with doughy goodness could be leaving you feeling tired by mid-morning.
If you find yourself reaching for another cup of coffee sooner rather than later, it might be due to your sugar intake. Sugar affects the body in some interesting ways. We’ll look at those and determine whether or not your daily donuts could be leaving you tired, lethargic, and unmotivated.
We’ll also give you some tips on combating a sugar crash, so you can enjoy sustainable energy all day.
What Happens in Your Body When You Eat Sugar?
When we eat food, it’s broken down in the bloodstream into usable packets of energy that are then sent to the cells needing it. Any excess food we consume is stored in the liver, muscle tissue, and adipose (or fat) tissue.
Some foods take longer to break down in the body, but some foods, like sugar and simple carbohydrates, are broken down rapidly. When this happens, there is a chain reaction of events that take place that affect blood sugar levels, energy levels, and even your appetite.
Effects on Blood Sugar
As soon as you consume sugar, the pancreas is triggered to release a hormone called insulin. Insulin goes to work to remove glucose (sugar) from the bloodstream, and carries glucose to the cells that need it. When you eat something high in sugar, it releases a flood of glucose in the bloodstream by stimulating insulin levels, which in turn causes a blood sugar spike.
The spike in your blood sugar levels is what produces a sugar high or sugar rush. Unfortunately, that rise is immediately followed by a crash of low blood sugar, which can leave you feeling lightheaded, irritable, and tired. You might notice this most when you are eating sugar in larger quantities than you usually do, like around the holidays.
Effects on Energy
Carbs are your body’s first resource for energy, followed by fat and protein. That doesn’t mean you should start eating sugary foods to increase your energy levels. In fact, it means just the opposite.
Refined carbohydrates and simple carbs like sugar prevent the production of orexin in the brain. Orexin is a chemical produced by the brain that helps you feel awake and alert. When you consume high amounts of sugar, the orexin system is suppressed, which can lead to feeling foggy-headed and lethargic.
Effects on Sleep
If you don’t get enough sleep, you’ll always feel tired. Quality sleep is essential for maintaining wellness and promoting energy levels. Most people need between 7-9 hours of sleep per night. One of the most disturbing effects of sugar is its impact on sleep.
Sugar may not keep you awake, but eating it too close to bedtime could have negative effects on your sleep quality. Studies show that sleep quality decreases with the amount of sugar a person consumes during the day.
No matter how hard you try, you can’t overcome a lack of sleep with anything other than (you guessed it) sleep. If you’re noshing on ice cream nightly and waking up tired the next day, sugar could be the culprit.
Effects on Appetite
Maintaining a healthy weight relies heavily on our ability to manage our appetites, and keep ourselves satiated between meals. Certain foods keep you fuller longer, like complex carbohydrates, lean proteins, and healthy fats. Fiber also helps curb cravings between meals.
When we are hungry, hormones produced in the gut and the brain tell us to eat food. Once we’ve eaten, these hormones are suppressed, and we feel full. However, research shows us that when we eat foods that are high in sugar and unhealthy fats, another set of hormones is affected, including the feel-good hormone dopamine.
Because sugar triggers the reward system in our brains, we begin to crave more of it, which can lead to excess weight. With excess weight, we become desensitized to the hormones in the gut and brain that control our appetite and tell us when we’re full, leading to eating more food.
Why Does Sugar Make Me Tired?
The main reason why sugar may make us feel tired is due to the large amounts we consume and the impact it has on our blood glucose levels.
Over time, eating too much sugar results in insulin resistance and high blood sugar levels. This means when you eat sugar, your pancreas can’t make enough insulin to move the glucose out of your blood and deliver it to your cells to be used as energy. At the same time, the insulin and glucose that do reach your cells aren’t properly used because the cells have become resistant to the insulin.
When we develop insulin resistance, a common side effect is drowsiness, which makes sense because our cells aren’t getting the energy they need to thrive. This is a condition known as hypoglycemia. If left untreated, it can lead to type 2 diabetes, which is not reversible. If you have questions or concerns about sugar intake, consult a dietitian or healthcare provider for nutritional advice.
What Causes a Sugar Crash?
A sugar crash happens when your bloodstream is flooded with glucose. Your pancreas sends out insulin to reduce the amount of glucose in the bloodstream, and the problem can sometimes be overcorrected.
This usually happens after you eat an amount of sugar your body isn’t used to. Blood sugar crashes are less common with people who regularly consume sugar and already feel the side effects of consistent overconsumption of sugar.
How Can You Fight Tiredness From Sugar?
One way to fight sugar fatigue is to avoid sugar. Sometimes the simplest solution is the best solution. Like many enjoyable things in life, it’s best enjoyed in moderation. Here are some ways you can combat sugar cravings, fight fatigue, and support a healthier, more energetic lifestyle.
Get Enough Healthy Fats
Not all fats are bad, even though we spent almost the entirety of the ‘80s and ‘90s avoiding it. Healthy fats help keep you full, are important for maintaining a healthy weight, and help you reduce sugar cravings by stabilizing your blood sugar levels.
Eat Your Protein
Consuming protein is another way to help regulate our blood sugar levels and appetites. Lean sources of protein, like chicken, fish, and pork, are good choices, along with plant-based sources like legumes.
Protein also helps play a role in your body’s energy levels, making sure you have all the pieces to the puzzle to stay engaged and motivated during your day.
Consume Sugar in Moderation
No one’s going to skip a slice of cake at a birthday party or forgo your favorite holiday dessert, but limiting your sugar consumption to those special occasions or just “once in a while” will help protect your overall health, support your weight loss goals, and keep your energy levels optimized.
Get Some Exercise
Physical activity is an important part of any health and wellness routine. Sugar might sap your energy, but regular movement can help you increase energy, protect against weight gain, and give you a midday energy boost if you’re feeling lethargic.
When you’re done, treat yourself with a scoop of L’Evate You Vitality Daily Greens in chocolate. It’s got all the sweet flavor you crave with none of the sugar. Not to mention, you’ll be giving your body all the goodness you’d get from eating several cups of leafy green veggies on their own.
Drinking enough water is key to feeling full and a key component of your overall health. If you have a hard time drinking plain water, try adding fruit to it to give it a mild flavor. Another easy solution? Elevate your water with a greens powder.
L’Evate You Vitality Daily Greens comes in three delicious flavors that can be mixed directly into water for a quick, nutrient-dense dose of hydration that gives you even more health benefits.
Just one serving per day gives you:
- 30 superfoods and nine greens
- Probiotics and prebiotics for digestion
- M-Charge energy blend to help support energy levels
- Antioxidant and anti-aging blend to help support healthy aging
- Mushroom blend for cholesterol support
Over time, that one scoop per day can translate into a body that feels more youthful and energized.
The Bottom Line
We all love the sweet life, but sugar isn’t doing us any favors. Make sugar a special occasion treat, and focus instead on foods that support your body and give it the vitamins and nutrients it needs to flourish.
You can thrive at any age and feel energized. Avoiding sugar is a good step on your wellness journey. Combined with your daily greens powder, you can have a positive impact on your health that pays dividends into your longevity.
Hormones and Endocrine Function | Endocrine.org
Sugar crash effects and how to fix them | Sanford Health News
Orexin neurons as conditional glucosensors: paradoxical regulation of sugar sensing by intracellular fuels | PMC
Relationship Between Added Sugar Intake and Sleep Quality Among University Students: A Cross-sectional Study | NCBI
How Sugar and Fat Trick the Brain into Wanting More Food | Scientific American