Sugar-Cravings on a Low-Carb Diet – can you do LCHF with a sweet-tooth…?

A reader emailed me to say that she was keen to try a ketogenic-diet, but that she’d always suffered from sugar-cravings.

Despite past attempts at Atkins, low-GI and a paleo-regime; these cravings had always got the better of her and led to disappointing failure in the end.

I thought I’d take this opportunity to share my own experiences with sugar-cravings, in the hope it may be of help to this one reader, and others like her…

Before I go any further, I’m going to state a fact that I’ve hitherto not divulged on this blog… I work in the product-development team of a chocolate factory! I’m surrounded by the stuff night and day. Do I snack? No. When I was on a traditional low-fat diet, did I snack? Yes. It’s the ketogenic-diet which has has enabled me for the first time to resist temptation and pass up sweets, chocolates & confectionery in all its forms.

No; I don’t wear a muzzle or clamp my hands behind my back; rather I just have no desire or hunger-pangs to lead me to cheat. Once you’ve broken the glucose-cycle, you’re freed from all the gnawing cravings which lead you to break the diet and pile the pounds back on again.

Does this mean I’m not eating anything sweet? No it does not. I too have a particularly sweet-tooth; but now I’m eating LCHF puddings which don’t contain glucose. I can enjoy home-made cakes, biscuits and desserts with no fear of spiralling blood-sugar levels. I’ve put hyperlinks to a few examples below, so you can see the kind of thing I’m referring to.

Tira-Misu Cake

Orange, Coconut, Lime & Almond Cake

Chocolate mousse with Biscotti

So, how does this work? How can you eat this kind of food and lose weight? The answer lies in the fact there’s no glucose.

Glucose is the body’s ‘quick fix’ to energy and gives us a pleasing blood-sugar rush. But once insulin has cleared the glucose away, the brain goes into ‘panic-mode’ and thinks that the falling glucose-levels means a drop in energy-levels. Your brain then sends messages ‘quick you need sugar!’ and you crave (then eat) something sweet. A roller-coaster ride of high blood-sugar, then dramatic sugar-crashes ensues; leaving you constantly snacking and gaining weight.

Glucose drives you to eat to when your sugar-levels drop; it has nothing to do with how much you’ve eaten or whether you need food.

To break this sugar-cycle, all you need do is remove glucose from your diet. I again insert a couple of hyperlinks to posts which explain this in a little more detail.

The Role of Insulin

Fuel v Energy

What Is Ketosis?

So, I wean myself off glucose. How is it that I eat sweet things?

There are many different forms of sweetener and flour substitutes. Ground-almonds and xylitol are by far the best. Xylitol is 100% natural, has zero net carbs, and doesn’t lose its sweetness in cooking (most sweeteners lose their sweet-flavour above circa 100º). This combination of low-carb / high-performance means that you’ll be consuming sweet things which don’t trigger the glucose-cycle. Once you’ve eaten, you’ll feel full and won’t keep returning to snack.

I can’t pretend to you there’s a barrage of convenience LCHF snacks out there, because there isn’t. You’ll be spending more time in the kitchen if you want something sweet; but isn’t that the best way? By the time it’s ready, you’ll have earned it & appreciate it more! Sugar-free jelly can give you that ‘Haribo’ taste, and cocoa chocolate-mousse takes all of two minutes to prepare (see recipe 3).

So that’s what to eat and why it won’t induce cravings; but there’s one extra thing to throw into the equation… Saturated fat!

Because fat is far slower to metabolise than glucose, it slows down digestion when it enters the intestinal-tract. When you’re busy digesting, your brain knows that you’re full, and your appetite is decreased.

You cannot avoid fat when doing this diet. If anything; the opposite! The fat makes you feel full; so full in fact, that you’ll not be snacking AT ALL (be it sweet or savoury). Again, I return to my chocolate-factory reference above – I’m surrounded by the stuff all day at work, and don’t get a single craving. In all honesty; I’m too full! I often can’t believe when it’s lunchtime, because my body is giving me NO SIGNALS AT ALL that it’s time to eat!

A fat-metabolism prompts you to eat when you’re hungry, then stop when you’re full.

Because of this increased sense of satiety, and the huge reduction in volume of food-consumed; you’ll immediately find that sugar-cravings and snacking are a thing of the past. Take it from someone who knows!

And lastly but not leastly; weighing things out. Am I constantly weighing my food before I eat it? Never. I simply stick to the things I know I can have, and ignore the things I can’t. I hope you’ll agree that our diet is really quite varied…

I hyperlink a list of vegetables as a starter for ten. The New Atkins UK site has some brilliant tools, including the carb-calculator!

Ketogenic Vegetables Shopping List

If something in the supermarket is an unknown, then I just read the label. After a couple of shops, that’s about one thing in fifty! Make sure you take into account the ‘net carbs rule’ – I link to this below:

Calculating Net Carbs 

Hopefully the above should go a little way towards calming your concerns over cravings… Please do ask questions if I can be of any help along the way.

Good luck with the ketogenic-diet and thanks for reading!

Adam.

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6 thoughts on “Sugar-Cravings on a Low-Carb Diet – can you do LCHF with a sweet-tooth…?

  1. Such a nice blog!!
    I am bit late on commenting, however, do you experience cravings after eating fruit, or slightly higher amounts of carbs in veg? Or a strong reaction when you finally eat a load of carbs (having a piece of cake, fruit or slice of bread)

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  2. Hi there, thank you so much for the kind, positive feedback! Cravings don’t really feature much because generally I simply avoid the things which cause them. For example, I don’t think I’ve had a slice of bread in almost a year and a half and fruit we keep down strictly to low impact berries – more of an “in for a penny, in for a pound!” kind of thing,.. We do sometimes up the carbs a little with vegetables; take buttered carrots for example or seasonal squash. Also with alcohol – the odd beer here and there, wine &tc. We’re all human after all; cheating is only natural and certainly not anything to worry about; but 90-95% on track is what we aim for and like to think we achieve. The main effects of upping the carbs however is a simple case of feeling massively full and bloated! That old feeling of not being quite able to move after you’ve eaten and the belt gets un-notched a little! If you’ve been on low-carb for a while, you become keto-adapted, which basically means your body is totally used to ketosis and can switch in and out of it with no problems. If adaptation has NOT yet occurred, it will generally take 3 days to get back into ketosis; so cheating BEFORE adaptation occurs generally has more of an impact that in the longer term. Anyway, back to cravings… Do I suffer from them…? Probably not for foodstuffs themselves; in all honesty though – convenience food is the one sort of food envy I get. Low carb is a very ‘real food’ approach, sometimes it would be so much easier to order a takeaway or something like that! Having said that, we’ve just discovered konjac flour noodles, pasta, rice &tc; so all that may be about to change, as these are the first real low carb convenience food that is TOTALLY honest in its low carb promises! I’ll post on these once I’ve had the chance to test them out a little more… Anyway, dinner tonight is celeriac chips and roast chicken, followed by cheescake – so I certainly don’t feel like I’m deprived or will get cravings for high carb… The alternative is always well worth the effort! I hope that answers your question and thank you once again, Adam.

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    • Hello,i ve just started the lchf diet its more of a lifestyle change.Im having troubles with choosing the right products.eg cheese,butter,mayonnaise,coconut cream, literally everything except off course chicken and fish.Please can u be kind enough to recommend specific brands to buy.thank u

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