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How Does Sugar Impact Energy Levels?
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How Does Sugar Impact Energy Levels?

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What you eat is directly turned into the fuel that moves you. The energy levels you experience at a given point in time have a few different determining factors, and one of the main ones is the composition and timing of your meals and snacks. Sugar consumption can have negative effects on your energy levels throughout the day. 

When Energy Crashes

There’s nothing worse than a mid-day energy crash. Right when you need to dig into that major project for work or school, feeling like you’d be better suited to a nap is very counterproductive. You’ve probably experienced something along those lines – you eat a sugary treat and feel fine for a while, then suddenly you experience the crash and your energy drags. You feel lethargic or sleepy and can’t seem to muster the effort to perform your normal tasks. That sugar you consumed is directly responsible for your lagging energy, and it can be beneficial to understand why.

Blood Sugar Regulation

When you eat sugar, it quickly enters the bloodstream. Your pancreas then detects this spike in blood sugar and works to release insulin, which promotes the uptake of that blood sugar into the body’s various cells. This process can be kind of like a rollercoaster ride – a quick rise followed by a quick fall.

These rises and falls impact energy levels. Everyone has their own state of equilibrium, and getting out of yours can make you feel fatigued. Low blood sugar can present in various ways, such as:

  • Lethargy/fatigue
  • Headache
  • Moodiness/irritability
  • Anxiety
  • Hunger
  • Discomfort

Sugar As Energy

While sugar is obviously an energy source (anything with calories can provide energy to the body, and glucose is the body’s main form of usable energy), it’s not an ideal one. Simple sugars are processed by the body too quickly, often within 30-60 minutes. This leaves you with an initial source of energy that is quickly used up and followed by a crash, leaving you feeling lethargic.

Sugar and Sleep

The quality and quantity of sleep you get has a major impact on your energy levels, and sugar consumption can directly affect your sleep. Eating too much sugar can cause you to wake more frequently during the night and get less productive rest while you sleep. This disrupted sleep can make you feel more tired and less energetic throughout the day.

A Vicious Cycle

Sugar consumption stimulates the pleasure centers in your brain, and this can be habit-forming and cause you to crave more and more sugar “highs.” Eating sugar makes you crave more sugary foods, creating a cycle of highs and lows; build-ups and crashes.

Eating Tips to Maximize Energy

To balance your energy and avoid the dreaded crash, the following are recommended:

Eat smaller, more frequent meals. Rather than a quick match-strike of energy that just as quickly burns out, this approach will give you more of a slow energy burn that lasts throughout the day.

Eat a variety of foods, balancing your macronutrients for slower digestion. Focusing on protein, healthy fats, and fiber aids in more consistent energy distribution.

Stay hydrated – sometimes thirst can manifest as sugar cravings, sabotaging your energy-maximizing efforts.

Avoid simple sugars, especially by themselves.

Make a plan. Sugar binges usually occur when you find yourself hungry and without a balanced snack on hand. Planning ahead will help you avoid this pitfall.

Due to how sugar is digested, it is not an energy source that lasts. That quick burnout combined with the associated drop in blood sugar can leave you in a low-energy state at the most inopportune moments. Avoiding sugar can help you avoid this energy crash.

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