How and Why to Do a 30 Day No Sugar Challenge
There are lots of reasons to eliminate sugar from your life long-term, or to challenge yourself to avoid sugar for a shorter term, like a no-sugar month. You may be looking for more energy, weight loss, better skin, or you may seek to improve medical conditions. Or, you may not have a goal in mind, and you just want to see what benefits you uncover by eliminating sugar.
Here are a few benefits you may experience from eliminating sugar for 30 days or more.
Potential Skin Benefits from Cutting Out Sugar
People who go at least a month or more without sugar have a tendency to notice improvements in their skin, noting fewer blemishes and a more youthful appearance.
Sugar and Skin Aging
Advanced glycation end products (AGEs) are proteins or lipids (fats) that change after contact with sugar. Glycation is when a sugar molecule has been tacked onto the protein or lipid, which can lead to cross-linking.
This process could spell bad news for collagen, the protein that supports the dermis. When collagen proteins cross-link, it’s not as easy for your body to complete repair and maintenance processes that it needs to maintain integrity.
Your body has ways to clean up AGEs, like breaking them down with specific enzymes. But, if you’re producing too many of them, your natural mechanisms have a hard time keeping up. Once they build up, you get more and more cross-linking over time.
The term “sugar sag” has been coined to describe skin that isn’t as taut and bouncy due to sugar consumption and the effects of AGEs.
Sugar and Acne
Sugar may contribute to the formation and severity of acne as well. One study linked the consumption of added sugars and higher glycemic index foods, along with other foods, with acne severity. (Foods with high glycemic index flood your bloodstream with sugar more quickly than foods with a low glycemic index.)
Certain amounts of sugar could activate your body’s inflammatory response, which could exacerbate acne that’s already there or lead to new breakouts.
Body Composition and Sugar
If you decide to work with a dietitian, nutritionist, personal trainer, doctor, or health coach to lose weight, they’ll all tell you to start with the same thing: cut back on sugar.
That’s because sugar is calorie-dense but doesn’t offer your body much else. Sugar doesn’t have vitamins, minerals, protein, or fat that your body can use, so even though your body takes in the calories, it may be missing the signal that you’ve been fed.
Some people lose weight just by eliminating sugar alone, without modifying any other part of their diet or lifestyle.
Whether or not kicking sugar will help you kick the extra pounds depends heavily on how much sugar you were consuming to start, where your body composition is, and individual factors like your body’s insulin utilization. Still, it’s a common phenomenon.
It’s better to “spend” your calories on nutrient-rich foods that nourish your body and provides your cells the raw material they need to keep you going. Think colorful fruits and vegetables, lean protein, and healthy fats.
Energy (Blood Sugar)
Do you experience steady energy throughout the day, or are you doing okay in the morning and crashing hard soon after lunch?
It’s common, and frustrating, to experience the latter. You have things to do, and hitting a wall every day, even multiple times a day, gets in the way.
Your energy highs and lows come from changes in your blood sugar. When blood sugar is steady, your energy is humming and you’re getting things done. When blood sugar drops low, you have a hard time focusing, you’re irritable, and you could use a nap (or more sugar). When blood sugar is too high, you feel wired and frazzled. And it’s possible to experience all of these all in the same day – multiple times.
Depending on where you’re starting, eating less or no sugar could stabilize your energy levels throughout the day.
Some people take it a step further and restrict carbs to train their bodies to burn fat for energy. You may hear people referring to this as keto or ketosis. Fat burns more slowly and steadily, resulting in steading energy throughout the day, whereas excessive sugar leads to the ups and downs that you’re trying to avoid.
How to Do a No Sugar Month
Ready to give a no sugar month a try? Here’s how to do it.
- The easiest step: cut sweetened beverages. It may take some getting used to if you’re accustomed to sugary drinks, but you’ll want to ditch sodas and juices and drink predominantly water. Lemon liquid monk fruit extract drops can help you ease the transition without affecting your blood sugar. You don’t have to give up fun sips – explore these recipes for tasty drinks and cocktails without sugar.
- Go after the obvious sugary treats. Give away or throw away sugary snacks, sweet cereals, baking mixes, and other sugar-laden foods. These days, you can find incredible naturally sweetened baking mixes and even chocolate candies that do not contain sugar.
- Cut the candy coffee. Sweeten your morning coffee with a natural alternative sweetener, like Vanilla liquid monk fruit extract drops with a splash of oat milk. Or, opt for black coffee if you enjoy the deep roasty flavor.
- Watch your “health” foods. Protein bars, smoothie packs, meal replacement shakes and other foods marketed as “healthy” can be loaded with sugar. Read labels to be sure.
- Swap your sweeteners. Granulated sugar won’t work for your no sugar month, but granulated monk fruit sweetener is the perfect swap. You’ll want to skip maple syrup for your no sugar month too, but Lakanto® Maple Flavored Syrup made with monk fruit is a pretty convincing sub!
- Check everything else. Sugar hides in foods like salsa, barbecue sauce, breakfast meats, milk alternatives, and more. Read this article to learn about sneaky places sugar hides in your groceries. (A big offender: salad dressing!)
It helps to keep a journal and track how you feel. Were you hungry? Craving sweets? Cranky? How does your skin look? How do your clothes fit? Write it all down and see how you progress throughout the month.