Today was my birthday. I ate salmon spinach burritos with my family after an intense yoga workout. Dessert rolled around, happy birthday was sung, but there was no cake! Not one candle. Not one ounce of frosting to swipe a finger into when no one was looking.
This year I had strawberries, blackberries, and cream. The reason? Right now I’m on a 30 day sugar detox, an experiment in something called a “low and below” diet. For 30 days I’m eating no sugar, nor anything that acts like sugar in the body.
What acts like sugar in the body? Lots of things. All starchy foods (flour, potatoes), alcohol (no 2Buck Chuck this month), ice cream, cookies, bread, pasta. I eat none of these.
So why do this? When we consume a food it delivers nutrients to our bloodstream, one of those nutrients being sugar. As the sugar enters our blood, our body responds with insulin. Insulin causes our cells to absorb sugar. If you eat a lot of sugar, or the sugar you eat enters your blood quickly, then your insulin will spike dramatically. Insulin is directly linked to two very important things: 1. Fat deposition, and 2. Muscular recovery. I’m interested in the latter, but I’ll cover both.
Spikes in insulin cause the body to go into fat storing mode. Your cells take all of the excess sugar in your blood and deposit it all over your body as fat. Habitually eating sugary foods can exacerbate the problem, leading to insulin resistance. In addition Insulin is inflammatory. For muscles that have been worked out, this slows recovery down dramatically.
How can you avoid these problems? By adopting a “low and below” diet. A diet where you only eat foods that have low Glycemic Indexes, or are below the scale altogether. The Glycemic Index is a measure of how quickly the sugar in a food will be released into your blood stream. A low GI food, like a Strawberry, will releases the sugar slowly, causing little to no insulin spike. A high GI food like a potato (a potato is a starch, which is digested into sugars in your stomach) will dump a large amount of sugar into your blood all at once, causing a massive insulin spike. Preventing insulin spikes keeps your body more hormonally balanced, and combined with intense exercise, will aid in the bodies natural release of testosterone, HGH, and other muscle building hormones. By staying “low and below” you are helping your body to give you a natural steroid boost! That means more lean muscle mass, more natural weight loss, and more energy!
Currently I’m half-way through the thirty days. Before doing this I had no idea how addictive sugar is! The first three days I was extremely cranky. This was caused by withdrawal. I hadn’t realized it previously, but sugar is very addictive. Have you ever been stressed and pigged out on cookies? Ever hoarded candy? Ever drowned your sorrows in cake? I’ve done all of these in the past, and its textbook addict behavior. After getting over my initial crankiness I felt much better. I had more energy, and was no longer tempted to break the detox by eating the cookies (which are abundant in my house).
I became aware of a new layer of hunger. For the first two weeks I found I was hungry constantly. I was hungry even while I was eating! I was even hungry after finishing a big meal! I realized this wasn’t hunger at all, but craving. My new diet ensured I wasn’t receiving any large quantities of sugar, and like any addict I had intense cravings. I’m on day 18 out of 30 now, and am happy to report the craving is gone. I feel completely satisfied after meals, and no longer even miss the sugary foods I once found so important.
My diet these days primarily consists of lean meats, veggies, big delicious salads, and both fresh and frozen fruit (low GI only). My staples are eggs, beans, apples, fresh ground peanut butter, cheeses, nuts, avocados, carrots, olive oil-balsamic vinegar dressing (most other dressings have sugar), and tea.
I highly recommend everyone try a “low and below” diet for thirty days at least once in their life. You’ll learn lots about yourself. If you need support you can find it on the OlsonND website. One thing I didn’t realize was how sugar has crept into almost every food in our diet: peanut butter, salad dressings, sauces, cereals, breads, drinks, everything!