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Habit Hack #5.5 – Conquering Afternoon Snacking

Hey Buttercup! (No, that nickname does NOT mean you can lick yourself)

In my last Habit Hack post I talked about how to conquer breakfast and morning snacking. Turns out most of you snack in the afternoon…

I do too, so no judgment.

First, before I tell you how to conquer afternoon snacking, let’s talk about why I think we reach for things to munch on in the afternoon.

Depending on what you had for breakfast, chances are by the time lunch comes around you are starving. I mean, eat anything that comes into eye contact hungry.

This hunger usually causes you to want to fill up with as much and as quickly as possible to satisfy it in a hurry. The hunger can cloud your judgment on what last minute choices you make.

For example, you know you should have chosen the large salad, but instead chose the sandwich because the bread is more filling and would last longer.

But between 2 and 3pm you are feeling a huge lag in energy and reach for something to help perk you up.

Even if you had chosen the salad, chances are you are still going to get the munchies around the same time.

Why?

Two words…

Blood sugar.

Salads digest quickly, leaving you hungry in a few hours, causing your blood sugar to sink.

The bread and meat in sandwiches are heavy on your system causing a lot of energy to be focused on digesting efforts and your blood sugar, you guessed it, sinks.

When your blood sugar sinks, your body’s automatic natural response is to raise it up. The best way to do that is through sugary foods or even *gasp* soda.

There are better ways to handle this.

Your body is looking to balance your blood sugar. The lower your low, the higher it wants to spike it back up to balance it out.

This graph from phlaunt.com is an example of how it works:

According to Phlaunt.com your body has two states. A fasting state and a post-meal state.

The Fasting State

You are in the fasting state any time when digestion has been completed. It occurs at night while you sleep. You may also enter the fasting state three hours after you have last eaten. However, if you snack between meals and after dinner you may not re-enter the fasting state while you are awake.

In the fasting state your liver keeps your blood sugar concentration at a normal level by continually releasing small amounts of glucose from the glycogen it has stored after meals or by producing new glucose from protein.

The concentration of the hormone insulin in your blood is the signal which tells the liver whether it needs to dump glucose into the blood. Insulin is released by special cells in the pancreas, the beta-cells, when they sense a rising level of glucose in the blood. When there is no new glucose coming into the blood stream from digestion, little insulin is released.

A normal, healthy liver is also sensitive to insulin levels. The less circulating insulin it senses in the blood stream, the harder the liver will work to put more glucose into the blood. In a healthy person, the liver keeps the fasting blood sugar concentration near 85 mg/dl (4.7 mmol/L) at all times.

The Post-Meal State

You remain in the fasting state until you eat some food containing carbohydrates. After eating, any pure glucose that was present in your food will be absorbed into your bloodstream within fifteen minutes. Other carbohydrates will require digestion. Those that digest quickly–the so-called “high glycemic carbs” like white flour or sugar–typically take between a half hour and an hour enter your bloodstream. Slower acting carbohydrates like whole grains or pasta may take an hour to two or even, in the case of some hard-wheat pastas, three hours to release their glucose into your blood.

During this post-meal state, the concentration of glucose in your blood will begin to rise as the glucose liberated from your food comes pouring in. But in a healthy body, this rise is brief and not very high.

That is because as soon as the concentration of glucose in your body starts to rise, it stimulates the beta-cells in your pancreas called beta-cells to produce a large burst of a hormone called insulin. Insulin’s function is to activate receptors on your body’s cells which enable these cells to remove the circulating glucose molecules from your bloodstream and either burn them for fuel or store them for future use.

So, how you achieve what is considered to be a “healthy body” and achieve a brief high instead of a large spike in your blood sugar?

Try some of these tips:

1. Do not eat foods high in processed sugars or refined flour

Foods such as white bread and sugary treats wreak havoc on your blood sugar levels because they are quick to digest and create a large spike in your levels. This spike will cause a lower low creating a daily roller coaster effect on your system and emotions.

2. Eat foods rich natural sugars and complex carbs

Foods like fruit may be nice and sweet and trick you into thinking they may be disqualified, but the sugars are natural and the body knows what to do with them and how to digest them properly (unlike refined sugar, which the body doesn’t know what to do with), so eat them up! They won’t cause the super spikes as stated in #1, but will raise your energy up enough to do the trick nice an naturally.

3. Eat More Fat

Our brains are made up of 60% percent fat, says Dr. Michael Green, a research psychologist at Aston University.

To function optimally, our brains need to maintain this level of fat. A lower amount of fat, in fact, can lead to neurological disorders. Dieters beware!

So, eat more fat. But not any kind of fat (I’m NOT encouraging bacon eating here), I’m talking good, healthy, plant based fats that come from things like nuts and seeds. Almonds, cashews, pecans, hazelnuts, hemp seeds, etc., are all great ways to get healthy fats that fuel your body, balance your blood sugar and feed your brain.

It’s a Win-Win-Win.

4. Become a Grazer

To optimize brain power, Dr. Green suggests one tactic would be “more frequent but smaller meals.”

According to Leigh Gibson of Roehampton University in England The brain works best with about 25 grams of glucose circulating in the bloodstream — about the amount found in a banana.

Snack on better choices such as:

Fruits
Nuts
Seeds
Trail Mix
Veggies
Ranch Zucchini Chips
Kale Chips

The trick is to not starve yourself of what your body is craving – balance – but to help it achieve it through better choices.

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