Ask A Nutritionist! (Jan/Feb 2008) -Sweet Tooth


Why is it that athletes tend to crave sweets?”

Sweet tooth or empty stomach?

Athletes that crave sweets, or any other food may, not be consuming enough calories to support their demanding training schedules.  Calorie needs can vary greatly from person to person depending on training schedule, age, current weight and height and it’s important to know how much you should be consuming.  Most athletes eat less than they need.

If you are consuming sufficient number of calories, it’s time to look at the quality of the food you are eating.  Does your diet consist primarily breads, refined pastas and sugary snacks?  The more sugar you eat, the more your body will crave it.  Simple sugars break down quite quickly leaving you looking for more food, fast.  While carbohydrates should make up the majority of the athlete’s diet, consider the source.  Look for whole grains such as quinoa, spelt, wild or brown rice, legumes or starchy vegetables such as squash, as a nutrient dense option.  They are rich in vitamins, minerals and offer more protein than their refined, processed counterparts.

Add protein in the morning.  Many times our daily food consumption is upside down.  We tend to eat out heaviest meal before bed and our smallest meal after an 8 hour fast.  While we shouldn’t be eating foods that are too ‘heavy’ first thing in the morning (our digestive tract needs to wake up too!) we need to incorporate protein in our diets early in the day.  Eggs, tofu, nuts and seeds or high quality protein powders are some great options to enjoy with a whole grain.  This combination will keep you energized throughout the morning and away from the vending machine.

It’s all about timing.  Erratic eating habits can also wreak havoc on the body.  As blood sugar falls, hormones are released that can intensify food cravings and the urge for a quick, sugary pick me-up.  Cave in to these urges and you’ll be right back where you started.  Instead aim for 5-6 smaller meals every 2-4 hours throughout the day to balance blood sugar and reduce cravings.

If these suggestions don’t help then it’s time to consult with an expert to see if there are any nutrient deficiencies or imbalances in the body.

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