What is the effect of sugar on the brain and body?

Stress can manifest itself in different ways – physical, emotional, mental – but there are many things that can cause a stress response, and one of those is sugar.


What is sugar?


Sugar is essentially a carbohydrate, and there are different types including glucose, fructose, sucrose, lactose, dextrose and starch. Each of these types can be found in different foods, i.e. fructose is found in fruit, lactose in milk, and so on. The human body uses glucose as its primary source of energy. We have an enzyme in our saliva that immediately starts breaking down the carbohydrates so that when they reach the gut, they can be converted into glucose (energy) quickly. The human brain requires a lot of glucose to function, which is why you might find yourself unable to think clearly when you’re hungry (or hangry!); the brain requires 20% of our daily calories for its well-being, despite being a small part of our total body weight.


So what’s the harm?


The problem with sugar is that it’s very addictive. When consumed, sugar sends a signal to the brain and cerebral cortex that signals the reward system, releasing a chemical called dopamine. Dopamine makes us feel good and we associate it with feelings of pleasure and satisfaction. The problem with this is we often want to replicate the feelings by repeating the behaviour, and this is what often underpins dependency. Over time, you build up a tolerance to the stimulus (in this case sugar) and it can result in cravings and addiction.


Hormonal disruption


Sugar acts as a disruptor to the human body. It interferes with two important hormones associated with weight management; ghrelin (hunger) and leptin (satiety). Sugar can indicate to the brain that you’re full (or sated), when in fact you’re not. What then happens is you experience feelings of hunger or carbohydrate cravings which ultimately can lead to weight gain. Sweeteners like aspartame, acesulfame-potassium and sucralose (among many others) are simply sugars by another name, so don’t be fooled by thinking you’re being healthier by consuming those by the way.


Metabolic syndrome


An excess of sugar is also a major contributor to metabolic syndrome (the collective name for obesity, hypertension and diabetes). Elevated blood sugar levels can cause insulin resistance; insulin is released by the pancreas in order to bind to glucose and transport it to the liver and the muscles. Problems arise when the pancreas has to release more and more insulin to meet the increasing levels of glucose and resistance develops. Eventually the cells become resistant to insulin and that when diabetes takes hold. It is estimated that diabetes affects 4 million people in the UK, which is a staggering amount of people, particularly given that Type II diabetes is reversible. Diabetes causes peripheral nerve damage, blindness and kidney damage, and is a very serious condition to manage.


How much is too much?


The thing is with sugar, it’s pernicious, insidious and omnipresent. It’s very hard to be sugar-free, and even harder if you don’t cook everything from scratch at home because it is in almost everything. Check the labels on the packets or if you can, avoid buying things from jars and packets. I personally don’t have a major issue with the sugar in fruit (fructose), but I would caution against eating too much of it at night. The other obvious issue with sugar is that it very rapidly spikes your blood sugar levels, causing you to feel energised but very quickly dumped back down into lethargy. This means you’ll struggle to get consistent energy levels and can result in a see-saw of:

sugary snack = energy hit = energy-dip = sugary snack


What do I do?


I monitor my sugar intake as it’s my main vice. I am not sugar-free, although I have been for a few weeks at a time. I’ll admit I struggle to be entirely sugar-free, and I’m not sure that I want to be. Instead, I’ll keep a close eye on it and try not to binge. If I consume sugar, it’s actively and consciously. I won’t feel guilty about it, but if I feel it’s getting out of hand, I’ll rein it back in again. I will always avoid having it for energy, as I feel that’s a slippery slope, but if I do have some it will be for pleasure like a cake, flapjack or biscuit.


For more information about Body Shot Performance, check them out at: www.bodyshotperformance.com.

Posted in

Can Walking Really Help Your Health and Fitness?

January 7, 2020

We’re huge fans of walking at I Love Snacks. We truly believe that it’s absolutely the best way to start getting fitter and healthier and is also the foundation for anyone’s health and fitness regime. Plenty of walking, which we call active transport, is getting yourself from point A to point B using your own…

Read More

Feeling Bloated, Stuffed and Need to Move? Here’s our Boxing Day Top Tips for Getting Your Energy Back!

December 20, 2019

Do you find yourself eating foods during the Christmas period that you normally don’t eat? Or eating more than you usually do? If you’re feeling bloated, stuffed, and lethargic as a result, then get a load of our Boxing Day tips and ideas for getting your energy back.   First of all, go easy on…

Read More

A Simple Tip to Add More Sleep to Your Week

December 18, 2019

As the evenings are getting earlier, and the darker mornings creep in, feeling lethargic early afternoon becomes extremely common. But we have a simple hack to get more sleep into your week and basically get an extra hour of sleep. Rather than going to bed an hour earlier, which for many people is just not…

Read More

Low Energy Levels and Can’t Get Motivated To Move?

June 12, 2019

Are your energy levels low and you’ve very little motivation towards movement? There are some simple little hacks to help you get a little bit more energised, because movement is energy – at the right pace, the right intensity, and the right type of movement. When I wake up and I’m feeling tired, I will…

Read More

Is Stress Bad for Your Body and Wellbeing?

May 29, 2019

Is stress bad for your mind, your body and your wellbeing? The answer, of course, is yes. But why? When we’re in a stressed state, we release different hormones, predominately cortisol, which can have a negative effect on our body composition because cortisol instructs the liver to secrete glucose into the bloodstream (to get us…

Read More

How Having a Consistent Wake Up Time Can Help You To Sleep Better

May 1, 2019

What does it mean? For me, my consistent wake time is typically around 7.00am. I am one of the 99.9% of the people in this world who need between seven and eight hours of sleep. It’s a myth, except for a very tiny few of us, that we can survive on anything less than a…

Read More

Energise Your Mind & Body With Light

April 24, 2019

We can use light to energise us in different ways. The principle of light is that we want to get as much natural light onto the eyes, and therefore the brain, as early as we can in the morning. As soon as the sun comes up, get the curtains open, get the blinds up and…

Read More

5 Steps to Help Set Achievable Health Goals and Succeed!

April 10, 2019

My starting point always when setting goals for myself is asking, what is your intent? What do you really want to get done? I urge you to really pick apart that goal. Always try and pick around it and find out what really sits behind that goal, because very often it is more than just…

Read More

The Importance of Putting Yourself First

April 4, 2019

A recent podcast with Vishen Lakhani, the CEO of Mindvalley caught our attention this week. In the interview, he was talking about how he always puts himself first. And when he says that, he means before his business, before his career aspirations. He prioritises his exercise sessions, his meditation, his self-care above anything else. He…

Read More

What are the benefits of being mentally healthy?

March 26, 2019

What are the benefits of staying mentally healthy? Intuitively we know that we need to look after our mental health, but what is the real significance of neglecting that?   It falls into three simple things: Cognitive Performance   We need to look after our mind and stay mentally active and mentally fit to ensure…

Read More

Why social relationships are key for good health

March 6, 2019

Are social relationships good for our health? It’s a great question – and the answer is absolutely yes! We know that loneliness is one of the biggest causes of preventable death, alongside stress and other causes. But with loneliness we’re increasingly recognising that it has a significant effect on our overall health and our mortality…

Read More

What is the effect of sugar on the brain and body?

February 27, 2019

Stress can manifest itself in different ways – physical, emotional, mental – but there are many things that can cause a stress response, and one of those is sugar.   What is sugar?   Sugar is essentially a carbohydrate, and there are different types including glucose, fructose, sucrose, lactose, dextrose and starch. Each of these…

Read More

How to get consistency with your health, fitness and nutrition

February 20, 2019

Having a consistent routine helps to conserve energy, for two reasons. Firstly, having a routine gets rid of the internal monologue that takes place. By internal monologue I mean chatter such as: “I ought to go to the gym tonight but I could go tomorrow” “I know I ought to cook tonight but it’s easier…

Read More

How much exercise is enough?

February 13, 2019

This is a very common question and the truth is it’s completely personal to each and every person. It depends on your injury status, your general levels of activity, what we call daily life movement, how much you move, not just exercise sessions, but how active you are. Do you take the stairs? Are you…

Read More

How to get more variety in your diet for gut health & general wellbeing

February 6, 2019

This week’s blog is all around digestive health. We know that for digestive health and good diversity of bacteria in our guts, it’s really important to have a wide and diverse range of foods. Different colours, different textures, coming from different origins, just as much variety as you can in your diet. Try challenging yourself…

Read More

How to maintain your fitness and stay healthy even when you’re travelling

February 1, 2019

How to maintain your fitness and stay healthy even when you’re travelling It’s the lament of many; how do I maintain my fitness and stick to my routine when I’m travelling? There are lots of things that can ruin our good intentions and break our routine. Airport lounges, the endless waiting around, delays, airplane food,…

Read More

7 Ways to Thrive in January

January 24, 2019

7 Ways to thrive not just survive in January Here we are in mid-January, a time where most people are still feeling pumped and enthused about the New Year’s resolutions they’ve set. Usually those goals are related to some aspect of health, fitness or nutrition, and usually they last a few weeks before fizzling out.…

Read More

Invest In Yourself

January 21, 2019

Invest in yourself and be really clear on your goals! When you invest in something, it gives you a much greater likelihood of success. That investment could be your thoughts, so thinking and preparation – the stages of change model, that’s really your pre-contemplation and your contemplation phase. It could also be emotion, your actual…

Read More

What Does an Ideal Week of Exercise Look Like?

October 30, 2018

We’ve teamed up with our friends at Body Shot Performance to give you some expert advice on what an ideal week of exercise looks like. This is a question I get asked a lot, and obviously it varies from person to person, and you need to make it personal. It needs to work for you.…

Read More

What Are The Best Foods For Energy?

October 30, 2018

We’ve teamed up with our friends at Body Shot Performance to give you some expert advice on the best foods for energy. Energy is obviously something we need for everyday life, it’s vitally important for our physical, mental, emotional and spiritual health. But what are the best types of food that we can eat for…

Read More
Cart Item Removed. Undo
  • No products in the cart.