Food cravings & comfort eating.
It is something that I hear about most weeks in my clinic and know a lot about from personal experience. It doesn't matter if I am helping a person with their injuries, gut or just performance, this crops up I would say 50% of the time.
Do you crave foods? Carbohydrates, salty or sweet? Once you start eating them you can't stop.
Mine is Kettle Salt and Balsamic Vinegar crisps! I know. A Nutritionist admitting to eating junk. But I would be lying to you if I said I didn't.
If I get very stressed or worked up, I crave carbs. Sometimes, if I don't eat a good first meal of the day, I will get to 5 pm and want to eat the contents of the fridge.
White carbs like bread, pasta, crisps, sugar. Are these things you absolutely crave? A couple of times a week, or even daily.
For me now, this happens only very occasionally but I remember a time that it used to be every day. And no surprise, I was just under a couple of stone heavier at the time too.
The only thing that would satisfy my hunger was some form of white carbs. But the thing is, I didn't realise I was doing it. And I wasn't eating a lot of fat so surely that was OK? Wasn't it?
We know now, it is the absolute opposite.
Part of this equation is imbalanced blood sugar level. This is key to stopping these urgent feelings to eat.
What can you do?
1. Fuel your rides properly
Before, during and after.
I know there can be a time and a place for training low (ie. with low glycogen). However, if you are currently battling cravings, inadequate fueling will be contributing to this.
2. Clear the cupboard
Simply, the most effective thing is to not have any of the comfort foods you are going to eat in the house.
Don't buy them and say, I'll just have a little bit at a time. Because we both know that won't happen.
3. Do protein
Ensure you eat a good amount of protein with your breakfast, around 20gms.
4. Swap your bread
Bread is a lot of people's comfort food. Many of my clients say they are addicted to it.
We need carbs and especially if you are training hard. A sandwich (if you can tolerate gluten that is) with chicken, avocado, tomato and rocket is going to be an easy meal for you.
But a loaf of white sliced bread could also be your downfall. So swap for rye bread or pumpernickel bread.
5. Don't skip meals
When you have imbalanced blood sugar, skipping meals is a no-no.
It's why some people do OK on a 5:2 diet and some don't. Eat three balanced meals per day with protein (approx 20 gms in each) low glycemic load carbs and fat (like olive oil, oily fish, coconut oil, avocado, nuts, seeds).
6. Keep alternatives
Have alternative food in the cupboard for those days that you need a snack to curb the craving.
Oatcakes and nut butter or homemade guacamole are great (there is barely a day in our house that we don’t have a bowl of this in the fridge), or trail mix with a little bit of dark chocolate.
If you are out and about, a shop-bought option would be Eat Well's Protein-Packed bars (not the others as they are too high in sugar).
7. Don't overthink it
On the 'stuff it' days, drive down to get said comfort food anyway.
For me these are now few and far between and rather than give myself a hard time about it, I look to see just how far I have come.
So, go easy on yourself. Try to implement some of the things above a couple at a time. Changing habits take time so just take it one day at a time and stay positive.
Keep pedalling and smiling,
Catherine is The Cyclist's Nutritionist.
Kit to take your mind off the cravings!