>Maybe it is too many late nights and early mornings or a lack of nutrients from a poor diet or an imbalanced macronutrient profile at each meal or maybe it is not enough calories. Whichever it may be, all of these things are a surefire way to set yourself up for some killer cravings.
Our bodies are magnificent things and they know what they need and will wreak havoc on your fat loss or muscle-building goals and health and well-being if it doesn’t get what it wants. As an example of this, we are all pretty well aware of what happens when we cut our calories too low for an extended period of time. Our metabolism shuts down and goes into safety mode, which means preserving fat and catabolizing the highly metabolic muscle tissue. Our endocrine system, which pretty much controls everything from our metabolism to our moods, is highly affected by a lack of proper nutrition. When there is an nutritional imbalance, we will crave certain foods. A craving for carbohydrates is reflective of low serotonin levels or if you are cutting carbs without balancing that cut with an increase in EFAs, your cravings will sky-rocket.
It has also been shown that people crave things like salty foods if their sodium/potassium levels are low, or will even crave chewing on non-food items (a condition called pica) like paint chips or clay if they are lacking certain minerals, which just goes to show you how important a nutrient-rich diet is to our bodies, our goals and our health.
Another factor is a lack of sleep, which can cause cravings and uncontrollable noshing. We will focus on a few key hormones directly affected by lack of sleep that affect appetite and cravings, namely, leptin, ghrelin and serotonin (there’s that hormone again!)
Leptin is a hormone that decreases with lack of sleep and is directly related to appetite suppression, while ghrelin is a hormone that is increased with a lack of sleep and also activates hunger. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that actually affects sleep and when this is off-balance or drops too low, you will not only find yourself not sleeping and thus increasing ghrelin and decreasing leptin, but serotonin has also been shown to have a direct affect on food cravings, in particular carbohydrates. This is because carbs with the help of the amino acid tryptophan can convert to serotonin and this hormone also has a major effect on blood sugar concentrations. Any diabetic or pre-diabetic can tell you the importance of having a balanced blood sugar concentration for their health and weight control.
Aside from eating a well-balanced, nutrient-dense, well-timed diet, there are some promising supplemental ingredients that you can try to help control your cravings and even help you get a good night sleep which, as mentioned, can be a major factor in your craving control and goals.
ZMA is a well-known supplement that people have been using for years to help induce a state of relaxation which helps get you to sleep. Taking a dose of ZMA 30-60 minutes before retiring should help you to get a restful sleep and maintain control over leptin and ghrelin levels. If you find that the initial drop in carb consumption, which in all honestly most other than athletes could use, is causing withdrawal and cravings, supplemental chromium and nutrient-rich antioxidants like that found in some supplements can help to balance your blood sugar levels and control cravings while giving you additional nutrient support to help keep your system running up to par while squashing your insatiable noshing.