Don’t get us wrong, we love coffee. In fact, we’d go as far as saying that we can’t function without it. We love how it tastes, smells and how it’s scientifically proven to block our adenosine receptors to fuel our workouts. But sometimes, we have a little too much, which often sends us head first down the confectionary aisle. But why?
According to nutritionist, Zoe Stirling: “Excess caffeine from coffee has a stress-like effect on the body. It raises our levels of stress hormones – the fast-acting adrenaline and noradrenaline, which are part of our ‘fight of flight’ response, and the longer-lasting hormone cortisol. These hormones help to give us energy when we drink coffee. Stress hormones can have various effects on our energy and our appetite.
Quick-acting adrenaline and noradrenaline, as well as giving us that surge of energy, can suppress appetite and digestion. But cortisol, the longer-lasting hormone, has a different effect. Part of its job is to help our body recover from stress after the event. It increases our appetite – especially for carbohydrates and sugar – to replace the energy that our body thinks we’ve just burned. And so, if we’re constantly stressed, or loading up on caffeine (for many people, it’s both!) then the result can be an overall increase in appetite and cravings.”
But as we all know, going ‘cold-turkey’ on coffee can be difficult. Nobody wants to deal with sleepiness, headaches and a ‘foggy head’ on a deadline. Anyway you may not need to cut it out completely to see benefits.
Green tea contains some caffeine, but much less than the average cup of coffee. “This means you’ll still get your energy lift and avoid those nasty withdrawal symptoms, but with less of astimulant and craving-inducing effect”, says Stirling. By cutting down on coffee, cortisol levels are reduced, which lowers blood sugar and means you’re less inclined to reach for a sugary snack.
“To help fight those sugar cravings further, choose a green tea infused with spices like cinnamon which helps the body to control the amount of sugar in our blood, and even out the ‘highs’ and ‘lows’ that can induce cravings”.
One study found that volunteers who took just 3 grams of cinnamon a day (a small teaspoon) maintained lower blood sugar levels after a glucose tolerance test (a glucose drink) than than those who weren’t taking the cinnamon.
But all you have to do is pop the kettle on because Pukka Herbs has created a new tea designed to balance blood sugar levels and help maintain healthy body composition. Have a cup in the morning, mid-morning and afternoon for 7 days, paired with meals and snacks that balance your blood sugar. A slow and steady release of energy throughout the day will help reduce cravings for a ‘pick-me-up’.
Breakfast: Focus on protein. Instead of toast and marmite or a bowl of cereal, try two scrambled eggs with some avocado on rye toast, or a natural yoghurt with seeds and berries, or an omelette with wilted spinach on the side.
Lunch: Again, focus on protein. A chicken stew or a mackerel salad with quinoa can be a great balance.
Evening meal: Include a decent serving of slow-releasing carbohydrates such as sweet potato wedges, brown rice, or buckwheat pasta. They can help you sleep through the night by providing a steady release of glucose into the blood. Combine with a moderate serving of protein (e.g. a small salmon fillet) and plenty of vegetables.
Snacks: A combination of protein or healthy fats with complex carbohydrates is ideal for balanced energy. Try:
– 2 oatcakes with a couple of teaspoons of nut butter.
– Half a slice of rye bread with half an avocado.
– A small piece of dark chocolate (85% cocoa or higher) with a few walnuts or almonds. The dark chocolate will give you a natural lift.
– A natural yoghurt with cacao nibs and pumpkin seeds. Again, the cacao nibs (the raw form of cocoa) can give that natural boost.
– Last but not least, try a herbal helper: Ashwagandha
To help with your challenge, take an ashwagandha supplement every day. Like ginseng, ashwagandha is known as an ‘adaptogenic’ herb, meaning it can help us adapt to stress, with a normalising or balancing effect on the body and mind. But what makes ashwagandha stand out is that as well as improving energy, it can also have anti-anxiety, calming effects. It’s even been found to reduce levels of cortisol – that hormone that can increase our appetite and cravings. So it could naturally aid weight control while helping to balance your energy. Take 1–2 capsules of Pukka Organic Wholistic Ashwagandha per day, during and after the programme.
Lean Matcha Green is available from www.pukkaherbs.com, independent health shops and Tesco & Sainsbury’s stores at an RRP of £2.79
Main image: Shuttershock