I’ve started reading The Endurance Diet by Matt Fitzgerald after hearing about it on the Successful Athletes Podcast with Jozsef Evans. I’ve known for a while that too many of my calories come from sweets (I have a wicked sweet tooth, especially for chocolate), and this book has finally motivated me to change my diet. I’m satisfied with my body composition so this interest is really about learning to better fuel my workouts and life in general.
What have others done to wean themselves from sugar and other artificial sweets?
What do people do for endurance-diet-healthy morning and afternoon snacks?
I essentially work a desk job but there is a lot of candy in the office, so it is easy to try to fill the cravings with whatever is available. I workout early in the morning - fasted for easy stuff, a bottle of mix for longer rides or anything sweet spot and above.
I usually have oatmeal with nuts, raisins, and brown sugar and coffee with cream and sugar at work for breakfast around 8 am but am hungry around 10:30. My morning snack has typically been peanut butter and crackers. Lunch is usually leftover dinner from the night before (wife is a good cook and is usually healthy). Around 2 or 3 pm I tend to get hungry again and try to satisfy it with another cup of coffee (caffeine being an appetite suppressant).
Between a long commute and kids’ activities dinners are usually late, around 8 pm. I try to be in bed by 9 pm and asleep by 10 pm (coming close to violating eating within two hours of bed time). I track what I eat with the MyFitnessPal app (to within about +/- 10% accuracy) so I also know that I’m eating too much fat and I’m usually not at the recommended 60-80% of daily calories from carbs.
I used to down a block of Kit Kat Chocolate on a Friday night whilst watching TV with my partner. Huge calories right there. We also had a jar full of M&M’s and ‘fun-size’ Mars Bars on the coffee table in the loungeroom. Over time, those jars kept multiplying - lollies, chocolate almonds etc. It was so easy to just walk past the table and grab a handful here and there. All of a sudden at the days end you realize you’ve just downed a whole jar of chocolate almonds and a tonne of snake lollies! Oh well, better wash that down with a whole block of chocolate tonight. Yep, I was a huge sugar fiend. The double edged sword to that is that when you try and ween yourself off it, the cravings are intense and just as hard to managed as the TR workouts!
So, it took some time. It was hard. It was like getting off drugs. I had to ween off. It was almost an emotional connection and reaching for the snacks by habit. I started to get real moody if I didn’t have it so it was hard to be around me for a week or so.
I removed most of the jars from the coffee table and replaced them with rice crackers and seeds. I also started to slowly limit my intake of processed sugar and sweets over 6 weeks until I was having no artificial stuff. None at all. No chips, lollies or chocolate.I actually now have got to a point where we can have chocolate in the house and I don’t actually want any of it. I have completely weened off. So the tip there is to go slow and be kind on yourself because it is hard! Refined sugar is big business. Big business designed to keep you coming back for more.
I also make my own stuff now. I actually just finished making some peanut butter and cacao protein balls this morning. Not only do they taste great, but they also are good for recovery and for a snack with a cup of tea at night. I find that I can reward myself by having one or two of these home made balls a night with a cuppa and I feel great! They do me just fine. I also like the fact that I make them and I know exactly what goes into them.
The ingredients are below. I just chuck them all in a bowl and then mix together and roll the mixture into balls and chuck in the freezer. Super tasty!
Peanut Butter - natural and organic
Organic plant based Protein powder scoops
Brown Flaxeed meal
Small amount of agave
I am exactly the same. Train super early (up at 4:30am for a 3hr Endurance session this morning before work. Did that fasted). Generally ride fasted but fuel for VO2 and Threshold sessions etc.
The only real alarm bells here was the sugar and cream in the morning coffee. We have coffee different over here and generally grind my own beans and have black or with almond milk if I am feeling fancy. The peanut butter and crackers is a good snack. Try mixing it up with some cottage cheese which is healthy and tasty too. Also high in protein. The oatmeal is good because it is low GI so should keep you fuller for longer.
Have you tried chucking in a small-ish salad at around 2-3pm? Some spinach, tuna, chopped carrot etc? Something that is small but enough to tie you over until dinner? If you mix in some beans as well which are low GI you might find that that keeps you full too - less desire to snack that way as there is a big gap between your lunch and dinner.
I love chocolate. I’m also dairy intolerant. And soy also doesn’t agree with me. Useful as it basically means I can’t eat any US processed foods as they all contain one or both those ingredients so helps a ton with clean eating.
My alternative to chocolate? Cocoa nibs. Add them to a protein shake with some cocoa powder, banana, almond milk, chia seeds, date and boom. Little bombs of chocolatey flavor. Excellent chocolate shake without all the sugar. Cocoa nibs also make excellent toppings for a bowl of oatmeal (adds a lovely crunch, if doing overnight oats just add prior to eating or you lose the crunch) or many other homemade desserts to give you some chocolatey flavor without the sugar, processed stuff and calories.
I stopped putting sugar into coffee about 10 years ago, just went cold turkey after going to Shanghai on business and having Americanos for a week. What has always helped me avoid sugar is eating a lot of fruit. Right now its pitted fruit season so peaches and nectarines and pluots and plums and apriplums and plucots. And we’ve had raspberries and blueberries in the house for awhile now, I usually mix those into yogurt and cottage cheese. We cut up vegetables and I snack on those too, in addition to always having veggies for lunch and dinner.
I used to be a massive sugar freak. Now i never really go for it unless it’s specifically to provide energy in a workout. The rest of the time i just somehow avoid it. It’s partially a change in mindset.
I also work in offices where there is the steady flow of sweets and cakes because it’s always someone’s birthday or whatever. I never, ever touch any of it. I am as likely to eat a sprinkle frosted turd as one of those sugar & trans fat monstrosities. That is the key: Don’t think of it as somehow good, or even edible. It’s not, it really is factory processed crap that the office fatties eat.
My takeaway from Matt’s book was to eat healthy & eat lots. I think you probably aren’t eating enough, so you’re filling the gaps with sugar. It might be that you are hungry mid morning because you aren’t replacing the full amount of workout calories. If you do a 1000cal workout before breakfast then that equates to about 150g oats with milk, mixed seeds, honey. So you need to eat all that, and then that only brings you back to zero so you still are down 1 breakfast.
If you want a snack eat an apple, or 2. Nuts are good but highly calorific so good to eat to provide satiety.
I do still eat a load of chocolate but it’s always 90% dark Lindt chocolate so it’s actually not bad for you. I haven’t gone a day without chocolate for 20 years.
Key for was to really understand that sweet lead to more sweets. In many ways the first days are the worst and it quickly becomes easier. Once you’ve gone a few days cold turkey it’ll become much easier. What’s dangerous though is that, much like heroin, it is extremely hard to have a little. Blood sugar spikes lead to insulin spikes lead to blood sugar dips lead to cravings and it all starts over. I’m doing best when I cut out sugar almost completely. I’ll only have sweets as ride fuel. That’s surely not ideal, but for me it works, gets me motivated to ride and keeps my blood sugar balanced the rest of the day.
As with many things, it also helps to stop telling yourself that you’ve got a sweet tooth. You don’t, nobody does. Don’t use that as an excuse
Great to read this post! I went through this exact thought process just a number of weeks ago!
One thing that’s really helped me is QUARK! Oh my god that thing is heavenly. Coupled with some vanilla protein powder and maybe some berries or nuts its a fantastic, sweet, nutritious snack.
Tasty and high in protein, I would genuinely take a bowl of this over a dessert.
The main thing you’ll face is making this new change a habit. Be consistent and think of it as something that is helping you reach your goals. This really helped me establish the required mindset to make it work.
The great thing about oatmeal and quark (along with other base foods) is how versatile they are! You can pump them up with SO many things you literally cannot lose!
Anyone that says they dont like quark or oatmeal just hasn’t had them with the right things yet
If there’s literally ANYTHING else I can help you with (unless its financial ) please get in touch
I follow an “everything in moderation” approach to my diet. A lot of the “healthy” options, while healthier are often more calorie dense. If I’m too restrictive, I just collapse in a binge of the stuff I’ve been denying myself. I go for smaller amounts of the stuff I like!
fwiw I make my own snacks, but first port of call is fruit for me.
I always question why people insist on doing this. You don’t need to smash down the carbs for every ride, but keeping the body well fueled should be the priority for most athletes. People have become so obsessed with becoming “fat adapted” that they’ll sobotage their own training and health in the process. Fasted rides might be of benefit when you’ve maxed out your fitness gains, but for the everage athlete they’re often not worth the hassle. Eat properly on the bike and the cravings will more than likely become more managable.
I also have a sweet tooth, particularly for pastries (sugar and refined white flour FTW).
That said, my biggest success has been removing refined sugar (white, brown sugar, maple syrup, jam etc.) from most, if not all my regular meals. My experience is that, especially if I start my day with say pancakes and syrup or coffee with sugar, this sets me up for sugar cravings for the rest of the day. You can replace the refined sugars in a lot of cases with fruits, and good coffee is better black anyways .
While I have no resources besides anecdotal evidence to back this up, I remember hearing or reading once that as you change you diet, so too do your tastes change (and maybe also you gut bacteria and that can also perhaps influence cravings, but now I’m really stretching it without evidence). This seems to be true in my case as far as cravings are concerned.
Finally, it’s important to allow yourself the opportunity to indulge. Saying no all the time will only get you so far, but saying yes regularly in a controlled way will add structure to your eating habits; and that’s really what establishing a good diet is all about.
I had a sweet tooth my whole life pretty much. Now that I’m experiencing long haul covid I was forced to deal with it, because only now that I pay an obvious and steep health price for eating refined sugar do I really see what a terribly addictive and poisonous substance it really is. In the past I managed to mostly cut it out of my diet temporarily for a couple months here and there to make a race weight but always came back to it. I won’t be able to do that again.
Lots of good advice above, finding substitutes to snack on in your typical snack windows is a good option. As others have said, berries and fruit can give you a sweet fix. Sometimes I’ll chew a piece of sugar free gum after a meal. I know artificial sweeteners can have their downside, but it’s better than the sugar effects now for me. In the evenings after dinner I might make a light protein shake that’s mostly ice but add in a half banana, some lower calorie almond milk, a few berries like strawberries and blueberries, and a scoop of chocolate protein powder that has some stevia. That seems to fill me up long enough to make it to bed and tastes close enough to a shake that I feel like I got my fix.
Cutting back on breads and pastas is a good move, too. I still have some of those, but less than before. If you like breakfast cereal, try to find a market that has some alternative cereal brands that contain less or no sugar. Sprouts stores have some good selection if you have those near where you live. Guessing a place like Whole Food does, also.
Disclaimer: there is plenty of science to show genetic differences… but self diagnosis of having a sweet tooth, sounds a bit like the self diagnosis that ‘I’m a sprinter’ - it becomes self fullfilling.
My anecdata matches this…
I used to load sugar into coffee, eat sugar loaded breakfest cereal, etc. it’s adictive*.
One day I to started reducing the sugar in my coffee and after a few weeks, the taste changed - now any sugar in coffee tastes horrible. The same applies to the rest of my diet where I’ve made gradual changes.
I would start with experimenting there, every week put a little less sugar in your coffee until it is gone. You might not like it for a little while but perservere.
I like overnight oats. You can make them up to 5 days ahead and it only takes about 5 minutes to make a week’s servings. Super simple and easy to grab. Splash a touch of pure maple syrup to hit that sweet tooth and almond milk instead of regular for people that can’t do dairy. Also for the chocolate lovers a sprinkle of cacao powder is a nice touch. Since I started doing overnight oats I’ve found the less healthy snack stuff is not appealing. My body gets what it needs and I feel satiated.
I also love dark chocolate so what I’ve done is make it a reward for doing hard workouts. 100 cals of super dark chocolate after a sweet spot and above workout is well within the endurance diet boundaries (and if I remember correctly the book actually suggests incorporating it into your diet, been a while since I read it) plus serves as great motivation to hop on the bike and get the work done. No bike= no chocolate. For some reason I always get it done.