Who here is a life long battler with chocolate cravings??? Chances are there would be a hell of a lot more women out there than men putting their hands up, am I right? Ever wondered why its always the damned chocolate bars we seem to crave 9 times out of 10??
Well firstly Chocolate obviously contains a good hit of sugar, so when our blood sugar levels drop (if we forget to include healthy snacks between meals!) we start to crave sugary foods for a quick sugar hit… and what better food to accomplish that than the trusty old chocolate bar! Not only this, but chocolate also contains caffeine which further enhances the short lived energy boost! But we all know this energy boost and enhanced mood is very short lived and we end up back to feeling worse off than we did before!
Another theory that may be of interest to all the athletes out there is that chocolate contains significant amounts of magnesium…a mineral that often becomes depleted in those that do not have long recovery periods between intensive workouts! Magnesium levels become depleted as it is used in the conversion of glucose into energy and muscle contraction and relaxation processes during exercise. So if you’ve been experiencing some choccy cravings of late there is the possibility that you could just be a bit low in magnesium so do yourselves a favour and go out and buy a good quality magnesium supplement if you think this could be you!
Thirdly, chocolate makes you feel good because it raises serotonin levels in the brain, which is a neurotransmitter that is responsible for feelings of well-being and enhanced mood. Serotonin also helps reduce anxiety, which is why in times of stress or depressed mood we find ourselves reaching for the chocolate bar before we even realise what’s hit us!
But why do women crave chocolate more than men you ask?? Well we can thank our womanly cycles for that, as most women experience lowered serotonin levels during different stages of the menstrual cycle…lucky us huh?! oh well…at least it explains those all too common mood swings we never seem to have answers for!
Chocolate has also been found to contain the same alkaloid compounds that make alcohol addictive, leading some experts to believe that chocolate may actually have some physiologically addictive properties! It also contains a compound called anandamine, which scientists believe stimulates the brain in the same way as marijuana. The jury is still out on this one however and more research needs to be done before we go jumping to conclusions!
So the moral of the story? Yes chocolate does have mood enhancing properties but just remember that they are very short lived and you often end up feeling worse off after eating it than you did before… the old aging saying of “a moment on the lips a lifetime on the hips” unfortunately definitely rings true for this one!
So my advice for all you chocolate addicts out there…
1. Stop sugar cravings by eating healthy, nutritious snacks (preferably those that contain a small amount of protein) in between your main meals to keep your blood sugar levels steady!
2. Stock the cupboards at work and at home with healthy snacks and DON’T KEEP CHOCOLATE IN THE HOUSE!
3. If you just cant live without the odd chocolate treat – plan ahead and include a small chocolate treat (or 2 if necessary) in your weekly meal plan so that you don’t get the guilts after “sneaking one” and end up overindulging on a whole box! A treat is something that is eaten solely for pleasure and not for its nutrient properties so make sure you sit and actually ENJOY the experience and savour each and every crumb! (AND just remember that the most satisfaction when eating is always experienced during the first few mouthfuls regardless of what you’re eating..so eating a whole box doesn’t necessarily equal more satisfaction!)
4. Find healthier alternatives that might help curb the chocolate cravings.. ie mini choc protein bars, mix some choc protein powder through natural yoghurt for a chocolate mousse-like treat or try a low joule hot chocolate powder…perfect for curling up on the couch with on these cold winter nights!
5. And don’t forget to stock up on magnesium if you are training back to back sessions and are not getting adequate recovery time, as your body could actually just be singing out for a decent hit of magnesium to replenish depleted supplies!
Good luck chocolate addicts!