40 Days without Sugar: What Happens inside the Body? | Project: Sugar-Free
For the 40 days of the “Project: Sugar-Free” Challenge, we’ll be giving up refined sugar and sugar alternatives. To track your progress, you can download the 40-day calendar plan here; answers to frequently asked questions about the Challenge can be found in the FAQ. For support in your sugar-free journey, join the private Sugar-Free Challenge Facebook Group!
Even just 40 days without sugar will cause significant changes in your body – in this post, I’ll give you an overview of what you might expect.
The average German consumes roughly 100g of sugar per day; the average American consumes 126g per day, and the average Brit, 93g). The result? Countless diseases and other health problems. The disadvantages of sugar far outweigh the advantages: sugar contains no vitamins or minerals, does not satisfy your hunger, makes you sick, and is highly addictive. Its only advantages? It tastes damn good and provides a quick energy boost. Glucose, which is found in refined sugar, is essential for several bodily functions – our brain alone uses up roughly 140g every day! However, as the starches from grains and vegetables are also converted to glucose in the body, our body has no need for refined sugar.
You might find, however, that you experience some withdrawal symptoms when you first give up sugar. These may include cravings, headaches, fatigue, difficulty concentrating, mood swings, and irritability.
Yet once you’ve made it through this initial phase – which varies in duration from person to person (and, in some lucky people, doesn’t take place at all!) – you’ll quickly see and feel the positive effects of going sugar-free.
Giving up sugar …
… increases satiety
In the long term, excessive fructose consumption (that is, artificially manufactured fructose, not the natural fructose found in fruit and vegetables) will lead leptin resistance. The satiety hormone leptin, which normally signals to the brain that the stomach is full, will no longer do its job, which in turn leads to overeating and weight gain. Reducing the consumption of high-fructose corn syrup and other processed forms of fructose will help you to feel satisfied with less food.
… leads to weight loss
Unlike complex carbohydrates, proteins, or fats, which first have to be broken down and converted in the digestive system, sugar enters the bloodstream directly. Industrial sugar has a high energy density without containing vitamins or minerals, which means that processed foods with added sugars are full of “hidden” empty calories. Eating these foods leads to a rapid rise in blood sugar, which in turn causes the pancreas to pump out insulin. This hormone ushers the sugar into the cells, where it’s converted to fat. In short, sugar encourages the body to store extra fat, and if you eat too many sugar-sweetened foods over the course of years, you risk becoming overweight or even obese. In Germany, around 53% of women and 67% of men are overweight; in the U.S., 67% of women and 74% of men are overweight, while in the UK, these figures amount to 59%of women and 65% of men. And the trend is on the rise.
I’ve always stressed that losing weight is not my primary concern – rather, I’m more focused on overall health. Nevertheless, you can expect to lose one or two kilos during the 40 days of the Challenge. This depends on how much sugar you were consuming before you began the Challenge, and what you choose to eat during the Challenge.
… increases your sense of well-being
All in all, you’ll feel fitter and more productive after the 40 days are over – and mostly likely even sooner – and those dreaded afternoon energy slumps will vanish. This is because your blood sugar levels will start to stabilize, remaining relatively constant throughout the day and protecting you from those crazy cravings.
… leads to better-quality sleep
Excessive sugar consumption not only leads to lethargy and sluggishness: it can also trigger sleep problems. Quitting sugar will make it easier to fall asleep at night and will also improve the quality of your sleep overall. You’ll wake up more refreshed, alert, and energized.
… makes your taste buds more sensitive
Give up sugar and you’ll notice that your sense of taste will change. Since you’ll be weaning yourself off of extreme (and unnatural) sweetness, your taste buds will neutralize and become more sensitive to other flavors. Foods with lots of added sugars will start to taste much too sweet. At the same time, fruits – or vegetables or bread, due to the presence of starches in these foods – will suddenly start to taste much sweeter.
… clears up your skin and gives it a radiant glow
Since sugar is highly inflammatory, consuming great quantities of it accelerates the aging process and makes your skin more susceptible to impurities, inflammation, and acne. Because of this, skin problems tend to vanish during a sugar detox – which means your skin will become clearer and more radiant.
… protects the heart
A high level of sugar consumption is associated with an increased risk of heart disease. Ditching added sugar has a positive effect on your heart health.
… protects the liver
Studies have shown that sugar – just like alcohol – can have negative effects on the liver. If sugar consumption (especially in the form of industrially produced fructose) is too high over a prolonged period of time, the liver will lose its ability to process sugar and remove it from the bloodstream. It will then store the sugar as fat, and thus become increasingly fatty. Give up sugar, and you’ll be giving your liver a much-deserved break.
… leads to better digestive health
High sugar consumption has a particularly deleterious effect on the gut. Too much sugar throws the intestinal flora out of whack,* which can disrupt digestion and lead to gas, bloating, and constipation. As well, intestinal fungi like Candida albicans love feasting on sugar – which means they’ll start to multiply. Because the fungi will begin demanding more sugar in order to reproduce, an overgrowth of Candida albicans can trigger intense cravings. Candida can also cause flatulence and abdominal pain. Conversely, giving up sugar can lead to a rapid improvement in digestion. :-)
I’m looking forward to hearing about all of your experiences during the Challenge – feel free to share them with me and other participants on social media with the hashtag #projektzuckerfrei!
Eine nette Überschrift
Ich bin Hannah Frey, Gesundheitswissenschaftlerin, Bloggerin und Kochbuch- und Ernährungsratgeber-Autorin. Ich helfe dir dabei, dich auch im stressigen Alltag mit wenig Aufwand gesund zu ernähren. Ich möchte dich zu einem gesunden Leben motivieren und inspirieren. Deshalb findest du hier jede Menge schnell zubereitete, einfache und alltagstaugliche Rezepte aus natürlichen Zutaten und ohne raffinierten Zucker – aber mit 100 % Geschmack!