With PCOS, there tend to be a few major reasons for sugar cravings (especially ones that strike in the evening!)
All of these things create certain imbalances in the body that your brain uses sugar cravings (or salty cravings!) to try to fix. In the case of insulin resistant PCOS, the brain tells us we need sugar when our sugars go too low- but sugar triggers an insulin response that often takes our sugars too low in the first place so it starts a vicious cycle.
When cortisol is high, we often get sugar cravings to help our body feel energized. This can happen when cortisol is low too, especially mid-afternoon because sugar gives us a brief energy spike that makes us feel better in the moment. The problem with this is the crash that comes later makes us feel even more tired!
If we don’t have a good handle on our daytime meals- eating regularly and consistently with ample protein and fiber, our evenings (or late mornings) can be where our body rebels. It wants the calories and snack foods tend to be very calorically dense and a great way for your body to fill that void. The problem is that if you fill up on nutritionally poor snack foods, it’s even harder to get your protein and fiber and it can create issues over time with your insulin resistance.
There are some other reasons for sugar cravings that sometimes catch us too:
Dehydration- if you’ve sweated quite a bit that day and haven’t replenished electrolytes, your body might cry out for sugar or salt. Sometimes it can be easy to confuse thirst and hunger, try satisfying thirst first.
Nutrient deficiencies- low on magnesium and you may crave things like chocolate or peanut butter! Low on healthy fats and you’ll crave really rich things like ice cream. Not all nutrient deficiencies equal exact food cravings, but a malnourished body will seek extra food to replenish it’s stores.
Here’s my process to overcoming cravings.
I ask what time it is- if it’s past 9:30, I know I’m just tired and I usually try to get myself to bed
I drink something- usually I’m more thirsty than hungry so I use a sugar craving as a chance to replenish my water. Sometimes this does the trick and other times it doesn’t but it’s like a little habit stack that reminds me to drink water, so it’s a win!
I ask myself if I’m just bored. Sometimes I’m just feeling bored and want a little dopamine. A cozy snack sounds good but I can get the same feeling from a fun drink and a project. I usually go get one of my standby evening drinks and take out a craft or scroll on tiktok for a while instead.
I ask myself if I ate enough today- sometimes I really am hungry. If I don’t want to spike my blood sugar close to bedtime, I’ll go for a chocolate protein shake instead. Otherwise, I sit down for a true meal or a snack “mini” meal that includes protein, fiber, and healthy fat
Eating for PCOS is really simple once you get the hang of it and it helps with cravings like this SO much. I get that it can be really confusing at first, though. If you’re wondering what I mean by all this stuff and want some more help with understanding how to eat to help your symptoms, my new course PCOS Foundations covers just that!