What has sugar got to do with willpower?

There is a strong link between willpower, self-control and glucose, or sugar and your body's and brain's main dietary fuel source. Experts have observed how sugar influences your willpower to stay fit. Read this to eat nutritiously to stay fit.

Ariba Khaliq
Written by: Ariba KhaliqUpdated at: Oct 03, 2017 18:43 IST
What has sugar got to do with willpower?

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Temptation is omnipresent and whether you give in to your temptations or not comes down to one point- willpower. Willpower is the energy to resolve inner conflicts to do the right things. Willpower initiates self-control which helps you change your response towards temptations like eating sugar.

But, is sugar and willpower really connected? Yes. Here’s how.

Sugar and brain

When your glucose supply runs low, your brain doesn’t stop working, but it does stop doing the particular work at hand and starts doing others. Your willpower to finish the required work and self-control tend to suffer. Skipping meals or following a restrictive diet can leave you hungrier than usual and hence you are less excited about your goals, exercise and other tasks. At the same time, your craving for sweets increases.

Renowned social psychologist Roy Baumeister, through a study observed that hungry-students who had cookies and chocolates worked on given unsolvable puzzles for about 20 minutes without giving up. Whereas, the other group of students who only ate radish, although having successfully resisted the temptation to munch on sweets, surrendered after eight minutes. The difference was significant.

Baumeister believes that these findings are logical because simple sugars like sweets are the fastest-acting suppliers of glucose. Your brain requires twice as much energy as the rest of your body’s cells, and when it gets more glucose, self-control becomes easier for your brain.

Should you eat more sugar for boosted willpower?

No. Although sweets are a powerful source of temporary rush of energy and they focus in some cases, they are not a healthy option. The more dependable option is a balanced diet that is based on nutrient-rich foods and treats in moderation.

Such a diet supports blood sugar balance as well, which is associated with sustained energy levels, appetite control and mental capabilities. And just eating enough, not starving your body of glucose, isn’t enough. You also have to set realistic goals to meet your weight and wellness goals. Unrealistic goals squander the limited willpower you have.

Having only one supply of willpower and using it for many other things other than dietary factors can prove to be challenging. But, it isn’t impossible.

Willpower to eat right

If your willpower is challenged, and you go weak in it like many people do, you can follow numerous steps to improve your eating habits. These steps will enhance your overall health.

Lifestyle Changes- To adhere to your fitness goals for the long-term, you must make changes to your lifestyle. Like adopt a diet that typically includes some sweets. Enjoying your favourite food in moderation can help you focus on consuming what is healthy for you.

Mind the Amount- Willpower often betrays us like when we dine-in at all-you-can-eat buffets, or have an over-sized bag of snacks in the house and you are watching your favourite TV show. When you have easy access to low-nutrient foods, it’s a potential setup for failure.

Right Foods- To be fit overall, stock up on vegetables and fruits; they are rich in fibre, and poor in calories. Fibre satiates you, so consume foods like beans, lentils, broccoli, raspberries and artichokes guard against excessive food cravings. Also, sugary foods raise up your glucose levels abundantly, fibre-rich may prevent willpower decline associated with low glucose levels.

The USDA (U.S. Department of Agriculture) suggests limiting foods high in solid fats and added sugars to no more than 5 to 15 percent of your total daily diet. Fortunately, healthy eating may not require as much willpower. Instead, focus on adopting a healthy-food state of mind and healthy eating habits.

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