Sugary foods and drinks are nearly everywhere. Specialty drinks at the coffee shop, kids selling cookies and candy bars outside the yoga studio, and don’t even get me started on the sugar-packed holiday season that begins earlier and earlier every year.
You don’t lack willpower or self-discipline if you find yourself reaching for a second or third brownie. In a world where sugar is constantly within arm's reach, staying away can be a real challenge. Sweetness, satisfaction, and instant gratification make sugar one of the most enticing substances we encounter daily.
When most people set a goal to cut out sugar, they usually try to go cold turkey. That approach rarely lasts for long. You might feel shaky, irritable, lethargic, starving, and have intense cravings for the exact food you’re trying to avoid.
Whether you’ve given into cravings or sneaky sugars have placed you back at square one, let’s talk about damage control and what you can do to detox when you’ve had too much sugar.
Is Sugar Actually Addictive?
A decade ago, a study involving rats presented a startling revelation: when given the choice between Oreos and hard drugs like cocaine and morphine, the cookies came out on top. This preference can be attributed to the release of dopamine, a neurotransmitter that regulates mood and motivation. When you eat sugar-rich foods like Oreos, your brain rapidly releases dopamine, leading to feelings of pleasure and a desire to seek out similar foods.1
David Kessler, MD, termed this effect “hyperpalatability.” Hyperpalatable foods, often a mix of sugar, fat, and salt, have a profound effect on our eating habits. They activate neurons that make resisting seconds and thirds almost impossible, as researchers learned with the Oreo study.2
Excessive sugar consumption has been associated with imbalances in hunger-regulating hormones in some studies. When you factor in the emotional eating that can result from feelings like stress or boredom, you can begin to see the broader picture of why so many of us feel addicted.
Sneaky Sugars: The Real Saboteurs
Sugar is nearly everywhere these days. Even when you’re savvy, avoiding it can be a challenge. The usual suspects aren’t what usually trip people up. You know that a piece of birthday cake comes loaded with sugar, and you’ll hopefully proceed accordingly. It’s the hidden sugars that can sabotage your goals—without you even knowing it.
Sneaky sugars hide in places you’d never suspect: whole foods, diet foods, packaged fruit, drinks, sauces, salad dressings, and even sugar substitutes. Besides tasting sweet, sugar can add texture to foods, extend their shelf life, and act as a binder to hold foods together.
When you inadvertently consume these foods, they can trigger cravings for more sugar. Sometimes, you’re not even aware that you’re consuming sugar. Is it any wonder that most of us struggle with sugar addiction?
The Effects of Too Much Sugar
Consuming too much sugar quickly raises blood sugar, leading to crashes that intensify sugar cravings. This might be familiar if you've indulged in a hefty pasta meal with a sweet dessert, making you more inclined to relax than to be active.
Sugar not only displaces nutritious foods but can also cause mood swings and brain fog, among other health issues.
Research links high sugar intake with risks including:
- Chronic inflammation3
- Dental caries
- Cardiovascular disease
- Type-2 diabetes
- Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD)
- Attention deficit and hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)4
Excess sugar can also increase your risk of metabolic syndrome, marked by abdominal obesity, high blood pressure, elevated blood sugar, raised triglycerides, and low HDL cholesterol levels.5 This syndrome disrupts metabolism and heightens the risk of heart disease.
Metabolic Reset™ is a powerhouse formula that enhances the effects of a well-designed diet and lifestyle plan. We’ve combined herbs, vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients in this synergistic supplement to promote blood-sugar balance and a healthy body composition.*
Why Fructose Is So Damaging
Whether from processed sugars like high-fructose corn syrup, or more natural versions like maple syrup and honey, your body breaks sugars down mainly into glucose and fructose.
Glucose fuels most body cells. Once in the bloodstream, insulin helps distribute it. Excess glucose is stored in the liver as glycogen or, when limits are exceeded, as fat for long-term energy.
Fructose metabolism is different. Most of this sugar heads straight to your liver and doesn't significantly trigger insulin, meaning it has a lesser direct impact on blood sugar. However, much of it turns into triglycerides, fats linked to various metabolic issues such as fatty liver disease and insulin resistance.6
Fructose induces a potent dopamine release, potentially leading to overconsumption as it doesn't effectively signal satiety. Over time, excessive fructose can alter liver function, impacting blood glucose and insulin regulation.
Put simply, glucose gives you fuel; fructose gives you fat. While both can be harmful in large amounts, fructose poses greater metabolic risks.
How to Detox When You’ve Had Too Much Sugar
If you’re ready for a sugar reset, don’t try to do it all at once. Going cold turkey usually backfires.
I take a different approach: By gradually tapering down sugar, you allow your body to reset its cravings and metabolic balance. In my book, Sugar Impact Diet, I provide a three-cycle plan to help you permanently break free of sugar addiction.
Over time, your taste preferences will evolve so that you can appreciate the natural sweetness of, say, almonds or vanilla. As you gradually come off sugar, these seven strategies can make the transition easier without withdrawal or other miseries that going cold turkey can create.
1. Take a Protein-First Approach to Every Meal
Studies show that high-protein meals can improve appetite control, satiety, and food cravings to better manage your sweet tooth.7 Combining protein-rich foods with fiber and healthy fats at every meal keeps your blood-sugar levels steady. This means you’re less prone to cravings and that dreaded sugar crash.
2. Incorporate an Overnight Fast
Intermittent fasting complements balanced meals to help stabilize blood sugar. Research shows that regularly fasting can have a positive effect on glucose levels and significantly improve insulin resistance for people with metabolic syndrome.8
You don’t need a crazy-long fast to get those benefits, either. Enjoy dinner, close the kitchen three or four hours before bedtime, and break your overnight fast with a loaded smoothie by 9 or 10 am for balanced blood-sugar levels throughout the day.
3. Break Your Fast With a Loaded Smoothie
Breaking your overnight fast with a nutrient-dense loaded smoothie can set the tone for the day. Your first meal should contain at least 30 grams of protein, and a loaded smoothie is the perfect way to get that multitasking protein. Packed with fiber, protein, and healthy fats, a loaded smoothie can help stabilize blood-sugar levels, reduce cravings, and give you a head start to break your sugar addiction for good.
My Eat Protein First Loaded Smoothie Cookbook provides 60 protein-packed shake recipes to keep you full, focused, and on the fast-track to sustainable weight loss. Plus, it’s free!
4. Lift Heavy
Research shows that exercise helps reduce the urge for sugary foods and helps you better manage the stress that can leave you craving sugar.9 Lifting weights is the most effective way to crush sugar cravings through exercise.
Strength training can also improve insulin sensitivity and balance hunger-regulating hormones to better manage stress and reduce emotional eating.
My FREE Resistance Training Cheat Sheet provides everything you need for your fitness journey, including home gym essentials, an 8-week workout plan, and a progress tracker to track your sets, reps, and weights with each workout. Grab yours here.
5. Manage Stress
When you're stressed, you're more tempted by treats like coworker’s homemade brownies. This is because stress releases cortisol, which boosts sugar cravings. It also releases dopamine, a feel-good chemical, making you momentarily happier but increasing hunger in the long run. This is why stress often leads to emotional eating.
The key is to find something else rewarding that doesn’t have sugar’s repercussions. Meditation, yoga, deep breathing, putting on fun music, emotional freedom technique (EFT) or tapping, or a long walk can all help you manage stress with no downside.
Take Ten Stress Support is a uniquely formulated product that provides gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), a key neurotransmitter in the body involved in a normal, calm stress response. This synergistic formula also supplies other calming nutrients including glycine, niacinamide, pantothenic acid, and vitamin B6.*
6. Prioritize Quality Sleep
It’s not your imagination if you crave sugary foods after a night of tossing and turning. Lack of sleep and imbalances in your hunger hormones are interconnected. Inadequate sleep can reduce leptin levels, which tells your brain to stop eating. Ghrelin increases, which stimulates hunger. Studies show those imbalances can lead to weight gain.10
Sleep deprivation can also reduce insulin sensitivity, making your body less effective at using glucose for energy.11 Cortisol levels stay high when they’re not supposed to be, increasing cravings for comfort foods to cope with stress and emotional fatigue.
Aim for eight hours of quality, uninterrupted sleep every night. Create a consistent sleep schedule to regulate your internal clock. reduce screen exposure an hour or two before bedtime to improve sleep quality, and make your bedroom conducive to sleep by keeping it dark, quiet, and at a comfortable temperature.
Say hello to your best sleep ever! The Optimal Sleep Kit contains three supplements (Sleep Candy™, Magnesium Body Calm, and my All-In-One Shake) that help you fall asleep faster, stay asleep through the night, and wake up feeling rested.*
7. Try These Supplements
When you’re eating by the plate and incorporating these lifestyle factors, a few essential nutrients can complement those efforts and make sugar detoxification easier. You’ll want to start with foundational nutrients, including a great multivitamin and omega-3s. With those in place, these three supplements can help balance blood sugar and make tapering off sugar painless.
Berberine is a compound found in various plants that can help better manage blood-sugar levels and improve insulin sensitivity. Stabilized blood sugar reduces the spikes and crashes that lead to cravings.
Blood Sugar Support pairs berberine with an antioxidant called alpha-lipoic acid (ALA), which can also improve insulin sensitivity and regulate blood sugar levels.*
Magnesium is what I call the “miracle mineral.” Animal studies show that it can enhance insulin sensitivity, improve how effectively your cells use glucose, and reduce the risk of insulin resistance.12 Magnesium also helps regulate neurotransmitters involved in mood and stress response.
Magnesium Body Calm provides 300 mg of highly bioavailable magnesium bisglycinate chelate to support blood-sugar balance and reduce cravings.*
L-glutamine L-glutamine, an amino acid, can help control blood sugar and reduce sugar cravings and mood swings. In 1955, a study showed that L-glutamine reduced alcohol cravings in rats.13 Later, Dr. Robert Atkins found it also helped with sugar cravings.
L-glutamine’s other benefits include supporting gut health, reducing the risk of conditions like leaky gut, and balancing mood-related neurotransmitters.
Glutamine Powder provides therapeutic amounts of this multitasking amino acid in a convenient powder form that mixes easily into your favorite liquid or loaded smoothie.*
Why Gradually Detoxing Is Key
Going cold turkey from sugar might seem tempting, but there are more sustainable approaches. Removing all sugar can lead to intense cravings, mood swings, and even binge-eating episodes. You can’t go from a high-sugar diet to a low-sugar diet overnight without repercussions. You’ve done that before, and it probably didn’t work out too well. I’ve got a better solution with the Sugar Impact Diet.
No other program looks at sugar as comprehensively, strategically, or innovatively. Why? Because other programs set you up to fail by focusing on only a single aspect of sugar measurement, like the glycemic index, or by asking you to take drastic and unrealistic measures, like giving up all carbs—right now! You’re sent on a rollercoaster ride, still craving the sugar that sent you on the ride in the first place.
By looking at sugar’s impact from multiple angles, I’ll show you how to break free of sneaky sugars and eliminate high- and medium-impact foods—the most significant sources of hidden sugars holding your health and waistline hostage—from seven food groups. Just by dropping high- and medium-sugar-impact foods, you’ll reset and retrain your taste buds—and, like my clients, you can lose up to 10 pounds in just two weeks.
Ready to make this sugar detox your last and break free of its addictive nature? Learn more about the Sugar Impact Diet here.
- Connecticut College. “Are Oreos addictive? Research says yes.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 15 October 2013.
- Ahima RS. The end of overeating: Taking control of the insatiable American appetite. J Clin Invest. 2009 Oct 1;119(10):2867. doi: 10.1172/JCI40983. Epub 2009 Oct 1. PMCID: PMC2752095.
- Stewart KL, Gigic B, Himbert C, Warby CA, Ose J, Lin T, Schrotz-King P, Boehm J, Jordan KC, Metos J, Schneider M, Figueiredo JC, Li CI, Shibata D, Siegel E, Toriola AT, Hardikar S, Ulrich CM. Association of Sugar Intake with Inflammation- and Angiogenesis-Related Biomarkers in Newly Diagnosed Colorectal Cancer Patients. Nutr Cancer. 2022;74(5):1636-1643. doi: 10.1080/01635581.2021.1957133. Epub 2021 Aug 9. PMID: 34369225; PMCID: PMC8825879.
- Paglia L. The sweet danger of added sugars. Eur J Paediatr Dent. 2019 Jun;20(2):89. doi: 10.23804/ejpd.2019.20.02.01. PMID: 31246081.
- Seo EH, Kim H, Kwon O. Association between Total Sugar Intake and Metabolic Syndrome in Middle-Aged Korean Men and Women. Nutrients. 2019 Sep 1;11(9):2042. doi: 10.3390/nu11092042. PMID: 31480603; PMCID: PMC6769797.
- Semova I, Biddinger SB. Triglycerides in Nonalcoholic Fatty Liver Disease: Guilty Until Proven Innocent. Trends Pharmacol Sci. 2021 Mar;42(3):183-190. doi: 10.1016/j.tips.2020.12.001. Epub 2021 Jan 16. PMID: 33468321; PMCID: PMC10065162.
- Leidy HJ. Increased dietary protein as a dietary strategy to prevent and/or treat obesity. Mo Med. 2014 Jan-Feb;111(1):54-8. PMID: 24645300; PMCID: PMC6179508.
- Yuan X, Wang J, Yang S, Gao M, Cao L, Li X, Hong D, Tian S, Sun C. Effect of Intermittent Fasting Diet on Glucose and Lipid Metabolism and Insulin Resistance in Patients with Impaired Glucose and Lipid Metabolism: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. Int J Endocrinol. 2022 Mar 24;2022:6999907. doi: 10.1155/2022/6999907. PMID: 35371260; PMCID: PMC8970877.
- Ledochowski L, Ruedl G, Taylor AH, Kopp M. Acute effects of brisk walking on sugary snack cravings in overweight people, affect and responses to a manipulated stress situation and to a sugary snack cue: a crossover study. PLoS One. 2015 Mar 11;10(3):e0119278. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0119278. PMID: 25760042; PMCID: PMC4356559.
- van Egmond LT, Meth EMS, Engström J, Ilemosoglou M, Keller JA, Vogel H, Benedict C. Effects of acute sleep loss on leptin, ghrelin, and adiponectin in adults with healthy weight and obesity: A laboratory study. Obesity (Silver Spring). 2023 Mar;31(3):635-641. doi: 10.1002/oby.23616. Epub 2022 Nov 20. PMID: 36404495.
- Mesarwi O, Polak J, Jun J, Polotsky VY. Sleep disorders and the development of insulin resistance and obesity. Endocrinol Metab Clin North Am. 2013 Sep;42(3):617-34. doi: 10.1016/j.ecl.2013.05.001. PMID: 24011890; PMCID: PMC3767932.
- Liu H, Li N, Jin M, Miao X, Zhang X, Zhong W. Magnesium supplementation enhances insulin sensitivity and decreases insulin resistance in diabetic rats. Iran J Basic Med Sci. 2020 Aug;23(8):990-998. doi: 10.22038/ijbms.2020.40859.9650. PMID: 32952944; PMCID: PMC7478262.
*These statements have not been evaluated by the Food & Drug Administration. Products mentioned are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. The views in this blog by JJ Virgin should never be used as a substitute for professional medical advice. Please work with a healthcare practitioner concerning any medical problem or concern.