Ahhh dessert. That satisfaction of having something a little sweet every now and then. Dessert or celebratory treats have been in our history as humans for....ever. But if you're looking to achieve a weight loss goal, is eating dessert still realistic? And if so, when is the best time to be eating dessert to still achieve your weight loss and wellness goals?
Today, I'm breaking down ALL of the deets you need to know on dessert and weight loss!
But First, Can EVERYONE Eat Dessert?
This is a fair question, because as we know there's quite a bit of bioindividuality in terms of achieving wellness goals. This means that some people have different responses to different foods. For example, it's known that some people historically produce the lactase enzyme well after infancy and therefore can eat dairy without a problem while others never really develop this.(1)
Researchers are also theorizing a similar type of bioindividuality when it comes to our storing hormone, insulin. Insulin is the hormone that shuts off fat burning and switches the body into "storing" mode. If you're interested in more of the physiology of this, you can check out my deep dive into this topic HERE.
It turns out that some people may produce more insulin in response to various starches and sugars than others. And the higher the insulin response (meaning, the more insulin that is produced), the stronger the shutdown of lipolysis (aka fat burning).
This doesn't mean that you can NEVER have a sweet treat again. However, it's something to consider if you are having difficulties losing weight. If you suspect that you might be more "sensitive" to carbohydrates, then you will want to stick with the lowest sugar dessert options available (but NOT containing "calorie-free" sweeteners. Head over HERE for why.), such as freshly whipped cream (without added sugar) and berries or dark chocolate.
Is There A Best Time?
Regardless of if you are more sensitive to sugars or not, there IS a better time to have a treat to support your wellness goals. And that is (drum roll please) after dinner.
This might sound surprising, but in order to understand why after dinner is the best time to have a dessert, we need to understand what eating sugar actually DOES to our body.
Our body is always trying to achieve a balanced blood glucose level. If the blood glucose raises, then the body increases the production of insulin to bring it back down. If the blood glucose drops, it upregulates hormones such as cortisol (the stress hormone) to increase the blood sugar level. But what also happens when our blood glucose/sugar levels drop is an increased craving for sugary treats.
This makes sense if you think about it from the body's perspective - it's trying to get your blood glucose level back up! And ironically, when you eat something dense in sugar, such as a dessert, this causes a fairly rapid spike in blood glucose levels, which causes insulin to come in and try and quickly store it. This quick storage often results in a drop in blood glucose levels, leaving you craving more sugary treats. If you have a treat at break-fast, this drop in blood glucose level earlier in the day can leave you craving sugary treats ALL. DAY. LONG.
With this in mind, we have two strategies to consider when it comes to dessert:
Decrease the sugar intake as much as possible to keep the blood glucose level more balanced and
Keep the dessert to dinnertime to minimize the amount of time in the day that you crave sugar.
Which brings us to our next point...
The Quality Matters, Too
This doesn't mean that eating cake stuffed with refined sugars and flours that will have a drastic impact on your blood glucose levels is fine just because you have it after dinner. This will STILL cause a rapid increase in your storing hormone insulin (and therefore actively work against your goals) and likely make you feel extra hungry the next day as a result.
This is where the quality of your dessert matters just as much as the timing. Some of my favorite lower-sugar options include the PB + Chocolate Chip Cookies (pictures above) or the Chocolate Bomb Bites from the Complete Intermittent Fasting Bundle. I also love just whipping up some fresh grass-fed heavy whipping cream (sans sugar) and pairing this with the natural sweetness of blueberries or raspberries. Not only will these lower-sugar options be much more in line with your goals, it will also leave you feeling MUCH better and LESS HUNGRY the next day.
You can check out my video below for 6 of my absolute favorite sweet treats!
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Autumn Elle Nutrition