Do you think a chocolate bar will take you out of the afternoon low and give you the energy for the last hours of the day? You’re wrong buddy.
On the contrary, sugar makes you tired and robs your energy. So does sugar influence mental performance?
Everything you need to know about sugar and mental performance will be covered in this article. In addition, we’ll tell you the best and healthiest sugar alternatives!
Sugar’s Effect on Mental Performance
Although it sounds overkill for one or the other, sugar is a drug, like alcohol, nicotine or even cocaine. Why is that?
The moment you eat sugar, your body releases dopamine, the human happiness hormone that has a feedback effect and drives you to do the same things that led to the release of the hormone. As beautiful as such high feels, it is so difficult in the context of real drugs, because it is responsible for the addictiveness of e.g. of alcohol or cocaine.
The consumption of sugar also docks onto the receptors of dopamine, making it a true drug that triggers a reward mechanism in the brain. After that, you feel good, but only until the sugar has been broken down again and you wait for the next sugar boost. The desire for more sugar is a “seek reaction” of your body and fighting it costs you strength and energy.
It’s also hard for you to concentrate on other things and you lose your focus and thus your mental performance.
Effects of Sugar on the Brain
So a diet that contains a lot of sugar will worsen your cognitive functions and your memory.
A study in the Journal of Physiology has also found that the synapses in the brain are slowed down or blocked by the sugar.
Regular sugar, or fructose to be precise, makes the brain resistant to the hormone insulin that is produced when sugar is consumed. Insulin is needed as an important component in the hippocampus, the center of the brain where memories are processed. So the sugar deteriorates your memory and your memory. The current research goes even further and sees a connection between long-term increased sugar consumption and Alzheimer’s.
In addition, according to a recent study from the University of California, sugar also promotes so-called free radicals in the membranes of the brain, thereby affecting the ability of our nerve cells to communicate.
This reduces the speed of information transmission in your brain. UCLA’s research revealed that the subjects felt somehow dizzy and unable to concentrate so well. The study also indicates that there is a strong link between increased sugar intake and a reduction in how well one can follow directions and processes.
Sugar, Insulin & Mental Performance
If you feel something like a burst of energy after eating a piece of cake, that is not a delusion of your body. Sugar-containing foods actually lend you an elation.
But the sweet snack after lunch is also responsible for making you fall into a motivational and concentration hole in the afternoon, and your productivity suffers greatly.
For example, a Princeton University study has identified the relationship between human behavior and mood and sugar. The added sugar is broken down very quickly by the release of insulin and thus ensures the increased dopamine release.
This makes you feel good and energetic at first. But because the body spills more insulin than it needs, the low performance soon follows after the high sugar level. The blood sugar level drops quickly again and even lower than the normal level. In this state, you are tired, drained, unfocused and distracted. That’s how your body signals to you that it needs replenishment very quickly and does not make you think of anything else.
Your mood also suffers, you get annoyed, impatient and quick-tempered when you’re “hypodermic”. Sugar not only affects your mental performance but also your emotional state.
Better Mental Performance without Sugar
Who would have thought that a portion of simple food can have such an extreme effect on your life? If you eat healthily and essentially don’t eat sugar, your body is actually doing a lot better, because your insulin level remains stable and therefore your mood and your ability to concentrate.
But what foods are suitable for satisfying the sweet cravings without negatively impacting your performance?
Ideal is protein and fiber-rich foods, which are also suitable as a better snack during the lunch break. There is no danger of addiction here and they do not affect your insulin levels. Even a salad or apple in between are a healthy alternative to biscuits. A reduced focus and a changeable mood can thus be combated. In addition, you stay full longer and do not think about food so often.
When choosing foods, you should use only carbohydrates from whole grains or legumes, as well as greasy fish. If you do not have a hard time carbohydrates, then you can also consider a ketogenic diet.
Conclusion: Sugar and Mental Performance
Sugar can negatively influence your mental performance, that’s for sure. But do you need to get rid of sugar entirely? Nope.
I’d recommend you to try an intermittent fasting approach. Stay fasted during the day and treat yourself with some sweets in the evening.