Sugar hangovers are real

Photo by ELISA KERSCHBAUMER on Unsplash

I had the worst food hangover the other day, it was horrible. It was kind of intentional, but I had no idea it would affect my day the way it did. Luckily enough it was my scheduled rest day, so it didn’t affect my workouts. But it did affect my work.

My whole life I’ve been eating a lot of unhealthy, sugary stuff: candy, cookies, cakes, you name it. Over the last couple of years, I’ve been trying to cut it out more and more. At first, it was to lose weight. Now, it’s more about actually being healthier as well as for performance reasons. Occasionally, I still have days where I indulge in lots of that stuff.

This year, there haven’t been many days like that though. So I have been eating well, sleeping well, working out a lot — feeling the best I’ve ever felt. Then came this day, eating way too much sugar and unhealthy stuff. This is how it affected me:

  • In every possible way, it felt like an alcohol-caused hangover. I didn’t sleep well at all. Woke up groggy, feeling like I didn’t sleep enough. That lasted the whole day, affecting my work.
  • I felt that my body hadn’t recovered properly from my workouts. A full week of training behind, not getting proper nutrition this day (combined with not sleeping well) — resulted in not recovering as I should have.
  • I wasn’t happy because I was so sluggish.
  • My stomach was off for 2–3 days. It’s normal that the stomach gets a little “upset” when I eat things that I don’t regularly eat, but this was on a different level. Had to go to the bathroom once an hour for the first day. On the second day, I had a run scheduled — and it was not a good run. My stomach was still off.

This was a first for me. Even if it wasn’t pleasant, I’m happy I experienced it. It makes it easier to stay away from sugary things that I love and have grown up on.

There’s a similar stigma attached to sweets as to alcohol. If you’re not drinking at a party, everyone is asking what’s wrong with you. In the same way, people will ask you if you’re on a diet if you’re not eating sweets. I was the same way. We all (or most of us) know that sugar isn’t healthy for us, but it’s easier to try to bring the ones that are able to stay away from it down, instead of trying to do it yourself. And just to be clear, I didn’t have one piece of cake — I ate a lot. Just as with alcohol, small doses are no problem — you should enjoy life. My problem is that when I get started, I can’t stop.

These “side-effects” are probably not something most people experience, I know I pretty much didn’t for 31 years. But as mentioned, I’ve really optimized my lifestyle this year — so I felt the impact in a different way. Why would you notice it if you’re not sleeping enough, eating bad food, and laying on the couch most of the day?

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Andreas Westerlund

Andreas Westerlund

Endurance athlete, digital nomad, nerd. Just a normal guy trying to figure out fitness, business, and life. https://www.andreaswesterlund.com