You have probably heard of a sugar high. Most likely it was in the context of small children overindulging in candy, and then zooming around out of control. This sort of sugar high is more urban legend than scientific fact. Having a bunch of sugar does not necessarily cause hyperactive, high-energy behavior for kids or adults. But there is such a thing as a sugar crash.
It may surprise you to learn that ingesting sugar can actually have a calming effect on the body. The sugar in simple carbohydrates, like white bread or fruit, easily breaks down into glucose. Glucose causes the pancreas to release insulin. Insulin is a hormone that helps the body absorb the glucose into the bloodstream. During this process tryptophan—the Thanksgiving sleep legend—converts into serotonin. Serotonin is known as the happy hormone and is responsible for making you feel good. It is why sugar can be addictive; it just makes you feel good. This is the process when you eat a reasonable amount of sugar.
If you eat too much, because you are stress eating due to a crisis at work or a breakup with a significant other, then your body gets too much glucose at once causing it to release extra insulin. The extra insulin works too quickly, which causes a sugar low or sugar crash. When your blood sugar levels drop too fast, this can leave you feeling, tired, sad and even depressed.
Sugar is present in everything from fruits and dairy to cookies and treats. So why does it seem like you only experience a sugar crash sometimes? Because a sugar crash only occurs under specific circumstances, even if you eat simple carbohydrates that convert straight into glucose.
Cookies, milk and sweet fruit all contain glucose, but you might only go overboard on cookies. It is important to enjoy things like cookies in moderation because they can easily cause your blood sugar to spike. If you have the cookies with milk, then the protein in the milk can help slow down the release of sugar into the bloodstream preventing a crash. Fiber, protein and even fats consumed with sugar all help slow the release and prevent a crash.
If you do eat sugar on an empty stomach, such as grabbing a handful of candy at the office or enjoying a cookie on a dessert table, then you will find yourself crashing. Eat a small amount of protein and fiber before you have your dessert to maintain steadier blood sugar levels, and avoid the perils of a sugar crash.