5 Reasons You Crave Sugar After 6:00 PM (and what to do about it)


You and I have both been there.

We sign off of our last Zoom meeting, and close the work browser that has accumulated a dozen tabs throughout the day, including the email one sucking all of our energy away, before finally making our way out of the office and realizing that nothing would feel better than a huge dose of sugar!

And, in the blink of an eye, the next hour goes by and we come to realize only after the fact that we’ve consumed a dozen cookies and a few fun-sized candy bars.

What gives!?

In today’s episode, I’ll share with you five common reasons you experience a sugar craving after 6:00 PM (one, in particular, may surprise you) and detail what you can do to squash these cravings for good! 

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Episode Key Highlights:

  • Learn why and how you’re both your biggest problem and solution to this challenge.
  • Understand why you’re so prone to cravings at this particular time of day and how your physiology is actually working against you in these situations.
  • Discover simple, actionable strategies you can take to better conquer cravings, including one that has nothing to do with your nutrition or hydration!

How I Can Help You:

I help women over 30 lose weight and rebuild limitless confidence so that they never have to diet again. 

To date, I’ve personally coached more than 1,500 women and helped them to collectively lose 10,000+ pounds of body fat and keep it off for good, while simultaneously empowering them with the education, strategies, and accountability needed to feel and look their best. 

Click here to learn more about how I can help you.
Follow me on Instagram – @paulsaltercoaching


Paul Salter:

You have made countless thousands of decisions, but unconsciously, unconsciously, throughout the day and you have reached a near end point for the day because you have made so many decisions. And of course this looks different for everybody depending on your home life, family life, job, and whatever other extracurriculars and priorities you have on your plate. But the point being is you are exhausted. You have exhausted your willpower, willpower supply for the day. Therefore, it is much easier to just give in and not respect or hold firm to your boundaries.

Hey, I’m registered dietician Paul Salter, and you are listening to Screw The Scale Radio. If you’ve been losing and regaining the same 20 pounds and struggling to have a positive relationship with food and a loving relationship with yourself, you’re in the right place. Ready to get out of your own way and truly feel and look your best? Buckle up as I dive deep beyond the nutritional X’s and O’s to teach you how to build massive amounts of self-confidence, self-love, and self-trust so that you can not only lose the weight you desire and keep it all for good, but truly your best.

Ladies and gentlemen, welcome back to another episode of Screw the Scale Radio. Thank you so much for joining me and for being here today. Whew. I’m going to be straight with you. I’m exhausted. There are 15 million things that I would, to be candid, prefer to be doing right now, and 15 million of those things could be summarized in one single word, sleep. I’m sleep-deprived. I’m emotionally, physically, mentally exhausted. It’s been a very busy last couple of weeks as I record this episode. It’s currently early April, but I’m showing up because I made a commitment, a commitment to myself, a commitment to you. I mean, truth be told, I could record this episode anytime I want. I can’t even remember off the top of my head when this will go out. Like I said, it’s early April, I’m getting way ahead in scheduling and recording these podcasts.

But the reason I share this with you is to share this reminder. There are going to be plenty of days where you don’t feel like doing even what you want to be doing. You want to eat well, you want to go to the gym, but more often than not even, or at least some of the time, you’re not going to feel like eating well, meal prepping, going to the gym, journaling, reading, all of these commitments you made to yourself. You’re not going to want to do, you’re not going to feel like doing it, excuse me in the moment. And I’m here to remind you that you have made a promise to yourself. And if you look at the most successful people in any area of life, the key differentiating factor, because they’re no different than you and I, is that they’re really fucking good at keeping the promises they make to themselves, maintaining the commitments they make to themselves.

So the truth is nobody else knows the majority of the commitments you make to yourself. So you have no accountability, you have no consequences for not doing what you said you’d do if you didn’t tell anybody besides the thoughts in your head. So this is me taking full ownership here, voicing that I’m following through. I don’t feel like recording a podcast episode. I love podcasting. To be honest, it brings me so much joy and as I’m actually getting into this, a couple of minutes into recording already, I can see, I can feel rather my energy perking up. I’m feeling really good. I’m so grateful I’m here. I’m so grateful that you’re here and I get to do this. But like I mentioned, S-L-E-E-P is kind of what I would prefer to be doing, but we’re going to get it done because we’ve got a kick-ass episode to discuss, five incredibly common reasons you, even in myself experience sugar cravings specifically after 6:00 PM. And I think there are a couple pieces of foundational information.

We’re going to go ahead and dive right into today’s episode. Couple pieces of foundational information that we need to talk about. Why after 6:00 PM, first and foremost, are we most likely to experience sugar cravings? And the truth is, there are a variety of reasons. There are a variety of complex reasons. But if we distill it down to a couple key points here, it’s number one, and maybe this is actually just the main key point, you’re drained, you’re exhausted mentally, emotionally, physically, specifically, you are at a point in the day where you are beginning to tow a fine line of decision fatigue. You have made countless thousands of decisions, but unconsciously, unconsciously throughout the day. And you have reached a near end point for the day because you have made so many decisions. And of course this looks different for everybody depending on your home life, family life, job and whatever other extracurriculars and priorities you have on your plate. But the point being is you are exhausted.

You have exhausted your willpower supply for the day, therefore, it is much easier to just give in and not respect or hold firm to your boundaries and therefore give your brain in particular what it needs, which is foundational, point number two, you are mentally, physically, emotionally exhausted at this point in the day more often than not. And your brain knows that. Your brain wants nothing more than a quick hit of energy to help keep you going to finish the day on a high note. And guess what? One of the, if not the fastest forms of energy is, that’s right, sugar, quick to digest. It’s like a straight shot to the brain. Boom, perking up. You get a huge rush of energy. And of course, depending on what you eat, you might come crashing down a mere 15 to 30 minutes later.

But that’s what I want to really lay as the foundation for today’s episode. By this particular time in the day, you’re exhausted. You’ve made countless decisions. You’ve physically, mentally and psychologically or rather emotionally worn yourself out and your brain wants nothing more than a quick hit of fuel, that quick hit being sugar. It’s a wonderful supply of rapid energy and your brain knows that. So you’re more likely to crave sugar for those reasons. Well, what my dear friend can you do about it? Let’s talk about five reasons you are experiencing this. We’ve got the foundation, but what are five additional reasons as to why sugar cravings might be heightened at this particular time of day? And what are the action steps you can take to overcome these controllable situations? Let me make that very clear. You’re responsible for everything I’m going to share with you that is a reason for experiencing these sugar cravings.

So you are the problem, but you’re also the solution. And that’s a very exciting, confusing, but wonderful place to be. So reason number one that you are likely experiencing a sugar cravings is that you are not drinking enough water throughout the day. It’s really interesting. Actually, before I go that route, there’s this cool study… I can’t remember this, who did it when it happened, but I can give you the context and the key point. Many, many years ago the study was done where the researchers simply tested the hydration status of every single member that walked into a gym and found something astronomically high. Like more than 90% of people who walked into the gym for an evening workout between the hours of 5:00 and 6:00 PM were significantly dehydrated. Just let that sink in for a minute. But what’s really interesting is that our brain has an incredibly weak thirst mechanism, thirst center, if you will.

And what I mean by that is it’s often overpowered and overtaken by the predominant control center in your brain when it comes to keeping us alive, which is the hunger satiety center. So when you are dehydrated, you often are more likely to mistake this as feeling hungry. And if we go back to what I shared earlier, when you are feeling incredibly hungry, ravenous, the first thing you crave is not a handful of carrots. The first thing you crave is not a bowl of brown rice. It is sugar, it is quick hitting fuel, readily available fuel sugar. And that’s something really important to keep in mind because it’s a very simple solution. Hydrating optimally throughout the day is going to help mitigate this problem altogether. And there’s a couple key steps I want to encourage you to take as you begin working to optimize your hydration status throughout the day so that you can cure cravings from this potential angle.

Your end goal should be to consume somewhere between 60 and 70% of your body weight in ounces daily. And this includes all fluids, your coffee, your tea, your water, your non calorie beverage X, Y, and Z. It’s not just water. So that’s 120 to 140 total ounces a day for a 200 pound person. Again, this is incredibly dependent on your exercise, duration, intensity, where you live, the temperature, climate, humidity, what you do throughout the day, et cetera. This is a very good starting point for most people. However, the most important step in assessing and working towards this unique hydration goal is to gradually work there. Because if you just dive right into 70% of your body weight and you’re currently drinking, let’s say 25% of your body weight, both you and your bladder are going to hate me and that is not a good position to be in.

So with that said, what I recommend is you spend the next five days logging all of your fluid intake and find a daily average after those five days. From there, add 10 to 15 ounces per day and stick it to that new goal for a week. Reassess and keep adding until you find yourself in the range of 60 to 70% of your body weight in ounces daily. And a couple easy ways to start sneaking more fluids in. First thing you wake up, have a glass of water or a shaker bottle right next to your toothbrush. Aim to get at least 12 ounces of fluid in to rehydrate yourself from all the fluids you lost while breathing throughout the night during your sleep. That’s an easy way to sneak some fluids in. And at the end of, or even at the beginning and the end of every meal, another 12 to 16 ounces of fluids. You’re stacking this new habit which is hydrating more onto an already existing habit, brushing your teeth and eating periodically throughout the day.

That is the easiest way to add a new habit to your day because you already have the cue there, the trigger that signals, “This is the action we’re going to take.” You are now just taking charge of what that new action is, and in this case, it’s drinking enough water to curb sugar cravings throughout the day. Reason number two, you’re training first thing in the morning. So all you early morning workout people, listen up. You’re training first thing in the morning, but you’re doing so in a fasted state. And I talked about this on a recent episode, but it’s worth mentioning again. If you eat dinner at 6:00 PM and you don’t train until 6:00 AM the next day and you train fasted, let’s break this down simplistically. It has been 12 hours since your last meal. Your body has had plenty of time to absorb, digest, and move the nutrients wherever they are needed throughout the body.

So you’ve started transitioning back into this calorie deficit. Your body is already properly utilized the fuel you provided it at 6:00 PM and X number of hours later, you’re starting to be in a calorie deficit again. And then starting your day, boom, immediately with a workout is further digging a deeper calorie deficit. So now your body is fighting an incredibly uphill battle the remainder of the day trying to dig itself out of a significant calorie deficit, which leads to experiencing a rollercoaster of energy, appetite and cravings throughout the day, specifically the second half of the day and the later evening. So it’s a really simple, quick fix and it’s going to seem incredibly small, but I promise you, a little goes a long way in this regard. Prior to your workout, rather than training fasted, have a small low fiber carbohydrate snack, take 10 to 20 grams of carbohydrates, 15 to 20 minutes before. Think low fiber, quick digesting, low risk of bothering your stomach so you can have a great workout.

Think Quaker Chewy Bars, pretzels, fresh fruit, dried fruit, [inaudible 00:12:22] gels, anything you know sits well. Rice cake. I don’t know if I said pretzels, but clearly I’m craving some salt right now. But something simple, something that you know sits well in your stomach. And what this does is provide you with a plethora of benefits. Number one, tops off the fuel tank, helps you have a great workout, you perform well, you push harder. Muscles grow stronger, they grow bigger over time. If we can compound that effect over the months and years to come. Having carbohydrates before the workout has been shown to help mitigate muscle damage during a workout, therefore, supporting better recovery, but it also plays a small yet significant role in helping your body to already begin climbing out of that massive calorie deficit hole, therefore having a positive impact on your appetite and cravings the rest of the day.

Reason number three, that you are prone to sugar cravings after 6:00 PM, you are not eating enough protein throughout the day. Protein is incredibly satiating. It slows down digestion and also triggers the release of several satiety signals to your brain every time you eat protein and it makes its way to your stomach. During the digestive process, it begins to signal the release of an appetite suppressing hormone known as Cholecystokinin CCK and that hormone plays a role in just simply being transported right to the brain to say, “Hey, there is plenty of fuel on the stomach, turn off the appetite signals.” So what needs to be a focus for you is every single time you eat, 6:00 AM or 12:00 PM whether you label it as a meal or you label it as a snack, you need to prioritize high quality protein, high quality complete protein, and you need to hit a minimum threshold, which for most people is roughly 25 grams of protein, which is the equivalent of four ounces of any animal meat measured on a scale.

It’s also the equivalent in case you are wondering, four hard-boiled eggs or four pieces of string cheese, but about 25 grams of high quality complete protein every few hours is going to go a long way in helping you to best manage your appetite. And again, your protein needs are highly dependent upon your age, your weight, and a myriad of other factors. But that’s the minimum you want to get the true benefit of protein. Anything over that is going to provide even more benefit from a satiety standpoint. So it’s definitely worth considering. If you already feel like you’re eating enough protein, feel free to bump it up by an ounce or two ounces, so six up to 12 grams per meal and see what positive effect that has on your appetite to help you prevent feeling sugar cravings after 6:00 PM.

Reason number four, and kind of piggybacking off of protein, this one is very similar. You are not eating enough fiber. Fiber takes up a lot of space in your stomach. Fiber is an indigestible starch. It’s the indigestible part of a plant. It basically just kind of slowly but surely makes its way through you and it helps make sure that everything comes out of you, if you know what I mean. But your body can’t fully digest it, so it’s very bulky. It takes up a lot of space in your stomach. It stretches the stomach walls which trigger the release of several satiety signals to your brain, and that’s a good thing. So one of the mistakes I often see when reviewing client and 5% community food logs is they’re choosing great food sources throughout the day, but they’re not prioritizing some of the most fiber dense carbohydrates or the most fiber dense premium fat sources, which if they had made this little subtle change or if they add a few more handfuls of vegetables throughout the day, they’re going to truly reap the benefits of having plenty of fiber throughout the day.

So if you are a woman listening, your daily fiber goal should be at least 25 grams per day. And for men that need is elevated to 38 grams per day. And some of the best sources of fiber include oats, quinoa, brown rice, avocado, almonds, Brussels sprouts, broccoli, basically whole grains, ample fruit, tons of vegetable, and some fantastic healthy fat sources go a long way in helping to ensure you’re getting plenty of fiber throughout the day.

Reason number five, and I want you to listen closely on this one. One of the biggest reasons, maybe the biggest reason you’re experiencing sugar cravings after 6:00 PM is you’re not slowing down to both feel and address your emotions. Stuffing your face with sugar is not a lack of food problem. Rather, it’s a lack of an emotion problem. You may be feeling a lack of love, connection, fulfillment, support, peace, accomplishment, and you’re using food to numb yourself or to cope with these emotions.

And you’re moving so freaking fast, never stopping to slow down and enjoy life and to contemplate your thoughts and to reflect that you’re pretty much numb to these emotions half the time. You couldn’t even tell me what emotions you are feeling on a regular basis, let alone how you want to, how you desire to feel. So one of the best things you can do is to add some type of mindfulness practice for five minutes a day where you slow down, you check in and connect with yourself, whether it’s meditation, walking outside in nature, journaling. And these all look different to every person.

But the point is just slowing down to create and prioritize five minutes of stillness, silence, and solitude on a daily basis to really help you get clear on your emotions. And ultimately what we can do is take that clarity and take this new renewed focus on ourselves and our emotional wellbeing and when it comes to the evening time, before you take that bite, check in with yourself. What emotion is present? Why are you eating? Are you actually hungry? What’s your hunger like on a scale of one to 10, how is this food going to leave you feeling both from a satiety and an emotional perspective in an hour?

You need to know why you’re eating and you need to take back conscious control. And one of the easiest ways is a course to check in with yourself on a daily basis. That silence and stillness helps you cultivate more emotional intelligence or more emotional awareness and management, but also paying specific attention to why you’re eating at that most troublesome part of the day. That six o’clock window and thereafter can bring a lot of great information and help you change your approach to a more mindful approach to navigating that portion of the day so that you can make the decisions that are in line with how you want to feel.

And those feelings might be confident in control, content at peace, comfortable, happy, sexy, healthy, strong, whatever it may be, get clear on how you want to feel so you can filter every decision through the lens of, “does this decision bring me closer or help me feel how I want to feel?”

Ladies and gentlemen, thank you so much for listening. A quick recommended resource to episode 191 of Screw the Scale Radios entitled, am I Sugar Crazy, the Truth About Sugar Addiction and Whether it’s a Real Thing. So episode 191, if you found today’s episode valuable and you have not listened to that one, you may also find it valuable.

Two, and hey, the best thing you can do to support me in the show if you are enjoying the content I put out every single Thursday is to share this episode or to share the show with a loved one or someone you know who would find value in what it is we discuss and talk about on this show. And if you haven’t done so already, it means so much to more than you ever. You just need [inaudible 00:20:14] Apple podcast or wherever listening to today’s episode. Thank you again for listening. Have a wonderful rest of your day as always [inaudible 00:20:28].

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Paul Salter

Paul Salter is a Registered Dietitian and Founder of The 5% Way. Since 2013, Paul has worked one-on-one with nearly 1,500 men and women, helping them to collectively lose tens of thousands of pounds of body fat and keep it off for good. He’s also published nearly 1,000 articles, two books, and 175 podcast episodes (and counting) on all things related to our five core elements of sustainable weight loss.



Micheala is a Transformation and Community Success Coach. She specializes in bringing out the absolute best in you and helping you see that you already have everything you need to achieve the transformational results you desire. Micheala will be an incredible asset for you on your journey since she went through the process herself and has seen long lasting results.

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