Sugar. The magic ingredient of self-control?

Sugar. The magic ingredient of self-control?

By Katherine Webb

Our willpower is tested frequently, particularly after a tough day. We have to choose between what we want to do (relax and eat) and what we feel we should do (exercise and do mind puzzles). So anything that makes it easier to resist temptation is good, right?

The great news is self-control could be boosted with a hit of sugar. Surprised? Read on to find out how glucose can reinforce your will power.

How does sugar affect our brains?

Our brains are hungry organs. They need twice as much energy as the rest of our body’s cells. So when we’re tired, our brains stop working so well. Willpower and self-control are among the first things to suffer.

This is why skipping meals and feeling hungry can leave you less motivated about your goals.

So does this mean that you should eat lots of biscuits to boost your self-control? Sounds like a dubious idea. Surely the common-sense approach is to keep your blood-sugar levels balanced with a nutritious, low-sugar diet.  In addition, take regular exercise to balance blood sugar levels.

But what do the scientists think?

Willpower - limited or abundant?

According to Social Psychologist Roy Baumeister’s book Willpower: Rediscovering the Greatest Human Strength, there is a strong link between sugar and self-control. His studies showed that consuming sugar-sweetened lemonade restored depleted willpower after a tough day. Numerous lab studies have since backed his work up.

Baumeister believes that willpower is a limited resource. Like a muscle which gets fatigued from overuse.  So if you’ve had a tough day when your brain cells worked hard to maintain self control, glucose is burned faster than it is replenished.

However, another recent study argues that willpower is not limited. Instead, our beliefs about self-control determine how well we can resist temptation. If you believe that willpower is abundant, and created through your mindset, then you do not need sugar to boost performance.  In contrast, those who believe that willpower is limited find that glucose improves their self-control.

So the crucial question is, what do you believe? Is willpower in the sugar - or in the mind?

Comments

christopher c.
18 September 2014

christopher c.

A sugar hit good for the mind ... wonder what size that scientist is !!! Sugar is the enemy don't do kids(one little bit on cheat meal tho!!!)

Sarah L.
10 September 2014

Sarah L.

I think it is all in the mind. I know that eating a whole pack of biscuits is not good, and I'll feel sick. It really doesn't seem that difficult to stick at one or two. We are intelligent beings, not bundles of instinct.

Roger B.
4 September 2014

Roger B.

interesting new concept! I think what they are saying is 'don't starve yourself but don't overdo it'. If we eat too little it is just asking for a pig-out, the reason why so many end up yo-yo dieting.

Emma C.
31 August 2014

Emma C.

Well I definitely believe that willpower is in the mind. So I guess that means I don't need sugar to boost my performance. But I do find that if I'm hungry I am a lot less motivated to stick to my plans so you definitely need to keep blood sugar steady.

Sasha B.
31 August 2014

Sasha B.

Ha ha - no way does it feel like sugar gives me self control! One bite of a biscuit and I could eat the pack. But maybe sugar works in terms of getting motivated to do exercise when you're knackered by giving you that initial energy boost you need.

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