What Happens When You Stop Eating Sugar? – Benefits, Side Effects, & More

While the World Health Organization states that we should only be eating around 1 to 3 tablespoons of sugar a day, the average American eats over half a cup. When people try to stop eating sugar, they tend to experience withdrawal symptoms.

Sweets are delicious though – source

What is going on in the body when you stop eating sugar that makes you crave it more? Find out what sugar does to the body, what happens when you try to stop eating sugar, and more today! 

What is Sugar 

Sugar is the common name of the sweet-tasting, simple carbohydrate. Types of sugar include fructose, glucose, and sucrose. It is commonly added to many food products, including some that are not sweet, to enhance flavor and encourage the body to crave the product more. Why does sugar have this effect on us?


Put simply, sugar is a form of easy energy for the body. It is an instant burst of energy fueling you to carry out various functions. Plus, it can boost mood, flooding the brain with dopamine, which is also part of the reason stopping is hard. Some studies in mice found that sugar cravings were stronger than cravings for cocaine, which is where you see headline phrases like “Is sugar more addicting than cocaine?”

What Happens When You Stop Eating Sugar

Without further ado, here is what happens to your body when you stop eating sugar altogether! Learn the risks, benefits, and tips for lowering sugar intake below.

In a Day

Within a day of quitting sugar, you lose weight, but not from fat. This is water weight. Your pancreas, when sugar is high, releases insulin. When sugar is low, your pancreas releases glucagon, which needs to be broken down by water. Glucagon breaks down reserves of sugar in the body to create energy.

48 Hours In

This is when feelings of exhaustion, fatigue, and cravings set in. Your body needs sugar to perform many different tasks in the body. This is when the body starts to switch from using sugar as a form of fuel to using fat.

Some symptoms during this time include headaches, tiredness, and cravings, which may be due to an electrolyte imbalance in the body. It may also be due to a lack of dopamine without sugar. As fat is further broken down to create ketones, your body falls into a state of ketosis. This breakdown creates acetone in the body. 

Day 5+

Your body is officially in ketosis, using mostly fat as a form of fuel. This is in extreme cases where you cut out all forms of sugar, including that in fruits. As you continue, your receptors of sugar and salt change, making you more sensitive to sugar. People who eat a lot of sugar decrease their sensitivity to that flavor, which in turn causes them to have to add more sugar to make something taste sweet. 

10 Weeks In

In just over 2 months, you may have less bloating, more stable energy, and improved digestion. Your skin health may improve, your sleep may improve, and your risk of disease is reduced. This includes reduced cardiovascular disease, blood pressure, diabetes, and obesity.

Reducing Refined Sugars

You don’t have to cut out all the sugar all at once. Instead, you can focus on cutting out added sugars and refined sugars. This refers to sugar added in processed food and sugar in beverages. Soda and fruit juices have high amounts of sugar, and they do not fill you up. Fruit juice particularly lacks the healthy fiber found in regular fruit.


Some benefits of reducing sugar are stabilizing blood sugar, reducing cravings, lowering the risk of heart disease and cognitive decline, and decreasing the risk of diabetes. We tend to eat more nutrient-rich options when we cut out sugar as well, though it may be difficult to quit all at once. You may experience a decline in mood, headaches, muscle aches, and more if you try to stop eating sugar all at once.

Tips For Reducing Sugar Daily

Here are some tips to help you reduce your daily intake of sugar naturally and without all of the withdrawal symptoms.

  • Don’t quit cold turkey – if you try stopping all at once, you are likely to fail and binge on it at the next chance you get. 
  • Reduced added sugar – start cooking homemade meals to better control the amounts of sugar in what you eat.
  • Buy no sugar added – there are many products nowadays that come with zero sugar added labels on them. Look for them and purchase these versions, but just make sure to avoid non-nutritive sugar alternatives that may be harmful.
  • Eat protein – when you are craving something sweet, try a high-protein snack first. This might reduce your crazing and will keep you fuller for longer.
  • Food swaps – try some tasty food swaps to help you lower sugar. Instead of eating 3 Snickers, reach for some dark chocolate-covered strawberries, or other healthier alternatives.
  • Mindfulness – when you do eat a sweet treat, do it mindfully. Don’t just binge on a tub of ice cream. Serve it and enjoy your portion to the fullest!

The Takeaway

Sugar is a form of fuel for the body. It can be addicting, as it releases dopamine in the brain, which makes us feel great. The more sugar you eat, the less sensitive you are to it, which means you have to add more to meals to make them sweet. Cutting out all sugar has positive and negative side effects. You may experience cravings, insomnia, lack of energy, and headaches at first, but once you switch over to burning fat, you may see improvements. Some benefits of cutting sugar include improved sleep, reduced acne, better weight management, and lowered risk of disease. 

Remember that health comes from within, so eat nutrient-dense meals, exercise at least 3 times a week, and care for your mental health. Daily habits become the building blocks for emotional, mental, and physical health. Take care of your gut health too! Learn everything you need to know about gut microbiota today for free here.

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