Why a “Junk Food Hangover” is a Good Sign!

April 2, 2009

For the longest time, I couldn’t understand why eating a sugary snack impacted me harder than most people. I thought there was something wrong with me. You see, when I eat during the day it needs to be light or very low-carb, otherwise I will yawn and feel groggy for hours after. How come some of my former co-workers can eat a burger and fries and feel fine and something like that would knock me out? They are full-blown junk food Rockstars, and I just can’t hang with that type of partying!

gummy worms
[Although I know this stuff is just plain bad for you, I love gummy candy! Gummi Bears, Swedish Fish, Gummi Worms, etc. I recommend limiting candy and pure sugar snacks, because it will take a toll on your body if you eat too much of this stuff.]

Some People Can Eat Junk Food Like a Rockstar!

Lets talk about Linda. Linda is a woman I used to work with who ate non-stop. She was a true junk food Rockstar (Hall of Fame level). We had donuts one morning for a meeting. I ate two and then took a 30 minute nap in my car for lunch, and Linda ate 4 and kept that party rolling. It didn’t phase her at all. Throughout the day, she proceeded to eat cookies from the vending machine, a HUGE bottle of apple juice, a Snapple, and a bag of pretzels…not a single yawn out of Linda! She didn’t appear phased at all!

Linda Wasn’t the Only “Junk Food Rockstar”…

I think I’ve been surrounded by these people at every place I’ve ever worked. I’ve noticed a few common traits in these mega-superstars of junk:

  • They like to use the excuse of “eating every few hours to keep the metabolism high”.
  • They always claim to have low blood sugar, therefore justifying the need to eat at every break possible.
  • They seem to get sick quite often.
  • Without fail, they are almost always overweight.

There are always exceptions to the rule and there are people who are diabetic, but the rockstars typically fit into this mold well.

So How Does One Lose the Ability to Party Like Linda?

When you begin eating healthy foods and exercise regularly, your body becomes insulin sensitive. This is a healthy and positive thing. When an insulin sensitive person eats a large amount of sugar, their pancreas efficiently shoots out a bunch of insulin to remove that sugar from the bloodstream. It is great at removing that sugar and storing it inside the fat cells and muscle cells. The downside is that the blood sugar will be low for a period of time and this is when the healthy person feels tired.

What Happens When Linda Eats Sugary Foods?

Linda is insulin resistant, which is not healthy. When she eats a bunch of carbs, her body is terrible at using insulin to store those sugars. She has sugar floating around in her blood stream for hours and it never really drops too down to a low or even a normal level. She won’t get tired like a healthy person would, because her body can’t store the sugars properly. She won’t get tired, but she will get hungry!

Why Insulin Resistant People Are Hungry All the Time

Although Linda has a lot of sugar in her bloodstream, her body is not good at getting those sugars into cells of her body to use for energy. Her cells are starving for energy, even though she has plenty of energy in her blood stream that isn’t being used. This leads to a constant craving of sugary food. No matter how many carbs she eats, she just can’t utilize this food. Therefore Linda eats non-stop and puts on a lot of weight.

How Someone Becomes a Junk Food Rockstar

Too many insulin spikes on a regular basis and the body adapts by reducing the receptors that respond to insulin on the surface of the cells. The body builds up a tolerance to insulin…the same amount does less and less. Similar to the effect alcohol has on Keith Richards of the Rolling Stones…it just takes more insulin to do the same work. Over time this can lead to more serious problems.

Avoid Junk Food Hangovers Or You Might Make the Band!

The main thing is to avoid these large spikes in insulin in the first place. It is okay every now and then, but limit it as much as possible. Over time, this does pretty terrible things to the body. The subject of insulin and blood sugar is quite a bit more complex than what I’ve outlined here, but hopefully this gives you a better idea of the big picture.

One of the reasons I’m a fan of Intermittent Fasting is that it improves insulin sensitivity in the body. It is a way to retrain your body to use insulin better.

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{ 10 comments… read them below or add one }

Carole April 6, 2009 at 3:00 pm

That’s true of all sorts of junk foods, not just sugar. I find that when I’m around people who don’t eat as well and I end up eating a bunch of stuff I wouldn’t normally eat – it just knocks me for a loop and it takes a couple days to get back in sink.

Felicia April 6, 2009 at 5:08 pm

Great article. A friend of mine is a definate Junk Food Rockstar and uses all of the excuses you mentioned.

I did have a question though. I know one reason that carbs and sugary foods are so bad is because it causes a spike in blood sugar and insulin followed by a plummet which makes you hungry and craving more carbs. However, does coffee and caffeine have this same affect?

andy barge April 12, 2009 at 7:17 am

Hey Rusty,

This makes so much sense. However when I eat sugary foods I have worse effects. It makes me “drugged” and comatose and I have to go to bed (regardless of the time of day). Also the muscles especially in my legs are shattered and I am unable to exercise. This lasts for about 3 days!! Do you think this is an excessive insulin response Rusty? If I dont eat strictly paleo/IF then this happens.

admin April 13, 2009 at 4:35 pm


I love basketball as well. Food is almost drug-like the way it affects the body. I know people look at food from a standpoint of how it affects body composition, but more attention should be paid top the way it makes us feel.


All of those guys who are ripped weigh much less than you think. Brad Pitt (6 feet tall) was 155 for Fight Club. Tell me your height and if you have a light, medium, or heavy bone structure and your current weight and body fat percentage. I can give you a good weight to aim for.


Good point. Even with all of baz’s details it will be hard to give him an exact weight to aim for.


The cool thing about the guys over at Graphics Genie is that they are extremely interested in seeing you succeed. Great guys!


It is a bit tougher to stick with healthy eating when people around you eat junky food.


Coffee and caffeine can do this a little, but nowhere close to carbs. I do fine with caffeine and feel great even when the effect wears off. Just make sure you drink your coffee black.


You may be even more sensitive to this stuff than others. Do some research over at Mark’s Daily Apple. He is a bit more informed about the Paleo Diet than I am.


myra April 14, 2009 at 5:08 am

Hi Rusty

Its true what they say….. Everything in moderation. Its how you define moderation…. to yourself, that matters!!!
I had a —– few —- chocolates last night, well come on, give me a break! i worked from 07.15 to 10pm last night (i work for nhs rehab centre. breaks etc) i deserved a treat it felt really good! but i shall work it hard at cardio today, so its all good.

maz April 15, 2009 at 5:08 am

What i dont understand is how being insulin sensitive can send you to sleep…i too have a fairly clean diet but on the rare occassion i indulge in something sugary i turn into a mad woman! i get such a rush from the sugar i become hyper for around 30-60 minutes then ill suddenly slump and feel tired with a headache etc. Does this mean im insulin sensitive in a different way or is this normal? i generally have very little sugar in my day to day diet [only natural sugars] and have fairly even energy levels.

Oh and carbs never cause me a problem as long as they are eaten with protein and as a low gi type food. Carbs are a training mans best friend so stop slating them! [but i dont mean donuts!]

Jim May 29, 2009 at 10:38 am

I notice this as well. I thought it may have been for the Rx I am currently taking, but it may be a combo. I work 9-5 and all day at work I am pretty good, maybe a lil groggy around 3-4, as that time seems to go by slow, but not down right sleepy.

Once I get home at 5:30 I am fine. But this is when I have my meal. Its nothing huge, but I do splurge more on this meal than I do during the day.

Just to give example, heres my meals prior to dinner:

Breakfast: Bowl of cereal or oatmeal
11:00AM: PBJ sandwich or ham sandwhich
2:ooPM: protein shake, raisins
4:00: Some cashews and some type of fruit

So as you can see, pretty small meals. So when I get home, I have access to a lot more food. But I still keep it relatively OK, but I will go overboard. So I might have a sandwhich and lots of potato chips and a pepsi. Then I notice at like 6:30 I am usually knocked out on my couch for an hour or so.

Johnine Bailey July 23, 2009 at 5:06 pm

I have been overweight since I got pregnant some years ago but have been healthy physically for most of my life. I used to exercise a lot and noticed some fatigue symptoms and sleep problems so I went to a class for weight loss. A nurse introduced me to the South Beach Diet book and cookbook and they endorse the right carbs and the right fats there. I’ve noticed a big improvement in having less cravings since making this a meal plan even though I didn’t do it strictly for very long, it’s a great maintenance plan to do. The food is so each so cook when its fresh and you just use herbs and spices, not too much salt or oils. I feel much better about myself now and I can’t stand even sugar in my coffee.

I’ve read not to be strictly no sugar though. Do you know more facts about artificial sweeteners? Why shouldn’t you be very strict about fats and sugars?

Sheena August 13, 2009 at 11:16 pm

That’s a good article!
These days, I’ve been eating alot of healthy food. When I say “healthy”, i really do mean it, because i watch every single thing that i put in my mouth. Most of the time, i make sure that i eat the lowest amount of fat in my meals. But the problem is that I can only last 3 or 4 days eating that way, because once i see some junkfood around me, i start losing my discipline (especially when my whole family munches chips infront of my face) . I hate it when i start pigging out, because I immediately gain a huge belly and i feel like i’m about to explode by throwing up. Anyways, I’m only 14 and i’ve been working out for a month. I usually get great results because i changed my way of eating. Although my weekness is : pigging out once I have achieved my goal of getting a flat stomach. I really need help on this. Got any advice for me ?

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