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40-Day Sugar Fast: Rules, Health, and Weight-Loss Outcomes

8 min read
a woman is holding a chocolate bar and refusing to eat it_40 day sugar fast
Sarah Jackson Damuth post Reviewer Sarah Jackson Damuth post Reviewer
MS, Registered Dietitian Nutritionist, Certified LEAP Therapist

The 40-day sugar fast is a combo program for your body and soul. Here, we discuss the diet specifics and its health outcomes.

Table of Contents

If you’re trying hard to cut down on sugar but not succeeding, don’t stress. There is, in fact, a scientific explanation for it. Sugar and its sweet taste are highly satisfying and may trigger the reward system in the brain that forms behaviors [1]. In fact, the brain relies on sugar or glucose as its main source of fuel, which only complicates this relationship! 

However, long-term sugar consumption has been shown to affect neural plasticity, which researchers have linked to decreased impulse control [2]. This can turn sugar consumption into a habit, leading to various health problems, including weight gain and increased risk of illnesses such as type 2 diabetes and heart disease [3]

This habit-forming nature of sugar makes it hard to cut back on it. If this sounds familiar, you might want to try a sugar fast—or sugar detox—to help you break the habit.

The Concept of the 40-Day Sugar Fast

The 40-day sugar fast is a concept created by Wendy Speake [4].

As the name implies, it involves avoiding sugar and sugar-containing foods for 40 days. Although Wendy’s original idea incorporated a spiritual aspect to this fast, you can absolutely do it just for its physical benefits.

Avoiding the intake of foods with added sugar for an extended period is expected to help you break the habit of reaching for sugary foods and drinks while resetting your taste buds. A sugar detox can also help you identify your sources of added sugar and make healthier food choices. 

The main idea of a sugar fast is to break the emotional dependency on sugary foods. Another main goal of the 40-day sugar fast is to cut down on high-calorie, low-nutrient food, which may also be helpful for weight loss. 

The Rules of The 40-Day Sugar Fast

There are a few different approaches to the sugar fast you can try, and the specific rules may vary depending on the plan you choose. However, the foundation of the fast remains the same, eliminating added sugars from your diet for 40 days.

During the sugar fast, you will be asked to stop consuming all forms of added nutritive and nonnutritive sugar, including brown sugar, white sugar, natural sweeteners like honey and agave nectar, and artificial sweeteners. Note that sweeteners like stevia act on the same receptors in the brain as sugar, so a no-sugar diet regimen also excludes stevia.

Foods to Avoid During 40 Day Sugar Fast_sugar, natural and artificial sweeteners listed

Some other plans may also ask you to limit your intake of naturally occurring sugars—such as those found in fruit—to a certain amount per day.

Tricky Products to Avoid During the 40-Day Sugar Fast

If you try to make a list of foods to avoid, you will obviously include cakes, cookies, donuts, and sugary beverages at the top of the list. However, many products may contain added sugars that you might not expect.

Many such foods don’t even have a sweet taste, but if you check the ingredients list, you will find some form of sugar listed among the other ingredients. 

Some examples of products that may contain hidden sugars include:

  • Condiments: Some condiments, such as ketchup, barbecue sauce, and teriyaki sauce, can be high in sugar. This can come in the form of added sugar or syrups, such as high fructose corn syrup. 
  • Salad dressings: Many salad dressings, such as vinaigrettes and French dressing, contain added sugars often in the form of honey.
  • Protein bars: Some protein bars may contain high amounts of added sugar or sugar replacements such as artificial sweeteners.
  • Canned fruits: Many canned fruit products sit in a sugary syrup that contains high concentrations of sugar.
  • Fruit juices: Fruit juices may contain added sugar or free sugar—sometimes as much as cola drinks, even if they’re made from real fruits. 
  • Flavored yogurt: Flavored yogurt may contain high amounts of added sugar.
  • Breakfast cereals: Many breakfast cereals, especially those marketed as ‘frosted,’ can contain high amounts of added sugar.
  • Milk alternatives: Many milk alternatives come sweetened with sugar or natural/artificial sweeteners.

Again, it’s important to read food labels and ingredient lists carefully to identify products that contain hidden sugars. When you’re checking the labels, pay attention to alternative sugar products such as high fructose corn syrup, dextrose, molasses, rice syrups, or artificial sweeteners.

What Can You Eat During A 40-Day Sugar Fast?

It might feel like you’re cutting out a lot of food options from your diet, but there is a wide variety of delicious and nutritious food you can still eat during your sugar fast.

Here we list a few examples of foods that you can eat on the 40-day sugar fast:

Fresh Fruits and Vegetables

Fresh fruits and vegetables don’t contain any added sugar and are excellent sources of fiber, vitamins, and minerals. Make sure to eat a variety of fruits and vegetables to ensure that you’re getting a wide range of nutrients.

If you find it hard to access fresh produce, you can also try frozen varieties, which are nutritionally comparable to their fresh counterparts. Another option is canned fruits and vegetables, but keep in mind that some canned varieties may contain added sugar.

Whole Grains

Whole grains such as quinoa and brown rice have a high fiber content and keep you fuller for longer. They also contain vitamins and minerals, thus bringing added value to your plate.

Nuts and Seeds

Nuts and seeds are a great alternative to sugary snacks. They contain healthy fats and keep you satisfied. Unlike sugar-filled packaged snacks, they don’t cause blood sugar spikes, so they are beneficial for diabetics as well.

Protein Sources

Foods like chicken, turkey, fish, and legumes are good options to add to your meals instead of high-sugar foods. They will help build lean muscle and reduce muscle loss, which may help promote optimal metabolism, thereby helping you maintain a healthy weight.

It’s expected that you’ll get sugar cravings during the initial few days or weeks of your 40-day sugar fast. You can eat fruit whenever you feel like you want to eat something sweet.

Try to replace cola drinks with water, milk, or tea, but of course, leave out the sugar.

Recording your meals is an effective way of tracking your progress. Use a weight-loss app to document all your meals and monitor your success.

5 Major Health Benefits of Cutting Out Added Sugar

You can gain numerous health benefits by eliminating added sugar from your diet. Here we discuss the most important benefits of cutting out sugar.

Weight Loss

Sugar adds extra calories to your diet that do not contain any nutritional value. (These calories are termed ‘empty calories’ for this reason.) Regular consumption of high-sugar foods can add up to a significant number of calories, thus contributing to weight gain [5].

Cutting out added sugar will eventually reduce the number of calories consumed and can lead to weight loss.

Improved Blood Sugar Control

Added sugar can cause blood sugar levels to spike and crash, which can lead to energy fluctuations and cravings. High-sugar foods have also been associated with insulin resistance in several studies.

Exposure to excessive sugar has also been shown to be related to an increased risk of developing diabetes, independent of obesity risk [6].

Thus, removing added sugar from your diet can improve your blood sugar levels and can also reduce the likelihood of developing diabetes.

Improved Heart Health

Research has found a link between added sugar consumption and a higher number of deaths due to heart diseases [7].

Cutting added sugar from your diet can improve your heart health, thus lowering your chances of getting cardiovascular diseases.

Improved Dental Health

Sugar causes dental caries and tooth decay. You can improve your dental health by reducing your sugar intake.

Reduced Risk of Acne

Sugar can cause inflammation in your body, which will lead to more sebum production. Some research suggests that this can result in acne [8]. Cutting out sugar and other high-glycemic foods from your diet may reduce inflammation and may, in turn, reduce acne. 

Reduce Sugar Intake to Improve Your Diet Instantly

Although a seemingly small change, your diet can improve significantly by simply cutting out added sugar. Given enough time, your body will learn to sustain itself without sugar, and you will experience fewer cravings. 

You will most likely be substituting sugar-loaded foods with healthier options such as fresh fruits, whole grains, and healthy fats, and that will improve your overall health. With these healthy foods, you are less likely to experience sudden blood sugar spikes and crashes, which will improve your energy levels. 

However, you don’t have to cut down on sugar completely to reap these benefits.

You can just follow the dietary guidelines for sugar intake, which recommends that one should limit their added sugar consumption to less than 10% of the total daily calories [9]. Even limiting, not eliminating, your sugar intake will reduce the risk of many chronic diseases.

Final Words

The 40-day sugar fast was created as a spiritual concept, but you can follow it merely for its physical benefits. It essentially involves removing added sugar from your diet for 40 days with the goal of breaking sugar dependency. 

However, it’s always a good idea to discuss this with your nutritionist and get yourself checked before implementing any changes to your diet. In particular, if you have certain medical conditions such as hypoglycemia cutting down sugar might adversely affect your health.

Disclaimer This article is intended for general informational purposes only and does not address individual circumstances. It is not a substitute for professional advice or help and should not be relied on to make decisions of any kind. Any action you take upon the information presented in this article is strictly at your own risk and responsibility!

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