March Madness: How to avoid creating madness in your gut

March Madness is right around the corner and with all the excitement it’s sometimes hard to control yourself. Which might feel like a good time, but it isn’t a great time for your gut. If you’ve stuck with your New Year’s resolution to be healthy for this long (well, first off congratulations because a lot of people have fallen off by now) you don’t want to fall off track now. So this article will contain issues March Madness can cause for your gut in addition to easy hacks that will help you stay on track.march madness

How is March Madness bad for your gut?

Think for a minute about March Madness. You’ve got multiple game days throughout the month. Each time there is a game, you probably binge-eat unhealthy foods and drinks and might not even realize how much you are actually eating. 

Here are some quick stats:

  • Wing orders increase by 24%
  • Pizza orders increase by 19%
  • Dessert orders increase by 9%
  • Fans of the losing team ended up eating 16% more saturated fats the Monday after the game than they normally would
    • On a positive note: Fans of the winning team actually eat 9% less this day 
  • 3 ½ million extra cases of beer are produced during March Madness to keep up with demand!

In addition to all of these, you’ve got chips, dips, cookies, and lots of other foods that contain excessive sugar, salt, preservatives, and saturated fats. 

Now, with the Superbowl, you have one game day to binge all of this and get it out of your system. Although studies do show that one day of binging is enough to throw off the balance of your gut bugs. When it comes to March Madness the multiple high-paced game days with this type of food reinforces the bad behaviors. It also sets you up for binge eating disorder which has a distinct gut microbial profile that promotes overeating and the risk of obesity.

In your brain, chemicals get sent out from the reward center when you eat a bunch of these unhealthy foods. This cements the behavior by having your body feel good about ingesting these foods. It’s also why overeating sugar can be considered an addiction. 

In your gut, specific strains of bacteria (unhealthy ones at that) send out other signals to your brain to get more of these foods. Because the brain is already being wired to reward you with these foods, it doesn’t question this as unhealthy. So your good gut bacteria signals for healthy food get dampened because the brain chemicals and signals from the bad bacteria are in sync. 

Each time you reinforce that behavior, it becomes harder to break the habit. 

So how can you still have fun without creating madness in your gut?

How to avoid creating madness in your gut during March Madness

Much like teams are battling on the court, your gut microbes begin battling when you’re putting too many unhealthy foods in your gut. Your healthy gut microbes want to keep the peace and have your body working smoothly as a good team does. They pass the chemicals to your bloodstream and it passes it off to whoever is waiting to use it for the final score! 

Once you start throwing in benchwarmer-type foods (greasy wings and pizza, cookies, and beer) everything starts going haywire. You’ve got fouls in your gut and it begins to look grim. 

So here are some tips to keep the team in your gut as strong as you hope your team on the court is:

  • Drink a few (2 is usually good) glasses of water before you start eating. This will keep you full and take up a lot of the room in your stomach. You might feel a little bloated, but the water helps you eat less and digest better. Plus drinking water actually makes you crave less unhealthy foods compared to soda or beer.
  • Use appetizer-sized plates when you go to get food. Don’t pile it up like it’s Mount Everest. Just put some food on there to get started and see how you feel after that before going for seconds.
  • Make the first foods you grab healthy ones. Get your fruit, veggies, some salad, nuts, or other healthy options before letting yourself indulge in sweets. This gets the good bacteria happy, takes up space in your stomach, and can help you eat a little less junk. The fiber in these foods staves off cravings and prevents overeating.
  • Talk away from the food table. It’s super easy to just keep grabbing food while you eat if you’re standing at the food table. So take your conversation to another room so you aren’t tempted to mindlessly eat. When you eat mindlessly you actually eat way more than you intended to.
  • Challenge your friends to a competition during halftime. When you get your body moving, you experience fewer unhealthy cravings, and help your body digest. 
  • Let yourself have some unhealthy foods if you’re really having a hard time fighting it. When it comes to binge eating you eat SO much of the unhealthy stuff often because you’re trying to avoid it. So once you get a taste your body is like, “ahhhh!!! Give me 30 more!” and boy is that a slippery slope. Let yourself have a snack or beer without feeling guilty about it. Just use the other tips to not overindulge.

One more tip. Remember how that study found that people who back the losing team eat more the following day? That same study found that if those people journal about what is really important to them and the things that matter to them in life, they don’t overindulge the same way they did if they didn’t journal. So if you do end up losing, just put life into perspective so you can avoid creating madness in your gut.

Healthy Recipes for March Madness

Now, sometimes there aren’t healthy foods around. But, you can be the one to bring the healthy foods along if you’re attending a get-together or hosting one. Here are some of our favorite snack recipes that’ll keep your gut healthy and give everyone a healthy option to snack on while enjoying the competition!

Jicama Fries this is a great alternative to normal french fries. Jicama is similar to a potato but it offers fewer carbs and more fiber making it a better option.

Air Fryer Coconut Shrimp this recipe is actually low-carb! It’s such a great alternative recipe to the normal fried shrimp.

Cauliflower Hummus is a great dip alternative that’s rich in nutrients AND flavor! So rather than loading up on salt, you get more nutrients that keep you feeling full longer.

Sundried Tomato and Goat Cheese on Roasted Zucchini Rounds these fancy little appetizers pack a ton of flavor and healthy fat. 

Smoked Salmon on Cucumber Rounds with Herbed Creme Fraiche if sundried tomato, goat cheese, and zucchini aren’t up your alley, try this great, healthy, and nutrient-packed alternative!

Southwest Taco Salad this salad is a great, healthy fat, and nutrient-rich salad to bring to a party. It’s got the Latin flare and the healthy foods you want to stuff yourself with.

Chocolate Walnut Cranberry Cookies we know it isn’t a party without some sweets. So here is a sweet but healthy choice!

Avocado Brownies here’s another healthy sweet alternative that’ll have your guests and gut happy and healthy!

There are always options when it comes to being healthy but still having fun! Let us know which recipe you try and how much you (and your guests) loved it!