According to Randy Bachman, the inspiration for the song arose after an incident when he was visiting California. He was walking down the street with a stack of records under his arm, when he saw three "tough-looking biker guys" approaching. He felt threatened and was looking for a way to cross the street onto the other sidewalk when a car pulled up to the men. A woman got out of the car, shouting at one of them, asking where he'd been all day, that he had left her alone with the kids. The man suddenly was alone and his buddies walked away. Chastened, he got in the car as the woman told him before pulling away: "And one more thing, you're getting no sugar tonight". The words stuck in Bachman's memory.
Bachman then wrote a short song in the key of F♯ called "No Sugar Tonight". When he presented the song to Burton Cummings and the record company, he was told that the song was too short. Bachman and Cummings expanded the song by adding to it a song Cummings had written that was also in the key of F♯, "New Mother Nature". The song was originally written without the "in my coffee" and "in my tea" wording. The band was ordered to alter the lyrics to make the sexual connotation less obvious.