Sugar: is it your enemy?
Every now and again, certain foods get demonised, and sugar has certainly had its fair share of hate over the years…
Is sugar ‘bad’ for you?!
Is it as addictive as crack?!
Is sugar the responsible for our great nations obesity stats?!
Ok, here we go, where to start…?
Well, firstly, sugar is a form of carbohydrate…..
What are carbs? Aren’t they also the enemy?
Carbohydrates– the name means carbon plus water. Carbs can hold water in the body, which is why dropping carbs can result in (fairly) quick perceived weight loss due to a loss of water weight.
Carbohydrates contain 4 calories per gram -this doesn’t EVER change.
There are 2 main types of carbs (dietary fibre is the 3rd, but I’m focusing on the following from an energy perspective):
Your brain and nervous system utilize carbs for energy. Carbs are broken down into a molecule called Glucose, which is either used for energy or stored for later use.
All of the above are made up of units of sugar, the difference between each type of carb is simply the number of sugar units it contains and how they are linked together. For the sake of this blog, I’m going to focus on simple carbs.
These are made up of 1 or 2 units of sugar.
Carbs with only 1 unit of sugar are called simple sugars, but their formal Sunday name is ‘monosaccharide’ (it’s Greek ha).
Fruit also falls into this category as Fructose.
Carbs with 2 units of sugar are called double sugar (no surprises there) with the fancy pants name of ‘disaccharide’.
Common day to day examples of simple carbs include sweets, cereals (Coco Pops etc), Lucozade and other ‘energy’ based drinks.
Simple sugars are also often mainly linked to the above processed foods (hence the bad press), but the reality is they are present in a range of naturally occurring foods such as the aforementioned fruit, but also in veggies & milk products.
What separates the two is that the naturally occurring food choices will also contain naturally occurring vitamins and minerals, making them a potentially more nutritionally dense choice.
This why many people would consider a Banana to be ‘healthy’ and Skittles ‘unhealthy’:
They both contain simple sugars, both contain calories, both get digested quickly, but as the banana is natural or what could be deemed as ‘real food’ it also provides the body with vitamins and minerals.
However, there is no real rational argument to justify eating 5 bananas a day (even though its seen as being ‘healthy’ and one of your ‘5 a day’) if your goal is fat loss, as this can clock up around 500 kcals, which is quite a chunk out of anyone’s daily allowance…
Simple carbs are very fast acting, and quickly absorbed by the body to produce energy. Because they are broken so quickly they cause a rapid increase in blood sugar levels.
This is why it is common practice when anyone feels dizzy to give them a sugary drink or snack.
There can be pros and cons of implementing simple sugars into your diet, depending on how and when these choices are made.
Before I go any further, this is probably a good place to emphasise and stress that:
❌Sugar in isolation is not responsible for making you or anyone else fat!!
The single most important factor in weight loss and weight gain is the total amount of calories consumed and whether an individual is in a calorie deficit or a calorie surplus.
Excessive prolonged caloric intake is what creates weight gain.
However, practically speaking sugar isn’t particularly filling, and, as it is digested so quickly this is what can make it VERY easy to overeat on, and for some people, it can become a trigger in certain foods.
Try it: eat a bowl of kids cereal and tell me you aren’t hungry again within an hour? Kids cereal is not the enemy (continued excessive caloric intake is the enemy) and I LOVE Coco Pops…..
….however, if you find yourself smashing a full box in, then you are perhaps best staying away! Likewise, if you are in a caloric surplus and the goal is to gain weight, cereal can be an easy way to get calories in.
However there may be times when you wish to consciously opt for choosing fast acting sugars into your routine, and placing them around your workout window can be an advantageous choice for some people. This may be time when you want to consider choosing foods that can be digested easily, as long as it fits into your total daily intake in terms of calories and as long as its not a trigger for you to overeat.
I deal with a lot of people who claim to have sugar cravings, and who also believe that they have a perceived ‘weakness’ when it comes to certain food choices.
If you feel you are craving sugar or something sweet, it’s very often down to your blood sugar levels dropping and you needing that ‘quick fix’ to bring them back up rapidly.
The easiest fix for this to simply try to eat a bit more regularly if possible. This isn’t to do with metabolism (that’s a whole other subject) but practically speaking leaving large gaps between meals can often lead to you to reaching for the quickest sugary fix and ultimately overeating in terms of total calorie intake.
Ultimately, everything we do centres around the choices that we make. I’ll give a practical real life example of what I’m talking about…
Would anyone judge you for eating cake on your birthday?
🎂It’s a given isn’t it? Birthday & cake, hand in hand, totally normal.
❌It’s not deemed a ‘bad’ thing.
It’s also totally normal to join in & eat cake when you are celebrating a friend/loved ones bday.
However, what about having cake when it isn’t your birthday?
……you are not celebrating?
It’s just a ‘normal’ day?
Perhaps it’s just a little occasional treat that you just fancied?
Is this acceptable? Probably, yes.
Is it ‘bad’ for you? Not necessarily…..
However, what about eating birthday cake every other day?
Is this ‘bad’ for you?
The thing here is that the cake hasn’t changed, what has changed is your choice.
It’s not about the cake or sugar being ‘bad’ for you, it’s about making good or bad choices, choices which in turn help determine your outcome.
🎂Eating cake on a birthday isn’t ‘bad’…eating cake every day becomes a bad choice..
❌Try not to label foods as ‘good’ or ‘bad’, doing so can often lead to negative relationships with certain foods, but instead consider that there are only good or bad choices..
✅As with all aspects of life, its your choices that will effect the end result/goal.
Thats all for today,
Tristan ‘that was my actual bday cake above’ Buttle.
P.S – If you found this helpful, please give it a share.