Will Eating Sugar Sabotage your Weight Loss Goals?
Jag and I have heard from many of our clients that they try to avoid any food that contains sugar (even fruit!). Sugar is vilified in the media as the cause of obesity and heart disease. We are taught that sugar is to blame for stubborn weight gain and should be avoided at all costs.
Fear of sugar is at an all time high. And while it's true that sugar is a major component of high calorie, nutrient poor, processed foods, we can't blame it for all of our health woes. Especially not when it comes from fruit or vegetables (yes, we've heard some of you are avoiding carrots because they are "high sugar" 🥕).
But isn't sugar addictive?
There is actually no evidence to support the physiological addictiveness of any food, sugar included. You may have heard that sugar lights up the same parts of the brain as cocaine. In mice studies, this only holds true when the mice are denied access to the food for a period of time. When allowed unlimited access, their brains' response to sugar mimics that of other natural rewards. Restriction is what ultimately leads to feelings of loss of control around food and binge eating behavior.
What about High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS)?
Are you convinced that HFCS is one of the worst food additives out there? Not surprising, considering the plethora of articles out insinuating that HFCS "Will Kill You."
First off, what is HFCS? It consists of 55% fructose (the type of sugar found in fruit) and 45% glucose. Compare this to table sugar (sucrose) which is made up of 50% glucose and 50% fructose. Notice anything? There's not a huge difference in their ingredients.
There is a difference in the way our bodies break down the sugars. Glucose is broken down by multiple organs whereas 90% of fructose is primarily broken down by the liver. This is where it is converted to fat through lipogenesis (fat formation), and is the reason that people believe it causes weight gain more than sucrose.
However, according to Rippe and Angelopoulos, only 1-5% of the fructose is converted into free fatty acids in the liver. The rest is stored as glycogen (which is stored in our muscles and liver), lactate and carbon dioxide. They conclude that further research shows, "sucrose and HFCS have indistinguishable metabolic effects and health consequences." This includes agave, maple syrup, honey and brown rice syrup.
Official recommendations for added sugar consumption (this doesn't include sugar from whole, plant-based foods, or milk) is no more than 10% of daily calories. For a 2,000 calorie diet, this is no more than 200 calories (12 teaspoons, or 50 grams). For reference, a 12 oz. can of soda has 39 grams of added sugar.
Eating Fruit can Actually Help You Eat Less
Fruit contains fiber and micronutrients that support overall health. Fiber supports our weight loss goals by making us feel full. Often, packaged foods lack fiber which is why it is easy to eat so much at once. Our early ancestors consumed over 100 grams of fiber a day. Compare that to present day levels: Average American fiber consumption is about 15 grams (the USDA recommends a minimum of 25g/day for women and 38g/day for men).
Proponents of low-carb diets (yes, the keto crowd) advocate that we should only consume certain low-carb fruits (olives, rhubarb and berries make it to the top of the list). Unless you are managing diabetes, you probably don't need to be concerned about blood sugar fluctuations from fruit consumption.
Fitness is Key
And no, we aren't talking about weight. Fitness is a measure of your strength, aerobic capacity and flexibility. Many people who strength train are considered "overweight" according to the body mass index (BMI) scale, but this is essentially meaningless (a topic for another blog post).
Being physically fit allows your muscles and liver to uptake glucose more easily. This means that sugar doesn't hang around at high levels in your bloodstream. Living a sedentary lifestyle reduces our body's ability to metabolize sugar properly. Over time, this increases your risk for metabolic syndrome (high blood pressure, high cholesterol, excess belly fat) which ultimately leads to heart disease and type II diabetes.
At Resonate, we do not advocate cutting out sugar completely. Avoidance of any single food or macronutrient (carb, protein, fat) will only make us crave it more. The goal is to have the majority of our diet made up of whole foods, while making allowances for discretionary calories (treats 🍩🍰).
So yes, ice cream and piece of cake can 100% be part of an overall healthy eating pattern, even if you are trying to lose weight.
One last thing...
It is important to note, sugar cravings may be sign of an underlying hormonal condition such as insulin resistance or polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS). An endocrinologist is able to provide an official diagnosis.
Ok! How do I Start?
If this sounds great, but you aren't sure where to start, fill out an inquiry form to request a free consultation. We will talk about your current exercise and nutrition habits, and work together to create a personalized plan that you can stick to for the long term. Get ready to resonate! 🏃♀️