Nutrition

Sugar is Not the Devil

July 30

How many of you know an athlete who has been on a diet? How many athletes have you have tried to limit the amount of sugar they eat? How do you think it has its affected their performance?

Today I am probably going to be either ruining or making your day so much better with this blog post. I’m going to be discussing some pretty controversial stuff here; things that the mainstream media and the government have been teaching us about the way we think about food. In specific today, I will be talking about, fad diets, how we measure our health, and the benefits of sugar.

I’m going to jump right in now; two feet. 

What is a fad diet?  A fad diet is a diet that promises quick weight loss through what is usually unhealthy and relies on calorie restriction.  Some of the more popular ones you may have heard of are:

Atkins diet     | Keto diet
Dr. Bernstein | Paleo diet
Jenny Craig   | Weight watchers


Diets that promise rapid weight loss do so by restricting your calorie intake. If you eat less calories, you are going to lose weight, simple as that.

When I am referencing a diet I am referring to any fad diet that is restrictive in one or all of the following areas:
  1. Calories.  The energy we get from food.
  2. Macro-nutrients.  This includes fat, protein, and/or carbs.
Sugar or carbs are becoming the popular culprit as the mainstream media is claiming that sugar leads to excess weight gain and some diets are restricting carbohydrates completely, which may lead to weight loss, but at what cost?

Q. Have you noticed someone who is tried to cut out sugar or carbs that they can be quite grumpy, slow, or unpleasant to be around?

What happens during a FAD diet?
  1. You start to lose weight because you are restricting calories
  2. Metabolism goes down
  3. Stress hormones go up
  • the higher your stress the more fat you store as fat storage is a safety mechanism in the brain
  1. Breaking the diet or a binge is inevitable
  • Do you ever notice someone trying to cut out sugar from their diets and then a few weeks later you catch them binging (some call it a “cheat day”)
  1. Weight gain comes back
  • During the diet, you were forcing your body to get used to only eating a certain amount of calories.  Because your calories were limited, your body learns to store calories as fat (metabolism becoming less efficient).  Now when you eat, you store fat more efficiently because your body doesn’t trust that you won’t starve it again.

How we Measure our Health

Examples for Tracking Health
Instead of using the scale as a method of tracking your health we can use so many other things! Thinking about how our bodies function can create a better sense of self-awareness. Things like: 
Performance | Energy levels
Libido | Bowel movements
Sleep quality | Mood
You can also look out for signs and symptoms of a poor metabolism. These would include:
hair loss | Depression
Inability to improve performance | Cold hands, feet, and nose
Anxiety | Achy joints
Q. How are you measuring your health? You may say, “oh but I am losing so much weight on the ___ diet, it is clearly working!”

  • Most people measure their “health” on the scale or how loose their pants fit. 
  • The thought process is: 
  • I followed the _______ diet and lost _____ weight. Sound familiar?

Clara Hughes Example:
Clara Hughes Canadian Olympic medalist is a great example. She struggled with her weight for many years and as a cyclist she thought that the less she weighed the faster she would be on the bike. It took many years for her to realize that even though she was skinnier she was not healthier and her performances were actually getting worse. 

The benefits of Sugar or Why You Need Sugar?

Brain Power
"As I mentioned previously, glucose is the preferred source of energy for almost every cell in the human body. Glucose is the brain’s main source of energy. In fact, your brain can use up to one-half of your consumed/stored glucose. The more you think, the more glucose your brain will need. Without carbohydrates you may feel light-headed, scattered, and forgetful. The red blood cells and cells of the retina can only use glucose as energy since these cells lack a mitochondria". (Kate Deering). Your body naturally craves sugar... sugar comes from the ground - from a plant just like every other fruit or vegetable we eat. Your body is not going to crave something that's unnatural - so stop feeling guilty every time you eat it!

Muscle Power
"Glucose is also needed for quick muscle energy. Muscle glycogen (stored glucose) is needed for quick energy, especially when weight training and sprinting. If your body is depleted of muscle glycogen, your body will utilize your own muscle, tissue, organs, and fat to provide energy to your muscles while under stress (exercising). It is important to note that, at rest, your muscles preferred source of energy is fat. Increasing muscle mass is a good argument for helping reduce fat, since the more muscle you have the more fat you will burn at rest. Burning fat at rest is the safest way to get rid of stored fat, since it produces less oxidative damage.

Thyroid Function
For proper metabolism, glucose is needed by the liver to convert thyroxin (T4) to the active triiodothyronine (T3). T3 is needed by all the cells to produce ATP (energy). Without adequate T3 you will have decreased cellular function (slower metabolism). People on low-carbohydrate diets are notorious for having low body temperature and decreased cellular function. This may be attributed to the low intake of carbs (sugars), which will contribute to lower T3 conversion and lower metabolic function.

Liver Detox
In addition, the liver needs glucose to help with proper detoxification. Low levels of stored glucose (glycogen) will encourage a sluggish liver. This is why fasting and detox programs that restrict good carbs (fruits, juices, milk) make no sense. These programs may help clean out your colon, but they hinder the performance of your liver. The liver is your main detox organ. If you hinder the liver’s performance, how can it help you detox properly?" (Kate Deering)

Weight Gain?
We usually associate weight gain with sugar because when you eat too much of it you may start to gain weight. Although, too much of anything is never good, however, a lot of the additives associated WITH sugar are the actual problem here. Start to pay more attention to the actually ingredient list instead of the nutritional value table and this can show you which additives are in your foods. Things like: carrageenan, guar gum, aspartame, sulfites, nitrates, carob gums, ect. Many of these are directly linked to carcinogenic effects and avoiding these will allow your body to absorb a lot more vitamins and minerals and help with weight loss. 

All in all fad diets can be incredibly defeating, do not work long term and physiologically do not make sense. Bottom line is: regardless of what anyone says, sugar/glucose is your cells preferred source of energy. No, I am not saying go out and eat refined cakes and cookies but in a healthy body it will always prefer natural sugars like honey, milk, fruit and root vegetables. Yes, the body can adapt to other energy sources but what we know now is that sugars are the easiest to digest --it's human physiology. Sometimes we like to over complicate things...just like in triathlon training, however as Brett always says, “simplicity makes sense” so keep it simple! It’s important to remember that you don’t need to lose weight to be healthy, you need to be healthy to lose weight.