“We know that sugar can cause a laundry list of health problems; so does that mean we should never eat it or simply moderate the amount that we consume. I think Phil Kaplan does a great job of answering this age old question. Hope you enjoy” – Nate
How Much Sugar is OK?
Frequently, after attending a seminar or beginning one of my programs, a customer or client begins to recognize the hiddens sugars in foods and comes to realize that sugar is literally everywhere. This often causes a bit of a panic, as they might have heard me say something to the effect of “simple sugar intake cripples the body’s potential for fat release.” That’s true, but it doesn’t mean never eat any sugar. I know many of you are looking for clear cut guidelines. You’d like a definitive list of what’s ideal and what’s forbidden. Unfortunately (or perhaps fortunately), there’s a lot of acceptable ground between ideal and fobidden. Don’t seek out a flawless plan, but rather develop an understanding of how nutrients affect your body and over time you’ll be able to refine the specifics of the program that works best for you.
Why can’t I just make it black and white? Why can’t I just say, “this is good” and “that is bad?” First of all, as your metabolism develops and your daily energy expenditure is increased, you become more likely to burn glucose or simple sugars as fuel. A lean athlete can usually get away with consuming a fair amount of sugar and Power Bars, sports drinks, and even a Snicker’s bar here and there might contribute to energy reserves. For someone who is not presently living in a lean body, those foods can wreak havoc on a fat loss program!
The challenge comes, not as much from ingestion of 2 grams of sugar here and 3 grams there, but rather when simple sugar is the primary ingredient in a food. Eat a cookie or candy bar and you can be certain your blood sugar will escalate significantly requiring an elevation of insulin production and that’s where fat reduction becomes compromised. On the other hand, if you have some sort of meatballs or meatloaf made with ground turkey meat, and flavor it with some sort of sauce that contains primarily tomatoes but has 2 grams of corn syrup (sugar), while that might not be the ideal choice . . . the abundant protein will slow the release of sugars and 2 grams should not cause any reason for panic as a component of a supportive meal.
In answer to the question, “how much sugar is OK,” I’m forced to respond, “There isn’t a clear cut answer.” Much depends on the goal, on the present metabolism, on activity level, on overall food intake, on insulin sensitivity, and on blood sugar levels.
Fruits are high in fructose. That doesn’t mean never eat fruit. A handful of berries mixed into some fat free cottage cheese can add fiber and antioxidants and the cottage cheese slows the rush of sugar through the wall of the digestive tract. A fruit salad, on the other hand, can result in a significant insulin burst, as can a very ripe banana and fruit juice often has more sugar than the high sugar soda products. If fat loss is a goal, use fruit sparingly and always consume fruits with proteins.
If your diet consists of a fair amount of fruit juice, sugared cola, and conventional snack foods, you’re absolutely going to limit fat release. The trick is to simply do better than you’ve been doing, and gradually you’ll start to see improvement. For someone who is on a candy bar and fruit juice blood sugar roller coaster, switching to meals that contain 2-3 grams of sugar accompanied by protein and fiber can have a dramatic result. On the other hand, sometimes a bodybuilder, seeking every edge possible, finds it best to completely eliminate all simple sugars, including lactose (found in dairy products) in the weeks prior to a competition.
As a rule, avoid foods that contain sugar as their primary ingredient.
One final note . . . for most people it’s actually easier to avoid sugars almost completely than to “cheat’ periodically by sneaking cookies or candy since that spike in blood sugar and residual insulin rush can facilitate sugar cravings in the near future.
The pursuit should be based on progress rather than striving for perfection . . . and recognition of hidden sugars in foods will allow you to begin to make better choices until a little at a time you hone in on some new supportive nutritional habits that lead you to your ultimate physical goals.