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
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
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