It’s powdery. It’s white. It’s highly addictive. It causes many health issues. Now you may be thinking it’s cocaine, but you’re mistaken the right answer is: SUGAR. It can be hidden under other names like agave, high fructose corn syrup, sucrose, cane juice, evaporated cane juice, white and brown sugar, but at the end of the day, one of the biggest health issues we face comes from sugar.
GLUCOSE AND FRUCTOSE
In general, most sugars are made up of two subtypes. Glucose and fructose.
Glucose can be compressed and stored in muscles as fuel for activity such as 400 meter dashes, MMA fights, Crossfitting, Swimming, and more. Since it is stored in muscle mass, the more muscle you have, and the more depleted you are of it, the more you can store back in the muscles. Think of a workout of 10 sets of 10 squats. You now have a lot of insulin sensitive muscle that will store glucose to replace what was used. This is good for refueling after a workout though if your goal is to lean out and lose body fat, it should still be avoided until the goal is achieved.
Fructose is the other side. Fructose doesn’t get stored in muscles and instead goes some place with much less storage capability. The liver. While a person with a lot of muscle mass may be able to store hundreds of grams of glucose, most people can only store around 100 grams of fructose in the liver and it is difficult to fully deplete it. It is easy to see how easily the liver could overflow from too much fructose. Studies have shown that between glucose and fructose, fructose is worse to have too much of. While the liver can store a small amount such as from fruit, when it becomes overloaded from with the amounts in things like baked goods, it turns the fructose into fat which is stored inside the body as visceral fat. A worse kind than the type that shows up near your skin. Visceral fat is for all intents and purposes, metabolically active and causes the body to become inflamed.
SO WHAT HAPPENS WHEN WE CONSUME TOO MUCH SUGAR?
What are some of these negative effects of sugar? Well that itself could be an article, but we are looking at various issues such as:
Increased visceral fat.
This is fat inside the body and between the organs that causes inflammation around the body. High levels of inflammation lead to chronic diseases and impaired performance.
Being such a toxic substance to the body, sugar causes inflammation which is a central cause of many chronic diseases along with insulin resistance.
Insulin’s job is to collect all the sugar from your blood and store it before it becomes toxic. This is acceptable after a workout to speed up recovery and gains when the muscles are insulin sensitive, but at other times, this is an issue. Eventually, your storage cells become more and more tired of the pounding of constantly insulin and they become resistant to it. When this happens, you are now on the track to increased body fat gain and diabetes.
Impaired Recovery and Performance.
If you are an athlete, gym goer, or anything of the sort, having an inflamed and insulin resistant body is going to make recovery slower due to your body having to repair not just the damage from the workout, but also the damage from the sugar. More damage means lower performance in sporting endeavors. Normally being an athlete and taking white powdery substances gets you banned, but this one decreases your performance.
Increase in Body Fat
No more space for the sugar in the muscles? Liver overflowing with fructose? That’s okay. The fat cells are always open for more!
Decrease in Sexual Health
Your body having to fight off sugar causes increases in cortisol, the stress hormone and lowers testosterone. It also damages the blood vessels if left alone too long. That wouldn’t happen, but since the cells are insulin resistant, insulin is having a hard time getting the sugar out before it causes damage. Well what does that mean? Simple. Your erections will be as firm as a wet piece of paper.
For the ladies, the increased inflammation means dealing with increased PMS symptoms. Dr. Ben and Jerry aren’t quite the help we all thought.
Suppressed Immune System
Your body would normally be able to fight off that cold that your kid just sneezed on you, but since your immune system is busy handling the effects of a late night next to a box of pizza and a carton of ice cream, it can’t take fight off other invaders.
Increased Cancer Risk
You know what a lot of cancers favorite meal is? Sugar. You know how doctors find cancer in someone’s body? Send in some slightly radioactive sugar and watch the cancer swallow it like a starving wolf at an all you can eat steak buffet. It lights up a firework and shows up on an MRI.
And much more…
BUT, BUT, WHAT ABOUT MODERATION!?
Let’s be honest, when it comes to sugar, most of us are about as moderate as skydiving over an ocean full of starving sharks while wearing a sign that says “Sharks Suck” covered in hot sauce.
Sugar alters the way our brain works similar to various drugs. Our dopamine which makes us feel rewarded such as when we accomplish things, eat a good meal, or have sex, gets lowered. And how do we try to raise it? By eating more sugar. Leptin gets lowered too. Leptin tells your body that you’re full and to stop eating. With that shut off, we continue to eat. It’s no wonder eating an entire pizza is easy, but a couple steaks has us full for the next couple days. Insulin gets spiked to clean the excessive sugar out the blood vessels before it becomes toxic. But it does too good a job leaving you with too low blood sugar. Your brain remembers that it can raise it with a cookie, so you eat the whole box, just to be safe and the process starts over and over.
It’s a bit different than how most addictions work, but it seems to have the same result.
WHAT DO WE DO?!
Like a bad action movie with no plot but great fight scenes, sugar sucks, and we know it, but we still love it. So what do we do?
Begin to get yourself off of it.
Check food labels for hidden sugar. Agave, honey, sucrose, glucose, high fructose corn syrup, cane juice etc are all names of sugar. Try to remove it anywhere you can.
Focus on meat and vegetables.
Eat foods that are high in protein and fiber to provide a more true and lasting full feeling and reduce cravings for sugar.
Sleep 7-9 hours a night
Getting the right amount of sleep will help you feel energized and keep you from needing to raid the vending machine at work for a temporary pick me up.
Move, Strength train, and be active
You need to give yourself something to replace the dopamine effect you got while eating sugar. Learn to stand on your hands, take up boxing and judo, learn to dance. Spend the money you would typically spend on treats on something more worthwhile.
It’s not easy to stop consuming sugar. But the benefits of it are a much healthier and higher quality life. Get off sugar and get living, today!
Cox, C., Stanhope, K., et al. Consumption of Fructose-Sweetened Beverages for 10 Weeks Reduces Net Fat Oxidation and Energy Expenditure in Overweight/Obese Men and Women. European Journal of Clinical Nutrition. September 2011.
Mikus, C., Oberlin, D., Libla, J., Taylor, A., Booth, F., Thyfault, J. Lowering Physical Activity Impairs Glycemic Control in Healthy Volunteers. Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise. June 2011. Published Ahead of Print.
Sun, F., Wong, S., et al. Substrate Utilization During Brisk Walking is affected by Glycemic Index and fructose Content of a Pre-Exercise Meal. European Journal of Applied Physiology. November 2011.
Solomon, T., et al. A Low Glycemic Diet Lifestyle Intervention Improves Fat Utilization During Exercise in Older Obese Humans. Obesity. 2013.
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