Sugar & Athletes


The enemy extraordinaire….SUGAR!!!

We are just going to get this post over with right from the get-go.  Sugar has been linked to various diseases from obesity, diabetes, cancer and potentially heart disease.  This substance that is typically added to everything has been called a TOXIN and top scientific researchers say “it should be avoided at all costs.”  A huge problem with sugar is that it comes in so many forms, so it can be hard to know what to avoid. Let’s list a few common names: fructose, glucose, maltose, high fructose corn syrup, corn syrup, etc.  To be clear, they all register as TOXIN to your body and can force your body to become resistant to normal metabolic processes such as the insulin response or the breakdown of sugars. Your body can’t continue to convert the excessive sugar and so your liver begins to develop fatty substance inside it and your body’s processes begin to be compromised.  Over the course of 20 years of eating too much sugar, you can imagine what this can do to your body.

Some scientists disagree with this strong of a statement about sugar.  But really, if you look at how much sugar is added to our food and the obvious increase in disease in this country, it begs the question that there may be more of a link than we are willing to admit.  Now, my take on nutrition is “everything in moderation”, but sugar is a different animal.

We need to be vigilant with obvious sugars first and then pay close attention to hidden sugar.  Have you ever looked at your yogurt to see how much sugar it has in it and what the sugar comes from?  Is it high fructose corn syrup, cane sugar or does it come from fruit?

Did you know they put sugar in salad dressing (most often the low-fat versions)?  Or, barbeque sauce, teriyaki sauce, bread, granola bars, dried fruit, fruit juice, tomato sauce, sport drinks ….this might be for another entry (don’t get me started just yet! :), soda!  There are certain things I believe should be kept far away always! Soda is one of those things. Try to find something redemptive in a can of soda? What is one ingredient that hasn’t been tampered with and has a bit of nutritional value?  If you are an avid soda drinker and you chose to cut it out completely today for the rest of the year, you can lose up to 10 pounds of weight, just from that one decision. The amount of sugar in one can of soda puts you over your recommended intake by 6-7 grams on its own!  

According to the American Heart Association, the recommendation for women is 100 calories per day or about 25 grams of sugar.  Men can have up to 150 calories per day or about 37.5 grams. There are 4 calories in each gram of sugar. So, if you have a yogurt that has 27g of sugar in it, you are consuming 108 calories of sugar.  Now, that puts it into perspective. This would be why plain yogurt is really the way to go and then you can add you own flavor to it by way of fresh fruit.

So, this is important enough to listen to these presentations on the subject.  Read the article, I know it’s long or listen to the presentation by Dr. Lustig.  The short video is just a presentation that might surprise you how much sugar is in certain foods.  You need to interact with this and decide what course of action you are going to take. This WILL impact your future health.  I am not saying you NEVER get to have a cookie again, but making educated decisions about your food are important!

There is this “small” need for sugar during endurance training, especially those lasting over 60-90 minutes.  Believe me, though, the recommendations are all over the place. It’s hard to fight through what people are saying and find the “best” prescription to go with.  So, this is how I would encourage you to tackle the sugar animal.

  1. If it controls you, it’s a bad thing.  If you can’t make it through your day without a sugary treat, then you need to evaluate why and try to curb the habit.  But, if your habit is just a small piece of dark chocolate every day, then I am probably not talking to you. (really, that’s me, but who’s asking :)  Indulging in a bowl of ice cream every night while watching TV will probably not contribute greatly to you reaching your athletic goals.

  2. Think about the week as a whole and balance it.  If you know there is a party on Friday night that will likely include treats you would like to indulge in, then plan for it.  Make your food intake look solid for 2 days before and at least a day after, ride it off and move on. Stressing about it will be WORSE than just eating it and moving on.  

  3. You need to enjoy your indulgence.  Don’t just eat mindlessly, chew that brownie one bite at a time so your body will actually register the pleasure you get from a sugar high.  Be honest about how often you allow yourself to indulge and if its more than once a week, maybe you should look back at #1.

  4. Use glucose and fructose wisely WHILE you train to allow your body the sustained energy it needs to perform and when you are not running, riding or swimming long distances, grab an apple or orange to curb that sweet craving.  

  5. Eat mostly WHOLE foods, unprocessed and you won’t have to be overly concerned about sugar.  Don’t be concerned about the sugar that is in your apple, mango, grapes, grapefruit, sweet potato, etc.