With the holidays just around the corner we are coming up on that dreaded time of year filled with all sorts of delectable goodies. I am not going to bombard you with tips to avoid holiday weight gain, I’m sure you will be receiving many of those tips from various resources in the next couple weeks. What I would like to do is enlighten you on the one ingredient that many people overlook as a big obstacle on the road to fat loss success. In the nutrition world we call it the white devil, that’s right, you guessed it, sugar. I am not just talking white sugar, but this includes brown sugar, raw sugar, molasses, agave nectar, honey, corn syrup, and artificial sweeteners. All these types of sweeteners are the devil as far as we are concerned, not only for preventing fat loss but they also play a huge role in causing cancer, diabetes, heart disease, and osteoporosis.
So exactly what is sugar’s role in the body once it’s digested, and how does that impact fat loss?
Sugar is broken down into glucose during the digestion process and transported to the liver. The liver is responsible for processing glucose and determining whether it will be used for energy immediately, stored in the muscles, liver, or adipose tissue for future use. The liver can process a small amount of glucose efficiently, such as the amount found in a serving of blueberries or raspberries. But more than a few grams gets converted quickly by the liver into fat. The liver either stores the remaining fat into muscle, the abdominal cavity, or the liver itself. All the extra fat stored in the abdominal cavity is called visceral fat. This is the worst kind for you, because it sends out inflammatory factors that promote insulin resistance, and over time develops into diabetes and heart disease.
When an individual continues to over-eat sugar the pancreas will start overproducing the hormone insulin in an attempt to keep your blood sugars at a safe level. Over time all that extra insulin will keep your hunger triggered and block your body’s natural ability to release fatty acids to be burned. Insulin tells your body to turn sugar into fat, to store that fat, and to hang onto it for dear life. That extra weight is hard to get rid of.
Humans can’t be blamed for loving sugar so much. Sugar causes the brain to persistently crave more sugar (similar to an addictive drug), a craving that the vast majority of humans are not able to overcome. And many people eat some if not a ton of processed foods, nearly all of which contain some added sugar. This causes their intake to be that much higher and intensifying their cravings for sugary foods. Therefore, if you or your children eat foods with added sugar on a regular basis, chances are very high that you are putting yourself and your children at risk of insulin resistance, diabetes, obesity, and disease.
If you don’t eat processed foods EVER, good for you! You have a shot at completely avoiding sugar, and keeping it to low levels. If you are trying to lose fat, minimizing sugar is by far THE best solution.
When people think of avoiding sugar they stop eating sweets all together, but often this isn’t enough. As sugar hides in many food products that people generally overlook. Below is a list of foods that hide high amounts of sugar. A general rule of thumb is to avoid anything that has more than 10g of sugar per serving.
Coffee House Drinks
Regular and Diet Sodas
Meal Replacement Bars or Granola Bars
I encourage you to start reading labels more closely, and monitor how many grams of sugar you are averaging a day. For someone trying to lose weight they should keep their total sugar intake anywhere from 25 – 40g (depending on your weight 100-200 lbs.) These sugars include fructose from fruit. Fruit should be kept to a maximum of 2 servings, and preferably lower glycemic fruits.