Sugar gets demonized a lot, and then there are people that feel like sugar is not bad, in any way. I’m a little bit more middle of the road. So, I just wanted to give my thoughts on sugar, its effects and how we should use sugar. I very much believe that sugar, used properly, has zero negative effects. For the average person who’s dieting, as long as they’re using sugar responsibly, then it’s fine. My nutrition plans include a fiber content goal for each day. For that reason, because you cannot get all of your carbohydrates from sugar if you’re hitting a fiber goal.
Everything Has It’s Place
To be more specific, sugar is a pure carbohydrate source. It has no fat in it, so its got some benefits there for people who have a higher carbohydrate intake and have trouble digesting a lot of whole foods. I know I’ve had clients, even myself, where I’ve noticed when the calories get quite high and you’re trying to eat whole foods, oatmeal, potatoes, rice, these types of things that they can digest a bit slow and it can be difficult to increase calories to a level that’s going to support what you need to support. In those situations, I do believe sugar can be highly beneficial if you time it properly, because it’s very easy to digest.
I do feel like eating a certain amount of fruits and vegetables a day, a couple servings, is very beneficial. The glucose and the fructose that is broken down by the body is going to be used properly, as long as your diet is in the right proportions. I have heard and seen documentaries on people getting fatty livers from taking in too much sugar, much like an alcoholic would, and that’s because the liver has to process that. Being responsible with sugar is very important. I don’t want people to think a certain way just because they read an article that says, “Sugar is good for you,” when they don’t actually read the article. What usually happens is they read the title and they start making assumptions based on the title. It’s all about balance.
Annoyingly as it sounds, it almost always comes back to just being about balance and not trying to be on one side or the other too aggressively. So saying, “Someone can never have fruit, vegetables, or sugar,” is completely wrong, in my opinion. Saying, “Sugar has no side effects,” that’s also wrong.
When Should You Avoid Sugar?
When should you avoid sugar? And this comes from experience on the personal level, as well as experience with clients, and through some other research I’ve seen on the effects on the brain that sugar can have.
When you’re in a caloric deficit, either trying to lose body fat or just maintain your weight, then I do believe there is a correlation between eating sugar and cravings. I’ve noticed it myself. I have noticed the inability to stop eating at times, because I had cravings and those are almost usually related to sugar. Specifically donuts for me. I don’t know what your vice is, but there can be times when I find it that I just keep reaching for something and that’s the effect that sugar has on the brain. I’ve never had that effect with vegetables where I just kept eating. You kind of get full because of the fibrous effect, and they don’t affect blood sugar the same way that sugar does.
When you’re in a caloric deficit, it’s important to think of your diet as a budget. If you only have 100, 200, or however many grams of carbs per day, and you’re going to be getting 40 or 50 of those grams from sugar, it’s going to be difficult to feel satiated. Feeling full, when in a diet, is a very important aspect. A psychology of an athlete or a person dieting is very important, and so for this reason, I like to keep sugar in check. I won’t tempt myself with foods that I know are going to trigger my cravings and possibly a binge eating session, when calories are low and body fat is low.
Using Sugar Wisely
Use sugar wisely. Don’t make it the focus of your diet. Don’t feel like you have to avoid sugar, but be intelligent about avoiding it at times when it may trigger something that’s going to happen inside of you, cause you to reach for more food, go off your plan, feel guilty, just because you think you should try to fit sugar in your diet, because you’re a flexible dieter. The one consistent thing I can say about flexible dieters are those that use the IIFYM approach is, to get great results, you still need to plan ahead. You still need to be consistent. And food source still needs to come from whole foods, so you can feel the best you possibly can when in a restricted state.
You want to give yourself the best chance you can to be successful and not stress yourself out by trying to fit junk food or something sugary in your diet when it’s not in your best interests. I know, it can be kind of a cool, trendy thing to talk about how much junk you can fit into your daily diet, but in my opinion, when it comes down to being your best, you will choose the food that is best, and not try to trick the system, or be trendy. I can assure you, the best athletes in the world are doing this.
So that’s it regarding sugar after I’ve been getting some questions regarding the usage and how much you should take. I’m not going to give any specific numbers. As long as you’re hitting your daily goals, your fiber intake goal, you feel full, and you’re not risking binge eating, then you’re in a good place. If you notice that after you eat a certain type of food that you can’t control your hunger, then it’s time to look at changing out some of your food sources.
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