Sugar is not the friend of a lean and healthy body. Lets look at why this potentially toxic (yes toxic) carbohydrate eaten in crazy amounts (and increasing) is at the forefront of the obesity epidemic and is probably one of the biggest barriers to reducing body fat. Sugar doesn't only make you fat, it has wide ranging health implications when over consumed. But for the purpose of this post we are focusing on sugar and its link to body fat.
So, what is sugar?
Sugar refers to sucrose, a naturally occuring although usually heavily refined short chain carbohydrate which consists of two simpler sugars stuck together, glucose and fructose. It is highly soulable (digestible) and provides quick energy. Sugar isn't all bad though, every cell in our body can use glucose for fuel and even more complex carbohydrates are broken down in to these simple forms of carbohydrate for use replenishing muscle and liver glycogen stores. There is definitely a continuum of sugar quality however, naturally occuring sugars found in fruits and starchy carbs being a lot lower and having a lot less negative impact than refined white sugar concealed in everything from breakfast cereals to soft drinks. That being said it is important to remember that sugar in its refined form has NO nutritional benefits or density to offer us so above the easy energy it brings it shouldn't be a big part of a healthy nutrition plan. You can get your energy from better places than refined sugar!
Whats the problem?
The problem with sugar is that people are eating far too much now with the increase in convenience, fast, and sugary foods which are literally jam packed with refined sugars that they might not even be aware they are consuming. As mentioned some of the biggest culprits of hidden sugar content are; breakfast cereals, soft drinks, flavoured yogurts, fruit juices with added sugar and LOW FAT FOODs which claim to be healthier but replace fat with sugar. If you take the time to look you might be shocked to see that sugar is added to a horrifying amount of foods and not just those you consider a sweet treat, its everywhere!
The average added sugar consumption is placed around 17-22 teaspoons a day which is enough to cause biological chaos and most people aren't even aware that a lot of this is being added to foods without our knowing. It tastes delicious and is very easy to over consume because it enhances the flavour of almost everything. Despite being useful for providing energy, we only have so much space for excess glucose to be stored in the muscles and liver. This is compounded by the fact that the majority of people are classed as sedentary and are not utilising enough of this stored fuel for energy to warrant what they are putting back in. These two facts mean that there is commonly too much glucose in the bloodstream which has consequences on your body. And with sugar intake increasing by 2% per year on average this is a growing problem which needs tackling if health or low body fat levels are concerns for you.
So how does sugar make you fat?
As explained above the overconsumption of sugar is becoming easier with its inclusion in almost everything. When we have full muscle and liver glycogen stores our liver converts this glucose in to fatty acids which are stored in the body for use at a later date as energy. Problem being the sugar over consumption continues and we keep adding more and more body fat unless we start a) Eating less sugar or b) Being more active to burn through some our stored glycogen stores so any sugar is used for activity or replenishment rather than being excessive and hence ending up as fat. Not fun. This very simple mechanism of gaining body fat is not the only way sugar makes you fat, there is another big player in the process with even further reaching implications.
Insulin is a hormone made in the pancreas released when blood glucose levels rise and plays a huge role in helping the body absorb glucose and use it for energy and thus helps the body to regulate blood sugar levels. This is an essential function for keeping the body healthy and preventing problems like insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes. Not fun. When you eat simple sugars you get a large insulin 'spike' as your body attempts to deal with the flood of glucose hitting it, it might be able to handle this in isolation but what happens when this is an every morning, day, and night occurrence?
In terms of making us fat, insulin is not our friend here and is often referred to as the 'fat storing hormone' because when insulin is secreted ALL FAT BURNING STOPS so the guy or girl constantly spiking their insulin with simple sugar carbohydrates won't be giving themselves a chance to burn through stored body fat. Secondly, once insulin has reduced blood sugar levels there is a slight delay in the signalling to reduce it. This leads to a further reduction in blood sugar levels meaning an appetite increase (usually more eating) and the release of the stress hormone cortisol which triggers stored liver glycogen to be released in to the blood to elevate blood sugar levels once again. So what we end up having is a blood sugar rollercoaster which insulin (our way of controllin this) can not keep up with leading to energy imbalances and ultimately fat gain.
To make matters worse, sugar has been shown to have addictive potential due to its impact on pleasure centres in the brain similar to that of opioid drugs! This combined with its increasing inclusion in the majority of packaged foods means that this sweet tasting drug can much easier cross over in to amounts where it is damaging our health and making us fat.
Practical tips on sugar
Ok, so sugar makes you fat if you aren't very careful in your food and exercise choices but what can you do to reduce the amount of the sweet stuff? First, try and read the ingredients of the packaged foods you buy (even health foods) to check for hidden high sugar content and opt for lower sugar alternatives. Even better why don't you try and consume more whole food meals so you can be sure how much sugar is going in to your food? This can be more time consuming but with convenience there usually comes sugar and all of the potential fat gaining risks. There are some low sugar convenience foods availble but it requires diligence when making decisions.
Reduce high sugar snacking in favour of higher protein and health fat snacks which will satisfy your appetite without causing hormonal chaos. And one of the most important tips of all is stop drinking sugary drinks (yes that includes fruit juice). A lot of the obesity epidemic sweeping across the world can be attributed to the massive consumption of soft drinks which offer absolutelty nothing for your health except a tsunami of insulin spiking refined sugars. For those who drink these, cutting them out will do wonders for the energy balance of the body and of course body fat!
Finally, don't rely on sugars for energy. It is an inefficient, unhealthy, and ineffective way to get energy. I like to think of your body as a fire with a need for steady and consistent fuel. Fueling with sugar is like using paper, you will have to constantly keep adding more and the fire will never be consistent (like your blood sugar levels). Try using more healthy fats and fiberous vegetables for energy which is more like having large burning logs on the fire which burn evenly and provide consistent energy and fire for hours, better right?
Sugar makes you fat
Sugar makes you fat when over consumed and evidence suggests that this is the case. By cutting it out by whatever means neccessary you will be removing one of the biggest obstacles to fat loss from your life. We hope this post convinces you of the fat gaining dangers of sugar as well as the problem with the food supply being packed with sugars we might not be aware of because we cant see them. Be vigilent my friends, they want you to eat the sugar so take ownership for your decisions and say No.
Have a good day.