Is Sugar Sabotaging your Fitness Goals?
Sugar is hiding everywhere. It's not just about cutting out cake, cookies and candy...though that's a great place to start. Do you know how much you are consuming? If you are a typical American, you may be eating 156 pounds per year! That’s how much the USDA says Americans consume each year on a per capita basis. Sure, some of that comes from standard junk food but much of it comes from more “hidden” sources.
Sugar for many is something they may have been battling with for a long time, but the past is the past. Time for sugar to be seen for what it really is, and for us to take back full control of our lives. Here’s a simple three-step process to help you start to win back the battle for your health.
First Step – Awareness of what Sugar Really Does to Your Body
I think most people I talk to will say they “know” that they shouldn’t have sugar, but they really can’t help it. To me that is a lack of true awareness of what sugar does to oneself. I don’t think many people will say that they want to hurt their body on purpose, but unless they know it’s really happening they will continue down that road. Sugar is slower to impact our health (as we don’t die from an overdose right away), and it’s that slow destructive process that is the most dangerous. Unfortunately most people don’t know the damage until it has already been done (diabetes for example).
Let’s look at what is really going on with sugar from inside our body’s point of view.
•Sugar increases fat storing. Possibly the most important hormone in the body when it comes to weight loss and health is insulin. Insulin is the main hormone that we have full control over daily through our diet and lifestyle. When we eat sugar and it enters into our bloodstream too quickly, we have a spike in blood sugar levels (hyperglycemia). Now in times of high activity we are able to burn it off, but if we are sitting around this is not a good thing. So in response to that high level of blood sugar (known as glucose), the body will release more insulin into the bloodstream. Insulin will then take the excess glucose and try to find a place to store it. If your muscles are all full (or have insulin resistance) then the best place to put the excess glucose is fat cells. When insulin is high, the fat cells are told to start storing (shutting down any process of releasing stored fat into the blood for burning). With chronic high insulin spikes comes a resistance to it (insulin resistance) by your cells, leading to more insulin production, leading to more fat storing, and more resistance, eventually going down a road of diabetes and ill health for the whole body. It’s interesting to note that in cultures known for their longevity, many had different diets and lifestyles but the one thing they all had in common was low fasting insulin levels.
•Sugar disrupts normal brain function. I think most people can relate to mood swings and energy highs/lows that come after a high sugar meal. Sugar can also be the source of many people’s increased anxiety and depression. Let us not also forget the kids with ever-increasing attention “disorders” and behavioral issues. Sugar is not helping with that, either. In fact, there have been many studies that show when taking sugar out of a kid’s diet and increasing fat intake, their attention/learning ability increases, their behavior changes for the better, and in some extreme cases have been able to manage (if not eliminate) seizures. The brain is made mostly of fat and although runs on glucose it gets “shorted out” with too much sugar.
•Sugar decreases your overall health and makes you age quicker. Too much sugar will lower your overall immune system, increase destructive inflammation, lead to essential mineral deficiencies in the body, feed bad bacteria growth in your gut (all health starts in the gut) and other wonderful stuff. Aging is just a fancy word for the body breaking down quicker than it can repair itself, as that is what happens when we get older. Aging also is accelerated by the increasing risks of all degenerative diseases such as diabetes, osteoporosis, heart disease and cancers. We are all going to get older, but it doesn’t mean that we have to “age” quicker.
Not a good overall list on what sugar does to our body right? Well on the reverse side by taking sugar out of our diets as much as we can (and controlling insulin), we can effectively help to do the following:
•Increase fat burning ability of the body.
•Increase the immune system and state of health.
•Slow down the destructive aging process.
•Decrease risks for most degenerative diseases.
•Have steady energy all day long (no crashes or swings).
•Have increased mental clarity, focus and concentration.
•Increase positive behaviors in children (as well as adults).
So first step is that we need to be aware of what sugar is really doing in our bodies. Once we see what is happening, I think we can start to change our view on whether it is our good friend or possibly public enemy #1 in our daily lives.
To have better health and reach your fitness goals, it's mandatory that you read labels and know where your sugar intake truly comes from. Here are 6 sneaky places that sugar hides ~ you might be eating more than you think!!
- YOGURT - Generally, this is a food that people consider “healthy”. However, unless you choose the Plain flavor, you’ll be getting a lot of sugar. Check the label and you’ll find on average about 20 to 25 grams of sugar in a measly 6 ounces. Choose greek plain yogurt, sweeten with a little Truvia or Stevia and mix in 1/2C frozen blueberries. Problem solved!
- SALAD DRESSINGS - Salads have always been a great choice when trying to lose weight. But, not only can they be laden with fats, but even the healthiest, veggie-packed salads can pack a sugar punch from the dressings that accompany them. Choose an oil-based dressing and ask for it on the side, so your lettuce isn't taking a bath on your plate!
- SOFT DRINKS - Here’s where a huge portion of consumer sugar intake is found. Studies show that soft drinks account for as much as 33% of all added sugars consumed. And if you think switching to sugar-free diet drinks is the answer, think again. The risk of obesity appears to be higher among diet cola drinkers. Recent studies show that those who drink diet soda eat more junk, since they end up craving sweets more often. Choose to sip on green tea or Crystal Light Pure - both great options!
- CEREAL - Checkout the serving size on the back of the box. A serving is often only ¾ cup which means most people tend to have at least two servings at breakfast. Plus, cereal is often eaten as a snack as well, and a few handfuls can quickly add up. Many cereals that tout themselves as being healthy have more sugar in them then a candy bar. Kashi offers a great selection of cereals that are all low in sugar. Another option would be to choose steel cut oatmeal for breakfast to fill you up for the day.
- PROTEIN BARS - Many times they are glorified candy bars! Several on the market disguise themselves as being packed with protein and all natural ingredients, however, the huge sugar content diminishes their nutritional value. In some cases, you might actually be better off grabbing a chocolate candy bar. Choose Supreme Protein bars, or look for one that has less than 12g sugar.
- LOW FAT FOODS - Fat makes many foods taste good! When fat is eliminated,often the flavorful taste disappears too. To prevent a low fat food from being too bland, manufacturers regularly add extra sugar to ensure a good taste. So while the fat grams may be low, there are plenty of calories because of the extra sugar. Choose foods that are not processed, and eat "clean" 90% of the time to avoid the extra sugar that's often packed into 'lowfat' foods.
In 2003, the World Health Organization released guidelines indicating sugar should account for only about 10% of our daily calories, which is roughly only eight teaspoons. Most labels refer to sugar in grams -- eight teaspoons is about 37 grams. What does that mean to you? Well, one six ounce yogurt and one cup of many brands of cereal will quickly put you over that recommended limit.
Whenever you read the ingrediants, the first 3 labeled are the most prevalent in the food. If sugar is the first ingredient listed on a food, you probably should consider putting it back on the shelf. And remember, there other terms for sugar that food companies use. It also is referred to as high fructose corn syrup, glucose, sucrose and other names. Pay extra attention to the foods mentioned in the hidden sugars list above. And, if eating high sugar foods, limit your portion.
Make 2013 your healthiest yet.
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