Here's a topic which should generate a decent discussion: is sugar bad? Everyone loves a good nutritional debate, and there are a ton of Netflix docs and articles claiming sugar is the cause of all our health woes...but how true is that?
So first off, I'm going to come at this with a mix of real evidence and personal experience, which I believe is the best way. One without the other is usually a bit of a weak argument. We need theory AND practice, not one or the other.
What is sugar?
Sugar is a nutrient, that's it. We can find it in two forms:
- monosaccharides (single sugars such as glucose and fructose)
- disaccharides (double sugars such as sucrose and maltose)
It has 4 kcal per gram, equal to protein and less than fat which has 9 kcal per gram. The primary fuel for our bodies is glucose, so sugar is a great energy source.
So, is sugar bad?
Fat vs Sugar
The anti-sugar camp has been in overdrive for the past few years, with documentaries, media coverage, recipe books, and a ton of other stuff. I'm sure you have seen plenty of this. Sugar is more addictive than cocaine. Food companies lobby the government like tobacco companies used to. Sugar feeds cancer.
With anything like this there is always a huge pendulum swing, in this case from 'fat is the devil' to 'sugar is the devil'. There seems to be no room for moderation or balance.
Fat was seen as the 'bad guy' for years, based on flawed evidence from the 1970s which linked saturated fat to heart disease and other illnesses. When people started to question this and found it wasn't strictly true, sugar became the new 'bad guy'.
One thing we must remember is there doesn't need to be a bad guy!
Does cancer feed on sugar?
Yes! Because cancer cells are just cells in your body which have mutated slightly and can't limit their growth and division. All your cells feed on sugar, cancer is no different. If your cells can feed on other energy sources in your diet then so can cancer cells. Cancer cells are still your cells. Hashtagscience.
Is sugar toxic?
Yes! And so is water if you have enough of it. The studies which suggest that sugar (and specifically fructose) is toxic involve rodents and humans eating vast amounts, up to 300g per day! Just for reference, that's equivalent to over 6kg of raspberries, or 5 litres of Coca Cola per day. Every day. That's over 2000 calories of Coca Cola.
Let me just put something out there: if you're consuming over 2000 calories of Coca Cola per day then yeah, you should probably stop doing that.
Will sugar make me fat?
Again, if you're drinking 5 litres of Coke on top of the food you're eating then you are very likely to be in a serious calorie surplus. If you are in a calorie surplus then yeah, you'll gain fat. Physics. If you are not in a calorie surplus then no, sugar won't make you fat. In fact, you can even LOSE fat while eating sugar! Sorry to all the 'sugar is evil' folks out there.
(I'm not sorry at all)
If you are in a calorie deficit you will lose weight, regardless of sugar. If you are in a calorie deficit AND you get adequate protein plus you do resistance training (like this workout) then not only will you lose weight but you will also retain muscle, regardless of sugar. Check out this guy, who for 100 days ate nothing but 2000 kcal of ice cream per day, plus 500 kcal of protein supplements and some recreational alcohol. Is sugar bad? Well, he lost 32lb plus his cholesterol, triglycerides and blood glucose all improved.
Is sugar bad?
Sorry for no exciting or controversial answer here: it depends. If you drink 5 litres of Coke per day then yeah, you're having too much sugar and you're gonna suffer. If you're eating a balanced diet which includes fruit and the odd cake or pastry then don't worry about it.
This blog post from Scientific American goes into this all in WAY more detail, go take a look.
In the meantime, my recommendation is to eat a balanced diet of adequate protein, plus carbs and fat in a ratio that you enjoy and can sustain, being aware of your overall calorie intake to get the weight results you want (even if that;s to maintain), and getting most of this through a variety of whole foods to keep your micronutrients up. If you want to supplement, great. If not, great. If you want to eat cake, eat the damn cake. The sugar is not going to kill you.
Not sexy. Probably won't sell any books on it. But I will stay in great health and enjoy my life. Peace out.