From nutritionists and dietitians that are putting the blame on sugar as being bad for you, and up to reputable online publications like Times, too many people are saying sugar is bad for you and it makes you fat.
Here’s a quote I was seeing in one video circulating on the internet on time.com: „Experts say they have hard data that proves „sugar is toxic irrespective of its calories… and weight”.
This is just one example. But searching on the internet, I stumbled across many titles bashing on sugar like:
- Sugar makes you fat if you eat it
- Sugar is similar to cocaine when it comes to addiction
- Sugar will make you sick and give you all sorts of diseases
- Sugar is evil
- Sugar will give you diabetes
- Sugar is bad for you
- Sugar causes inflammation
- High-Fructose Corn Syrup are the blame for every disease out there.
Before bashing sugar forever, and let your emotions rule over logic, let’s take a few minutes and see what’s the real side of the story when it comes to sugar.
After all, we are all innocent until CORRECTLY proved otherwise. So is sugar bad for you? Does sugar make you fat?
In every industry, there’s a primary source of misinformation, and people often use „scapegoats” to blame.
Let’s see the facts and avoid blaming something convenient just for the sake of justifying a common problem some people have.
The sugar being the source of all evil statements disappoint me not because they are there. They disappoint me because of their lack of proper scientific evidence.
I’m all in to find out what’s right or wrong for you but when I see flawed justifications based on bad science; I just facepalm myself.
Correlation doesn’t imply causation.
For example, if some guy has reported that he got diabetes from eating sugar, it doesn’t mean that we all going to get it the same way. Why?
First of all, we don’t know his life conditions. What he eats irrespective of sugars, his physical activity, etc.
I decided this to be the first part of the series I’ll open here on nutrition myths. Let’s see the truth about sugar
What Exactly Is Sugar?
Sugar is a simplified term for carbohydrates. The primary role of carbohydrates is to be broken down into simple forms like glucose and used for energy by your body.
Without going into too much unnecessary detail, carbohydrates can be classified into three broad categories:
- Monosaccharides – these are the simple sugars, namely: glucose (blood sugar), fructose (the sugar in fruits), and galactose (the sugar from milk)
- Polysaccharides – almost every time they refer to starch like Grains, pasta, bread, potatoes of all sorts, cereals, etc.
- Oligosaccharides – more types of carbohydrates bound together like high fructose corn syrup, sucrose, lactose (milk sugar)
Glycogen is a long-chain glucose molecule that your body uses for energy, and stores in your liver and muscles.
It is found in the bloodstream, and consuming sufficient carbohydrates around or during a workout session is critical for the prevention of blood glucose from falling.
The Role Of Sugar Inside Our Body
- Optimal brain function depends on sugar intake – your brain uses 20% of your total energy expenditure. It’s logical you have to consume some sugar for optimal brain health
- Sugar protects your lean muscle mass in caloric deficit – it helps with muscle mass retention when you are on a diet
- Sugar is stored in liver, muscles, and it is used as a fuel – any demanding physical activity can use sugar as a fuel source
While sugar is needed for these functions, they are not essential. Sugar can be made inside your body from protein breakdown.
But you don’t want that when you are on a diet. In that situation you will probably lose muscle mass. In the DTM method, you avoid this by consuming an adequate amount of carbohydrates when you diet.
Myths And Misconceptions
Myth Nr. 1 – Sugars spike insulin levels, and you get fat
Here’s the answer to the question: “does sugar make you fat?”
There’s nothing wrong with insulin spikes. More than that, protein is also insulinogenic which means it also raises insulin levels. The only way you’ll avoid an insulin spike is by consuming just fats. And that’s impossible if you want to stay on an optimal diet.
Insulin spikes are irrelevant when it comes to fat gaining. Your body uses glucose as fuel.
Glucose is obtained from the breakdown of carbohydrates. If there’s not enough glucose, your body can use amino acids for fuel. It does this by breaking down muscles or ingested protein and transforming it into glucose in a process called gluconeogenesis.
The sugar is hardly converted into fat because it is stored in liver or muscles.
Carbohydrates are turned into fat only when your body glycogen stores are full, but this is extremely rare in humans. The process is called De Novo Lipogenesis.
Available research studies show that your maximum glycogen storage is around 15 grams per kilogram.
Doing some math, a person at around 100 kg would have to consume 1500 grams of carbohydrates. And that’s almost impossible.
That guy would have to eat around 2kg of uncooked pasta. Just imagine how big it will look when it’s cooked. Impossible to eat. Indeed, this is a situation in which he’ll have to worry about sugar being converted into fat.
Caloric excess is responsible for weight gain, not sugars per se.
Myth Nr. 2 – There are good sugars that can be eaten, and bad sugars that have to be avoided
In reality, there’s no good or bad sugars. How come?
All foods that are considered carbohydrates contain glucose, fructose, or other sugars like lactose. In a sense, it’s almost impossible NOT to consume sugar.
Even if you stop consuming table sugar, you’ll still consume a certain quantity of sugar from something else, like honey.
While the chemical structure of the carbohydrate you are substituting might be different, your body still knows it’s a carbohydrate, and it is processed as needed. All carbohydrates will be broken down into glucose, and used by your body as fuel. So even if you replace table sugar with honey, it’s still a similar source of energy.
- Candy = carbohydrates
- A piece of fruit = carbohydrates, vitamins and minerals, fiber
Myth Nr. 3 – Sugar is toxic
Anything can be toxic in high enough doses. You can pick any macro nutrient, eat extreme doses, and I can guarantee you’ll get sick. Even water can be toxic.
Most toxic substances have a median lethal dose (LD50) which is the amount of substance required to kill around half of the tested population. The toxicity levels (LD50) for sugar is around 30 grams per kilogram of body mass.
At 85 kg, a person would have to consume 2.5 kg of sugar for it to be toxic.
Can you eat that much sugar?
Let’s be serious. Who in their right senses would eat so much sugar?
And to make this even better, let’s talk about salt. The salt toxicity numbers are around ten times lower than those of the sugar. But again, no one’s shouting out that salt is toxic (hint: it isn’t in the right doses).
Myth Nr. 4 – High fructose corn syrup makes you fat
A study found that fructose doesn’t cause weight gain when you change from eating certain foods to eating HFCS. This is true in the context of consuming a similar caloric content.
Studies show that fructose is not worse than any other type of carbohydrates when it comes to weight gain.
Myth Nr. 5 – Sugar is as addictive as cocaine
I’ve heard this cheap excuse a million times.
It sounds like the perfect opportunity to blame the sugar. I saw this statement 1000’s of times all over Facebook, Instagram, etc.
And it’s easy for us to send a heart or a like to a photo with a statement like that. It means you support that hypothesis. But, is it true?
You might support this statement because there’s plenty of correlation between behaviors you can link to unhealthy eating practices that revolve around sugar.
If it shows similarities to other addictive behaviors, it doesn’t mean that it CAUSES addiction. Correlation doesn’t imply causation.
Sugar has not been proven by direct biological, chemical or neurochemical processes to be addictive (while taking into account psychological and emotional factors).
There’s a lack of evidence to show that sugar is indeed as addictive as cocaine.
Studies looking at sugar addiction and its role in obesity management show that sugar doesn’t cause an eating disorder or addiction.
The Truth About Sugar
Eating any food that tastes good is triggering the same areas that are responsible for other addictive substances that make us feel good. Any other food that tastes good will make us feel good.
But eating is just consuming food. When it’s based on emotional factors, it can easily get out of your control. But is sugar bad for you?
People that tell sugar is toxic are spreading misinformation.
Having some sugar now and then isn’t going to hurt you. It isn’t going to cause diabetes on a controlled diet.
Let’s not even talk about a controlled diet combined with exercise: Diabetic proof setup from my point of view.
And when it comes to sugar and weight gain?
If you eat too much of anything, you’ll get fat. Heck, you can even gain weight by eating vegetables (a bit hard but it can be done).
As long as you are in a caloric deficit, you are not going to gain any weight because the sugar or fat you are eating will be used as a fuel for energy.
We are, and we’ve always been a product of our environment. Society, rules our diets, social interactions, and our personal lifestyle. They all contribute to your current body.
But the good news is that you are in control of everything
- You control your shopping basket
- You manage your money
- You control your life
- You control your mind (the 3rd email from my DTM method helps you get into a proper mindset to go ahead and link your diet and training program for a successful transformation – click here to download it)
Sugar is NOT the cause of toxicity, weight gain, disease, etc. It’s just something that got the blame for a subject that’s not yet perfectly understood.
But the underlying fact, when it comess to weight gain, is that increased caloric intake is the primary cause.
My recommendation to you:
- Your primary goal when consuming any carbohydrate (sugars), is making the right choices – chose starchy carbohydrates that are high in micronutrients
- Sugars are not toxic, don’t cause weight gain, and the insulin spikes are not dangerous (unless you already have diabetes).
- There’s no healthy or unhealthy sugars. Just balance your diet. Eat a moderate amount of fruits, starches, and even the occasional sweets if you feel the need (all in context of a calculated caloric intake as I explain in the first lesson of my DTM method for fat loss)
- High Fructose Corn Syrup is not worse than any sugar like table sugar, glucose, or fruit sugar. Research doesn’t link HFCS to obesity.
If this article opened your eyes, share it with your friends. Let me know what you think about it in the comments. Now that you’ve seen the truth, do you still think sugar is bad for you?