Scott Klasen, MS, CSCS, Co-Owner, Peak Performance Training
For over 8 years, I have been helping people look, feel, and perform better. Through the years there is one question that I’ve been asked more than any other and it is this very question that I would like to address today. Have you guessed it yet? I’m sure many of you already have, but even if you haven’t, there is a good chance you have thought about it at some point, perhaps even today! Well, to end the suspense, what I have been asked by more people than you can ever imagine is “What do I need to do to lose weight?”
This question is then usually followed up by something such as, “I’ve tried everything, but nothing seems to work.” I’ll leave this for another day. When someone tells me they are interested in losing weight, what they are actually interested in is losing fat. Seeing that I’m a fitness professional, it would be more than reasonable to assume I’d respond by saying, “physical activity and exercise.” Now don’t get me wrong, exercise is absolutely essential when it comes to improving and maintaining your health, and so too with losing and maintaining a healthy weight. However, if it’s immediate results you seek, STOP EATING SUGAR!
Eliminating excess sugar from your diet is the #1 thing you can do to start losing weight, and more importantly, losing fat. You need to trust me on this. I can put you on the best training program in the world but this, by itself, (in most cases) cannot overcome a poor diet loaded with sugar. I see it time and time again. Those who eliminate or greatly reduce their sugar consumption, and with the addition of a sound training program, get tremendous results. Those that make average changes get average results, while those who make little or no changes in their sugar consumption wind up with, you guessed it…..little or no results.
Unfortunately, sugar is everywhere which can make this extremely difficult to do. Even if you think you don’t eat that much sugar, if you eat a decent amount of processed and packaged foods, you are probably consuming too much. In addition, if you eat foods made with white flour, the end result is the same as eating cookies or candy! Besides making you fat, here are some other reasons to limit the amount of sugar you consume:
Sugar is addictive – Research has proven that eating sugar stimulates the same “pleasure center” in the brain as do illegal drugs, alcohol, and nicotine. Here’s the chain of events when you eat refined sugar/fattening carbohydrates:
- You think about eating a meal containing carbohydrates.
- You begin secreting insulin.
- The insulin signals the fat cells to shut down the release of fatty acids and take up more fatty acids from the circulation.
- You start to get hungry, or hungrier.
- You begin eating.
- You secrete more insulin.
- The carbohydrates are digested and enter the circulation as glucose, causing blood sugar levels to rise.
- You secrete still more insulin.
- Fat from the diet is stored as triglycerides in the fat cells, as are some of the carbohydrates that are converted to fat in the liver.
- The fat cells get FATTER, and so do you.
- Fat stays in the fat cells until the insulin levels drop. It is this process that causes you to get fat and feel tired, irritable, jumpy, and mentally sluggish after eating sugar.
Sugar leads to type 2 diabetes – It is the above process that is currently contributing to the overwhelming rise in type 2 diabetes seen today.
Sugar grows cancer – As should be clear by now, sugar jacks up insulin levels. Insulin stimulates cell growth. Unfortunately, cancer cells have 6-10 times the number of insulin receptors as do normal cells. If extra insulin hits a preexisting cancer cell, it is essentially like pouring gasoline on a fire. Cancers you might be at greater risk of because of sugar: Breast, pancreatic, colon, stomach, and endometrial cancer.
Sugar gives you wrinkles – In a process called glycation, eating sugar attacks collagen and elastin making them less elastic and more brittle until they break. When your skin can’t snap back, that is when fine lines and wrinkles appear. Collagen and elastin then start to mutate causing even more inflammation and damage…..and aging you!
Sugar destroys your immune system – Eating just a few teaspoons of sugar can cripple the capacity of certain white blood cells (neutrophils) to engulf and destroy bacteria. With suppressed neutrophils, you are vulnerable to developing colds, flu, infections, and even chronic fatigue syndrome.
As I mentioned earlier, sugar is cleverly hidden in many seemingly healthy foods ranging from cereals to yogurt. Some of the worst offenders are often your favorite low- fat snacks (fat is removed and replaced with sugar). Go ahead, take a look, you might be surprised at what you find. Needless to say, this can make food shopping challenging at the very least and you will almost certainly become overwhelmed.
If you think you may be consuming too much sugar but are having trouble figuring out the good choices from the bad, just remember this – stay away from anything that is made with white flour or high fructose corn syrup and purchase and eat only foods that have 5 grams of sugar or less per serving on the food label, and you should be fine.
If you need additional advice on controlling your sugar intake and cravings, feel free to contact me and I’d be glad to help.