Following on from our Macros: An intro to carbs post we're now diving into sugar!!
This classification of carbohydrate are sugars, some occur naturally and some are added to foods to improve taste and/or as a preservative. These can be raw sugar, brown sugar, corn syrup, glucose, fructose, lactose, or sucrose. These are the refined sugars that can cause genuine issues with our metabolic health, especially if they are consumed regularly in high amounts. Don’t get me wrong, we all love a treat and I’m more than partial than a chocolate chip cookie but like most things in the exercise and nutrition realms, moderation is key.
When working on Jupiter Ascending, the trainer of one of the cast said to me “Barry, sugar is the enemy” and although I understand that it’s quite a sensationalist statement. The more I read into the subject, and become more aware of clients habits has led me to have a very similar outlook. Firstly, these simple carbs are everywhere. Look at ingredients lists and they’re sneaking into a huge amount of products. Secondly, they are super addictive.The dopamine response to sugar is real and we have to actively pull ourself away from wanting them…. Also known as will-power.
Current recommended daily allowances from the NHS are 30 grams of free sugar per day for an adult, which is a one size fits all kind of number but it is a good guide and starting point. It also could be a bit low for performers with active roles, especially during gruelling rehearsal or performing schedules. So being mindful about your physical activity levels also plays a part in the amount you may want to consume.
As alluded to, in the modern diet especially in the Western world, a real issue is the over-consumption of simple carbohydrates and I think it’s important to highlight just how widespread the issues can be.
Here are just a few of adaptations to excessive, longer term sugar consumption.
- Insulin resistance: Can result in excessive blood glucose.
- Increased fat storage
- Reduced immune function
- Reduced thyroid function
- Reduced testosterone levels in men
- Increased testosterone in women
- Reduced growth hormone secretion = Reduced bone density
- Reduced energy, increased lethargy
- Reduced sleep performance
I think you’d agree when I say that these are not desirable changes, and these don’t mention anything about the links to longer term chronic health conditions, the sugar crashes and the impact on cognitive performance. But the good news is, that this is a very controllable facet of your nutrition and starting to make simple changes that make big impacts are possible.
Here are a few suggestions to help reduce your refined sugar intake:
- Swap cereals for homemade granola, nuts, seeds and add fresh fruits for some natural sugars
- Swap jams for squashed berries
- Swap juices for homemade smoothies but be sure to limit fruit, add wholesome vegetables like leafy greens and use plain yoghurt to increase it’s size.
- Make your own pasta sauces
- Make your own salad dressings, as these are products usually high in added sugars
Let’s be honest, it’s less convenient to make some of these swaps as they take time to prepare. The upside is that you can make in batches and I promise that you’ll feel better off the back of choosing to eat them. That said, do not put too much pressure on yourself. If you identify a few things you can change to reduce your sugar intake, then perhaps focus on one to start with and work on that for a couple of weeks…. Life is a marathon and not a sprint, you’ll get the other changes as they don’t all have to happen at once.
Thanks for reading