sugar and weight loss
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Sugar and Weight loss

Sugar and weight loss

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We all know that one person that is convinced sugar makes you fat because it contains sugar.

By now every food and macronutrient has been demonized.

In the seventies, fat was the victim, then carbohydrates, protein and now we are back with the sugar.



In this blog, we are going to cover everything about sugar, with a special focus on sugar intake and fat loss.

To be clear there is a big difference between weight loss and overall health. These two things can, but are not always, correlated.

What I mean with this, is that you can lose weight and not be healthy, or be healthy and gain weight. What we want is to be healthy and achieve a healthy weight.

This requires you to find the balance between these two, and that is not always easy.

But learning more about the correlation between certain foods (like sugar) can make it easier for you to make the right choice.

The right choice is different for everyone. For example, athletes or highly active people have to take in a relatively high amount of sugar.

While people with diseases like diabetes, or insulin resistance are adviced to avoid it as much as possible.

What is sugar?

Before we jump into the relationship between sugar and health or weight loss, it is important to have a basic understanding of the subject.

Sugar is a type of carbohydrate. There are mainly three types of carbohydrates, monosaccharides, polysaccharides, and fiber. Monosaccharides are the sugars.

Monosaccharides are often referred to as the simple carbohydrates and polysaccharides are the complex carbohydrates.



Types of sugar

Sugars come in three forms of sugar: glucose, fructose, and galactose. They all contain 4 calories per gram.

Glucose is the most common sugar you’ll find. It/s our bodies key source of energy. When we break down more complex carbohydrates, like the polysaccharides. They’ll get broken down into glucose molecules.

Almost all energy for the brain is supplied through glucose, so you can see it is a pretty important compound to stay healthy and alive.

Fructose is the sugar you find in most plants. It is often combined with a glucose molecule, and this together makes a bigger disaccharide (two monosaccharides or sugars together).

The last sugar, galactose, often is referred to as the milk sugar. Since it can be mostly found in dairy products.

What happens when you eat sugar?

So we now have a better understanding of what sugar actually is. But what happens when we consume sugar?

As mentioned before sugar is a simple carbohydrate and therefore does not require much energy or effort to be absorpt in the body.

The monosaccharides galactose and fructose (sugars) get transported to the liver. And there get converted into other metabolites.

Glucose gets transported to the body and insulin gets activated. This hormone allows you to take glucose into your cells and use it as an energy source.

Storage of sugar

When there is a surplus (too much) glucose in the body it gets stored in your liver and muscles as glycogen. When these stores are full as well the excess glucose gets stored for long term.

This excess will be stored as body fat and gets used when there is not enough energy available.

If you’d like to eat sugar-free for 20 days and see how it changes your body, you can click here to find out more. (Dutch)



Does sugar intake matters for fat loss? 

There has been a study in 2001 that compared a diet containing very little sugar, and one containing more sugar. Both groups were in a calorie deficit of 600 calories. (x)

The first group consumed 5% of total energy intake from sugar, and the other group consumed 10%. At the end of the 8-week study, there was no significant difference between the two groups.

Another study looked at the difference in weight loss and the intake of simple and complex carbohydrates.

This study did not find a significant difference between the two groups either. And also found that there were no adverse effects on the blood lipids of the people observed. (x)

Added sugars vs natural sugars.

There is a big difference between natural and added sugars. But at the end, both are just a form of glucose, fructose and/or galactose.

So what is the big difference? The difference is the source and nutrients of these sources.

Added Sugars

The biggest sources of added sugars are sugary drinks, cakes, sauces, cakes, cookies, and sweets.

During the production of these foods, the sugar is added to enhance flavor. However, they have no nutritional value, and are called ’empty calories’.

The consumption of added sugars has been correlated with a higher calorie intake. And therefore it can contribute to excess weight and even obesity.

Next, to that, it has also been associated with an increased risk of cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, and high blood pressure.



Natural Sugars

Natural sugars can be found in fruits, vegetables, honey, and dairy products.

These are in the food already, not added by humans. That is why they are called natural sugars.

The natural sugars are often referred to as the healthy kind of sugar. But technically there is no direct difference. Sugar is sugar.

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The difference between natural and added sugars

There is no real difference between the two actual sugars, sugar is still sugar. Whether it is natural or added. Your body won’t notice the difference between this.

However, this doesn’t mean that there is no difference at all. Natural sugar sources come with a lot of minerals, vitamins, and fiber. While food sources with added sugars don’t have these.

That is a big difference, because of these nutrients you’ll be more satiated, therefore eat less and consume fewer calories overall.

Does sugar intake impact your health?

If you are looking for a short answer to this question, yes it does. There is no way around this, but what does sugar impact directly?

Sugar intake and cancer

Cancer cells grow fast and multiply quickly this costs energy. And will most likely get this from glucose. But this doesn’t mean that sugar intake promotes the creation of cancer cells.

This is a common myth that probably comes from the idea that, when glucose is needed to create and fuel cancer cells, cutting it out will stop it.

It is not that simple, and in theory, it wouldn’t work because our healthy cells need glucose for fuel as well.

But yes, sugar can help developing cancer cells. Because of the higher spikes of insulin levels. And insulin is an important factor in cell growth. (x)(x)

Most research on the link between sugar consumption and cancer suggest that there is a possible connection. We don’t have any concrete evidence yet.

It is also very hard to do this since there are so many different types of cancer out there.

There is no evidence that a sugar-free diet will lower the chance of cancer, or can help you when you are already diagnosed with it.

Sugar intake and tooth decay

Tooth decay, also known as dental caries, develop when the acid in your mouth attacks the enamel and dentine of the teeth. This causes the formation of holes or cavities.

This acid is created by bacteria that you can find within the plaque. When you consume sugar it cooperates with these bacteria to produce more acid. And this acid will lead to more holes or cavities.

The sugars you find in foods are a major contributor to the development of dental caries. There is a clear link between the consumption of sugary foods and beverages. And the incidence of dental caries.  (x)

Sugary drinks and weight loss

One of the biggest sources of added sugars we take in is through sugary drinks, most often sodas. (x) The next biggest source was fruit drinks.

Sugary drinks can cause an increase of 83% in developing type 2 diabetes.

There is a study done with women who consumed 1beverage sweetened with sugar every day, they had an increased chance of developing type 2 diabetes, compared with those who only had one drink a month. (x)



Obesity and sugar intake

Obesity is a disease that has increased worldwide over the past 30 years. At this point 13% of the total world population is obese.

There are multiple reasons people become obese, it is not possible to say that there is just one thing that causes this.

As we discussed previously there is no difference in weight loss when it comes to sugar intake, indicating that sugar is not the biggest problem for weight gain. A calorie surplus is.

However sugary foods and especially sugary drinks make it a lot easier to get into this calorie surplus.

Are sugars empty calories?

Often sugary foods are referred to as ’empty calories’ but what is this exactly?

Empty calories is a term to describe foods containing calories and not much more. Meaning that these foods do not deliver any nutrients or fiber.

With this, it is easier to create a calorie surplus and therefore suffers from diseases related to this.

Often the foods full of added sugars (like candy and pre-made meals) fall into this category of empty calories. From a health point of view, they should be avoided as much as possible. 

And foods full of nutrients (fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, etc…) should be prioritized. This makes sure you get in all the vitamins and minerals your body needs to function properly.

Will consuming sugar increase your visceral fat?

You basically have to types of body fat, visceral and subcutaneous. The subcutaneous fat is the fat that you can see and is spread all over your body.

In large amounts, it can have some negative health effects and it may not be the look that you want, but it comes with less danger than visceral fat.

Visceral fat is the fat that is placed between your organs, like the liver, kidney, and pancreas.

The weird thing is that you don’t need to be overweight to have this organ-wrapping fat.

This is the fat that impacts your immune system and hormone function. And can even lead to type 2 diabetes. (x)

As previously discussed added sugars make it really easy to get in a positive calorie balance or a calorie surplus. Therefore it can also easily lead to an increase of visceral fat.

There is no evidence that proves that the surplus from (added) sugar is different and gets stored easier as visceral fat in comparison to a surplus from other foods.

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Is the sugar in fruit bad for you?

Fruit contains sugar, and as we discussed at the beginning of this article, sugar has a bad reputation. Some people, therefore, concluded that fruit must be bad for you.

But, can this really be true? Is fruit bad for us because it contains sugar? Well, I can answer this really simple and quick. No, fruit is not bad for you.

Fruit is full of fiber, antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals. All the stuff that our bodies need to function properly. We need to replenish these stores every single day.

That is why you need to eat fruits (and veggies) every single day.



How to break sugar addiction?

So now you probably know (I hope) a lot more about sugar and the effects of it. It is up to you to decide if you have to cut it out from your life if you are fine or you might want to minimize the intake.

But there are people that feel like they can’t live without, a sugar addiction. And just like any other addiction, it isn’t easy to break it.

A sugar addiction can be detrimental to your health and/or weight loss. So here are some tips that can help you get rid of this addiction!

  1. Find alternatives

This may sound obvious but it makes it a lot easier when you have an alternative because this means that you don’t have to cut it out completely. You just replace it.

Fruits are probably the best alternative there is. They are sweet, packed with nutrients, and full of fiber!

2. Get them out of your house

Out of sight out of mind. You’ll be surprised how easy it is to stay away from the sugary treats if they are not directly within your reach!

3. Increase your protein intake 

A great way to not only minimize your sugar intake but also your overall calorie intake is protein. This is the most filling macro out there.

Because it is so satiating you’ll have fewer cravings for sweets or other high-calorie stuff.

Conclusion

After reading this blog post I hope you have learned a lot more about sugar.

Right now it is up to you to decide what you are going to do with this. Maybe you need to make some adjustments to your diet or not.

This is different for everyone and depends on multiple factors.

If you enjoyed this post and learned something don’t forget to share, and let me know your thoughts in the comments!

Curious to see some dessert recipes without any added sugars? This might be something for you, click here! (Affliate)