Unfortunately it really is that bad.
Chances are you already know that eating too much sugar isn’t good for you. Yet you’re probably still overdoing it: Americans average about 20 tablespoons of added sugars per day, compared to the recommended 6 tablespoons for women and 9 tablespoons for men. (That doesn't include sugar found naturally in foods like fruits and milk.)
Sugar is highly addictive
Do you have a sweet tooth? There are several possible reasons we crave sweet foods. Did you know that sugar and processed foods may be as addictive as heroin or cocaine? In a 2013 study from Connecticut College, researchers confirmed that Oreos could be as addictive as cocaine, after observing how the popular cookie affected lab rats' behavior and brains.1 Eating sugar artificially stimulates a region of your brain called the nucleus acumbens to produce dopamine, the pleasure neurotransmitter. Soon, dopamine levels drop, and we start to feel “flat”... or a bit “down." We crave this pleasant, feel-good feeling again — so sugar leads to addiction.
There seems to be some evolutionary benefits to sweet foods, so there is some good reason why we are wired this way. Fruits being sweet and pleasant to eat indicated to our ancestors that they were safe to eat. In addition, they provided the necessary energy and fat storage needed for hunting – yes there were times when storing extra fat was necessary for survival. There’s much more to it than that of course, so if you’re interested, here’s an interesting article you might enjoy: http://www.businessinsider.com/evolutionary-reason-we-love-sugar-2014-4
Sadly, somewhere along the line, things changed. Not only do we no longer have to hunt for food but the sugar producers have managed to refine the sugar, stripping it of all nutrients and fiber in the process. Sure, some people do hunt for food, but it’s unlikely they walk nearly as far or for as long and certainly they don’t do it without a cooler full of handy snacks and drinks.
Increased Incidence of Obesity and related health risks
The latest World Health Organization data indicates that 1.9 billion people worldwide are overweight, with 600 million considered obese. Sugar, in the form of processed, high-in-sugar foods is largely to blame.
A recent project, headed by Dr Kimber Stanhope, put healthy young adults in their 20s on a highly controlled sugary diet for 10 weeks and then measured the effects of that added sugar. Stanhope's study showed that when subjects took an increased dose of sugar intake, the risk factors for cardiovascular disease also increased. The fat-burning process in the liver is impaired because the organ has been overloaded with sugar fructose. Much of the fat in the stomach area lies directly under the skin. This is called subcutaneous fat and is not necessarily hazardous to your health. The fat that is harmful is the unseen fat around your organs, otherwise known are visceral abdominal fat. Stanhope’s study also found that the patients on the fructose diets "end up actually forming more visceral fat than subcutaneous fat so that's important to the study.” says McGahan. "We think of fat as fat, but actually in this study, fat isn't all the same... there's a big difference between the effects of where our fat is stored and our health."
Toxic to the liver
There is growing scientific consensus that one of the most common types of sugar, fructose, can be toxic to the liver, just like alcohol.2,3 Fructose is the sugar that makes fruit taste sweet. There’s nothing wrong with eating fructose in its natural state, in fruit, but it’s not recommended to drink a lot of fruit juice as the sugar is concentrated and has a lot less fiber than the full fruit would have.
Getting frequent, high doses of fructose throughout the day, without fiber to slow it down, is more than our bodies were designed to handle. When we consume large amounts of fructose in added sugar, particularly in liquid form on an empty stomach, it slams the liver with more than it can handle.
Major risk for heart disease
In 2013, University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston researchers discovered that eating too much sugar can stress the heart and open the door to heart failure by affecting its ability to pump.4 Research also suggests that eating less sugar can help lower blood pressure, a major risk factor for heart disease. Plus, people who eat a lot of added sugar (where at least 25% of their calories comes from added sugar) are twice as likely to die of heart disease as those whose diets include less than 10% of total calories from added sugar.
Inhibits Muscle Growth
This sugar overload can be notoriously problematic for the exerciser, the athlete, and the bodybuilder, all related to muscle growth. Sugar causes an insulin surge in the body that suppresses two important hormone groups: growth hormones and glucagons.5 The body relies on these hormones to burn fat and support muscle development. When sugar takes over and insulin spikes, muscle building falls by the wayside.
Sugar has been shown to feed cancer cells and has been connected to breast, ovary, prostate, rectum, lung, gallbladder and stomach cancers.
Increased risk of type 2 diabetes
When you eat, your pancreas pumps out insulin, but if you’re eating too much sugar and your body stops responding properly to insulin your pancreas starts pumping out even more insulin. Eventually your overworked pancreas will be unable to keep up with the demand and your blood sugar levels will rise, setting you up for type 2 diabetes.
If you have diabetes, too much sugar can lead to kidney damage. The kidneys play an important role in filtering your blood sugar. Once blood sugar levels reach a certain amount, the kidneys start to let excess sugar into your urine. If left uncontrolled, diabetes can damage the kidneys, which prevents them from doing their job in filtering out waste in your blood. This can lead to kidney failure.
Increased Risk of Depression
The occasional candy or cookie can give you a quick burst of energy (or “sugar high”) by raising your blood sugar levels fast. When your levels drop as your cells absorb the sugar, you may feel jittery and anxious (a.k.a. the dreaded “sugar crash”). But if you’re reaching into the candy jar too often, sugar starts to have an effect on your mood beyond that 3 p.m. slump: Studies have linked a high sugar intake to a greater risk of depression in adults.
Sugar can interfere with the absorption of protein, cause gastrointestinal concerns such as increased risk of Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis, indigestion, acidic digestive tracts, and can cause food allergies.
You probably rolled your eyes at age 12, but your mother was right: Candy can rot your teeth. The bacteria in your mouth love to eat sugar lingering in your mouth after you eat something sweet and along with it they consume small amounts of your teeth, which over time results in cavities! If you want to see less of your dentist, best skip the sweets.
If you have joint pain, here’s more reason to lay off the candy: Eating lots of sweets has been shown to worsen joint pain because of the inflammation they cause in the body. Plus studies show that sugar consumption can increase your risk of developing rheumatoid arthritis.
Another side effect of inflammation: It may make your skin age faster. Sugar attaches to proteins in your bloodstream and creates harmful molecules called “AGEs,” or advanced glycation end products. These molecules do exactly what they sound like they do: age your skin. They have been shown to damage collagen and elastin in your skin -- protein fibers that keep your skin firm and youthful. The result - Wrinkles and saggy skin.
Okay I’m Hooked on Sugar. What can I do to kick this? I have no WILL POWER!
Sadly, we’ve been told for far too long that indulging in sweets is connected with a lack of self-will or some other character flaw. This is just not true! Craving sugar is not simply about willpower, nor is it simply about emotions. As I’ve mentioned before there are reasons why we crave sweets, but it is possible to reduce your cravings and decrease your sugar ingestion. I’ve looked through several articles for a variety of tips and rather than list them, I’m including a link to another interesting site that delves deep into the whys and hows and has some great advice on how to cut down on your sugar.
Check it out here:
Some might argue nutrition is the key, while others argue exercise is the key. The truth is both are important but consistency is the winner.
Have you tried multiple different exercise and nutrition programs looking for that one thing that will finally get you the results you are looking for? How did that work out? The problem word in the previous sentence is ‘multiple’.
Now I don’t know what you’ve tried and whether they were scientifically sound or if they were a few crazy fad diets or a mixture of the two, but I’m willing to bet that they were preceded by testimonials by people who swore up and down that each one of them was awesome and that it worked. Do you think those people made up the results - faked their way through those before and after pictures? Sometimes I suppose, in an effort to make a sale, but chances are the results are real. People really do lose weight; redesign their lives and their bodies. Maybe they make it look a little easier than it really is, but the successful people have found something.
That something is consistency. It is unlikely that there is anything exceptional about any one exercise/nutrition plan that you come across. As long as you are getting physical activity in a safe manner, always challenging yourself to do better than you were before and fueling your body with healthy food, you will see results BUT when the going gets tough; when the results aren’t coming fast enough; when you really would prefer to have ice cream every night and sit on your couch binge-watching Netflix; that’s when you need to KEEP GOING! This is the only way you’ll get the results you need. If you quit the program 4 weeks into it because the results aren’t as quick or dramatic as you had hoped, you are depriving yourself of the true satisfaction that comes from hard work, dedication and hard-earned results!
Here are a few of common scenarios that I have seen as a trainer.
Everyone is different. Every advertisement you read will have a disclaimer, the small print, stating that results will vary. But for every difference, there are a lot of similarities. Consistency in your fitness and nutrition will win over extremes. It is tempting to purchase a program that promises fast and dramatic results. Usually fast and dramatic results are difficult to maintain over the long run. I have found that the slower the changes occur, the longer they will last. KEEP GOING!!!
Did you pick up on the theme yet? Consistency is Key!
Consistency has a sister. Her name is TIME.
Here are a few other things to consider:
Exercise is Medicine
Many people look at physical activity mainly for the purpose of losing weight and looking better, often hoping for quick results. At times with this mindset, the results aren’t as fast or dramatic as hoped and in turn a lot of people give up. It’s too hard; too much work for too little reward. No matter how hard you try there are certain limits to the changes you can physiologically achieve to your body. As soon as you stop seeing and feeling the changes to your body you are likely to become disappointed and seriously question the value of the effort you are putting into the exercise program. This is because exercise was simply a means to an end, in this case unrealistic changes to your body, rather than a behavior that truly connects with who you are as a person.
This week I was asked a question that certainly comes up from time to time; which is better, machines or free weights? The answer really depends on what the intention of the exercise is. Both forms of resistance training have a lot to offer and can be a beneficial part of many training plans. Let's take a look at some key features of each.
Features of Exercise Machines
Before we can properly discuss the features of exercise machines it's important to make a few small clarifications about just what we're talking about. A wide variety of exercise machines exist ranging from cardio equipment such as treadmills and ellipticals to resistance machines like the leg press or even to free cable pulley resistance stations. For the purpose of this discussion we'll be focusing on machines that guide the movement such as a seated row, or leg press and so on. Cardio equipment is great, but comparing it to free weights is a discussion for another day. Cable pulley stations are actually a lot more similar to free weights than to other machines so they will also not be included in this analysis.
What's better for weight-loss, diet or exercise? Is it true that weight-loss is 80% what you eat and 20% exercise? Why does it get harder to keep off the pounds with age? I get asked questions like these frequently, but rarely have the time to really give an answer that I believe is sufficient at explaining the answer effectively. Therefore, I'm constrained by time to give soundbite answers that are mostly correct. In today's article it is my hope to delve a little bit more deeply into what the science really says about these things and help improve awareness.
It is said that the only constant in life is change. However, when it comes to improving our health, fitness, and body composition the changes that need to be maintained can be elusive to put it mildly. So why is it that changes that are desirable seem to be so difficult, while changes that we don't appreciate just seem to find their way into our lives?
A lot of my female clients will tell me that they don’t want to build muscle; they just want to “tone” their muscles. To achieve the toned appearance they’re looking for, in most cases it is ultimately necessary for women to build muscle and lose fat – doing both at the same time is certainly challenging, though not impossible. The best way to do this is to incorporate strength training (also referred to as resistance training) and cardio. In fact, strength training can help you achieve your weight loss goals faster than cardio alone. Cardio has its place, and is recommended for heart health and fat burning, but it’s generally not sufficient for most people to reach their goals. In fact you can also achieve cardiovascular benefits from strength training.
Calories In vs. Calories Out – This is still the bottom line on weight loss, gain or maintenance, so in a simple world, you might think that you can accomplish this simple math any way you like, cut calories extremely low while doing no exercise or burn 1000 calories a day on the treadmill and not worry about what you’re eating. Unfortunately, neither of those options will really work out the way you would hope.
I’m often asked what works better for weight loss, diet or exercise. Most often the pre-conceived notion is that diet is more important than exercise for weight loss and people are quite certain of this. Technically this is true. Studies have shown that participants who follow a specific nutrition plan will lose more weight than individuals who exercise but do not change their nutrition habits, however the number on the scale doesn’t tell the whole story.
Weight lost by diet alone will not be all from fat. In fact, a large percentage of the weight lost will be lean muscle mass. This is not ideal. Muscle requires calories to survive. Fat doesn’t. If the person loses muscle, his or her metabolism will slow down, resulting in a downward spiral, where it becomes necessary to further cut calories to maintain the weight loss or lose more weight. This can be extremely frustrating, often ending up abandoning the weight loss efforts and then gaining back the weight and usually more.
I've received a lot of questions from clients regarding how to eat before and after a workout. Eat too much and you'll be left feeling sluggish and bloated for the workout. Eat too little and your stomach will be screaming at you and you won't have the energy to carry on. So what should you do?
While I'll try not to get too deep into the science of it (macros, nutrient timing, and hormone responses can get a bit confusing), I'll suggest some general guidelines to consider.
Well it's that time of year when hearts are everywhere with Valentine's Day fast approaching. It just seems fitting (cliche?) to have a quick article about heart health to go along with it.
So today I just wanted to bring renewed attention to The Canadian Heart Health Strategy and Action Plan. The plan has seemed to go under the radar and not really get much attention - although it's been around since 2009 it doesn't appear to have received sufficient funding and media exposure to be anything more than another list of recommendations that the public is unaware of. Since improving health and fitness is what we are all about in the YWCA Fitness Department, I thought it'd be helpful to try and help get the word out about this kind of initiative. The main thrust absolutely seems to be looking at the policy side of things by helping to change the entire landscape of health understanding and access to services on a large scale. Clearly improving the health of Canadians is a noble commitment, but the cynical side of me feels that waiting for favourable policy changes will take too long to make a real difference in the lives of those reading this and their families.