Thanks again to everyone who has written in with their comments and support for my sugar crusade! If you missed part 1 and part 2, please feel free to scroll down on my website and have a read. I'm happy to announce that the editor from womenscycling.ca has also enjoyed the series and the articles can be found on their website as well.
THE SUGAR COATED TRUTH – PART 3
Sugar Addiction – Is It All in My Head?
Have you ever wondered why you don’t crave a good hearty bowl of Brussels sprouts? But boy a creamy chocolate bar after lunch, now we’re talking craving!
Source: Psychology Today
In the first article about quitting added sugar I mentioned that after two weeks without sugar my sweet cravings pretty much stopped and my appetite seemed supressed. After meals I used to surf for delectable sugar treats, likewise during that afternoon lull in energy. Being an exercise physiologist and triathlete who is perpetually curious about how our body works, I was really starting to wonder if this concept of sugar addiction was all in my head.
I took to the research and seemingly sugar addiction does all start in the head. There are numerous brain scan images online comparing drug and sugar addiction. You can see on these images how the brain lights up in a similar way when anticipating cocaine as well as sugar.
According to one research paper on the Evidence For Sugar Addiction (1), “sugar releases opioids and dopamine and thus might be expected to have addictive potential”. It goes on to say “Effects (of sugar) are similar in magnitude as those produced by drugs of abuse such as cocaine and morphine” Wow!! Bring on the Brussels sprouts!
My next investigation: why, after giving up sugar, is my appetite supressed and why do I feel more satisfied after eating? Into my office walks Dr. Robert Lustig (figuratively), the man who believes sugar is poison. His Sugar: The Bitter Truth lecture on YouTube is very passionate and informative but be forewarned there is plenty of biochemistry to listen to. If you would like the Coles notes version of his research, there are loads of articles to surf through online and he has also written a book called Fat Chance.
Dr. Lustig builds a strong case to prove that 1) after eating fructose our brain still thinks that we’re hungry and 2) the signal that the brain gives us to tell us that we’re full gets shut down on fructose. His beliefs are definitely in keeping with what’s been going on with my appetite and the general feeling of satiety after meals. I guess the sugar addiction thing is all in my head!And that my friends is the Sugar Coated Truth.
In the coming weeks I will be exploring the effects too much added sugar has on the body, how athletes can supplement without high fructose corn syrup, the risks of artificial sweeteners, and sugar in alcohol.
Hoebel, B.G. Avena, N., & Rada, P. Evidence For Sugar Addiction: Behavioural And neurochemical Effects Of Intermittent, Excessive Sugar Intake. Neuroscience & Bio behavioural Reviews,32,20-39.
Follow along - www.pbest.ca. , Twitter - @juliaaimers , Facebook - Team Triumph Triathlon Club
Thank you to everyone who emailed, “Facebooked” and tweeted this week about my last article on the 3 Confessions from a Triathlete & Exercise Physiologist. Your kind words of support for my sugar crusade are much appreciated. I am encouraged by your curiosity to learn more! The question that stood out the loudest this week was: how much sugar should we have?
1) HOW MUCH SUGAR IS TOO MUCH? On Jan 7th, 2016, Reuters reported that the U.S. government now recommends that sugar should not exceed 10% of an individual's daily caloric intake. Looks like the Americans are on a new sugar crusade as well! Interestingly though, according to the World Health Organization (WHO) on March 5th, 2014, we shouldn’t ingest more than 5% of our daily calories from added sugar. As of July 2014, Health Canada’s highly criticized proposed recommendation was no more than 20% of natural and added sugars combined…yikes, confusing!
2) HOW DOES SUGAR MEASURE UP? Let’s go with the best case scenario for our health and take the numbers from the WHO. We'll set a limit of no more than 5% of our daily calories being from added sugar. On a 2000 calorie per day diet that would mean 100 calories of added sugar. This is where things got confusing for me: how do all of these sugar measurements add up?
Here’s a chart to explain the different measurements of sugar:
A problem arose when I looked at nutrition labels. Sugar is listed in grams and added sugars are not separated out. You need to be a detective to figure out if there is added sugar in products and how many grams there are. We know for sure that there are natural sugars in fruit and their juices, and milk. Other products get more confusing so that’s when we have to read the ingredients.
It’s practically impossible to find bread, salad dressing, cereal, pasta sauce, sliced turkey, granola bars, yoghurt, muffins or pizza without added sugar! So I created a rule: 1 gram of sugar or more per serving and it gets left on the shelf!
THE SHOCKING SUGAR COATED TRUTH! I went back onto My Fitness Pal, which got me started on the sugar crusade, and looked at how many grams of sugar were in foods I used to eat. Like most athletes, my training foods for long workouts were on there. The sweet topic of energy drinks, gels and bars will need to be explored next!
Here’s the shocking list: Foods with more than 25 grams of sugar: Grande Chai Latte – 32 grams :( Dairy Queen Small Hot Fudge Sundae – 37 grams Tim Horton’s Creamy Chocolate Chill – 50 grams Chocolate Milk – 50 grams Gatorade – 35 grams!!
Sugar That Adds Up: Low Fat Vanilla Yoghurt – 10 grams Gluten Free Granola – 6 grams Coconut Almond Milk - 20 grams Indian Split Pea Soup – 6 grams Gluten Free Bread – 11 grams Quinoa Skinny Crackers – 2 grams Salad Dressing - 1-4 grams Gluten Free Peanut Butter Cookie – 7 grams 4 Squares of a Chocolate Bar – 6 grams Peanut Butter Lara Energy Bar – 18 grams
When starting the sugar crusade, all of the calories from these items were replaced with healthier foods. The result was very few sugar cravings, supressed appetite, decreased inflammation and weight loss. This crusade isn’t about body weight but is about protecting myself and you from heart disease, arthritis, diabetes, cancer, and about generally reducing (chronic) inflammation caused by too much sugar.
And that, my friends, is the Sugar Coated Truth! In the coming weeks, I will be exploring sugar addiction, the risks of too much sugar, energy bars and drinks, alcohol and artificial sweetners.
Play with this fast and fun measurement tool to discover your daily intake of sugar!
3 Confessions from a Triathlete and Exercise Physiologist
My latest “crusade”, as my partner likes to call them, is a crusade on sugar. Recently I read an article written by a heart surgeon who confessed that all those years that he had been preaching to his patients about low fat diets to reduce their risk of heart disease, he was wrong. He describes the process of how it is inflammation caused by added sugars that is actually causing problems for our hearts not just bad trans fats. Confession #1 - I too was preaching low fat diets
Source: Philmaffetone.com website
Confession #2 - my diet was loaded with sugar. I started using the My Fitness Pal application which counts your daily nutrients and discovered the sugar coated truth! I was consistently exceeding the recommended grams of sugar per day. A pescatarian, gluten free triathlete who eats too much sugar….who knew? And so the crusade began.
Time to look in the pantry and fridge and see where all this lingering hidden sugar is and exchange it for healthier calories. The no brainer foods are the cookies and chocolates but I continued to dig deeper. The coconut almond milk was traded for unsweetened almond milk, the honey maple gluten free bread was traded for a no added sugar chia gluten free bread, the fruit yoghurt for plain Greek yoghurt with fresh raspberries and yes, the Starbucks chai latte for plain chai tea with steamed milk. The list went on but I was committed to doing this no added sugar crusade for 2 weeks to see what would happen.
Confession #3 - After 2 weeks, I stopped craving sugar, my appetite dropped and I lost 1.5 pounds.Hmm… maybe there was something to this. So I continued over three months allowing myself controlled sugar slips on the weekend, and boom! Down 7 pounds!
My weight has never really been a concern to me. Since I was 25 years old, I’ve weighed the same amount, give or take a few pounds: never over weight, never under weight. I have always exercised like a triathlete: 7-12 hours per week and raced successfully over the summer. This latest crusade really wasn’t about weight but about protecting my healthy heart and reducing inflammation; but when I discovered what was happening, I realized that there is something to a low added sugar regime.
I have started trading in sugar calories with my clients and they are having the same reactions. Now I know the results of cutting added sugar aren’t just a fluke. In the coming weeks, I will be going into more depth on the sugar crusade. Follow along on Facebook, Twitter or join my weekly email list for updates. Get inspired to make some great changes in your life! If you would like to start now, I love working with clients one on one. Feel free to shoot me an email: email@example.com
My name is Julia, I’m a triathlete and exercise physiologist and I confess, I was a bit of a sugar addict and that my friends is the sugar coated truth!