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The Dangers of Refined Sugar and Its Impact on Fitness
Sugar: Is it food or poison?
Refined sugar is ubiquitous in our culture. A simple visit to your local supermarket will tell you that the most common ingredient found in our food today is refined sugar. Leaving out the obvious sources like candy and sodas (which usually take up 2-3 isles), sugar is hidden in almost all processed foods in the form of evaporated cane juice, high fructose corn syrup, and molasses. But how unhealthy is sugar? Is it just its high calorie content that causes obesity and all its associated diseases? Or is sugar far more harmful than the calories it adds?
As a personal trainer, I often advise my clients to avoid refined sugar. Many active people still believe that as long as they are active, sugar does not affect their health. Based on the research I have done, this is a false claim. In fact, refined sugar can seriously derail your fitness efforts.
First of all, sugar is not real food! Refined sugar is stripped of all its nutritional value. As a result, refined sugar cannot be used efficiently by the body and will be stored in the liver if not used for immediate energy. The liver’s capacity for sugar is limited. Daily intake of refined sugar can cause the liver to release the sugar back into the bloodstream in the form of fatty acids. This often causes unhealthy weight gain that could lead to obesity and eventually other problems such as heart disease.
Refined sugar contains no vitamins or minerals. However, the real danger of refined sugar is its metabolites; puric acid and an abnormal sugar containing five atoms. According to Dr. William Cody Martin, a poison is any substance that can cause disease. Based on this general definition, refined sugar can easily be categorized as a poison. These metabolites are toxins to the body, mainly because they interfere with cellular respiration. If the cells don’t get oxygen, they will eventually die. The death of these cells can take a long time. Daily sugar intake can therefore trigger degenerative diseases such as cancer, diabetes, osteoarthritis and many others.
Effects of sugar on health and fitness. Sugar has been linked to poor health and obesity for decades. The following list explains how sugar can impact your health and hinder your fitness goals.
o Refined sugar leaches your body’s stores of vitamins and minerals. Depletion of these nutrients hinders the tissue repair process and thus adversely affects the response to exercise.
o Refined sugar increases acidity in the body. To neutralize this acidic state, the body draws calcium from bones and teeth, making them weaker and more prone to degeneration.
o Excess sugar is stored in the liver. After reaching the capacity of the liver, excess sugar is released into the bloodstream in the form of fatty acids. The sugar is then stored as fat on vital organs (perhaps causing them to malfunction) and the least metabolically active areas (i.e. the abdomen).
o Refined sugar attacks the lymphatic system (disease fighting system). This results in an increased production of white blood cells and therefore tissue repair is slowed down. The response to strength training is reduced because the body cannot recover as efficiently.
o As sugar affects the lymphatic system, the immune system is less resistant. Therefore, a person is more susceptible to attacks on the organism (i.e. a cold).
It is clear that sugar is more harmful to health than just the calories it can add to the diet. Be careful when choosing foods that may contain refined sugar and try to replace them with natural sweeteners such as fruit, maple syrup, stevia or raw unfiltered honey.
Stop the Sugar Crash and get your energy back
What happens, what energy fluctuates during the day? Does refined sugar have anything to do with it?
There is a good chance that those who consume refined sugar often experience a sugar crash. Americans consume approximately 175 pounds of refined sugar per year. Sugar is ubiquitous in our diet for two reasons. It is cheap to manufacture. Almost all highly processed foods in supermarkets contain some form of corn syrup or other sugar. Corn grows easily across the Midwest and is relatively inexpensive to harvest. Second, processed sugar products like protein bars are easy to store and replace REAL meals for many people.
Finally, many people consume sugar because it gives them a short burst of energy. Sugar is not digested in the stomach, but quickly enters the lower intestine and from there into the bloodstream. This leads to the rapid secretion of insulin, which causes sugar to be absorbed by the tissues at an accelerated rate. This is why we feel awake after consuming sugar. Eventually, however, blood sugar levels drop and most feel tired, irritable and lethargic.
The body learns quickly. So the more sugar we consume, the more we crave it. Metabolism becomes dependent on refined sugar, so most of us feel the need to consume it. As a result, in an effort to avoid a sugar crash, most consume sugar throughout the day to maintain focus and energy to get through the day.
Here are some tips to avoid a sugar crash:
o Eat a balanced breakfast without sugar (ie eggs, bacon and oatmeal)
o Limit sweets to 2 times a week
o Avoid white flour for lunch and eat lots of vegetables
o Eat 4-5 metabolically balanced meals a day (proteins, fats, carbohydrates)
o Eat sweets only after a large balanced meal (with enough protein)
o Eat plenty of complex carbohydrates throughout the day (vegetables and whole grains)
o Don’t eat sugar before bed
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