Hi, I am Kris Stokes, a Personal Trainer in Amarillo, Texas for almost 2 decades now. I have worked with many people from many walks of life through the years, and today I want to address with you an issue that usually presents itself quickly when a client is starting out: Sugar.  If you have any questions about the topics addressed in this article or would like further information, contact the studio at 806-322-3188 and we will be happy to help.

Frequently, after attending a seminar or beginning one of my programs, a customer or client begins to recognize the hidden sugars in foods and comes to realize that sugar is literally everywhere (especially in the panhandle where we like our tea and rolls on the sweet side.  That’s why we started our personal training in Amarillo). This often causes a bit of a panic, as they might have heard me say something to the effect of “simple sugar intake can cripple the body’s potential for fat release.” That’s true, but it doesn’t mean never eat any sugar. I know many of you are looking for clear cut guidelines. You’d like a definitive list of what’s ideal and what’s forbidden. Unfortunately (or perhaps fortunately), there’s a lot of acceptable ground between ideal and forbidden. Instead of trying to seek out a flawless plan, try to develop an understanding of how nutrients affect your body and over time you’ll be able to refine the specifics of the program that works best for you.

Why can’t I just make it black and white? Why can’t I just say, “this is good” and “that is bad?” First of all, as your metabolism develops and your daily energy expenditure is increased, you become more likely to burn glucose or simple sugars as fuel. A lean athlete can usually get away with consuming a fair amount of sugar and Power Bars, sports drinks, and even a Snicker’s bar here and there might contribute to energy reserves. For someone who is not presently living in a lean body, those foods can wreak havoc on a fat loss program! And for those who are fit but perhaps in more of a maintenance mode, their bodies can handle small amounts but they may have to watch out to not begin to work backwards from the success they’ve achieved.

The challenge comes, not as much from ingestion of 2 grams of sugar here and 3 grams there, but rather when simple sugar is the primary ingredient in a food. Eat a cookie or candy bar and you can be certain your blood sugar will escalate significantly requiring an elevation of insulin production and that’s where fat reduction becomes compromised. On the other hand, if you have some sort of meatballs or meatloaf made with ground turkey meat, and flavor it with some sort of sauce that contains primarily tomatoes but has 2 grams of corn syrup (sugar), while that might not be the ideal choice . . . the abundant protein will slow the release of sugars and 2 grams should not cause any reason for panic as a component of a supportive meal.

In answer to the question, “how much sugar is OK,” I’m forced to respond, “There isn’t a clear cut answer.” Much depends on the goal, on the present metabolism, on activity level, on overall food intake, on insulin sensitivity, and on blood sugar levels of each individual.

Fruits are high in fructose. That doesn’t mean never eat fruit. A handful of berries mixed into some fat free cottage cheese can add fiber and antioxidants and the cottage cheese slows the rush of sugar through the wall of the digestive tract. A fruit salad, on the other hand, can result in a significant insulin burst, as can a very ripe banana and fruit juice often has more sugar than the high sugar soda products and without the pulp, it also has next to no beneficial nutrient content. If fat loss is a goal, use fruit sparingly and always consume fruits earlier in the day and with proteins.

If your diet consists of a fair amount of fruit juice, sugared cola, and conventional snack foods, you’re absolutely going to limit fat release. The trick is to simply do better than you’ve been doing. Then gradually you’ll start to see improvement. For someone who is on a candy bar and fruit juice blood sugar roller coaster, switching to meals that contain 2-3 grams of sugar accompanied by protein and fiber can have a dramatic result. On the other hand, sometimes a bodybuilder, seeking every edge possible, finds it best to completely eliminate all simple sugars, including lactose (found in dairy products) in the weeks prior to a competition.

As a rule, avoid foods that contain sugar as their primary ingredient. In other words, if a form of sugar (there are many) is listed in the first 3 ingredients of a product, put it back. If a form of sugar is listed in the first 5 consider carefully whether this purchase is going to help you or hurt you in reaching your goals.

One final note . . . for most people it’s actually easier to avoid sugars almost completely than to “cheat’ periodically by sneaking cookies or candy. When you cheat, that spike in blood sugar and residual insulin rush can facilitate sugar cravings in the near future. If you know you have a “sugar addiction” to certain foods or a “mental addiction” to sugar filled foods or drinks, it may be better to find the strength to eliminate those triggers rather than to cut back on them. Our will power only goes so far and when we take something away that we REALLY want but then give it back in small amounts, the mind and the body just can’t handle it.

The pursuit of better health and better body image should be based on progress rather than striving for perfection . . . and recognition of hidden sugars in foods will allow you to begin to make better choices a little at a time until you hone in on some new supportive nutritional habits that lead you to your ultimate physical goals. You may even begin to notice that over that period of time, your body does not want those sugars any more. Often people who have eliminated certain foods or drinks from their diets notice that when they do begin to re-indulge in them, they don’t feel very well afterwards. The body will reject things that it doesn’t find beneficial and helpful to it’s overall goal of thriving.

That’s all for today.  As always, if you have any questions about our nutrition counseling, fitness programs, or personal training please contact us at info@customfitness.biz or 806-322-3188. At Custom Fitness we are YOUR personal trainers in Amarillo, Texas. Have a great day everybody.