Sugar. Addictive, delicious and sometimes deadly, the sweet stuff is one of our favourite snacks. Globally we eat 46% more sugar in our diets than we did 30 years ago and for many of us, this shift has come with a range of health issues. The fact is, that although small amounts of sugar don’t pose a problem most of us can’t resist overindulging and overindulging can lead to weight gain, tooth decay and diseases like diabetes. The average UK adult eats a whopping 15 teaspoons of sugar compared to the recommended 6 per day.
Today, I want to break down some of the key facts about sugar and show you why your sweet tooth could be the biggest barrier to your fitness success.
Why is sugar so addictive?
We are born with a craving for sweet things. For early humans, sweet foods would have represented a vital source of energy and one that could keep us alive in times of scarcity. The problem came when we stepped out of the cave and into the modern world full of refined sugars and endless sweet treats. Sugar is everywhere but our early instincts haven’t moved on. Sugar actually causes a similar reaction in your brain to that of an addictive drug, causing a release of dopamine, the pleasure hormone.
How much sugar do we need in our diets?
The biggest problem we face when it comes to sugar is ‘free sugars’. These are sugars added to food and drink by consumers or manufacturers rather than those that occur naturally in things like milk, fruit, and veggies. The UK government recommends we restrict these sugars to 5% of our food intake. This includes sweet snacks like fizzy drinks, chocolate, and pastries. It also covers lots of processed food, including savoury items – so always check the label before you tuck in. It’s worth noting that many so-called ‘natural sugars’ like honey and agave interact in your body in just the same way as other ‘free sugars’ so you should also restrict your intake of these.
Why is sugar so unhealthy?
The body processes sugar in two key ways. It either uses the sugar as energy or converts it into fat stores. Many of us eat so much sugar that we are almost guaranteed to have the second outcome. So, sugar is a huge culprit when it comes to obesity and drives many of the health problems associated with being overweight. Sugar can also cause insulin resistance leading to diabetes. Tooth decay, liver disease, and some cancers are also connected to high sugar intake – essentially too much sugar is incredibly unhealthy in a whole spectrum of ways.
What about fruit and vegetables?
A pro-sugar argument you will often hear is that it occurs naturally in a huge amount of healthy foods. And this is largely true. Sugar is found in fruit, veggies, milk and a huge range of foods that you definitely don’t need to limit. But the key difference is that these foods are also nutritionally dense. This means they contain high amounts of fibre alongside the vitamins and minerals that you need to stay healthy. This density means your body will naturally regulate their intake while receiving a shot of all the other good stuff it needs. I mean, when is the last time you went on an apple binge? You don’t binge on fruit and veg because the level of fibre and other nutrients leaves you feeling full.
How can I break my sugar addiction?
I am not going to lie. It’s tough to break the sugar cycle but once you’re free of this dangerous addiction you will feel amazing! The key is to make small, regular reductions until your sugar intake is at a healthy level. This means keeping a close eye on free sugars by prepping food from scratch, checking labels and eating treats in careful moderation.
Are you ready to beat your sugar addiction and get healthy? Here at FitFusion PT, we provide more than just great workouts. We also work with you to create a healthy eating plan that reduces your sugar intake while still leaving you with delicious meals and snacks to enjoy.