Confused by anti-sugar information?
Nancy, I’m currently watching an anti-sugar documentary … Yikes! Sugar and high fructose corn syrup are in almost everything: bread, crackers, cereal, processed foods. I have this urge to go to my kitchen and throw away every processed food there!
I’m floored at the information I’m getting from this and how horrible sugar is for you. I had to get your take on this….
Thank you for asking for my input. You are an athlete, and not an unfit couch potato who sips on Big Slurpies all day. Your body can handle some sugar just fine. An athlete’s physiological response to sugar is very different from that of an unfit person. Sugar is fuel for your muscles and brain. It helps you perform well.
The Dietary Guidelines indicate ten-percent of your calories can appropriately come from sugar. That’s about 240 to 300 calories (60 – 80 grams) of sugar a day for an active person who easily requires 2,400 to 3,000 calories a day. You could eat a lot of crackers, yogurt, bread, and “processed food” without approaching that amount. Your body can handle that sugar just fine without harming your health.
I suggest you look not just at the ingredient sugar, but at the whole food and your whole diet. For example, if you read the information on a chocolate milk label, you’ll notice chocolate milk has about 22 grams of sugar. Twelve of those occur naturally in milk. The 40-calories (10 grams) of added sugar fuels/refuels your muscles. More importantly, chocolate milk is a good source of protein, calcium, riboflavin, Vitamin D and a whole list of life-sustaining, health-enhancing nutrients that help you be a strong athlete. The added sugar offers carbohydrate to refuel your muscles after a hard workout. It also happens to make the milk taste yummy. Is there anything wrong with helping food taste good?
That said, do I advocate for athletes to over-dosing on sugary soft drinks, candies, gels, sports drinks and too many obviously sugar-laden products? No. But can they fit into an overall well-balanced sports diet? Yes. The dose of sugar is the poison. Relax!
PS. For a balanced perspective on sugar and other “food demons,” take a look at Nancy Clark’s Sports Nutrition Guidebook