PJ's Fitness Blog

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Is All Sugar Evil?

fat_devilI was recently asked by an X Gym member to post a blog on the different kinds of sugar and their effect on fat loss. He commented that while I am always on my soapbox about the evils of sugar, it can get confusing because sugar is listed on food labels without any explanation between the kinds of sugars.

I do claim to be “sugar free” but even broccoli has sugar, so what is the difference between that sugar and the sugar found in Sugar Daddy candy? There are indeed good sugars that can actually burn fat off your body as well as bad sugars that put you into a fat storing mode, so understanding the difference is vital.

It really comes down to the good old fashioned glycemic index. There have been a lot of diet books like Atkins and South Beach that have tried to put a new spin on this old idea, but they are really all the same. High glycemic sugars spike your blood sugar levels, which makes your pancreas kick out insulin to bring those levels back down to keep you within a healthy range. These high glycemic sugars are also known as “fast sugars” because they absorb fast and cause a rapid spike.

When most people think of sugar they think of table sugar, commonly known as sucrose, which is a combination of glucose and fructose. This sugar will spike your insulin and put you in a storing mode, so if you are eating fat with it, you will be more likely to store that fat in your body. Glucose has a high glycemic index, which will spike your insulin quickly and put you in that storing mode fast. Glucose can also be used as a fuel, so some of it will be burned off as energy.

Fructose is a slower sugar than glucose, but it has a nasty little habit of going straight to the liver to be converted into fat. This is why people who eat a lot of fruit think they are being healthy, but have a hard time getting leaner. A recent study showed that fructose produced double the bod fat of other sugars! As mentioned, sucrose is a combination of glucose and fructose, so you can see how bad this is for your fat loss goals.

Flour is almost as bad as sucrose. Cakes, scones, muffins, breads and the like all spike your insulin and send you into fat storing mode quite effectively. Starchy foods like potatoes, cereals, rice, and pasta are not far behind flour in their ability to put you in fat storing mode either.

Dark green vegetables are also almost pure carbs, but the sugar they do have is extremely low on the glycemic index, so their effect on your blood sugar is also low – so low in fact, they actually have a “negative fat” effect on your body. This means that they will cause you to burn more fat off your body just by eating them! This is a good example of what I mean when I tell people at the X Gym or write in my book “Cracking Your Calorie Code” that all calories are definitely not created equal. Sugar from frosting will make you gain fat, but sugar from broccoli will make you lose fat even though they are both carbs that hold 4 calories per gram.

The easiest way to find out whether a sugar is fast, slow, or high on glycemic index scale is to just look it up online. A good site that is easy to understand is nutritiondata.com.

A good source to read more about the different kinds of sugars and what your food label really means can be found here: http://lowcarbdiets.about.com/od/whattoeat/a/sugars.htm

The bottom line: it really is quite simple and most people are just making it way harder than it needs to be. A little education and food label reading will go a long way, and before you know it, your pants will be falling off your skinny little butt!

2 Responses to “Is All Sugar Evil?”

  1. Colin Glassey says:

    I’m afraid this is still confusing to me. Are humans supposed to aim for foods that are low in Glycemic Index? Low in Glycemic Load? Low in both? Given the chart “GI and GL for Common Foods” what should people be eating? And since they point out that total calories does matter (in their peanuts vs apples section) what exactly are we supposed to be eating? Are all three important?

    How hard is it to rank the 25 most common foods and explain why each food is bad or good individually?

    • PJ Glassey says:

      Good question Colin! GI refers to how fast the sugar is. GL refers to how much you eat of that sugar and what effect it has on your blood sugar levels. Table sugar has a high GI, but if you only eat a pinch of it, the GL is low because the effect or “load” on your system is so small, your blood sugar level is virtually unaffected. Broccoli has such a low GI, that you can’t eat enough to create high GL. This is part of the reason it is one of the “free foods” that you can eat in unlimited quantities and still lose fat. When you use a site like nutritiondata.com, you can adjust the amount of the food to what you would actually eat and figure out your own top 25 favorite low GL foods and the effect they will have on your blood sugar.

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