This is the first in a series of articles I am writing on the topic of performance nutrition. Unfortunately, when this topic comes up most people think of the latest supplement, “super” food, or herbal product being marketed through the media, (I will address this topic in the future); most people completely forget to look at the most basic fundamental component of sustaining quality performance and energy, blood sugar. How well you can keep your blood sugar stable and consistent will greatly influence how well you perform, how you feel, and how much fat you will store.
Let’s get started with some basics. I’m talking about sugar. Give me some baby.
Most people think of sugar as being what they put into a cup of coffee in the morning (Sucrose). What they don’t realize is that any carbohydrate eaten is broken down into sugars once in the body. Sugar is important because it is the preferred energy source for most of the tissues and organ systems of the body. It is also the optimal fuel source for the brain and nervous system.
The body carefully controls the amount of sugar present in the blood at all times. The entry of sugar into the blood is controlled by the liver. After a person has consumed a sugar, it travels through the gastrointestinal tract, enters the portal vein, and goes to the liver. Approximately two thirds of all the sugar you consume with each meal will be stored in the liver, where it can be released into circulation when blood sugar levels have dropped. This is often a result of not eating or exercising.
The amount of sugar released into circulation by the liver must be kept in balance with the amount of sugar being removed from the blood by the cells of the body. Once the body becomes saturated with excess sugar, it will be converted to fatty acids and stored in fat cells.
The body is better able to control blood sugar levels when we consume complex carbohydrates as opposed to simple. A complex carbohydrate must be broken down before it is able to pass through the intestinal wall. The advantage of complex carbohydrates is the longer amount of time it takes to be broken down, digested, and absorbed into the blood stream. This allows the body to better control the amount of sugar present in the blood.
Anyone that wants to attain optimal performance should not cut carbohydrates out of the diet. Begin by controlling the amount of added sugars in ones diet. Any form of sugar not naturally present in the food is added. This presents several problems.
These problems are;
1. It is unnatural. They are not naturally present in the foods they are put in (as noted above).
2. They increase the caloric quantity of the foods they are put in without increasing nutritional value.
3. They are easily absorbed into the blood stream, causing unwanted fluctuations in blood sugar levels.
4. Once the body becomes saturated with sugar, excess will be converted to fatty acids and stored.
The benefits of reducing added sugars are;
1. A more stable source of energy.
2. Better metabolism and control of blood sugar.
3. Reduction in the amount of daily calories consumed
4. Increase in the quality of daily calories consumed.
Unfortunately, current nutrition labels do not separately list the amount of added sugar. Instead, only the total amount of sugar is listed. To know if added sugar is present you have to read the ingredients. You will need to look for things such as; brown sugar, corn sweetener, corn syrup, dextrose, fructose, fruit juice concentrates, raw sugar, malt syrup, maltose, lactose, invert sugar, honey, glucose, molasses, and the list can go on.
The USDA Food Guide gives us the following guidelines for how much added sugar one can afford in the diet and still remain healthy. Based on a 2,000 calorie a day diet a person can consume 32 g of added sugars a day. This amount increases if one decreases the amount of fat in their diet. Based on a 2,000 calorie a day diet, if a person is consuming 22% of their calories from fat, then 72 g of added sugars are allowed. This is a controversial topic as there are many authorities who will say that no added sugar should be included in the diet what so ever.
A diet containing sugar from natural sources, such as fruit or complex carbohydrates is ok, but a diet high in added sugars is not. Added sugar can be found abundantly, especially in most processed foods. If your diet is high in these foods, then its time to make some adjustments. Remember, 32 grams a day according to the USDA is allowed, but without paying attention you can easily surpass this amount and most people do. While there are many people who will say not to consume any foods with added sugars what so ever. Getting people to actually comply with that is another story all together.
Now that you have this knowledge, UTILIZE IT and become mindful of how much added sugar you’re eating on a day to day basis and cut back. If you do this I can promise you will have better sustainable energy through out both your days and your workouts.
Good Luck and Good Training,