Athletes & Sugar

The SAD (Standard American Diet) has inundated our bodies with sugar. The average American eats somewhere in the range of 140 pounds of sugar a year or about 6 oz. per day. Our bodies were not designed to deal with this amount of sugar. The result has been an upsurge in diabetes and other degenerative diseases that effect the organs involved in sugar handling such as the Pancreas, Liver, and Adrenals. In 2012, 25.8 million Americans had diabetes. (Data from 2011 National Diabetes Fact Sheet) .

Sugars come in many forms and companies are sneaky about using various names to mask the amounts. Examples are High Fructose corn syrup, sucrose, fructose, dextrose, maltose, sorbitol, and many more. Furthermore, products are misrepresented to be good for you - like sports drinks. A 20-ounce serving of Gatorade's Thirst Quencher contains 36 grams of sugar. While that's a bit less sugar per ounce than your average soda, it's not exactly healthy.

What does this have to do with athletes? Doesn't the fact that we do exercise get us off the hook as far as sugar? Not really. Athletes are not immune from the problems mentioned above. Athletes should limit their sugar as well. Also the type of sugar is important. Natural forms of sugar such as fruit are preferable over processed foods due to the additional fiber to slow the dumping of sugars into the blood. Still, athletes should limit sugar intake to 25g/day.

The goal of athletes and non-athletes should be the same. That is to regulate glycemic variability (changes in blood sugar throughout the day). Do you find yourself craving sweets, dependent on coffee, having memory issues, feeling light headed? These could be signs of Hypoglycemia or low blood sugar. The more you mess with your body's ability to deal with sugar the more potential you have in the future for developing health issues.

It is important to take control of your diet. You don't need to change your entire diet right away. Start with something small like eliminating sodas (yes, even diet soda). This simple book can help you get started by becoming aware of which foods are high or low on the Gylcemic Index/Glycemic Load. The glycemic index is a measure of blood response with consumption of 50g of a food. The glycemic load is related to the serving size of a food. For example, watermelon has a 76 on the glycemic index chart, but it has an 8 on the glycemic load, where >20 is considered high. So it is fine to eat watermelon in a reasonable portion, but not plan to eat the entire watermelon in one sitting!

What to eat?

In a previous blog I listed some foods that can help you get through your exercise routines.

See . The blog talks about carbohydrates. I am a proponent of eating healthy carbs. For the purposes of this blog I am proposing limiting processed sugars all together, and being cognizant of the amount of sugars in foods in general.

The goal is to be a healthy athlete and beyond that to be a healthy person!


How Much Sugar Should Runners Eat? 6 Ways To Kerb Your Sugar Addiction

Kelly Bastone -

Glycemic Index and Glycemic Load


Materials from the Nutrional Therapy Association (NTA)

Disclaimer: This Content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.

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