I remember being a kid and embarking on the conquest to grow muscle. My dad was at the time a bodybuilder, gym owner, and also a nutritionist.
He seemed to have a firm understanding of what was “good for you”, and “bad for you”.
It was the general consensus that “sugar” was HORRIBLE. To the extent that I would avoid it like the plague, even as a 14-year-old kid who only really wanted to binge eat ding dongs, and play Halo.
Man, the good times I missed out on.
Weird though, because even though I avoided sugar as a kid, I still masturbated like my hand and dick had a magnetic pull to one another.
You’re probably thinking, “has Jordan went off the deep end?”.
Yes, I have…
Let’s talk about some of the typical “claims” around sugar.
*Sugar makes you fat.
*Sugar is solely responsible for diabetes.
*Make sure not to eat fruit, because there is too much sugar.
*If you give your children sugar, they will grow up to be carnivorous gremlins who also use drugs and burglarize the elderly.
ALWAYS REMEMBER – Context is king. We must first understand the CONTEXT of when, and if “sugar” is harmful.
In my opinion, NO foods should be labeled as “bad“, or “harmful“, unless we’re talking about trans-fats, which I would classify here.
More on that in another article.
Let’s talk about sugar.
In our society’s history, sugar has a deep reputation of holding some pretty wacky claims…
Let’s take a stroll down memory lane together.
In the 18th century, British author Jonas Hanway wrote that sugar created “fantastic desires and bad habits in which nature has no part,”.
He is essentially saying that consuming sugar would make you want to “rub one out” if you know what I’m saying.
For those with less perverted slang understanding, he’s essentially saying masturbate.
Later on in 1852, a famous physician named James Redfield argued that processed sugar was responsible for all kinds of “moral failings”.
Quoted saying that each stage of sugar processing resulted in “stage in the downhill course of deception and mockery, of cowardice, cruelty, and degradation.”
Then we get to John Harvey Kellog… this guy was a straight-up quack. Even though I love frosted flakes, he has some serious issues.
He claimed sugar was responsible for improper thoughts and desires, and that sugar would “excite” the genital organs.
He was a staunch anti-masturbation critic, especially for females.
Claiming that masturbation (particularly just female) would cause…
- Spinal Derangement
- Heart Palpitations
- Nervous Breakdowns
- Uterine Prolapse
- Uterine Cancer
- Cruel Birth Defects in the Unborn (including “hydrocephalus, to epilepsy, convulsions, palsy. , tubercular and glandular maladies, diseases of the vertebrae and of the joints, softening of the central portions of the brain, and tuberculous formations in the membranes, palsy, and convulsions, chorea, inflammations of the membranes or substance of the brain or spinal cord.”)
He even invented a genital cage for parents to use on their kids if ever caught masturbating… see below.
I would have been screwed right when puberty hit.
Sorry, we’re getting off track… back to sugar.
Let’s break down the reality around this scary little molecule…
What we need to remember is that all carbohydrates are sugar and that all carbohydrates, whether they be oatmeal, sweet potato, or table sugar, get broken down (hydrolyzed) in the digestive tract into the same three molecules:
Let’s talk about sugar in the context of refined, vs un-refined carbohydrates.
Refined would include white flour, white bread, white rice, pastries, sodas, snacks, pasta, sweets, breakfast cereals, and added sugars.
Un-refined or whole-grain would include; whole wheat or multigrain bread, brown rice, barley, quinoa, bran cereal, oatmeal.
Also non-starchy veggies like spinach, green beans, Brussels sprouts, celery, tomatoes.
Along with fruits of course.
Un-refined will often be referred to as low GI, while refined being referred to as high GI.
This is the glycemic index, is a relative ranking of carbohydrate in foods according to how they affect blood glucose levels. Many of the zealots of the carbohydrate/insulin model will often reference this, as the higher GI carbs cause a rise in glucose, therefor insulin, which does the job of clearing circulating glucose and shuttling to storage capacities, or for available energy.
Now, the Glycemic index sort of goes out of the window when considering the context of a balanced meal. See, when you eat white rice for example, with steak (fats and protein), and veggies (fiber), the digestive process slows and leads to around the same rise in BG on average.
So unless your eating the carb source alone, this index is pretty much useless.
So, is sugar bad?
It depends on your definition.
Sugar is not inherently bad.
Rather excessive sugar intake leading to a caloric surplus, matched with lacking fiber and micronutrient intake, results in adverse outcomes with fat gain.
Refined grains, and products usually high in “added sugars” also lack much nutritional value, such as micro’s, fiber, and other phytonutrients. Therefore, if your diet is excessive in “refined carbs, it’s not “good”.
Let us look at a study that compared refined, to whole grains.
Lets first look at the difference between the two.
Whole grain = uses the entire part of the kernel.
You can think of this as an egg, the outside shell is the bran, the inner is the endosperm, and the inner (like an egg yolk) is the germ.
Therefore, when you refine a grain, you remove the bran and the germ and end up with just the endosperm.
Whole grains contain everything.
The only difference between the two diets was that 1 had whole-grain carbohydrates and the other had refined grain.
There was no difference in sugar intake as a whole, just the source of the sugar that was consumed.
Remember, regardless of if the sugar comes from, whether this is a pixie stick or a sweet potato, it ultimately becomes glucose in the body and is then either utilized for energy or stored for later use.
Now, as we learned earlier, there are other factors to consider when it comes to the “source” of these sugars.
Now that we have that covered.
The study referenced was looking at middle-aged, slightly obese adults (so take this with a grain of rice).
(see what I did there?)
Researchers put them in an isocaloric diet, and the subjects’ diets were matched for macros.
The study also took place in a fully controlled metabolic ward.
- insulin resistance
- Postprandial glucose response
- Metabolic flexibility. (Ability to shift from fat or carb utilization).
The study followed a randomized crossover design. As soon as one group finished the trial, they had them (washout) and they re-did it with an opposite end spectrum.
A very well designed study.
They found that the whole grain diet reduced diabetes risks.
We can draw a relative cause to this is mostly due to postprandial BG response and reducing insulin resistance.
What this means in laymen’s terms is insulin resistance in muscle tissue (not what we want).
You don’t get the benefits in refined added sugars as you do with refined grains, but it’s not to conclude that processed grains are “bad” or “toxic”, and I’m still not convinced that they make you a chronic masturbater. LOL.
Even though there is no detriment to added sugars in the diet, there are specific benefits to consuming other forms of carbs.
Whole-grain carbs, fruits, and veggies are ALL much more dense in fiber, micronutrients, and phytonutrients as compared to their less attractive cousin, refined sugars.
All of these compounds are vital to overall health, longevity, performance, and function of the human body, but how do these affect acute fat loss or physique goal outcomes?
Let’s look at another famous example that advocates the idea that micronutrient density doesn’t matter when it comes to weight loss.
In 1993 doctor Walker Kemptner ran a program at Duke University to treat severely obese individuals.
He wanted to see what would happen if he prescribed a diet that consisted mainly of rice, fruit, juice, and table sugar.
Essentially a diet entirely comprised of pure high GI carbohydrates.
The doctor suspected that this might lead to nutritional deficiencies, so he wanted only to have his patients follow this for a short period.
The only issue was that due to his thick German accent, his study subjects misunderstood him and failed to follow instructions.
Some ended up following the nutrition protocol for two months instead of two weeks.
To everyone’s surprise, she didn’t become a chronic masturbater, murder innocent children, nor did they manifest any nutrient deficiencies.
Instead, they found pretty amazing health markers.
Ninety-three percent of his patients lowered their cholesterol, from a hefty 273 mg/dl to a less disturbing 177 mg/dl.
In one trial, 106 massively obese patients lost an average of 141 pounds.
Let’s not get too carried away yet, though, as one study never tells the whole story.
We know very well that merely losing body fat (via a caloric deficit even if the foods consumed via the caloric deficit are dog shit) does not paint the whole picture.
Let’s look at another famous example which most of the Calories In Calories Out (CICO) proponents reference in any dispute around food quality.
The majority of people who do lose weight for whatever reason cannot understand that every “successful” diet thats ever existed follows the same basic principle.
There must be a net caloric deficit. Meaning you burn more calories than you consume.
This CICO principle includes weight watchers, KETO, paleo, IIFYM, clean eating) etc…
One professor named Mark Haub took this to another level to advocate the importance of overall energy balance on weight loss. Haub, a professor of human nutrition, decided he’d undertake what he dubbed “the convenience store diet”
Some refer to this as the “twinkie diet”. Every three hours or so he would throw down a Twinkie, Little Debbies snack, chips, or cookies. He also made sure to include some whey protein, and a can of green beans every day, you know, to stay functioning and not die of course.
In ten weeks he lost 27 pounds, and improved all of his health markers across the board, by merely restricting his overall calories to around 1800/ day.
I want to emphasize something here though, which is the difference between WEIGHT LOSS, and FAT LOSS.
Will you lose “weight” via low carb/ keto cleansing, fasting (this is not clearly defined, as IF can have its place), no carb/ low carb/ keto, or even eating 1100 kcals of doughnuts and Twinkies?
There has to be a distinct separation between the term “fat loss,” and “weight loss”.
Weight loss results from crash dieting:
- Reduction in Scale Weight.
- Loss in Muscle, fluids, and some fat.
- It can occur through poor diet and excessive cardio.
- Results in: loss in muscle, muscle fullness, strength, and performance, and is have been shown time and time again to lack sustainability.
- High likelihood of rebound once a person continues a regular diet, or goes on their first vacation and gains 15lbs due to the damage they have done metabolically, and with food restrictive relationship rebounds.
Now let’s look at FAT LOSS…
Fat Loss: Resulting in methodical tracking of macronutrient intake, proper fibrous foods, supplantation, hypertrophy focuses on lifting and utilizing cardio only when necessary.
- Reduction in overall body fat percentage.
- Losses in stored body fat.
- Improved health, performance, and can radically change appearance/ body composition.
- Far more sustainable, and less likelihood of rebound fat re-gain post-diet.
So how much is too much when we’re talking about sugar intake, or otherwise known as “lack of nutrient-dense foods?”
Let’s use an economic analogy, as this was my undergrad major after switching from human nutrition because the majority of what’s taught in today’s Universities is antiquated, and complete bullshit.
If I made $100k annual salary, It would be very irresponsible to buy a car for 50k. That’s 50% of my yearly income going towards a depreciable asset.
Let’s compare this with calories: if your dieting on 1700 calories, then it would be CRAZY for you to consume 750 calories on empty calories such as highly processed, sugar-based foods which hold little to no nutritional value.
I could, however, fit in 200-300 calories in “fun foods,” without any measurable detriment to my goals.
However, if I made 300k a year, it might be ok to spend the 50k on the car.
If my calorie intake is around at 4000 calories (which it has been over the past few months), the 800 calorie pint of ice cream will fit into my macros while still allowing me plenty of other micronutrients and Fiber-rich foods.
So basically, life’s not fair.
If you are dieting on a low number of calories (not too low you crazy bastards we want fat loss, not weight loss), you can still enjoy a 100-300 calorie snack, and in the context of the big picture, it will not affect us significantly.
The current RDA recommended daily amount of sugar is said to be around 10% of caloric intake, which includes added sugars/ refined carbs.
Not things like fruit, which contain high amounts of fiber, micros, and other phytonutrients,
Again proving the point that it’s not the toxic sugar, its the lack of the things you NEED, which is terrible for you in the long run.