By now, pretty much everyone has heard about how refined sugar and processed carbohydrates (think cheat meals: bread, bagels, pasta, crackers, alcohol, and candy) are bad for your health. But the sweet stuff may be seriously holding you back from your fitness gains, too!
3 Ways Sugar is Affecting Your Fitness
1. It's slowing your fat loss
Your body loves sugar (really, who doesn't?). If you eat sugar and sugary products, then your body will use that sugar for fuel—instead of using the fat you have stored in your body as fuel which is what we want if we want to lean out.
Plus, refined sugar is loaded with calories and is super easy to over-consume, which means the excess will get stored as even more body fat and may even lead slow your metabolism.
2. It's spiking your insulin
When you eat a carb—whether that's from a piece of candy or a piece of cantaloupe—your body breaks it down into sugar. Insulin is a hormone produced by the pancreas that helps control the amount of sugar being shuttled around your body via the blood.
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Here's the thing: refined sugar is a "simple" carbohydrate, so it doesn't take much for your body to metabolize it and break it down. This isn't good because the sugar can now enter your bloodstream much more quickly and raise your blood sugar levels quite high. High levels of sugar in the blood (and the requisite insulin surge) is damaging to tissues and organs and can lead to an energy-draining "crash" once things level out...
...so you better hope this crash doesn't happen during your next workout.
3. It's promoting inflammation
Sugar is known to be pro-inflammatory. It can trigger tissue damage and even slow healing.
For this reason, a diet high in refined sugar and processed carbs may slow your strength gains, increase your risk of sports-related injury, and prolong the amount of time it takes you to recover between workouts.
What to Eat Instead of Sugar to Fuel, Your Inner Athlete
It's true what they say—you can't outrun a bad diet. And while you don't have to swear off carbs altogether—especially if you're a highly active person or competitive athlete—you should aim to make the most of your carbohydrates come from veggies, fruits, and sweet potatoes. These foods are way more nutrient dense and lower in calories compared to refined carbs. Plus, they contain fiber and other nutrients that will satisfy you longer and prevent huge spikes in blood sugar levels.
Having a hard time kicking the sugar habit? If so, you're not alone. The so-called "sweet reward" is biologically hardwired into our systems. So giving up sugar can lead to a serious battle of willpower—not to mention literal withdrawal symptoms like irritability, headaches, mental fogginess, and fatigue.
But don't give up giving up on sugar! The less of this stuff you eat, the healthier and leaner you can expect to become.