by Will Grumke March 21, 2019 6 min read
More and more we’re learning about how sugar can negatively impact our health. But we know that we still need some sugar in our diet. So how much sugar should we consume?
In this article, we’ll look at what sugar is, how much you should consume, and how to cut extra sugar out of your diet.
When you boil it all down, sugar is just the simplest form of carbohydrates out there.
Carbs are one of the three macronutrients our bodies need to function. They’re also a major source of calories, which give us energy. Our bodies break down all of the carbs we consume into sugars, except for fiber. From there, the body releases these sugars into the bloodstream where they are sent anywhere where extra energy is needed.
Sugars which aren’t used by the body are eventually converted into fat and stored for later. The biggest problem with this is that it’s always easier for your body to break down carbs into simple sugars than it is for the body to break down those fats. Your brain, therefore, does a great job tricking your body into eating additional carbs instead of burning those fat stores you have collected.
All of this leaves you with excess weight gain that always seems impossible to lose.
This is where the issue lies and why sugar and carbohydrates get a “bad” name. See, it’s not that sugars or carbs are bad for you… it’s that the wrong sugars or carbs at the wrong times in the wrong amounts can be less than beneficial in helping you reach your goals.
Over the years, most people experience slow but inevitable gain and in large part, it’s because of our desire to consume new carbs and sugars over using the ones our bodies have stored as fat. This weight gain can lead to cardiovascular problems, a lack of energy, and low self-esteem.
This is why it’s so important to watch how much extra sugar we consume throughout the day.
This is a harder question to answer than you’d think. Like most things in health and fitness, the answer is… it depends. Variables such as lifestyle, activity levels, height, weight, gender, goals, and many more all come into play here.
TheDietary Guidelines for Americans say that carbs should make up no more than 45 to 65 percent of your total calories. That’s roughly 225 to 325 grams of carbs a day, if you’re consuming 2,000 calories a day or between 900 to 1,3000 calories in carbs. Many health and fitness coaches would put that number a little lower, looking at carbs making up 30-40% of a diet.
What you probably really want to know is how much added sugar you can consume. And that recommended amount is quite a bit lower than your total carb count.
According to the Centers For Disease Control And Prevention, your added sugars should be less than 10% of your total daily calories. So, assuming once again that you eat a 2,000 calorie diet. The added sugars in your diet should amount to less than 200 calories.
One gram of sugar contains 4 calories in it. So we can do some simple math and figure out that someone on a 2,000 calorie diet should eat less than 50 grams of added sugar every day. Now, added sugar would be for foods you eat during the day, not the post-workout setting. In the post-workout setting, one of the best things you can do is give your body a quick digesting carb, sugar, and a quick digesting protein to help improve recovery and results. But as stated before, it’s about using the right type of sugar at the right time to capitalize on this potential and improve results.
Sounds easy enough, but it isn’t. From that same CDC article, added sugars consist of at least 14% of the average American’s diet. And this isn’t just adults either. This includes children as young as 6 years of age.
The American diet is very sweet. We add sugar to everything. There are added sugars in food that most people don’t even realize. This means that we’re eating a lot more sugar than we even realize.
This wouldn’t be inherently bad if we were able to stay within a healthy calorie count for our individual bodies and get the nutrition we need as well.
The problem is, we don’t do either of those things very well.
For most people, added sugars are nothing more than unnecessary calories that provide our bodies with no added nutritional value.
And that’s a problem.
If we’re going to lose weight and take control of our health, we need to start lowering the number of added sugars we consume until we’re eating them in healthy amounts once again.
Let’s say you want to cut down on your added sugars, how do you do it?
Here are some tips that many people have found helpful.
One of the easiest ways for added sugars to sneak into your diet is through the drinks you consume. Juice, soda, and even beer are all packed with excess sugar and carbs that your body simply doesn’t need.
That doesn’t mean that you can never have a beer, juice, or Coke ever again, but you shouldn’t be drinking these all day long.
If you’re wanting to quench your thirst, try sticking to water, Water is refreshing and contains zero carbs or calories. We could actually all stand to drink more water. Not only is drinking water a great way to cut out some added sugars, but it can even help you get rid of some extra water weight your body is holding onto.
The point is that water is your friend. Drink more water and less pop, juice, and alcohol.
You might think that a fruit smoothie is a “healthier” alternative to many other sweet treats you could have because it’s mostly fruit.
Let us tell you right here and now, that when it comes to limiting sugar in your diet, that it’s not.
Fruit is packed with fructose which is another word for sugar. When you make a smoothie or juice, or any other fruit drink, you’re effectively getting rid of all of the fiber and water and super-concentrating all of that sugar into a single drink.
If you want to eat something healthy, try some veggies over fruit. But if you’re in the mood for fruit, make sure that you’re eating wither whole fruit or fruit which has been packed in water.
Sugar is in most everything. Finding new and different ways to satiate your sweet tooth will help you really cut back on those added sugars. For example, have some dark chocolate instead of milk chocolate. You might have to get used to the taste a bit, but this can be a lower sugar substitute.
Additionally, try adding some mint or other natural flavors to your water to add some sweetness to it.
Another thing is to try switching out your favorite condiments for something else. Ketchup and barbeque sauce are packed with added sugars most of the time. Switch them out for mustard, hot sauce, low sugar salsas, or something else.
At the end of the day, you just have to look at the labels on the foods you’re eating. If you don’t do that, you’ll inevitably consume more sugar than you meant to.
If you’re looking for other ways to watch your macros, try 1st Phorm.
From protein shakes to replacement meals to vitamins, we can help you get in the right micro and macronutrients you need to reach your goals. If you need help figuring out what you should be eating, give us a call at 1 800 409 9732 Monday thru Friday 6 am to 10 pm CST and one of our NASM Certified Fitness Nutrition Specialist can help you for free!
*This post was written by Will Grumke. He is a NASM Certified Personal Trainer, NASM Certified Fitness Nutrition Specialist, NASM Certified Weight Loss Specialist, NASM Certified Behavioral Change Specialist, and CrossFit Level 1 Trainer.