Can you still eat sugar and lose weight? Or is sugar going to make you put on weight and store fat? The fact is, Sugar in moderation isn’t bad at all for your health and eating a moderate amount of sugar can make your diet more flexible and thus more sustainable and improve your chances of losing weight. In this article, I’ll be answering the question of how much sugar is too much?
And my answer is that you should limit added sugars (high fructose corn syrup, table sugar etc basically the processed sugar that is indistinguishable from fruit) to 10% of your daily calorie intake. To avoid sugar crashes and to reduce the likelihood of overeating.
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First What Is Sugar?
When most people think of sugar they think of the processed variety which is called sucrose or table sugar ( the sugar that is found in candy, cake, and other tasty highly processed goods). A sugar named fructose can also be found in sucrose. This is because sucrose is made up of 50% fructose and 50% glucose.
Glucose is classed as pure sugar.
Fructose is the sugar that is found in fruits.
You also can get a sugar in dairy products called lactose. Many people are lactose intolerant and cant digest it very well.
In your sugary sodas you get a sugar named high fructose corn syrup that is very sweet and is very similiar to sucrose.
All of these sugars have one thing in common. They all break down into glucose. Glucose is your bodies main source of energy.
Sugar Is Essentially A Form Of Carbohydrate
The only difference between the carbohydrates coming from 100 calories of broccoli and 100 calories of sugar from a portion of food like jellies is the nutrient profile (Broccoli is full of micronutrients whereas a sugary food like jellies isn’t) and the amount of time that it takes to get broken down into glucose by your body.
Something called the glycemic index shows values of each carbohydrates glycemic index value. This is the time it takes a carbohydrate to get broken down into glucose. 100 is classed as pure glucose and a complex carbohydrate like carrots would have a glycemic index of 38. This means it takes your body much longer to breakdown the carbohydrate into glucose then say a simple carb like white bread with a high glycemic index of 75.
The Glycemic Index
For a list of glycemic index values click the link below.
For instance, the aforementioned sugars that are glucose, sucrose, fructose and lactose are all simple carbohydrates.
Meaning that they get converted into glucose the quickest.
Although this is interesting. And I could deep dive into this even further. The point I’m trying to get across is that sugars are just forms of carbohydrates.
So If Sugar Is Just A Carbohydrate, Do Carbs Make You Fat?
Carbs come in all shapes and size’s some highly processed, some not so processed, some nutritious some not so nutritious.
But ultimately eating more calories than you burn will make you put on fat. And not because you ate sugar.
Over Eating Is The Culprit Of Fat Gain, Not Sugar & Specific Food Groups
The reason that foods containing processed sugar’s,( foods like cookies, chocolate, candy etc) get a bad reputation and are supposedly deemed bad foods and foods that make you fat is because they have more calories than lower-calorie whole food options. But that isn’t to say that, there’s no place for these foods in your diet, there certainly can be.
You just need to make sure you:
- Don’t overeat these foods and go over your total calories.
- limit these foods to 20% of your intake.
- Make sure you don’t have lots of these foods in your house.
How To Prevent Overeating
The overeating that I’m referring to is going over your calories. The fact is most people don’t know what overeating is for them specifically. Because it requires a bit of trial and error to find out your daily calories.
So the first step is to find out your maintenance calories. And that can be done In many different ways.
3 Ways To Find Out Your Maintenance Calories
Method 1 – Multiply your body weight in pounds by 14 – 16. So for a 180-pound male you would do the following calculation.
180 x 14 = 2520 Calories to maintain your weight.
This is for a 180-pound male who is sedentary (not active) so if you’re fairly active then multiply your body weight by 15-16
Method 2 – Weigh Yourself for 2 weeks. After the first week take an average weekly weigh-in. Do this by adding up each individual weigh-in and divide them by 7. For example, here’s how I calculate my weekly weigh-ins
How To Calculate Your Weekly Weigh In
Monday – 181 pounds
Tuesday – 182.4 pounds
Wednesday – 179.4 pounds
Thursday – 180.6 pounds
Friday – 180.2 pounds
Saturday – 179.4 pounds
Sunday -179.4 pounds
181 + 182.4 + 179.4 + 180.6 + 180.2 + 179.4 + 179 = 1262.4 / 7 = 180.34 pounds
Weekly weigh in – 180.34 pounds
I want you to do this for 2 weeks, While also tracking your calories every day. And then if your weight stays the same from week to week or goes up or down by +- 0.25 pounds then you’ve been eating at your maintenance calories. Or If you’ve put on 0.5 to 1 pound since the week prior. Then reduce your calories by 100 and that will be your maintenance. If you’ve lost 1-2 pounds since the previous week. You could be in a calorie deficit of 500 calories. So to stop this put your calories up by 400 and your weight should stay consistent.
The Katch Mcardle Formula
Method 3 (my favourite formula) – The Katch McArdle formula- This method estimates your basal metabolic rate BMR (the number of calories you burn completely at rest) and once you’ve worked out your BMR you multiply that number by an activity multiplier and this gives you a ballpark estimate for what your maintenance calories are.
If you want to learn more about this method and how to apply it to help you with your fitness goals, read the articles below. They both show you how to build muscle and lose fat using the Katch McArdle formula.
Now That You’ve Found Out How Many Calories You Burn You Simply Need To Stick To Your Numbers
So now that you’ve worked out your maintenance calories you just need to stick to your numbers.
Here are 3 ways that you can do that
- Eat 30% Of your diet from protein. – When you eat this much of your calories from protein you’ll easily stay full.
2. Stick to a consistent meal schedule (most of the time)
If you stick to a regimented eating schedule. You have a much lower chance of overeating. This also benefits your hunger hormone ghrelin because you will be getting hungry at the same times every day as opposed to just getting hungry and eating whenever. And you won’t be sporadically eating different foods. You’ll most likely be having similar foods at similar times. When you do this its a lot easier to stick to your calories and avoid binges.
3. Limit Highly processed foods specifically foods high in salt, sugar and fat – As this article is about sugar specifically, you know now that sugar is just a simple carbohydrate. But it contains very few vitamins and minerals and is nutritionally bankrupt and won’t fill you up. This is why its prudent to limit foods like cookies, and other junk foods to 10-20% of your diet.
As Long A You Burn More Calories Than You Consume You’ll Lose Weight Regardless Of How Much Sugar You Eat
A Quick Guide To Energy Balance And How It Relates To Sugar Intake
Energy balance is the most important factor in you gaining and losing weight.
Although you shouldn’t neglect the other aspects of fat loss like, training, diet, and sleep.
The fact is that if your goal is fat loss and you’re not in a negative energy balance (a calorie deficit) you won’t lose weight. This is the first law of thermodynamics.
Just like the law of gravity. If you drop an object gravity pulls it down towards the floor.
When you’re in a calorie deficit your body needs to make up for that negative energy balance by using your fat cells as fuel.
And in the long run you’ll lose more and more fat. And this will lead to a lower body fat percentage.
The same is true for maintaining your weight. When you eat roughly the same amount of calories as you burn every day your weight stays the same.
This is called eating at maintenance.
Or if you’ve reduced your body fat levels to a level that is conducive to your goals.
You can put yourself in a positive energy balance of 10% (calorie surplus) and gain muscle and strength.
Energy Balance Is What Allows You To Be Flexible With Your Diet
Energy balance is what allows you to still eat some of the foods you love in your diet. While still getting to your body composition goals.
Energy balance is also the reason why carbs, sugar, fats etc don’t make you fat.
It’s overeating that makes you fat and makes you put on weight.
There’s been a plethora of research that backs energy balance up.
A professor of nutrition at Kansas state university lost 27 pounds eating a diet of a majority of Twinkie’s.
The reason he lost this much weight was because he was in a negative energy balance ( a calorie deficit).
I don’t think you should eat a majority of crappy foods while losing weight. But it just highlights how important energy balance is when you want to lose weight.
Enjoy Sugar But Don’t Eat Like An Idiot
Sugar is abundant everywhere especially in highly processed and packaged foods. But the fact is if you prepare your own meals and you control your calories. It’s actually easy to control your sugar intake.
A good rule of thumb is to allow no more than 10% of your daily calories to come from added sugar. So with this recommendation, I specifically mean the sugar, sucrose the type of sugar that’s in, candy, sweets, cake, packaged foods etc.
But you don’t need to track your sugar intake from foods like fruits. Fruits are extremely good for you and they come with lots of micronutrients.
To give you an example. Someone with a daily calorie intake of 2000 calories would be allowed to eat 10% of added sugar which would equate to 200 calories per day.
3 Reasons Why You Should Opt For A Low Sugar Diet
When I’m talking about low sugar I specifically mean getting less than 10% of your diet through added sugars. With this comes quite a few benefits. Here are the 3 main ones.
1. You’ll Have More Sustained Blood Sugar Levels And Avoid Annoying Sugar Crashes
If your diet is made up of mostly whole foods and you only consume a small amount of added sugar. Your blood sugar levels will be more sustained during the day. This will mean no more sugar crashes which will lead to you having more energy, having better workouts and being more productive.
2. You’ll Sleep Better
You’ve probably seen how it’s extremely common to use sugar as a crutch to help you get an extra boost of quick energy and see you through the day. This is because sugar elevates your blood sugar levels, giving you a boost in energy but then is mitigated by a just as big crash.
When you eat sugar at night this sugary boost in energy can affect your sleep. If you avoid having much sugar prior to sleeping and in general. You’ll avoid a rise in blood sugar when you go to sleep. This will result in you sleeping considerably better.
You’ll Have An Easier Time Losing Fat
Generally speaking, highly processed foods that are high in added sugar contain a lot of extra calories. Think an apple versus a chocolate bar. A chocolate bar will be almost double the number of calories as the apple. But an apple will be much more filling because of the fiber and have a higher thermic effect (the number of calories that it takes your body to absorb and digest a given food) than the chocolate bar.
So eating less calorie-dense foods high in sugar = more low calorie and filling whole foods. This results in you staying full when in a calorie deficit and you’ll lose weight much easier.
And for some people, all it takes for them to lose weight is to cut out sugary sodas, sweets and other goodies and this can actually put them in a calorie deficit.
Avoid Black & White Thinking
You don’t need to completely abstain from sugar. As you probably know now. But you do need to limit sugar and highly processed foods somewhat in your diet. Because generally speaking the more highly processed foods that you have in your diet. The easier it will be to go over your calories and put on fat.
The Bottom Line On How Much Sugar Is Too Much?
- Sugar isn’t the enemy. Overeating is. Make sure that you control your calories so that you aren’t eating in a large calorie surplus and putting on weight ( unless your goal is to gain muscle and strength).
- Limit added sugars to 10% of your daily calorie intake. To avoid sugar crashes and to reduce the likelihood of overeating.
- Sugars are just simple carbohydrates and as long as you’re getting most of your sugar intake from whole foods like fruits. Then you don’t have to worry about eating the occasional chocolate bar.
- If you just follow the general recommendation of getting 80% of your diet through whole foods and 20% through junk foods then you’ll do fine.
Thanks for reading and if you need any help or questions answered then dot hesitate to give me an email at email@example.com or direct message me on instagram at Henry_paget.