Is Sugar Actually Making You Fat?

Is Sugar Actually Making You Fat?

I think I’ve finally discovered the ultimate secret to weight loss. Are you ready for this?

The reason you are overweight is because you are eating sugar! When you eat foods that contain sugar your body produces insulin which then stores the sugar as fat because sugar gets ‘trapped’ inside cells and so you cannot lose weight if you eat sugar. So simply reduce your intake of these foods and you will lose a ton of weight.

That’s it!

Even though all fruits and vegetables are made from sugar. Potatoes are basically sugar molecules and nobody got fat eating jacket potatoes. Alcohol usually contains sugar if you drink spirits and wine, and we know most ‘no-sugar dieters’ don’t give up alcohol and so technically still consume sugar anyway.

Strange.

Plus all those successful dieters and women who stay lean and healthy all year round eating sugar and not being overweight. Myself eating sugar on the regular and maintaining a healthy body weight.

Yeah it must be the sugar.

Or perhaps maybe sugar isn’t your problem after all?

The reason I wanted to write a topic on this is because it’s a classic question I get that pops up on nearly 80% of a laundry list of dietary concerns.

So why does sugar seem to get a lot of attention these days? Let’s explore.

Side note – this post is not aimed at persons who have type I or Type II Diabetes. More so for people who think they will screw up their health if they eat sugar. For the former populations please refer to your dieticians and seek professional help who work under this remit.

What is insulin?

In a nut shell – insulin’s role in the body is an energy storage mechanism.

When we consume carbohydrates, be it complex carbs which is harder to break down in your digestive system (brown bread, broccoli) or simple carbs which are really easy to break down (table sugar, Coke) the pancreas detects a rise in glucose in the bloodstream which is where all of your nutrients go to be shuttled to all of your cells in your body. It then releases insulin for excess sugar to be shuttled into muscle cells and fat cells for later use as energy.

Your body wants your blood sugar levels to be normal because too high a level of sugar in your blood can cause hyperglycaemia which can potentially lead to diseases like diabetes via damage of vessels and vital organs like the heart.

So to counter high blood sugar levels it stores sugar as glucose in the liver and muscles (glycogen) and inhibits release of more glycogen from these same cells.

So insulin is bad right? I mean – we don’t want to store sugar if it’s going to end up as fat right?

A misunderstood hormone

Just because you see the word storage does not mean that what you store will turn to fat. Really it’s the total volume of energy we eat and drink, and not just the sugar or carbohydrates that determine fat storage. This is where total caloric intake over the course of a day or week is key.

If calories are controlled for and protein is equal in two competing diets, it does not matter whether you eat a low carb diet or a high carb diet as the main driver of fat loss is determined by overall energy balance. If you eat too much of anything you’re screwed. It doesn’t matter whether it’s carbs from bread or fat from olives.

Put simply:

Carbs do not make you fat. Too many carbs will make you fat.

Dietary fat does not make you fat. Too much dietary fat will make you fat.

Protein does not make you fat. Too much protein will make you fat.

So I shouldn’t stop eating sugar or carbs?

Not if you enjoy them no. Obviously though we need a little context.

The problem with a lot of sugar based foods is that they they generally contain zero nutritional value and don’t keep you full.

If you ate the same amount of calories of spinach and a Kit Kat, the nutrients and satiation of the spinach would far out-weigh that of the Kit Kat. The same applies to blood sugar control. If you’re an individual that eats carbs and feels tired or lethargic afterwards, you might have trouble metabolising them, especially if you are inactive and sit around all day, aka office workers.

And what happens when you fee tired? You reach for sugar to keep you awake, and thus your calorie intake will increase as a result.

Having a slice of cake every now and again will not undo your progress. Too many slices probably will.

If you prefer breads, pastas, rice and sweet food you will naturally eat a higher carbohydrate aka higher sugar diet anyway. It just means that your fat intake will need to compensate with a lower amount.

It’s all a numbers game. Calories matter. Yes they do.

If you prefer fattier foods like avocado, nuts, seeds and pork, then you will naturally favour a higher fat diet. Carbs will have to be lower for you to be in a calorie deficit.

If you find that a low carb diet is working for you, great keep doing it. But realise that it’s because you are eating less calories, and not because you are eating less carbs.

Some final thoughts

Low carb or no sugar advocates who push the notion that insulin is the sole purpose that you are overweight miss the point that the exact same thing will happen if you consume too much fat instead.

Insulin has been used as a scapegoat for the ignorance of the bigger picture. Your overall energy intake is too high. It has nothing to do with sugar.

So keep eating the cake if you enjoy it as long as you are not eating too many calories. It’s all about finding the foods that work for you.

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