Guest post by Kristen Wells; Image Credit: Unsplash
Having a strong sweet tooth is not a good thing. Our previous post on Sugar Addiction and What It Does to You explains the reasons too much sugar is bad for you, and number 1 is: It is the real culprit behind serious cardiovascular conditions, like heart attacks and strokes. Too much sugar also results in insulin resistance and diabetes, is a chief contributor to obesity, and is even linked to cancer.
Hypoglycemia Inhibits Fitness
Avoiding those potentially fatal health conditions is why you must start cutting down on your sugar intake. On top of that, there is another compelling reason to do so: Cutting down on sugar has fitness benefits. Most notably, it will help you work out more, and for longer periods with sustained intensity. That’s because less sugar means fewer “crashes” — described by Men’s Journal as that sluggish feeling caused by hypoglycemia, which typically happens when your body rids the bloodstream of sugar. In addition, keeping your sugar levels down helps your orexin cells (those that regulate appetite and wakefulness) stay active, in turn keeping you awake, jumpstarting your metabolism, and helping you function optimally all throughout the day.
Tellingly, lowering your sugar intake can prevent sugar from undermining your workouts. Citing several studies, The New York Times reports that high sugar levels lower endurance, which can compromise your ability to work out with the necessary intensity to maximize every training session. There is even an added complication: High sugar levels will potentially make it more difficult for you to enhance your aerobic fitness. That’s because sugar activates proteins in the muscles that can slow down or inhibit improvements in cardiovascular fitness and endurance.
In short, cutting down on sugar will help you make the most out of your fitness journey. Unfortunately, it can be difficult to do, more so if you have gotten used to consuming sugary treats. Work routines, especially for those working from home, can also complicate matters, as bad lifestyle and eating habits may have already been formed. Challenging as it is, cutting down on sugar is not an impossible task. These three pointers can help:
1. Eat breakfast. There is a reason breakfast is the most important meal of the day: Your metabolic rate is highest at this time of day, and eating a good first meal keeps the hunger pangs away. These hunger pangs, incidentally, make you more likely to binge on sweets, as they are the fastest way to get energy. So, eat breakfast every day, put hunger pangs at bay, and you will be less likely to reach for sugary treats. (One possible exception to this is if you are following an intermittent fasting plan.)
2. Don’t eat at your workstation. Whether working at the office or from home, you will always be tempted to eat snacks. Doing so, unfortunately, is counterintuitive, with Pain Free Working detailing how eating on your desk can have you neglecting regular meals in favor of junk food and other unhealthy treats. The solution is to skip snacking on your desk, and resolve not only to eat at the right time of day, but also to eat healthy — preferably home-cooked meals with servings of fruits and vegetables. (If you struggle with hypoglycemia and feel you have to snack to stave off these symptoms, make sure your snacks are whole food based only, and always combine protein with carbs in order to stabilize blood sugar.)
3. Go for water. A Very Well Fit guide to cutting down on sugar points out how much of the sugar you consume comes from the beverages you drink. In fact, even “diet” soda is sugary, as are any other sweetened drinks. So, rather than drink them, opt for more water instead. If you find it extremely difficult, wean yourself out gradually by using chemical sweeteners at first. Over time, you will get used to drinks without sugar.
To be clear, we are recommending that you cut down on processed or added sugars primarily. Some natural sugars (found in whole foods, including fruits and some vegetables), can be helpful in moderation, as they are the most accessible energy resource.