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You’ll Stop Worrying About Sugar After Reading This Article

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You’ll Stop Worrying About Sugar After Reading This Article

Sugar is one of the most feared and demonized substances you can eat…but it’s not nearly as bad as many people say. No, it’s really not.

 

“Sugar is toxic and addictive!”

“Sugar turns directly into fat in the liver!”

“Sugar destroys your immune system and warps your brain chemistry!”

“Sugar causes massive insulin spikes that make you fatter and fatter!”

“Eat enough sugar you can wind up with Type 2 diabetes!”

 

These are just a few of the many damn near hysterical claims made against sugar.

If we’re to listen to mainstream “wisdom,” sugar is one of the worst things we can put in our bodies, and regular intake is up there with smoking and alcoholism as far as unhealthy habits go.

Well, whenever you hear such extreme statements made about anything, you should immediately be skeptical.

Sometimes rather alarming statements for or against certain types of supplements and foods pan out and are supported by good science, such as the benefits of creatine and the health issues surrounding regular trans fat intake, but more often than not, these extreme positions are based on flawed evidence and reasoning.

People have arrived at these positions by piling one incorrect assumption on another, slowly building dietary crosses they believe they have to bear for the rest of their lives.

Well, the “you can’t eat sugar if you want to be fit” crowd is just as deluded, and this article, we’ll discuss why.

And as a little disclaimer, I’m not going conclude by telling you that you can eat all the sugar you want and look and feel great. That isn’t true either. But as you’ll see, eating sugar, especially when part of a proper diet, just isn’t nearly as problematic as many people think.

So let’s start at the beginning with answering the question of what “sugar” really is…

De-Mystifying the Heinous Sugar Molecule

“Sugar” has become a vague term encompassing all kinds of things, ranging from fruit to honey to candy.

Some people make distinctions between “natural” sugars such as those found in fruit and raw maple syrup and “processed” sugars such as table sugar and high-fructose corn syrup. (And oftentimes these people will say the natural sugars are okay but the processed sugars are evil.)

So let’s get more specific here and shed some light on this mysterious chemical “sugar.”

First, all sugars are forms of carbohydrate, and their primary role in the body is energetic (the body uses them to produce cellular energy).

There are three forms of sugars:

  • Monosaccharides
  • Oligosaccharides
  • Polysaccharides

Let’s look at each separately.

Monosaccharides

Monosaccharides are often called simple sugars because they have a very simple structure. Mono means one and saccharide means sugar. So, one sugar.

The monosaccharides are…

  • Glucose
  • Fructose
  • Galactose

Glucose is a type of sugar also known as blood sugar, which is found in our blood and produced from the food we eat (most dietary carbohydrates contain glucose, either as the sole form of sugar or combined with the other two simple sugars given above). When people talk about “blood sugar levels,” they’re talking about the amount of glucose floating around in the blood.

Fructose is a type of sugar naturally found in fruit, and also found in processed products like sucrose (table sugar) and high-fructose corn syrup, both of which are about 50% fructose and 50% glucose. Fructose is converted into glucose by the liver and then released into the blood for use.

Galactose is a type of sugar found in dairy products and it’s metabolized similarly to fructose.

Oligosaccharides

Oligosaccharides are molecules that contain several monosaccharides linked together in chain-like structures. Oligos is Greek for a few, so a “few” sugars.

These sugars are one of the components of fiber found in plants, which our bodies are able to partially break down into glucose (leaving the fibrous, indigestible parts behind to do good things in our guts).

Many vegetables also contain fructo-oligosaccharides, which are short chains of fructose molecules. These are metabolized accordingly (the “chains” are broken and the individual fructose molecules are then converted into glucose for use).

Another common form of oligosaccharide that we eat is raffinose, which is comprised of a chain of galactose, glucose, and fructose (called a trisaccharide), and which can be found in beanscabbagebrussels sproutsbroccoli,asparagus, other vegetables, and whole grains.

Galactooligosaccharides round out the list of oligosaccharides, and are short chains of galactose molecules. These are indigestible but play a role in stimulating healthy bacteria growth in the gut.

Polysaccharides

Polysaccharides long chains of monosaccharides, usually containing ten or more monosaccharide units.

Starch (the energy stores of plants) and cellulose (a natural fiber found in many plants) are two examples of polysaccharides we often eat. Our bodies are able to easily break starches down into glucose, but not cellulose–it passes through our digestive system intact (thus, a source of dietary fiber).

There’s a Pattern Here…They All End Up as Glucose

You’ve probably already noticed this pattern, but I want to call attention to it because it’s very important for understanding the bigger picture.

All forms of carbohydrate we eat are either metabolized into glucose or are left indigested, serving as dietary fiber.

Our body can’t distinguish between the natural sugar found in fruit, honey or milk, and the processed sugar found in a Snickers bar. They’re all digested in the same way: they’re broken down into monosaccharides, which are then turned into glucose, which is then shipped off to the brain, muscles, and organs for use.

Yes, in the end, the candy bar turns into glucose just like the cup of peas. Sure, the candy bar turns into glucose faster, but that’s the only difference. The candy bar has a bunch of monosaccharides that are quickly metabolized whereas the peas have a bunch of oligosaccharides that take longer.

Now, I’m not saying peas = candy bars, so dump the veggies and bring on the Snickers. There’s more to this story, so let’s continue.

The Truth About “Good” and “Bad” Sugars

As you can see, it’s basically impossible to avoid sugars. Unless you follow a ketosis diet, you’re eating sugars every day in one form or another.

Most people know that the sugars found in fruit and vegetables aren’t harmful unless consumed in obscene, next-to-impossible amounts. Only the most nutritionally ignorant would argue that eating a few apples and servings of asparagus every day is going to harm your health.

Table sugar (sucrose) and high-fructose corn syrup are heavily maligned, however. These are the molecules, we’re told, that cause obesity, dysfunction, and disease. These are the “added sugars” that we must avoid at all costs.

But, why exactly?

Chemically speaking, they’re pretty simple.

  • Table sugar, or sucrose, is a disaccharide (two sugars) consisting of one part fructose and one part glucose.

Sucrose occurs in natural foods like pineapples, sweet potatoes, beets, sugar cane, and even walnuts, pecans, and cashews. It’s also added to foods to make them sweeter.

  • High-fructose corn syrup (HFCS) is chemically similar, usually consisting of about 55% fructose and 45% glucose.

HFCS isn’t found in nature–it’s artificially produced–the only difference between it and sucrose is the fructose and glucose aren’t chemically bonded, which means the body has to do even less work to metabolize it into glucose.

Now, when viewed that way, neither seem all that nefarious.

The sucrose found in a pineapple is no different chemically than the sucrose in our favorite type of dessert. And high-fructose corn syrup is chemically similar to sucrose.

What’s the big deal, then? Why are we told that eating the sucrose in a pineapple is okay but the chemically identical sucrose in the chocolate bar is disastrous? Why is high-fructose corn syrup often vilified as the ultimate metabolic miscreant when it’s pretty dang similar to sucrose?

Well, these are good questions. And while it would take thousands of words to directly address all the myths out there surrounding sugar intake, let’s hone in on two areas you’re probably most interested in: your body fat percentage and health.

Do we get fatter and unhealthier with each and every gram of sucrose and HFCS that we consume?

Sugars Don’t Make You Fat…Overeating Does

Hi, I’m Mike and I eat hundreds of grams of sugars per day. I must have good genetics.

When things aren’t going our way in one area of life or another, we tend to look for scapegoats. We want something or someone to blame other than ourselves.

Sugar is that scapegoat for many. It’s about as popular a patsy as genetics. “I’m just fat because my body can’t process sugars,” they say.

Well, while it’s true that some people’s bodies do better with carbohydrate (all forms) than others, it’s simply not true that sucrose or even HFCS are especially fattening. As you now know, these two molecules just aren’t that special. They are just a source of glucose for the body like any other carbohydrate.

And in fact, carbohydrates (in all forms) aren’t stored as body fat as efficiently as dietary fats are. Yes, strictly speaking, olive oil is more fattening than table sugar.

What is especially fattening, then? Overeating. That is, feeding your body more energy than it needs every day, regardless of what foods are providing the excess energy.

Don’t believe me? Well, let’s look at some research.

In this study, researchers from The Sugar Bureau in the UK set out to determine if there should be a guideline for daily sugar consumption. They found that increased sugar intake was associated with leanness, not obesity, and concluded that there simply wasn’t enough evidence to warrant a quantitative guideline for sugar consumption.

This study, conducted by researchers at the University of Hawaii, is an extensive review of sugar-related literature. Here’s a quote from the paper:

“It is important to state at the outset that there is no direct connection between added sugars intake and obesity unless excessive consumption of sugar-containing beverages and foods leads to energy imbalance and the resultant weight gain.”

Overconsumption and energy imbalance are the keys here.

You see, it’s a known fact that over the past couple of decades Americans have been increasing the amount of calories they eat every day, and much of this increase is in the form of carbohydrates, primarily from soft drinks.

The more carbohydrates you eat, the more energy (calories) you put into your body. The more energy you give your body, the more energy you have to burn to prevent fat storage.

You see, if you give your body a lot more energy than it needs every day, whether from excess amounts of protein, carbohydrate, or dietary fat, you’ll get fatter. This has been conclusively proven in clinical research. There is no debating this fact.

And this is where we get to the actual problem with sugar intake and getting/staying fat: the more you eat foods with added sugars, the easier it is to overeat.

This is especially true of liquid carbohydrates, including beverages with added sugar. If you love caloric beverages, you’ll probably stay fat forever. You can drink 1,000 calories and be hungry an hour later, whereas eating 1,000 calories of food, including a good portion of protein and fiber, will probably keep you full for 5 to 6 hours.

Sugars Don’t Ruin Your Health…Unless You Eat Like an Idiot and Refuse to Exercise

High, long-term intake of simple sugars (disaccharides like sucrose and high-fructose corn syrup) has been associated with an increased risk of heart disease and Type 2 diabetes.

Many “experts” will use a factoid like that as definitive evidence that simple sugars ruin our health. But that’s misleading. There are other factors to consider.

One is the fact that the effects of these simple sugars varies greatly among individuals depending on how fat and active they areOverweight, sedentary bodies don’t deal with simple sugars nearly as well as lean, physically active ones do.

Furthermore, when you mix carbohydrates (all forms) with other forms, the insulin response is mitigated. That is, eating a couple tablespoons of sucrose on an empty stomach causes a larger insulin reaction in the body than eating a couple tablespoons of sucrose as a part of a mixed meal (contained in a dessert, for example).

That said, even as part of a mixed meal, simple sugars still do elevate insulin levels higher than more complex forms of carbohydrate, such as the polysacchrides found in vegetables.

From this we can derive a sensible recommendation: if you’re overweight and don’t exercise, you shouldn’t be eating a bunch of simple sugars every day. You will be harming your health.

On the other hand, if you exercise regularly and aren’t overweight, your body can deal with simple sugars just fine. You’re not going to get diabetes or ruin your heart by eating a bit more sugar than necessary every day.

One other health-related concern is the fact that eating a lot of foods with added sugars can reduce the amount of micronutrients your body gets and thus cause deficiencies. Many foods with added sugars just don’t have much in the way of essential vitamins and minerals.

The solution here is obvious: get the majority of your daily calories from healthy (nutrient-dense) foods and you’ll be fine.

Personally, I never get more than 10% of my daily calories from added sugars simply because I cook my own meals and don’t have a sweet tooth. Considering how much micronutrient-dense food I eat and how much I exercise, this low level of sugar intake will never cause me any problems.

High-Fructose Corn Syrup is Just More of the Same

As you know, HFCS is chemically similar to sucrose. Yes, it has a bit more fructose, but this doesn’t make it particularly fattening like many people claim.

We’ve already gone over a lot so I won’t belabor this point. Instead, I’ll leave you with a couple of quotes. The first comes from an extensive review of HFCS literature published in 2008:

“Sucrose, HFCS, invert sugar, honey an many fruits and juices deliver the same sugars in the same ratios to the same tissues within the same time frame to the same metabolic pathways.  Thus…it makes essentially no metabolic difference which one is used.”

Here’s one from an HFCS literature review published in 2007:

“Based on the currently available evidence, the expert panel concluded that HFCS does not appear to contribute to overweight and obesity any differently than do other energy sources.”

And yet another from yet another literature review published in 2008:

“The data presented indicated that HFCS is very similar to sucrose, being about 55% fructose and 45% glucose, and thus, not surprisingly, few metabolic differences were found comparing HFCS and sucrose. That said, HFCS does contribute to added sugars and calories, and those concerned with managing their weight should be concerned about calories from beverages and other foods, regardless of HFCS content.”

The bottom line is HFCS is just another simple sugar, and as far as we can currently tell, it can only harm us when over-consumed.

Sugars Aren’t Addictive…Unless You Want Them to Be

I don’t know how many times I’ve had people chalk up their lack of dietary willpower as “addiction.” They’re just “addicted” to the junk food. It’s not their fault.

Well…no. They’re just weak willed.

Chemically speaking, sugar doesn’t cause physical addiction like drugs do. Yes, it can make you feel good, but so can eating many other types of food or sailing a boat or winning a prize or kissing a girl. Our pursuit of pleasure is not equal to physical addiction.

I like sugars as much as the next person. I eat plenty naturally occurring sugars every day and a bit of added sugar as well. I never have to fight with myself to stop eating or randomly binge myself into despair.

Why?

Because I have willpower and discipline, and I take responsibility for my actions. I know when enough is enough and I don’t “bargain” with myself.

In my experience, people that feel “addicted” to food, sugar, video games, or anything else unhealthy in large amounts are just struggling with mental barriers. They lack the ability to control their actions and, in many cases, this is evidenced in other areas of their lives.

I don’t want to dive into the psychology of addiction here, but I do want to press one message home:

If you’ve been using “physical addiction” as an excuse to chronically overeat, whether with sugar or just food in general, stop bullshitting yourself and get your shit together.

Work out a proper meal plan and stick to it. Stay away from sweets if you know that one taste sends you into a frenzy. Over time, you’ll chill out and be okay with having a little bit here and there.

Make a real decision and take real actions to get your “addiction” under control, and you’ll no longer struggle with it.

What’s your take on these sugar facts? Have anything else to share? Let me know in the comments below!

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  • andy

    What about gluten? Are they bad?

    • Michael Matthews

      I’m going to tackle that subject soon. 🙂

      • andy

        Great work as always.. cant wait for more… and ofcoz the new book!

        • Michael Matthews

          Thanks! Lots more to come! 🙂

  • Thomas

    I usually really like your stuff but I think this article is really misguided. Sugar isn’t addictive? It is equal to if not more addictive than cocaine. http://www.nydailynews.com/life-style/health/white-poison-danger-sugar-beat-article-1.1605232
    All sugars are not created equal, it is too much to go into in one comment but watch http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dBnniua6-oM
    Pineapple and refined white sugar are so, so, so different in the effects they have in your body. I agree that you can have sugar and not die, but I think people underestimate the toxic and addictive nature of sugar. They then take a half-assed approach to defeating their addiction. Highly processed food has been chemically formulated to be perfectly addicting. http://www.nytimes.com/2013/02/24/magazine/the-extraordinary-science-of-junk-food.html?_r=0
    When people are so deeply addicted to these chemicals, saying he work a lil harder is the wrong advice. Imagine saying that do an alcoholic or a heroine addict. “Hey just do less heroin, get more will power”.
    But honestly, really like your work and looking forward to the next book (which is coming soon?)

    • Michael Matthews

      Thanks for the comment! I do appreciate the counterpointing.

      You can’t extrapolate rat research to humans.

      Chemically speaking the sucrose in pineapple is no different. What IS different is the fiber and nutrients that come with the pineapple.

      The “science” in that video is heavily criticized in scientific circles:

      http://weightology.net/?p=434

      http://feinmantheother.com/2011/07/29/wait-a-minute-lustig-the-threat-of-fructophobia-and-the-opportunity/

      http://www.alanaragonblog.com/2010/01/29/the-bitter-truth-about-fructose-alarmism/

      http://sweetenerstudies.com/sites/default/files/resources/files/Scientific-Review-of-Lustigs-Fat-Chance.pdf

      Yes, new book will be launching very soon! Thanks for your support!

      • Thomas

        Ya I agree that there is two sides to every coin, whether Lustig is right or not, obesity is a global epidemic and people are eating themselves to death. I don’t think it is a large step to assume that it is addictive when people do it in the face of all the negative side effects. There are studies on humans as well, http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2013/07/18/brain-imaging-confirms-food-addiction.aspx
        The fiber and nutrients that nature has combined with fructose are extremely important. Refining of natural things is a dangerous process, there are chemicals in a plenty of healthy food that if isolated and consumed in quantity can be toxic and deadly. Those are interesting articles though, thanks for the response.

        • Lucas

          I think Mike already addressed this in the original article with the statement “Chemically speaking, sugar doesn’t cause physical addiction
          like drugs do. Yes, it can make you feel good, but so can eating many
          other types of food or sailing a boat or winning a prize or kissing a
          girl. Our pursuit of pleasure is not equal to physical addiction.”

          I don’t think anyone denies that sugar stimulates the brain. IMHO the term addiction is used a little bit liberally. Notice how the terms addictive and addiction is used by Mercola and Lustig but I don’t see it in the quoted research.

          On many levels I agree with you. Processed food is hyper-palatable. Lots of people are overeating it. I just think that calling it an addiction does more harm than good.

          • Thomas

            “Addiction is the continued repetition of a behaviour despite adverse consequences” Look at my other comment above in reply to Eric R. People who have diabetes and continue to eat sugar until they go blind and lose appendages, how would you classify such behaviour? Reason I believe that you should label it as an addiction is because to quit eating this kind of food you need to take a very strong approach or you will fail, the same kind of approach you would take to any other addiction. And yes you can pretty much be addicted to anything (including exercise), but some are much more prevalent and likely.

          • Michael Matthews

            Remember I’m making a distinction between the actual physical changes that occur in the body from addictive substances like cocaine vs. the “I just need to eat everything” addiction you’re talking about.

          • Michael Matthews

            Exactly Lucas. There’s a difference between the physical addiction caused by cocaine and the mental “addiction” of wanting to taste good shit in our mouths. 😛

        • Michael Matthews

          Remember that obesity is a multifaceted problem, but at the core is the fact that many people just eat too damn much and move too damn little.

          Watch out with Mercola–TONS of bullshit on that side. Like Natural News.

          Did you look at the studies I referenced regarding sugar “addiction”?

          • Thomas

            I agree that obesity is a multi-faceted problem of course, not pointing the finger only at sugar. Mercola is a bit of a dope only with agree with probably 10% of his stuff. I looked at the studies they are compelling, but I think that much of that work is entirely focused on the conversion of sugars to fat. There is a number of other effects that sugar has that lustig mentions that isn’t really addressed. Including the role of sugar and cardiovascular disease. http://circ.ahajournals.org/content/106/4/523.full
            I am a firm believer that unrefined foods are the healthiest. I feel that for the most part you’d agree. Sugar in small doses isn’t going to kill you or make you fat, especially if you are healthy and active. BUT for the vast majority of people who are overweight, and obese sugar can become an extremely powerful trigger for overeating. Liquid calories mainly in the form of sugar are one of the most dangerous things for ones health. The analogy is one I would draw to smoking or drinking, that sure have a cigarette or beer every now and then not gonna cause any problems but abuse can be a huge problem. And as it currently stands a majority of people fall into the abuse category. Therefore articles telling them that sugary processed foods are ok can send the wrong message. If you categorize food as 1. health beneficial 2. health neutral and 3. health detrimental. Sugar clearly is a 3 and should be treated as such (like drinking and smoking). I think without the addiction element of food you cannot explain the global obesity epidemic. Especially as lustig points out, in regards to infants. That NY times article I posted really highlights the link between processed food and obesity.

          • Michael Matthews

            Ironically sugars aren’t converted into fat as efficiently as dietary fats are. If you want to get fat fast, ignore the sugars and drink a few cups of olive oil every day.

            The CVD effects aren’t seen in lean, healthy people that exercise regularly. I address this in the article.

            I cook my own food and use fresh ingredients, but I do eat various processed foods like Greek yogurt, cottage cheese, Ezekiel bread, etc.

            Yes, someone that is overweight and sedentary has no place eating sugar regularly and really should limit total carbohydrate intake as well.

            Caloric beverages are HORRIBLE. Definitely agree.

    • Eric R

      Thomas, did you read the first “news article” you linked? There are NO studies to back up his claim and he’s selling a 10-day detox diet book. All these detox diets do is lead to a massive binge at the end of the 10 days and have you coming back for more. Mark Hyman is a salesman selling a book. People who claim “sugar is more addictive to cocaine” have obviously never known anyone addicted to cocaine. Those claims drive me absolutely nuts. You should really reference some of the scientific studies that Mike linked.

      • Thomas

        Ya actually you are right, not the best link. I was in a rush, read the NY times article though it is much better. I have known drug addicts I agree there are differences. But I also know many food addicts, eating so much they can’t walk, breath properly or take care of themselves. I honestly know many alcoholics who are higher functioning than food addicts. There are PLENTY of studies to back up the addictive nature of food. Here is some research; http://archpsyc.jamanetwork.com/article.aspx?articleid=1107239&maxtoshow=&hits=10&RESULTFORMAT=&fulltext=Gearhardt&searchid=1&FIRSTINDEX=0&resourcetype=HWCIT
        http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/(SICI)1098-108X(199903)25:2%3C169::AID-EAT6%3E3.0.CO;2-B/full
        http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0195666308006223

        Now I agree that it isn’t you can have small amounts in your diet no problem, and some people can even handle larger amounts. It is just like smoking, lots of people can smoke a pack a day without getting cancer does that mean it doesn’t cause cancer? You have to be really not looking at the present state of the world to say that there isn’t a health epidemic and sugar alone doesn’t cause it but it is a major contributing factor.

        • Michael Matthews

          Thanks for the studies but I cited contradictory evidence. It’s a controversial subject.

          IMO the real problem with sugar is many people just lack discipline and responsibility for themselves.

          We see this in other areas of people’s lives. Finances are a good example. How many people are “addicted” to spending and just accumulate more and more debt? What is that? Lack of discipline, lack of responsibility, chasing the thrill of having stuff and experiences that they can’t afford.

          People that work smart and hard in their careers make the money to afford the stuff.

          People that work smart and hard in the gym make a body that can afford to enjoy sugar and other “bad” foods.

          • Thomas

            Ok last response I swear. I think we pretty much agree on this just have differing definitions and approaches.
            People can get addicted to anything, finances etc. But there is a physiological effect of sugar that separates it from purely habitual addictions. Relates to the “sugar high” one gets. This is what I believe sets it apart from those other behavioural issues. Thats why any of those other problems make up minorities of the population, whereas overeating makes up the majority. There is something to be said about how sugar is combined making it more addictive, i.e. with salts, trans fats etc. I think there is a place in a diet for treats for sure, but I honestly believe that hyper-processed foods like pop, twinkies, etc. loaded with sugar and other awful things serve no beneficial purpose and should not be a part of a healthy individuals lifestyle. Same as smoking.

          • Michael Matthews

            I totally get where you’re coming from and agree that the “high” does count for something.

            And I also never eat junk food like that and agree it has no place in someone’s diet.

      • Michael Matthews

        I hate detox hucksters.

  • George T.

    “I get all my protein from broccoli” 🙂 Yeah, there are a lot of “experts” out there.

    I agree with you Mike, sugar is just another carb. What people should have demonized is not sugar itself, but the excessive intake of sugar calories, which as you pointed out, are so easy to overlook in sodas, fruit juices and even in foods that are labeled “healthy”.

    I’ve personally found that a couple of tablespoons of dextrose during workouts and immediately post with creative + whey has really helped me lift heavier. Dextrose is glucose. A simple sugar.

    • Michael Matthews

      Haha I’ll probably do an article on veganism soon. Not to ruffle feathers but just to set a few things straight.

      Exactly. The only caveat with sugar is if someone is overweight and sedentary. This person needs to limit sugar intake, and carbohydrate intake, really.

      I prefer food but some people like dextrose.

      • Be cautious mate, I once made an article about how we should eat meats and diets filled with meats are superior to vegan only ones…

        …the hate mail from butthurt vegans is mind bogglin 😀

        I’ts as if theyre waiting to lynch everyone dissing soy or tofu.

        • Michael Matthews

          LOL yeah I won’t write it to bash veganism, just to share actual research on the matter.

      • Audrey

        Great article!

        I look forward to your article on veganism. I got into a debate with some vegan/animal rights activists a couple months ago, and among the many things we discussed was the protein in broccoli thing. Yeah, broccoli has protein, but do you realize how much of it you would have to eat in order to equal that which is in a serving of chicken? Not to mention the carbs that come along with the broccoli that have to be accounted for (vs. chicken as a source of almost pure protein). We also argued the overconsumption of soy. Although the jury is still out on the detrimental effects of soy, this guy argued that phytoestrogens have no adverse effects whatsoever because they come from plants. We also argued about whether or not most people get enough protein in their diets. I argued that most people do not consume enough protein, but this guy argued that most people consume plenty. I argued that a higher protein diet (but not necessarily low carb) can improve health, prevent/treat obesity, diabetes, etc. Also, while I know that some people can be in good health on a vegan diet, I should mention that the particular individuals I spoke with were either very overweight or very skinny (skin and bones). Personally I wouldn’t be advocating a particular diet if I couldn’t walk the walk, if you know what I mean.

        • Michael Matthews

          Thanks!

          I will tread lightly as I don’t want to argue the ethical points, I just want to talk about the nutritional aspects and debunk a few myths and misconceptions, as well as touch on the pros.

          I’ve had similar discussions but they end quickly when I start citing actual research. Anyone that believes broccoli has more protein per gram than meat is just woefully ignorant.

        • Mollie Diedrich

          Just throwing my two cents in on the matter of soy ;P
          I drank soy milk for over a year (and only soy milk) and ate a lot of tofu. Soy was a staple in my diet for a few reasons- I started with the milk because of the estrogen effects, hoping it would help me with the ovarian cysts I was developing, and then I started eating more tofu because I liked it and I liked the thought of cutting back on meat (since I try my best to not support factory farms, and can’t afford local meats often). And it worked; I no longer had pain in my abdomen.
          However, I felt I was becoming more emotionally unstable over time (sometimes feeling like I was developing bi-polar tendencies) and so this year I switched to almond milk and cut drastically back on soy. And within a couple weeks I felt like I was much more even tempered and could handle issues better. At the time I had also started listening to positive thinking podcasts and changing my view on life, so that may have helped as well. But it felt like this change was almost overnight! Do you think the soy could have been affecting me negatively?

          • Michael Matthews

            Thanks for the info! I talk about soy here:

            https://www.muscleforlife.com/the-best-protein-powder-for-women/

          • Mollie Diedrich

            Interesting read thanks! Soy looks like a minefield of uncertainty! But I like whey and I’ve been using that for a while with no issues. However I was very interested in the part where you talked about using egg protein to supplement throughout the day. I always have a hard time hitting my daily protein goals with all whole foods, without going over in carbs and fats. How do you supplement with the egg protein? Do you just make shakes throughout the day, or add the powder to foods?

          • Michael Matthews

            Yeah soy is iffy and I love egg. I just mix it with water. It doesn’t taste bad.

  • James Matthews

    Thanks Mike good article. I’m one of those people who has a ‘sweet tooth’ and can happily binge on a load of sweets. Why? Because they taste so good! I also like fruit – always have done (because of the sugar content presumably).

    So I have a choice – eat 100g of Jelly Bellys or three apples – about the same number of calories but more nutrients in the apples. Make the good choice and go for the apples – and probably only eat one as don’t want to eat more – certainly not three anyway. Therefore calories saved and no sickly feeling requiring water to wash away!

    And if once in a while I do a ‘sugar binge’ so what? As long as I brush my teeth then no harm done. Common sense – lovely jubbly!

    One thing to add -when I’m pretty tired I seem to get sugar cravings – presumably this is the body looking for a quick energy boost when it ought to go sleep?

    • Michael Matthews

      Thanks! Haha I hear you. I like sweets as well. I just choose not to eat a lot.

      Apples>jelly beans of course. Maybe save a few cals to pop a few beans? 😉

      Yes, tiredness has been shown to lead to increased hunger. Hormonal AFAIK.

  • Dan

    Really good article Mike – very insightful. I particularly like the “scapegoat” excuse that is becoming such a huge part of mass psychology today. I’ve told people for years now that regardless of the reason, when you piss on the electric fence, the effect is always the same. It doesn’t matter why you did it or who you’re blaming it on.

    Back to the point, like so many things, eating too much sugar and suffering the blood sugar crash is a viscous cycle that many people can’t get the upper hand on because they’re not aware sugar’s slippery slope.

    Being mindful, and paying attention to what you put in your body goes a long way.

    • Michael Matthews

      Thanks Dan! Lol great analogy.

      Very true. And EXERCISING REGULARLY is so key to carbohydrate metabolism. Especially weightlifting as it turns your muscle into “carb sponges” in a sense…

  • James

    Hey mike I re posted this and your clean eating article in FB and the amount of shit I got from the bro science crew was historical! Haha

    I was listening to one of your podcasts and you said about doing 4 sets of cable crunches at the end of each workout to really try and bring them out. I’m doing this as when I cut before my abs just really weren’t big enough to stand out. What do you do when the weight is heavier than you (starts to lift you up) I’m 85 kg and doing 60kg crunches at the min but feel soon it’ll be a problem lol any suggestions?

    • Michael Matthews

      Lol yeah, that’s standard. Oh well, let them eat steamed fish and asparagus 9 x per day I guess.

      Yup, weighted ab work is great for building some size so they actually show.

      Are you sure your form is in? Are you crunching down and in, touching your elbows to your knees? Many guys don’t and just lever their entire torso up and down…

      • James

        Thanks for the reply. No I’ve filmed my form making sure it’s just my upper body moving. Crunching down driving my elbows to my knees…..

        • Michael Matthews

          Okay good. How many reps are you doing?

          • James

            I’m getting about 10 or so at the minute. It’s not a problem now but I can see it being later on lol so was wondering if you had any suggestions?
            Ps mike I really admire your work and you responding to everyone. Trust me it really makes a difference in people and that’s why I buy ALL your products! 🙂 hard work pays off man! Respect to you sir!!
            Pps do you think you’ll ever be coming to England? Would make my life if I could meet you ha

          • Michael Matthews

            Okay that’s cool. Work with it until you hit 20. Abs can take quite a beating.

            Thanks man. I really appreciate the support and am glad I can help. 🙂

            I actually will be in London for NYE! Where are you located?

          • James

            Ah wicked you’ll have a great time! I live in South London so I may bump into you 🙂

          • Michael Matthews

            Oh cool! I plan on watching the big fireworks show. 🙂

  • Lukas

    Great article but I’m bit confused about the glycaemic index now – I thought low GI better than high GI? Because in the article you say some sugars convert faster than others? Thank you

    • Michael Matthews

      Thanks Lukas! GI is another subject and I will address in another article.

      What you should know is that generally speaking yes, eating lower GI carbs is a better idea, but having some high-GI carbs here and there (especially before and after workouts) isn’t a problem.

  • Aaron Pfeil

    Love these articles and all the sources they reference

    • Michael Matthews

      Thanks!

  • Quinn Jordan

    My concerns with sugars & HFCS are do they help cause cancers? Just seems to be cancer rates are so high now compared to 30-40 years ago when HFCS was introduced

    • Michael Matthews

      AFAIK there is research showing that sugar can cause cancer to spread if you have the disease, but there is no compelling evidence that it CAUSES it.

      There are many factors to consider when looking at the dramatic rise in cancer rates. You can’t just pin it on one thing… It’s possible that increased intake of HFCS and other monosaccharides contributes to the problem, though.

      Again, the point of this article isn’t that we should eat a ton of sugar. Just that having a little sugar here and there doesn’t matter in the bigger scheme of things.

  • GutGeek

    Good to hear the case made for sugars Mike, however I understand that refined sugars tend to feed bad bacteria in the gut. This means that if you’re gut is already out of balance like mine was (chronic shits!), refined sugar can make you worse! I’m really into raw honey for a sugar hit now, particularly pre-workout in coffee, as it’s unprocessed, and gives you loads of healing benefits as well as that little honey buzz 🙂

    • Michael Matthews

      Thanks!

      AFAIK this has only been demonstrated in mice? Or have I not seen more recent research?

      Definitely share anything you have/know of.

      I love the taste of honey but as a carb it’s not different than sugar FYI. It has other nutrients and such but it’s a simple sugar like sucrose.

      • GutGeek

        Mike, good question about the studies. I need to do more research on it myself and will shout out if I find anything conclusive. To fix my digestion I followed the GAPS diet, do you know it? It was developed to sort out the digestion of autistic kids but it helps everyone with a badly messed-up gut. I ate absolutely no starchy carbs for 6 months (very similar to paleo/primal) and no refined sugars. It really worked to heal my digestive system.

        Mind you, I gained absolutely no muscle or strength during that 6 months, despite busting my balls in the gym, which totally fits with your views on carbs!

        Thanks for the follow on Twitter. Appreciate it when I’m just starting out! – Adrian

        • Michael Matthews

          Cool let me know what you find.

          No I haven’t heard of that, but it sounds interesting. I’ll check it out.

          Yeah, low-carb dieting sucks for making gains in the gym. Is what it is. 🙂

          Yeah man!

          • GutGeek

            Mike, this is the GAPS diet http://bit.ly/1ruOg5i which essentially heals and seals the gut, rebalancing the flora so you have less toxins floating around and can draw more nutrition from the food you eat. It’s based on the much older Specific Carbohydrate Diet http://bit.ly/1ruOMjO

            Unlike Paleo/Primal you don’t cut out starchy carbs forever, but just for a period to allow your gut to bounce back to its natural, balanced state. My theory is that we bodybuilders demand more of our digestive systems than the average person, and treatments like this may be necessary occasionally to get back on track… kind of like a re-boot if all else fails. – Adrian

          • Michael Matthews

            Thanks for sharing! I’m going to check ti out.

      • mevina

        If you have gut issues that involve bacteria, honey does differ from sucrose and other sweets in one BIG way.

        Almost no bacteria can live in honey!!* In fact, in honey is a bactericide, and according to this article diluted honey works better than straight honey. There are about 600 studies in medical literature.

        http://www.beepollenhub.com/honey-and-e-coli/

        Which means for someone like GutGeek, honey can help heal the gut by killing off bad bacteria.

        And unless it’s been heated, honey also has raw enzymes that help digestion. –And last but not least honey won’t rot your teeth, and–along with extra vitamin C–could help heal periodontal issues.
        _________________________________
        * Very rarely raw honey can contain spores of clostridium botulinum, which is why they say not to give honey to infants under a year old. Honey is perfectly safe for the rest of us.

  • Poppy

    Great article. I personally find sugar more addictive than other foods (although I know others who can’t leave crisps or beer alone) and it may all be in my mind!
    On the days I almost cut out sugar entirely I do not feel nearly as hungry, in fact it can be hard to eat enough calories on my cutting days. Once eaten I require more later and just go over my cutting target. So cutting only works for me when sugar intake is low and this is a bit of a battle. The more milk chocolate I eat, the more I want, so I try not to eat much of it.
    I eat coconut Ombars in small amounts to curb the sugar cravings (no more than a 38g bar a day if cutting). I find this very successful in helping cut out all the other more addictive sugars. I do not find the coconut sugar in small amounts as addictive.

    • Michael Matthews

      Thanks for the comment!

      That’s great you know your body and just act accordingly. If that works for you, it works. period.

      Keep it up.

  • Flavia Abu

    Hi Mike! Loved the article (as always)!

    • Michael Matthews

      Thank you!

  • Kennen Fleming

    Love these articles, man. Thanks for bringing the science and chemistry involved in nutrition to light. Although you touched on it a bit here, I would love to hear your thoughts on addiction and personal behavior, especially where nutrition and exercise are concerned. Victim mentality vs taking responsibility! Thanks so much.

    • Michael Matthews

      Thanks Kennen!

      That’s on my list for another article. Definitely an interesting subject…

  • Flavia Abu

    Hi Mike! Great article (as always :))!

    • Michael Matthews

      Thanks!

  • Danuta C

    Great article Mike. Lots of facts to cut through the hype. Time to accept responsibility for the health of our own bodies and to stop blaming all sugars as evil. Well done.

    • Michael Matthews

      Thanks! I agree.

  • jarrod

    Mike, great article. I have read two books on sugar which have probably added to the hysteria around sugar. I think they have been misinterpreted by many as the book Fat Chance by David Gillespie is really about how sugar has been added to food die to incorrect guidelines on dietary fat. With the result that the calorific content of food has increased and people choosing “low fat” foods are eating more calories than they should. The conclusion of Gillespie’s book is to avoid processed and manufactured food and eat real food like fresh fruit and vegetables and cook for yourself rather than rehearsal reheating tv dinners in the microwave.

    Unfortunately for those looking for a miracle cure for obesity the solution is simple: eat less and move more.

    Simple and effective but people want something for nothing but you can’t beat thermodynamics

    Thanks for another great article.

    • Michael Matthews

      Thanks Jarrod!

      Makes sense on the calories point. Sugar is very calorie dense for its volume.

      I agree that we should be eating nutritious foods we cook. Packaged, overly processed crap isn’t good for you.

      And yes, that’s the bottom line with getting and staying lean.

  • Maurice A.

    The one concern i have with refined sugar consumption is Candida.The possible reason for sugar cravings since it is said this bacteria influence the brain so you eat more candida friendly food!

    • Michael Matthews

      I’ve heard this but haven’t looked into the research on it.

  • meataxe

    Firstly, love your work. I’m a changed man since I picked up bigger leaner stronger. After 3 months of training following your program. folks are commenting that I’m starting to look buff, and I’ve been training for years.
    But, I’m not a fan of this article. While basic building blocks of sugars may be the same, how they get there are two completely different things. I don’t know all the science behind it and don’t have studies, I only have personal experience. I have been eating well for a long time – plenty of lean meat, fish, vegetables, fruit, etc, but have always been partial to something sweet each day like cake or donut and a can of Coke. Anyway, about 6 months ago, I decided it was time to ditch the cake/chocolate and Coke. I made a rule – no more added/refined sugar. It was harder than when I gave up a pack a day cigarette habit 11 years ago. And the headaches that came with it. But after a few days, headaches went away, eczema all cleared up and my energy levels improved massively. And I started getting leaner just with that one change.
    My opinion is, you don’t just eat refined sugar on its own. It comes with a heap of other crap. Ditch the refined sugar, and you get rid of the other shit.
    So yes, in a way sugars can be evil if refined. Non-refined is how we’re meant to eat it – I love my fruit. Mmmm, time for a banana now.

    • Michael Matthews

      Thanks! That’s great you’re doing well on the program.

      That’s really interesting! Strangely enough I know plenty of people that eat a bit of refined sugar every day (myself included) and have absolutely NO issues.

      It’s possible that your body in particular just doesn’t do well with it. Just like how some people don’t do well with gluten, dairy, or even random foods like peas (my wife–they upset her stomach).

  • JMT

    Fantastic article with sound scientific information! Keep up the good work Mike!

    • Michael Matthews

      Thanks!

  • Gretzski

    Great article, with one with one underlying point that must be made clear. People always look for something to lay blame except themselves. We are the only species in the animal kingdom that suffers from an overweight epidemic, why? We have become sedentary over-eaters. Time to lay blame not on the plate, but on the pallet.

    • Michael Matthews

      Thanks! I totally agree. Temptations like sugar don’t help, but that’s on us to control ourselves.

  • Chris

    Any issues with throwing in powdered sugar into a post-workout beverage? I used to do this for the ‘insulin spike’, but now have switched to whey only after workouts. What is better?

    • Michael Matthews

      Not really, but I prefer food personally.

  • albundy

    I love the over simplification of this article. Don’t get me wrong, very informative but where in nature do you find glucose in it’s pure form just waiting to be eaten. Fruit wants to be eaten with the fibre slowing the release of glucose into the blood. Also love how you rough shot the over stimulation/desensitisation dompamine reward mechanics in the brain with a simple “get your sh!t together” statement esp if you have an insulin resistance problem. But must admit good article none the less.

    • Michael Matthews

      You’re repeating what I said about sucrose found in fruit.

      As I said, the addiction part is a bit more complicated but it down boil down to…getting your shit together and knocking it off.

      I’ve worked with quite a few people that had to just give up sugar altogether because they simply liked it too much. A few bites meant they were probably going to eat WAY more than they should. So we cut it out completely. Eventually they got over it and were able to control intake, and thus could add it back in.

      • albundy

        tbh its the same as telling smokers its ok to smoke on the week ends. When poeple have an addiction issue then giving them all the diets in the world will never help bcs relapse is coming my friend – 1/3/6months even a year down the road. About time poeple in the nutritional/PT world get to grips with this. Sugar is the pits and should be treated the same as cigarete addiction (with free choice ofcourse)

        • Michael Matthews

          Yeah, it depends on where they’re at mentally.

  • P Mort

    Just for clarification, I just ordered a meal plan and you got me snacking on 0% greek yogurt, which is generally cranked with sugar. Is there a particular brand you like or that I should look for? I usually do Greek Gods for the whole fat.

    • Michael Matthews

      Ah yeah I love Fage and Wallaby. Do you have either available?

      • P Mort

        I’ll have to doublecheck this weekend when I hit the store. I just know Greek Gods fat free is like 18g per serving.

        • Michael Matthews

          Okay cool. Yikes that’s a lot of carbs for yogurt.

  • Ry Guy

    Great article Mike. Some people are WAY too scared to eat even a little sugar in fruit and things and I just think life’s too short. I will note though, the reason why I never ever eat HFCS is because it is always made from GMO Corn and I have a strong stance against GMO. Monsanto is one of the most evil organizations on the planet. Not to mention all the evidence that eating GMO foods has major health implications http://www.collective-evolution.com/2014/04/08/10-scientific-studies-proving-gmos-can-be-harmful-to-human-health/. Just a little caveat for those on their way out to the store to go enjoy some HFCS laden stuff after reading this. Thanks for all your great work Mike !

    • Michael Matthews

      Thanks!

      I want to dive into the GMO/organic debate but will need to do quite a bit of research first. It’s a clusterfuck of good and bad research.

      That said, given Monsanto’s history, there’s NO question they would go to great lengths to cover up potential health risks connected with GMO to keep making money.

  • Josie

    Thanks for sharing this article. Apart from the usual ‘everything in moderation mantra’ I find it difficult to accept anything concrete on the matter of sugar as research in this area is still so conflicting. However, a notable researcher you might want to check out is Dr Lustig, an Endocrinologist at the University of California. He likens fructose digestion to that of ethanol (in terms of the biochemical pathways involved) and that excess fructose intake seems to be a leading cause of the obesity epidemic. His ‘Sugar: The Bitter Truth’ talk is a great watch (at least from a biochemistry student’s point of view!) and can be found here: http://youtu.be/dBnniua6-oM – happy watching!

    • Michael Matthews

      Excess fructose intake is an issue but it’s harder to do than you might think unless you just pound sugar and HFCS all day. I talk about this here:

      https://www.muscleforlife.com/do-fructose-and-fruit-make-you-fat-and-unhealthy/

      • Josie

        Haha you’ve thought of everything! But yes, I totally agree with your conclusions re: fructose.
        On a side note, as Lustig is also a pediatrician he campaigns mainly from the point of view that the junk food and drink market preys on children from an early age and dooms them to a life time of sugar addiction. In reality, I would say it is more down to the parents control and educating of their children in nutrition, but that’s an entirely different discussion right there that I am completely unqualified to start.
        Have a great day 🙂

        • Michael Matthews

          I try. 😉

          I agree on the children point!

  • Jaguardian

    Mike, have you written an article about how undereating too much can lead to obesity? Am i wrong? …i know sedentary people that eat very little regularly but still dont lose weight…..

  • JMB

    Mike,

    I respectfully disagree with many of the points you are making about sugar. I do agree that the biggest issue facing many people is overeating and lack of activity. No matter what you eat, if you eat more calories than you burn you will gain weight.

    As for the areas I disagree with:

    First off, you do not take into consideration the Glycemic Index (GI) and Glycemic Loads (GL) of the various sugars. Second, High Fructose Corn Syrup is a metabolic poison. Stating that it is just glucose and fructose put together doesn’t fully describe the issue just like water is entirely different from hydrogen and oxygen as individual molecules. HFCS is a super sugar. Its effect on insulin and Glycemic Load is not the same as glucose or fructose individually. Fructose when consumed with fruit has the fiber in the fruit to lower the GL and therefore the insulin response. Pure glucose is a natural molecular energy source our bodies were designed to process. By your logic, man-made trans fats should not be a concern since it is just adding more hydrogen to naturally occurring saturated fats. We now know trans fats are deadly and do not have the same effect on the body as naturally occurring saturated fats do. Consistently consuming high GL foods causes the pancreas to over secrete insulin which leads to fat gain and reduced insulin sensitivity (Type 2 Diabetes). These are facts from human biology.

    Many of the studies you reference were sponsored by the sugar and corn industries. The corn industry which produces HFCS is one of the most highly subsidised industries in the U.S. and has powerful lobbyists and money to fund studies to protect their interests. This is like having Pfizer run a study on the benefits of cholesterol. They make 30 billion/year by scamming people to believe cholesterol causes heart disease which is based on flawed science from the 1950’s so people will buy Liptor en masse. I highly doubt you have built your physique eating spoonfuls of table sugar and taking dextrose pills.

    The bottom line is sugar is vilified because Americans are addicted to sweet, processed foods devoid of real nutritional value and are lead to believe fat and cholesterol are evil. This coupled with a sedentary lifestyle is causing the epidemic. Simple and man-made sugars exacerbate the problem not fats and cholesterol.

    JB

    • Michael Matthews

      Thanks for the comment! Disagreeing is allowed. 🙂

      1. Concerns related to GI and GL are actually along the same lines: if you’re fat and do nothing with your body, it can be a problem. If you’re lean and exercise regularly, it doesn’t really matter that much.

      I’ll be writing an article on this soon.

      2. The “metabolic poison” terminology is inaccurate sensationalism pushed on ridiculous websites like Natural News.

      The main problem with HFCS is certain types are VERY high in fructose and too much fructose is definitely a problem. I talk about it here:

      https://www.muscleforlife.com/do-fructose-and-fruit-make-you-fat-and-unhealthy/

      3. Lol the trans fat analogy is ridiculous. Trans fat has been extensively studied and we know, for a fact, that it’s terrible for us.

      4. Funding is definitely to be taken into account, but it’s not true that “many” of the studies cited have these potential conflicts of interest.

      Yes, that is the bottom line: people eat too many calories, and too many simple sugars in particular, and sit around all day not moving.

      • JMB

        Mike,

        I think fundamentally we have common ground in the agreement people eat too much and exercise too little. I, however, do not demonise fat and cholesterol and see man-made sugar and simple processed carbs as the true cause of the current epidemic of diabetes, weight gain, and metabolic syndrome the U.S population is experiencing. I do not buy into the incorrect assumptions that fats and cholesterol cause heart disease and weight gain. Fat does not cause fat gain per se. Triglycerides are the enemy and they are the result of the metabolism of simple sugars and alcohols not fats.

        While metabolic poisons may be a bit of sensationalism, I use the term in relation to the fact that HFCS is foreign to our metabolisms and causes damage due to its high GL and the fact that triglycerides – the blood fat we really need to worry about for disease states – is the by-product of simple sugar metabolism and alcohol metabolism not fats and cholesterol. This is not too unlike what some poisons do to the target organism.

        I make the trans fat analogy because your article stipulates HFCS is just adding fructose to glucose so it’s no big deal. Well trans fats are just adding more hydrogen atoms to saturated fat molecules. As we both have agreed, trans fats are deadly. Well HFCS is very rarely produced with little amounts of fructose. The fact is food companies more often than not use the very high fructose version to meet the sweet palates of the American public and it is in ALL processed foods. Regardless of whether HFCS has a lot or a little additional fructose, it still doesn’t change the fact that it is a foreign substance to your metabolism. It is processed thru sugar pathways since it still is sugar-like and this is the only way the body knows how to deal with this foreign sugar.

        The bottom line is people need to stay away from all processed foods which by default will eliminate all HFCS since it does not occur in nature. This coupled with an increase in exercise and an increase in essential fats and cholesterol in the diet will lead to better health and less weight gain. Since we started this whole low/no fat, low/no cholesterol BS in the 60’s and all the BS statin drugs like Lipitor, heart disease, diabetes, obesity, metabolic syndrome, dementia, mood disorders, and some types of cancer have INCREASED not decreased. This is directly due to the increased consumption of man-made and processed sugars and salt added to food to make it taste better and last longer since all the beneficial fats and cholesterol have been removed. Also, many people don’t realize that normal healthy cells have two energy pathways – glucose and fats (ketone bodies). Cancer cells, however, can only grow in a high glucose environment. They can not use ketone bodies. Simple sugars and HFCS create a supportive environment for cancer cell proliferation – it may not cause it directly but it provides the fuel for rapid cancer cell growth.

        JB

        • Michael Matthews

          I 100% agree that fats are NOT the issue. A wealth of research has, for me, proven this completely.

          Yes, you’re absolutely right that excessive consumption of simple sugars is the major culprit.

          The real message of my article is IF you’re a healthy, lean person that exercises regularly, you can include some sucrose and even HFCS in your diet and be totally fine. And that position is supported by good research. That’s all.

          • JMB

            Mike,

            Fair enough. As I said, I think we agree more than disagree. I just wanted to make sure people wouldn’t read this and think they can pound sugar and HFCS like a drunken sailor and it’s OK 🙂

            John

          • Michael Matthews

            Totally. And yeah I think I make that pretty clear in the article, hehe.

          • JMB

            Mike,

            It’s a small world. Looks like we know someone in common – Scott Herman. I am a regular poster on his site and I talk with Scott fairly regularly. I was talking to him the other day about our discourse and he mentioned the Podcast you guys did. He’s another serious fitness enthusiast with great knowledge and a passion to get people active and healthy the natural way without the BS bro-science and sketchy supplement hype.

            John

          • Michael Matthews

            Yeah he’s a great guy! Glad you’re hooked up with him.

  • John

    Mike,

    I respectfully disagree with many of the points you are making about sugar. I do agree that the biggest issue facing many people is overeating and lack of activity. No matter what you eat, if you eat more calories than you burn you will gain weight.

    As for the areas I disagree with:

    First off, you do not take into consideration the Glycemic Index (GI) and Glycemic Loads (GL) of the various sugars. Second, High Fructose Corn Syrup is a metabolic poison. Stating that it is just glucose and fructose put together doesn’t fully describe the issue just like water is entirely different from hydrogen and oxygen as individual molecules. HFCS is a super sugar. Its effect on insulin and Glycemic Load is not the same as glucose or fructose individually. Fructose when consumed with fruit has the fiber in the fruit to lower the GL and therefore the insulin response. Pure glucose is a natural molecular energy source our bodies were designed to process. By your logic, man-made trans fats should not be a concern since it is just adding more hydrogen to naturally occurring saturated fats. We now know trans fats are deadly and do not have the same effect on the body as naturally occurring saturated fats do. Consistently consuming high GL foods causes the pancreas to over secrete insulin which leads to fat gain and reduced insulin sensitivity (Type 2 Diabetes). These are facts from human biology.

    Many of the studies you reference were sponsored by the sugar and corn industries. The corn industry which produces HFCS is one of the most highly subsidised industries in the U.S. and has powerful lobbyists and money to fund studies to protect their interests. This is like having Pfizer run a study on the benefits of cholesterol. They make 30 billion/year by scamming people to believe cholesterol causes heart disease which is based on flawed science from the 1950’s so people will buy Liptor en masse. I highly doubt you have built your physique eating spoonfuls of table sugar and taking dextrose pills.

    The bottom line is sugar is vilified because Americans are addicted to sweet, processed foods devoid of real nutritional value and are lead to believe fat and cholesterol are evil. This coupled with a sedentary lifestyle is causing the epidemic. Simple and man-made sugars exacerbate the problem not fats and cholesterol.

    JB

  • Kyle Knapp

    Nice article- sugar used to scare me a bit then like most people, we find a balance somewhere in the middle. Ray Peat and all his followers got me thinking about using sugar as an anti stress food which has been a very cool journey. Like you said, the point isn’t to think you can mainline pixie sticks and cherry coke but to reconsider the role it can play in each of our diets. Thanks for your thoughts!

    • Michael Matthews

      Thanks! I can see that regarding anti-stress. Gotta be careful though because that’s a slippery slope that can lead to regular overeating.

      • Kyle Knapp

        Absolutely- which I have found to be a strong pull, even for a health conscious personal trainer with a good history of being lean.

        • Michael Matthews

          Yup. The struggle is real. 😉

  • superbeth

    I absolutely LOVE this article! Thank you so much!

    I used to shun sugar (I even stopped eating most fruit and only ate berries for a period of time!) I also ate very limited carbs…I ate the “good” carbs. Lots of green, leafy veggies anyone? I believed that eating sugar and carbs were the main reasons that people were fat, had T2 diabetes, etc. Now I know that that’s NOT true.

    After I started eating sugar and carbs (aka sugar haha) again, I felt much, much better and had more energy. Because of my past disordered eating, which led me through periods of not eating enough AND then binges, I never suppress any sugar cravings I have. If I want a treat, I eat it. This helps me to eat enough and helps me not to binge.

    I think sugar in moderation is fine. The only problem I can think of with eating too much sugar is that it displaces the important micronutrients and macros our bodies need.

    Thank you again! This is one of my favorite blogs!

    • Michael Matthews

      Thanks Beth!

      The reality is if a person doesn’t exercise and just sits at a desk all day. they SHOULD restrict carb and sugar intake. But us people that work out a lot would have to abuse carbs and sugar to the Nth degree to really have a problem.

  • Nat

    As much as I love your website and articles Mike, I was pretty offended and disappointed half way reading this article, –

    “Because I have willpower and discipline, and I take responsibility for my actions. I know when enough is enough and I don’t “bargain” with myself.

    In my experience, people that feel “addicted” to food, sugar, video games, or anything else unhealthy in large amounts are just struggling with mental barriers. They lack the ability to control their actions and, in many cases, this is evidenced in other areas of their lives.

    I don’t want to dive into the psychology of addiction here, but I do want to press one message home:

    If you’ve been using “physical addiction” as an excuse to chronically overeat, whether with sugar or just food in general, stop bullshitting yourself and get your shit together.”

    Not saying I use this as an excuse in my diet and exercise, but battling with an ED and knowing many other people going through a similar experience, the feeling of having no control and punishing yourself to have that discipline can lead to a series of unhealthy, eating disorder-like habits.

    In a nutshell – I felt like that paragraph was just a bit insensitive, as everyone is different and has a different relationship with food.

    That is all, Nat.

    • Michael Matthews

      Thanks for the comment Nat and I do understand where you’re coming from.

      As you know, I RARELY take a harsh tone but I felt it was warranted in this case as in my experience working with thousands of people, the ONLY ones that don’t make it in the end are those that behave too much like a victim of “food addictions.”

      People quit MUCH more addictive substances and behaviors every day and never look back. And it really does just boil down to toughening up and making a firm, unwavering decision and sticking to it.

      Honestly, I’ve nicely told some people that I truly think they should stop trying to even lose weight and just accept themselves the way are because they clearly can’t stop overeating and keep beating themselves up over not being fit enough…

    • Johnny

      Stop being so sensitive. And with all due respect, grow a pair and stop being OFFENDED by everything you read. That is all.

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  • Emma

    It’s just amazing. I feel like I’ve been cheated and lied to for my entire life. I’m just recently diving deep into learning about nutrition and the science behind it (your articles have been one of my best basic sources), and I’m AMAZED at how much the “diet” and “fitness” industry has been fooling us! I want everyone to know about how simple and wonderful food can be. Sigh…

    • Michael Matthews

      Lol I totally understand. Well…you’ve had your Matrix moment. Welcome to the real world. 😉

  • The Dude

    “Chemically speaking, sugar doesn’t cause physical addiction like drugs do.” Chemically speaking, Cocaine doesn’t cause physical addiction either…

  • Greenmile

    Please take a look at the video Sugar, the bitter truth from Dr Robert Lustig. It explains all in detail on sugar intake. Very interesting.

  • Cole M.

    Keep up the good work, Mike. Really well written article, clear and to the point. Also, it is pretty refreshing to see the respectful interaction on your comment threads. Props. I look forward to checking out more of your writing!

    • Michael Matthews

      Thanks! I really appreciate it Cole!

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  • Mollie Diedrich

    Great article. I love that you actually cite the studies you are quoting!
    I recently watched a documentary called ‘Fed Up’ about all the added sugars and how it is keeping people fat and addicting children to processed foods at an early age. I found it also informative, but conflicting some with what you have written.

    The documentary claims that sugar was shown to be as addictive as cocaine, and showed how the brain lit up on sugar was the same as on cocaine. I’m skeptical of this due to my own personal experience. I had been a pepsi drinker my entire life and would usually have 2-3 a day, yet I was able to stop drinking it ‘cold turkey’ without much in the way of cravings or issues in general (which is also weird due to the caffeine).

    They also showed a girl who was quite obese, and she was active (on the swim team) and said she was eating healthy. However, they said all the added sugars in processed foods (particularly fat free versions) were keeping people who thought they were making the right dietary decisions fat. I just found this hard to believe, because she said she was eating less and healthier but not losing weight. They didn’t ever show what she was eating or how much she ate so I can only assume her diet was not as healthy as she claimed (or she was eating a lot of ‘healthy’ processed foods).

    I was just curious on your thoughts, as the documentary basically made it seem like it’s not your fault, it’s the food industry tricking you into becoming fatter and addicted to their products to make money. And while I can definitely see that side, I also feel there has to be some personal responsibility as you mentioned.

    • Michael Matthews

      Thanks! I agree that the amount of sugars added to foods is a problem.

      Many people do experience withdrawal symptoms and such but it’s hard to distinguish because psychological and physiological issues. Similar to smoking.

      People are HORRIBLE at estimating the amount of calories they eat. This is well-known.

      Many of the big food companies definitely don’t give a shit about our health and are on a quest to get us more and more addicted to their products, but that doesn’t mean we’re doomed.

      I’m going to write on the willpower/self-control aspect of this soon.

      • Mollie Diedrich

        I look forward to that article!

        Do you think it’s possible for someone to become sick when switching to eating real food after they’ve eaten mainly things like ice cream, candy and fastfood cheeseburgers for the last several years? My mom claims everything else makes her sick, but I think it’s mostly just psychological. But could eating real food after so long actually upset her stomach? She has a lot of issues (especially with her digestive system) that I think could be helped by eating better, but she’s not interested, just saying everything makes her sick.

        • Michael Matthews

          Me too! 🙂

          I’ve definitely heard that from people, yes. They will feel HORRIBLE for the first couple of weeks and then feel great. Strange!

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  • Nat

    You’re quoting the sugar bureau study that shows there are no sugar consumption guidelines? A body funded by the sugar industry shows no problem with sugar consumption. Mike. Please. Really ?

    • Michael Matthews

      You’re picking one study out of everything discussed, conducted by a group you don’t understand, and using it to discredit the entire article. Nat. Please. Really?

  • Zach T

    Do you have any opinions on the ketosis craze I keep hearing about? I have searched the website and haven’t found anything.

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  • Tim Buist

    sounds like a classic calories in / calories out mentality… which given your field makes sense. However if you get a chance to work with thousands of people every day who are trying to lose weight and correct metabolic disease, you quickly realize it’s not that simple. Even pro athletes are starting to realize the misguided science behind carb-loading. In metabolic health specialties they have long understood that diet influences hormone balance and not by mere calories. Close to half of my clinics’ patients do not eat differently than their normal weight counterparts and many exercise regularly, but with varying genetics influenced by sugar/carb intake, their balance between insulin and glucagon becomes skewed, and many become insulin resistant, the response (due to normal physiology) is fat gain. Processed sugars and even excess fruit cause behavioral tendency to overeat apart from the emotional factors that become entangled. I would love to be able to tell our patients to “stop bullshitting themselves” that they have any kind of food addiction, but I’d be telling them something completely false in many cases. Not sure where you get your definition of addiction, but this review of research disagrees with yours —-> http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23719144
    I’m sure you do well in helping the muscle for life crowd (although emerging science questions even athletes preferring carb based diets), but your view of achieving optimal weight/metabolic health doesn’t pan out in a health care setting. It’s an over-simplification that many dietitians still operate with, a hammer/nail mentality that starts and ends with energy balance and largely ignores hormone balance and genetics influenced by diet. It started 40 years ago with a food pyramid based on avoiding starvation and economics (not achieving optimal health).

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  • Michael Matthews

    Thanks for stopping by and checking out my article! I hope you enjoyed it.

    Feel free to comment below if you have any questions. I do my best to check and reply to every comment left on my blog, so don’t be shy!

    Oh and if you like what I have to say, you should sign up for my free weekly newsletter! You’ll get awesome, science-based health and fitness tips, delicious “guilt-free” recipes, articles to keep you motivated, and much more!

    You can sign up here:

    http://www.muscleforlife.com/signup

    Your information is safe with me too. I don’t share, sell, or rent my lists. Pinky swear!

  • ankita

    Wow!!!..is one word I wanna give sugar nw..dis single glucose molecule wid it’s various masks had taken a toll on many..;-) bt Thnx for an eye opener article lyk dis one..it really is!! Just give me sum insight on Wat abt diabetics..r simple sugars gud for dem as well..m tokin of insulin resistant ones..

    • Glad you liked it!

      • ankita

        U didn’t answer my query mike..

        • Ah I missed it. If you’re diabetic then a low-carb approach is going to make the most sense for you.

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  • Nikki Gregoris

    Great article Mike. Im currently doing a program in sports nutrition and I actually fought with my ex over this ( hes a competitive not natural bodybuilder) regarding sugar…I guess his coach may have brain washed him into this cookie cutter plan who knows…

    I humored him for 21 days ate nothing but oats, eggs, chicken, fish, broccoli, brown rice and avacado, my sugars were probably about 5grams a day. The goal was to see if there would be any noticeable change in overall body composition. I made sure I was in proper energy balance ext. As i suspected no difference really in body composition! my original diet was flexible, dairy products, fruits, yogurt ext same calories and macros. When i returned to my original diet (thank god) still no changes lol! Of course it didn’t open his eyes. Science is science people don’t get it.

    • Thanks Nikki!

      There’s SO much broscience and bad advice floating around in content prep circles. I’ve spoken with a lot of people that have suffered through some really, really bad coaches.

      Haha keep on enjoying your diet you fucking heathen.

  • Dale Smith

    The candy bar turning into glucose faster is the problem. When the body makes too much glucose at once, the pancreas works overtime and stores all of it as fat. “Chemically speaking, sugar doesn’t cause physical addiction like drugs do.” Sugar is 8 times more addictive than cocaine! There are plenty of tests done on rats and other animals out there. Sorry to say but the movie Fed Up has you beat.

  • Chris

    You didn’t even touch on the fact that most sugars at least partially get sent to the liver to be stored as liver glycogen. And once liver glycogen is full, you will have fat spillover

    • If you eat more energy than you burn, regardless of how you get it, you will gain fat.

      Check this out:

      http://www.muscleforlife.com/best-diet-plan/

    • Alex Papas

      exactly except it don’t spill it fill and then lends some to your heart and belly. – healthy liver can handle excretion for a while ( whilst you are young and bulletproof ) I was fit from 18-27, my muscle mass was disproportionate to the effort I put in – surfing and soft sand running was all I did. sugar metabolism is just like booze after it leaves your brain, It’s toxic to your liver. Trust me – was diagnosed with NAFLD not so long ago along with elevated enzymes, GE told me to take vitamin E – and that was it. Found out a few things on my own and cut sugar out instead – still ate fruit/fructose but cut it out in all other areas and added good fats. Enzyme levels back to normal from being super high in a surprisingly short period, GE was thrilled and surprised. Dropped 6 kg in two months which was a healthy side effect. Had no time for any exercise in that period either. I was approx. 8kg over weight prior to this.

  • GuyN_37

    I may be late to the party, but I still have something to say!

    There are (at least) three more things to consider when it comes to sugar that might make the verdict a bit more cloudy but also more responsible.

    First and foremost, when it comes to HFCS, glossing over the loose bond and ratio between fructose and glucose may seem like a minor point, but as we know (and as has already been discussed here in the comments), little things can make huge differences in chemistry and biology! It may be a faulty assumption to dismiss something we don’t clearly understand.

    Second, getting a “moderate” dose of HFCS or processed sugar is actually kind of a tall order. How much is in a can of Coke, 39 grams? And other sodas generally have more. Assuming or expecting people to have the willpower to limit themselves to half a candy bar is just too much. When companies add sugar to their products, they tend to add a lot of it.

    Third, all of these extra sugar calories come with lots of energy and no nutrition, so the imbiber gets what everybody calls the dreaded “empty calorie.” We try to make up for it with multis and supplements but we don’t know for sure yet how effective those are.

    These three are probably good enough reason to at least be cautious when it comes to added sugar and not go all out just because you’re still making your calorie goal. There’s still health to consider even if body composition is more important.

    • Thanks for the comment!

      I totally agree that you need to watch your intake of HFCS and sugar but you don’t have to completely fear them like many people do.

  • Bart

    “Well, more and more research
    is emerging that increasing fructose intake increases the risk of
    developing the risk factors for cardiovascular disease and metabolic
    syndrome. (And in case you’re wondering, the fructose found naturally in fruit is fine, but the fructose artificially added to foods to sweeten them is not.)”

  • Bart

    “They have addictive properties normally found with drug abuse, and that can lead to cravings, bingeing, and withdrawal symptoms.”

  • Tom

    Sugar phobia here, so I’m so glad to see this article as I venture into IIFYM. I’m going to try losing the fear and trust you. One question, why does your cookbook recommend Stevia instead of regular sugar? Is it because it has no calories, which would count as carbs, and therefore allows you to get your carbs elsewhere?

  • Dave

    I think this article could have just been replaced with “if you aren’t already obese, I think sugar in moderation is probably fine for you.” But to simplify the human body down to calories in vs calories out is naieve. Studies bebunk previous studies every day and I think the jury is out on just how harmful sugar is. I do know that more and more physically fit individuals are getting diabetes every day and I won’t be surprised if sugar is the main reason. Also to say sugar is not physically addicting is just wrong. Countless scientific reports show its direct affect on dopamine and chemical processes of the brain similar to other drugs. I agree willpower and overeating in general is a huge issue for most but that doesn’t mean sugar doesn’t play a role in the problem.

  • Mikey!

    I just started working out every day to try to go from (5’8″) 170 Lbs of programmer bleh to 170-200 lbs of lean muscle. My question is this: I work in a place where the soda is FREE(!). If I am on a weight training workout plan and I’m drinking 3-4 cans of Coke a day at work…. … I mean obviously lay off the Coke (a bit more), but is my body going to use that energy or am I still getting too much energy even if I’m working out every day? Am I over-fueling with soda alone?

    • Hey man!

      Drinking a lot of calories is a really bad idea. They don’t fill you up and can raise your fructose intake to unhealthy levels.

      I’d cut it out entirely or maybe do a diet Coke or two per day if you REALLY need it.

      • Anne-Marie

        Anyone can tell you that so called “diet” drinks are even worse for your body. The artificial sweeteners aren’t absorbed the way they’re supposed to.

        • It’s not that black and white. Artificial sweeteners aren’t as bad as many people would have you believe but there IS evidence that regular intake can be unhealthy. I am going to write an article on it soon.

  • Rene Chavez

    you are full of shit MIKE

  • Alex Papas

    Please guys – do your own research – you will eventually see – glucose ok – fructose from fruit and veg ok in moderation more so with the fibre in the fruit also ingested. However – fructose drinks, HFCS and sucrose all super bad. You will add mass though and it is a good short term solution – not so much if health is important to you though. Just look at numbers on high fructose and sucrose carb based diets – obesity goes up as do all associated metabolic diseases. do yourselves a favour and research, there are intelligent ‘shorter’ cuts believe it or not and you will determine for yourselves what these are if you do some work up front. I am not selling anything. Whole foods based choline consumption will help offset the damage this does to your liver until you discover the truth for yourselves. Sugar is like smoking – some get away with it, but most do not.

    • Thanks for the feedback Alex!

      Sugar/HFCS becomes a problem when intake is high, but if it’s in moderation and the diet in general is set up properly (80%+ of daily calories from nutritious foods), it just isn’t going to be a problem.

      • Jason

        I disagree, If you’re healthy and workout all the time sure you can handle drinking a coke everyday but no matter what you would be better off without it. Thats the bottom line, Stuff like coke and donuts is shit period

        • Of course it’s “shit” but the point is if your body is getting all the macro- and micronutrients it needs PLUS regular exercise, a little bit of “shit” eaten regularly won’t negatively impact anything.

          • Jason

            Again I disagree, I think it will have a negative impact even if its a small one, you might not notice it but over time it will cause some problem or other even if its just a cavity, and on top of that most people dont get the macro and micro nutrients they need let alone exercise, most people dont even know what nutrients they need let alone get them

          • Scientific and anecdotal evidence says otherwise, but you can think what you want.

            There’s also a quality of life factor that you have to weigh.

            My 200 calories of chocolate every day gives me quite a bit of satisfaction. I can tell you factually this isn’t harming my health, but let’s say the little bit of sugar and caffeine in the chocolate were detrimental over the long term.

            Let’s say in the end, the daily chocolate costs me…37 days of life.

            Am I willing to pay that price? Absolutely.

            If the sum of my rather short list of vices is my time here is shaved down by a couple of years, I’m okay with that, too. The amount of pleasure I get to enjoy far outweighs the downside.

            (Prices I wouldn’t be willing to pay are related to terminal disease, however. I don’t want to suffer later for my choices today.)

            I’m not into soda, but the same logic would apply to the one-soda-per-day habit.

  • Alex Papas

    as a post script, I should say i am no authority, only one opinion and actually endorse what mike is saying, it is based on good science, but I think I am uncertain on one point- I think based on a reasonable amount of evidence I’ve come across – if you’re already in pretty good shape then you will have the edge and you will be as healthy as you can possibly be and in far far better shape than most people following these plans , if you’re overweight and have had a poor diet for some time or any metabolic issues, I’d say find out more and consider completely avoiding HFCS and sucrose and fructose drinks like fruit juice until you’re body is restored and you feel strong then get your joy from the odd coke if there is no condition that would stop you from doing so of course. No one wants to be told they can’t have some enjoyment from food or should be paranoid and mike is being too polite in being so liberal and not prescriptive.

  • Jason

    Your article sucks, you use a study done by “the sugar bureau” to prove your strawman arguement. processed sugar is terrible for you period. Obviously if you exercise you can handle a bit of sugar but that doesnt mean its good.

    • Way to pick one study and dismiss it as biased without even reviewing the paper.

      • Jordan Matthew Burattini

        jason is right,you don’t have to review something like that to see its biased. The study you quoted was done by the sugar bureau, that is a bias, because they obviously endorse the product sugar, logically making it bias, or in other words a Corporate bias. Since its a sugar bureau, its appealing for them to inform others that what they support “isn’t bad for you”.

        • That’s definitely something to consider but funding biases don’t always mean the findings are illegitimate.

          In this case, you can also look to the immense popularity of “IIFYM” dieting and see how many people eat large amounts of sugar every day and have no trouble getting and staying lean.

          That’s not my preferred method of dieting, of course (food choices/quality DOES matter) but it’s instructive nonetheless.

          You can learn more about it here:

          https://legionathletics.com/flexible-dieting/

      • Jordan Matthew Burattini

        Corporate bias – Picking articles or stories that are pleasing to the owners of the media organization or network
        http://examples.yourdictionary.com/examples-of-bias.html

  • Mi Win

    Would have been nice to read this article about 40 years ago. Now is too late. Too many years of soda pop and eating at restaurants, eating tons of rice and pasta, and mostly tomatoes with little other vegetation has destroyed my body. NOW, even with healthy diet, I can’t lose the weight. I can’t turn back the clock.

    • It’s better late than never!

      Fortunately, the laws of energy balance still apply, and you CAN lose weight. Check this out:

      http://www.muscleforlife.com/best-diet-plan/

      LMK what you think.

    • callmeAl

      Hi Mi, sorry but I’m calling BS on that – of course you can! I worked with a woman who was so morbidly obese she could only be weighed at hospital (there were no scales that went that high) and was given a year to live. She was in her 50’s and after a lifetime of being overweight she lost hundreds of kilos. You can do it too! 🙂

  • Timmy Atz

    Hey Mike how much dextrose would you recommend in your post workout shake and is it better to have Low GI or High Gi carbs before heavy training
    thx

  • Remco

    “On the other hand, if you exercise regularly and aren’t overweight, your body can deal with simple sugars just fine. You’re not going to get diabetes or ruin your heart by eating a bit more sugar than necessary every day.”

    This is what I always believed to be true so I really like to see this confirmation. I eat 3 meals a day, but I also love to eat chocolate, crisps, candy etc. I have a good stamina and the reason I work out is to be able to eat anything I want (I am not muscular though). As I am not gaining weight I always assume that I just burn up all those calories sugar and fat gives me.

    However, I am still in a little doubt. For example, my friends tell me that even though I look slim on the outside I can be fat on the inside, pointing out narrowing of my blood capillaries or that my body could get ‘tired’ of making so much insulin and because of that could still get diabetes at a later point in life. They don’t back it up with anything, but I don’t know how it works, so it still sounds scary. Whats your view on those statements?

    • That’s nonsense. If you maintain a healthy body composition, exercise regularly, and get the majority of your calories from nutritious foods, you can’t get diabetes by eating some sugar every day.

      If, however, you were to allow yourself to get overweight and sedentary and were getting, let’s say, 50% of your daily calories from sugar-laden shit, yeah, you’re going to be fucked one day. 😛

  • Isaac Tian

    Hey Mike, thanks for the great info. I saw a while ago someone posted about the “Fed Up” documentary. I watched the same thing and since then I’ve been pretty adamant about cutting out added sugar.

    I’m a huge personal responsibility guy and I don’t like how that documentary reduces it down to “it’s not your fault.” The environment incentivizes certain behaviors and that’s a problem, sure, but you still have to pick up the pack of cigarettes or the donut and put it in your mouth.

    My question is: in the last year, the WHO came out with a recommendation of no more than 25g of free sugar a day, and we watched the linked video from Time magazine in my university nutrition class about sugar and fat. (It’s only 5 min) That information coupled with some of the pitches from doctors in Fed Up about how fat is better for you than low fat + sugar and the things I’m learning in school have all made me pretty sugar averse. What do you have to say to those guidelines?

    Generally I just stay away from sugary dessert type food because if I can’t justify the calorie that I eat, it doesn’t belong in my body. I read your article about eating clean too but I figured it’s easier to be safe and conservative and stay away from empty calories rather than stray to the dark side of junk food.

    http://time.com/2861540/fat-and-carbs-diet-guidelines/
    http://www.who.int/mediacentre/news/releases/2015/sugar-guideline/en/

    • I totally agree. Personal responsibility is key.

      <25 grams per day sounds reasonable. I probably get about 5 to 10 grams per day with my daily dessert (which is usually chocolate).

      • Isaac Tian

        Cool. That time video talks a lot about insulin, but it seems like you thoroughly debunked the claims in your insulin article? Is there any basis for the claim “low fat is bad because it’s replaced with sugar”?

        Also, this came out today: http://www.iflscience.com/health-and-medicine/sugar-may-be-damaging-brain-extreme-stress-or-abuse
        seems like we need to consider sugar for other reasons than just weight gain?

        • Isaac Tian

          “This study demonstrates that a calorie is not a calorie, and that sugar is a primary contributor to metabolic syndrome, unrelated to calories or weight gain. By removing added sugar, we improved metabolic health.”

          http://www.iflscience.com/health-and-medicine/sugar-isn-t-just-empty-fattening-calories-it-s-making-us-sick

          From Dr. Lustig at UCSF. He’s basically saying you SHOULD worry about it for the reasons that are not at all related to weight gain, because for those purposes a calorie is a calorie.

          • This makes sense when we’re talking about overweight, sedentary people, not relatively lean and physically active folk.

        • Yeah insulin is unfairly demonized these days. And yup I saw this. Again, the general recommendation is less than 10% of daily calories from added sugar, which comes out to <50 grams for most people. That's a sensible recommendation.

  • Sarah Brown

    Have you read about the professor at Kansas State University who wanted to prove to his students that when it comes to weight loss, energy consumption vs energy burned (calories in calories out) is what matters? It’s called The Twinkie Diet. He did it as an experiment, not to advocate eating twinkies all day. He stayed within a budget of calories that would result in weight loss, but he got almost all of his calories from junk food. The results of weight loss were amazing but the real surprise was in his blood work. His bad numbers went down and his good numbers improved. Weight loss really is that simple. It’s the mental struggle that makes it feel impossible.

    http://www.cnn.com/2010/HEALTH/11/08/twinkie.diet.professor/

    PS. I cannot believe after such a thoroughly explained article people on this thread still think one Coke is detrimental to your health. They really do not understand the science. How sad to go through life and never enjoy a Coke or some chocolate.

    Great article. I appreciate the non-bias approach. Just facts; no trendy demonization of sugar.

    • Yep! I’m familiar with it. 🙂

      Pretty crazy how simple and obvious it is. It all comes down to energy balance.

      The mental struggle is where different diets come in. The different diets work better for different people because it simply fits their lifestyle better. Whatever works for you and gets results is what I recommend. I also think it’s a good idea to set up a meal plan that includes foods you like. Check this out:

      https://legionathletics.com/diet-meal-plans/

      Thanks and my pleasure!

      Talk soon.

    • mplo

      I tend to agree with the article somewhat about coca-cola and diet soda, but I disagree with the writer of this article about chocolate. The dark, bittersweet chocolate is heart-healthy, and having a small amount of it each day, can be very beneficial.

  • NB1986

    Hey Mike,

    Hope you’re well. I’m currently bulking and trying to tweak things after reading your book. I have changed my pre and post workout nutrition to include rice milk like you suggested in there. Upon reading this article, and tracking calories daily, I see that there is a lot of ‘sugar’ in rice milk as well as the porridge I have on a morning with my eggs. I noticed one of the recent posts on here said about having less than 25g of sugar is healthy. Is this the same type as that ‘sugar’ in flavoured porridge and rice milk?

    Thanks.

    Nick

    • Hey hey!

      Generally speaking it’s a good idea to keep your daily sucrose intake around 25 grams or less, yes, but I wouldn’t worry about sugars that occur naturally in foods like fruit and such.

      • NB1986

        Cool, thanks Mike.

        Also, what’s your take on high GI and low GI carbs with relation to timings. I know you advocate high GI before and straight after workouts but what about on non-gym days, or before bed etc. Does it make any difference? If I have carbs left to eat to hit my calorie/macro targets on an evening, the last thing I want to eat is a portion of black beans, for example… Rice milk and a shake is much easier!

  • David Harris

    I know you say sugar intake doesn’t matter much in modesty, but do you think carb cycling is a good dieting plan?

  • Johnny TheMagnificunt Lee

    The problem with eating carbs is you have no way of accurately measuring how much you’re eating, especially when you’re eating out and some Americans are too lazy to limit their portion size anyways. They’re always parroting the phrase about “moderation,” but don’t practice what they preach.

    • You can if you’re at home! All you need is a scale and a site like calorieking.com or caloriecount.com.

      You’re right it’s tough to track when eating out, though. I recommend saving eating out for cheat meals.

      Moderation looks different for each person I guess, haha.

  • Marian

    Hi! I found this article very informative. I’m currently writing a research essay on sugar. This helped me see the other side of the argument. What I would like to tell you though is that while sugar in small amounts is not harmful to you, and yes the natural sugar is better for you, people are not consuming it in small amounts. I looked on a can of soda yesterday and there was twice the amount of recommended daily sugar in it and some people drink two or three of those a day. It depends on the persons metabolism and eating habits. But people are not the same in that aspect and so some truly do need to worry about their sugar intake.
    I’m sorry if this seems mean but I truly did enjoy your article. My boyfriends been on me hard about my sugar intake and now I can argue with him!

    • Thanks Marian!

      You’re absolutely right. THAT is the problem–over consumption.

  • RevShawn
  • Scot Fennell

    I think the internet has created a lot of nutritional geniuses. A few sweet treats once in awhile makes life enjoyable. My Scottish grandmother lived to be 98 and ate a treat everyday with tea time. She also ate porridge everyday and climbed 3 flight of stairs everyday until the day she died. Balance is the key with food and exercise. Eat a rainbow, so they say on google.

  • Jasin

    I started seeing and feeling the diffrence in my body when I stoped consuming (bad) sugar for the first time in my life. I tried for years to get rid of extra body fat and it only started to work when I cut the bad sugar. I have a lot of respect for you Mathew, but I have to disagree with you on this one, I truely believe that one gets the best results by cutting bad sugars out your diet!!!

    • Hey hey! I’m glad cutting out certain sugars worked well for you. If it gets results, go ahead.

      Keep in mind, the law of energy balance still apply. To lose weight, you have to be in a caloric deficit. To gain weight, you have to be in a caloric surplus. Take a look at this:

      http://www.muscleforlife.com/best-diet-plan/

      LMK what you think!

  • Hamaad Bhat

    Great article. I have a question. People often cite how sugar (simple sugars, synthetically manufactured sugar) leads to all these diseases like diabetes, for example. Would you agree when I say that these studies suggesting sugar causes these diseases is a flawed claim since it is actually the overall diet and deficiency of micronutrients or other macronutrients leading to these health problems, not the sugar? Also, does sugar actually cause any disease? Or is it rather a chronic elevation of insulin leading to insulin resistance when people eat unbalanced, high carbohydrate diets where there is insulin is constantly spiked?

  • SausageJ

    Yes the addiction talk is true. The pleasures in life make you want more of something, and if it gets taken away, your body doesn’t start going crazy and shutting down does it? No! A real addiction will. I was addicted to video games a few years ago. I still play them but I’d rather do something else. 4 years ago I stuck my foot in the door before it closed. I was getting fat… I remember staying up all night competing with my friends who could drink the most coke in an 8 hour period. I’d eat bags of croutons while watching Tv. What I did was cut out soft drinks COMPLETELY and start cutting back sweets. 7 months ago I did the same with Sweet Tea, haven’t had tea since (or soda since 4 years ago). I eat mainly fat foods and my carbs come from grains. I used to be “addicted” to those honey toasted oats you buy in a bag for 4 bucks. I recently downed a bag, I can’t let that stuff near me but it is goooood. I’m about to go enjoy some 4th of July meal cheating!

  • Bink Natawijaya

    I understand one basic rule in diet.
    Any ‘good’ thing will turn to ‘bad’ if you take it toooo much.
    It is also apply to especially sugar.

    • That’s right!

      • Evie

        It’s true that sugar is absolutely ok if you are able to
        eat it ‘sensibly’ and in moderation. The problem arises when you have a
        sugar sensivie body (i.e.g low serotonin and/or beta endorphins). In that
        situation, sugar acts like a *drug* in your body. Please see http://www.radiantrecovery.com for more information. Like any drug,
        discipline and ‘moderation’ goes out of the window when your body is
        craving that drug. Sugar acts like cocaine in some people’s bodies. I
        and thousands of others experience the same thing. Thankfully there is
        help out there now to help people like me with sugar sensitive bodies to
        heal and wean off this damanging (for us) drug.

    • Evie

      Yes of course, this is true. Sugar is absolutely ok if you are able to eat it ‘sensibly’ in moderation. The problem arises when you have a sugar sensivie body (i.e.g low serotonin and/or endrophins). In this situation, sugar acts like a *drug* in your body. Like any drug, discipline and ‘modertaion’ goes out of the window when your body is craving that drug. Sugar acts like cocaine in some people’s bodies. I and thousands of others experience the same thing. Thankfully there is help out there now to help people like me with sugar sensitive bodies to heal and wean off this damanging (for us) drug.

  • JodieBooTrifle1

    Thank you for saying ‘type 2 diabetes’ on behalf of all us type 1s. You have no idea how frustrating it is when people don’t know the different between the two and just assume I’ve eaten too much sugar, when in reality it wasn’t my fault for my pancreas shutting down at all!

  • Beth

    Good read… Good Marketing loves to brainwash people into believing that various ‘super foods’ are the key to health and weight loss etc. The current trend being ‘Good fats’ etc. But like you say you just can’t deny the scientific fact that eating more than you burn will over time attribute to weight gain. Eat less. move more. its so simple but companies are genius at convincing consumers that you can eat more and loose weight! its all about current trends..currently… – ‘good high fat foods’, coconut oil, chia seeds etc, being dubbed the new super foods that will heal and change your life… its still fat…lt still contains calories, its still calorie dense!

    We live in a world that has a abundance of foods and over eating is very easy to do. Self discipline and self awareness really needs to be implemented because the temptation is there constantly. without discipline there is no control. I think one of the best practices is training our minds, then we can really make a difference in how we function and act in all aspects of life.

    Not one diet fits all. Humans are so wonderfully unique and kale might be someones healing food and another persons poison. Get in touch with yourself, eat what your body wants…not your mind. Know yourself more and more and you become happier and balanced…and yeh, move more and don’t overeat 🙂

    Beth x

    https://www.facebook.com/BethAldersonbeauty/

    • Well put! Thanks for sharing, Beth.

      • Evie

        I’ve decided in 2017 to be more open and honest and share my truth.
        I understand and agree with much of Beth says about superfoods,
        fad diets and silly claims and that not one diet fits all. However, I
        think what she and yourself fail to realise is that some people are
        sugar sensitive in that sugar acts like a drug in their bodies. You are
        lucky that you’re clearly not affected by sugar (hence you talk about
        moderation and balance) etc. Good for you. But please be assured that
        not all of us are the same – and therefore like you say ‘not one diet
        fits all’.

        All I can say is that from *my* personal experience sugar is most definately DEFINATELY a
        drug.
        From a very young age I knew I just couldn’t stop eating it, I would
        ‘seek’ out all my mums hiding places for it – I never felt that way
        about vegetables or meat or dairy funnily enough. There’s definately an
        addictive quality about sugar (for many of us).

        Let me put this
        into context. I was sexually abused from the time I was tiny by my dad –
        this shatters your serotonin system – and therefore leaves you
        vulnerable to addiction. I could have become a heroin addict. I could
        have become an alcoholic. Instead I became (unbeknownst to me for many
        years) a sugar addict. I would eat it in secret. I would hide wrappers. I
        knew I had a problem with it. I didn’t know why I found it hard to say
        no. I didn’t know why my whole body cried out for it. I honestly thought
        everyone felt the same around sugar that I did. Why would I think any
        different? I just thought nobody talked about it. All I knew is that it
        temporarilty soothed me. I’d feel ‘high’ It would lift my sadness for a
        while. I would feel pleasantly spaced out. I realise now that that was
        due to the huge dopamine effect it had on me. Even now it has this
        effect. feel really spaced out and ‘mellow’ when I’ve eaten a couple of
        chocolate bars. I thought everyone felt like me when they ate sugar. I
        thought it was normal. If I eat sugar on a empty stomach I feel drunk.
        Sugar to me is like alcohol to an alcoholic. But of course, like all
        drugs, that brings about all sort of health issues including depression,
        anxiety, painful joints, bad skin etc.
        bad skin. So for me, it’s
        important to wean myself off sugar. I wish I didn’t have to. I wish I
        could just eat in moderation etc. but unfortuantely for some of us sugar
        is most definately a drug.

    • Evie

      I’ve decided in 2017 to be more open and honest and share my truth. Beth I understand and agree with much of what you say about superfoods, fad diets and silly claims and that not one diet fits all. However, I think what Mike and yourself fail to realise is that some people are sugar sensitive in that sugar acts like a drug in their bodies. You are lucky that you’re clearly not affected by sugar (hence you talk about moderation and balance) etc. Good for you. But please be assured that not all of us are the same – and therefore like you say ‘not one diet fits all’.

      All I can say is that from *my* personal experience sugar is most definately DEFINATELY a
      drug. From a very young age I knew I just couldn’t stop eating it, I would ‘seek’ out all my mums hiding places for it – I never felt that way about vegetables or meat or dairy funnily enough. There’s definately an addictive quality about sugar (for many of us).

      Let me put this into context. I was sexually abused from the time I was tiny by my dad – this shatters your serotonin system – and therefore leaves you vulnerable to addiction. I could have become a heroin addict. I could have become an alcoholic. Instead I became (unbeknownst to me for many years) a sugar addict. I would eat it in secret. I would hide wrappers. I knew I had a problem with it. I didn’t know why I found it hard to say no. I didn’t know why my whole body cried out for it. I honestly thought everyone felt the same around sugar that I did. Why would I think any different? I just thought nobody talked about it. All I knew is that it temporarilty soothed me. I’d feel ‘high’ It would lift my sadness for a while. I would feel pleasantly spaced out. I realise now that that was due to the huge dopamine effect it had on me. Even now it has this effect. feel really spaced out and ‘mellow’ when I’ve eaten a couple of chocolate bars. I thought everyone felt like me when they ate sugar. I thought it was normal. If I eat sugar on a empty stomach I feel drunk. Sugar to me is like alcohol to an alcoholic. But of course, like all drugs, that brings about all sort of health issues including depression, anxiety, painful joints, bad skin etc.
      bad skin. So for me, it’s important to wean myself off sugar. I wish I didn’t have to. I wish I could just eat in moderation etc. but unfortuantely for some of us sugar is most definately a drug.

  • Mark Saris

    You mention a study from The Sugar Bureau. The British Medical Journal’s “Lobby Watch” writes the following:


    “The Sugar Bureau was established in the 1960s to provide information on sugar and health. The organisation, which is funded “principally by UK sugar manufacturers,” says that its new look website aims to help improve knowledge and understanding of the contribution that sugar and other carbohydrates make to a healthy balanced diet (www.sugarnutrition.org.uk). The site, titled “The Sugar Nutrition UK site” and subtitled “Researching the science of sugar,” focuses on providing upbeat statements on a range of topics from health to weight control.

    A “Facts” section, described as being “based on the latest scientific evidence on sugars and health,” says that sugar is natural, that active people need it, and even that it may help people stick to slimming diets”

    They do not seem to be a reliable source for what you are trying to research. This is not to say that you don’t make some good points. But I don’t think it’s appropriate to formulate your article as “revealing truth” while citing obvious lobby-material from sugar manufacturers.

    • It’s always good to know of any potential funding biases but you also can’t reject research out of hand due to funding without actually reading/analyzing it.

      And in this case, there’s an abundance of evidence that sugar isn’t fattening per se. Sugary foods can contribute to weight gain because of caloric density, (low) satiety, hunger stimulation, and so forth, but that doesn’t mean you can’t eat sugary foods and lose weight.

      Here’s another article on the subject that you might like:

      http://www.bodybuilding.com/content/the-science-of-sugar-and-fat-loss.html

      • Evie

        Sugar isn’t fattening per se if you don’t consume alot of it. If you can actually eat it in ‘moderation’ that’s good for you. But what you time and again fail to realise that sugar does ABSOLUTELY act like a drug for many people who cannot exercise moderation. That’s the whole point of a drug – discipline doesn’t even factor into it. It’s an addictive substance. Who on earth wants to be fat? or ill? or have type 2 diabetes from consuming their own bodyweight in sugar??? Nobody! That’s the whole point of a drug – you’ll give ydestroy your own life just to have that fleeting feeling of a ‘high’ which – for some – sugar brings. Please open your eyes to this. You obviously don’t have an issue with sugar / it doesn’t act like a drug for you otherwise you wouldn’t be writing this short-sighted article. But please don’t for one minute think that we’re all the same. Some of us are sugar sensitive.

  • Marquita Angelina

    I love this article & completely agree. I thank God, I have my own mind, and don’t follow the current trending HYPE. I honestly believe moderation is the key to anyone’s diet. Discipline in Exercise & Eating is the key. I’m not into all of the trending diets and high protein crap either. I just eat a well balanced meal, I eat the sweets that I like to eat (not loads of it, but in moderation), and I am told I look GREAT =)
    However, I also workout 4-5 days a week.

    • There you go!

    • Evie

      Marquita, good for you. You’re obviously one of these people who can *do* ‘moderation’ and isn’t hugely affected by sugar and therefore you feel that you are ‘disciplined’ around it. Great. Keep going. It’s obviously working for you so I wouldn’t recommend anything else for you.
      However I’d like to educate and inform people that some people have sugar sensitive bodies. For me, sugar for me is a pure drug. I’ve felt like this since I was tiny. I would demolish all the sweets in the house and my poor mum would have to hide them. I was ‘discplined’ in every other way – top of the class academically and captain on the netball team and loved exercise etc . BUT I realised over time that I had a real ‘problem’ with sugar…I would hide wrappers and eat it in secret. Funnily enough I never felt like that around fruit or veg or meat or dairy. Sugar for me is like alcohol for an alcoholic. I could say to an alcoholic that I’m disciplined around alcohol but then again I’m not an alcoholic so that wouldn’t be fair to compare the two. Can you see what I’m saying? I’m bascially a sugar addict. I’d have severe withdrawal symptoms when I tried to cut it down (e.g. migraines, body shakes). But if I overate on sugar I actually get joint pains the next morning – by back is so sore – sugar is hugely imflammatory for me. If I eat sugar or white bread/white pasta on an emtpy stomach I feel drunk/spaced out – due to the huge dopamine effect it gives me. So basically we aren’t all the same. You work out every week. But as an adult I would increasingly find I didn’t have the motivation to exercise because I may as well have been on cocaine. It sounds overly-dramatic but unfortunately that is my expereince with sugar – along without thousands like me. I’m unable to do ‘moderation’ because one biscuit would turn into 10. Discpline doesn’t even factor into it. You’d never ask a heroin or cocaine addict to just take their drug in ‘moderation’ because you can’t do drugs in moderation. That’s why they’re called drugs.. That’s the whole essence of addiction. Thankfully there is finally help out there to help massively with those of us for whom sugar IS absolutely a hard drug.

  • Paul Drummond

    Hey man! I have yet another question for you. The protein powder that I use, (Six Star Protein + Isolate), is very sweet. It reads that it only has 3g of carbs and 2 grams of sugars. However, I can’t find an artificial sweetener mentioned on the bottle. Should I be concerned about an insulin response. I’m doing low carb w/ IF. Thanks Mike!

    • Hey Paul, the whey alone will spike your insulin. Far as low-carb goes, it definitely still fits the bill!

  • taylor

    Interesting article. Just curious. Why are the sources of your quotes so vague? Why not provide the names of these publications?

    • Click on the links. They’ll take you to the studies.

  • Nadeem Shaikh

    hi guys…
    i want to share my personnel experience from which i got excellent result….
    1. eat slowly…
    2. lower intake of dinner by 30%.

  • NutritionInkA

    Hi Mike!
    I wish this could work for me as I’m a great cook and baker and have spoiled myself and my family with great foods. But it doesn’t and it hurts a lot.
    I have never tried your program as I’m sure there is a number of people who wouldn’t. Not because I don’t trust you, just because I’ve been there. I’ve been counting my calories to the T, yet nothing, I mean not a thing!, has changed. I quit my job a year ago and am staying home, so I can easily account for my activities and calorie intake.
    My activities. I sleep about 10 hours a day – I’m catching up on my sleep since my former job had hideous on call. This leaves me with 14 wake hours. Let’s say, I spend 2-3 hours cooking, 2 hours resting and eating. This leaves 9-10 hours. I’m keeping myself busy as we have a big house, garden, and pets. So I mostly keep myself busy by cooking, cleaning, and gardening. I strive to keep myself busy 40 minutes each hour and get rest for 20 minutes. Let’s say, I’m fooling myself and do it the other way around – resting 40 minutes and 20 minutes of being busy out of each of 9 hours. Busy time is equal 3 hours. My BMR is 1279. 1 hour of cleaning is anywhere between 153-500 cal per hour (gardening is even more vigorous). I’m not greedy, I’ll estimate it at just 200 average. And I’m not even counting calories spent on cooking, which should be around 450. So, 1279 + 3 h x 200 = 1870 cal per day.
    My calorie intake. I’ve been trying to lose my weight for quite a while; I’ve been tracking it non-stop for a little over 5 months. I was vigilantly counting each bite I took and rarely exceeded 1300 cal/day. Let’s say, I was fooling myself again, not deliberately, but underestimating portion size even though I was weighing my plates and snacks down to a gram. Nevertheless I’m willing to admit possible mistakes. So, let’s say I wasn’t properly measuring my meals and had 10% errors. This means 1300 + 1300 * 10% = 1430 cal per day.
    So I was spending at least 440 calories per day more that I’ve been consuming, in other words, 440 cal per day deficit * 7 days = 3080 calorie deficit per week. This should be equal to -385 grams or -0.848 lb of fat every week. Yet, during these 5+ months (as well as before) my weight never went down. There were fluctuations +- 1 lb but overall I was still at the same weight, same measurements, and same clothes size.
    Is there something wrong with me? Hmm, it might be the case. Is there something wrong with other people who claim they cannot lose weight? I’m inclined to believe them or at least give them a benefit of doubt.
    My take on it that everyone is different and it should be taken in account. In my case – I was sleep deprived for years because of my former job on call. I was grabbing the comfort foods and snacks to keep myself up and happy. I never got younger during these years(has anyone?). I did exercise but not vigorously as I was taking every chance I could to catch up on my sleep and my life. I did manage not to cross to obese stage and only to the beginning of being overweight yet it didn’t suit my aesthetic and activity desires. Yet I was stuck!
    On the positive note, I’m losing weight now. On LCHF. And it’s working. Yet I hope to return to eating some of my so tasty carb containing dishes at some point. I just need my body to start getting back into shape.

  • Dan Raynham

    Superb article! Spot on.

    • Thanks!

    • Evie

      A very short sighted article written by someone is obviously has never experienced true sugar addiction and withdrawal effects that were like coming off a hard drug.

  • Tuan

    Hi Mike,
    I found some stuff a while ago claiming that sugar has unwanted effects on your dopamine and testosterone.
    What are your thoughts on these claims?

    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/m/pubmed/15987666/

    https://www.endocrine.org/news-room/press-release-archives/2010/testosteronedecreasesafteringestionofsugar

    • Daily bingeing on sugar is a bad idea for many, many reasons, and an overnight fluctuation in T is of no significance outside clinical testing (if you’re going to get your T checked, don’t binge on sugar the night before).

      • Evie

        Erm…what if you’re *addicted*? You can’t simply say ‘don’t binge’ to someone who is addicted. An addict would sell their own gradmother for a bar of chocolate. Your lack of insight to sugar addiction is truly astounding

  • Harry Snell

    Hey Mike, would there be any difference in eating high sugary foods in a calorie surplus and deficit?

    Also, is there any evidence for inflammation when blood sugar rises rapidly?

      • Harry Snell

        A difference in health effects… I.e. Does it affect the body differently in a calorie surplus – inflammation etc.

        Thanks! Will have a read!

        • Ah, well the more sugar you eat while in a deficit the worse it is for you mainly because your micronutrient intake is going to plummet. You can “afford” it while bulking, though, because you have enough calories to get all your micros too.

          • Harry Snell

            Thanks, yeah, I understand that.

            So basically, if all micro and macronutrients are met, do you think there would be any chronic health effects by increasing sugar intake?

          • Yes, if you eat too much. If I had to put an absolute ceiling on it, I’d say no more than 20 to 25 grams of sucrose per day.

            I myself keep intake close to zero most days of the week and have probably 30ish grams once or twice per week.

  • MechMan

    Sugars are addictive, but not like a drug that gives nasty withdrawals. The issue is that when you consume sugar too quickly, such as simple sugars that flood the bloodstream, the body then works overtime to reduce the blood sugar level. It does so excessively and so then people end up with sugar cravings and the process repeats itself. You can break this cycle if you stop eating lots of sweets but it is HARD at first. Once broken, however, one can pretty easily avoid sweets. But until then, people have to deal with the mouthwatering sugar cravings that are very difficult to ignore.

    • Good points!

    • Evie

      MechMan, I think your experience is different to mine. When I gave up hard sugars I did indeed experience nasty withdrawals – every bit like a hard drug. I was shocked to have body shakes, migraines and a black suicidal feeling. Truly eye-opening. LIke you I avoided sweets for weeks on end but I *never* managed to break the cycle (in 20 years of trying, so nobody can say I didn’t give it ‘time’! lol). It wasn’t until I came across a programme called Radiant Recovery which showed me how to come off hard sugars for good that I got long trem success. It’s an amazing programme that doesn’t involved any withdrawals or ‘mouthwatering sugar cravings’/cold turkey cravings.

  • Bjorn

    Hi Mike.
    After heavy workouts I have an isotonic (that’s what it says) drink with 6.6g carbs in 100ml (all sugar) so 1.5L has 100g of sugar. Now I can conclude that this is 400kcal that I probably burn already in 30min. But can my body actually use all the sugar to refill my muscle glycogen?? How much sugar can I process? I know from triathlon there is some limit of sugar intake but I don’t understand why and where???

    • Bjorn

      Oh forgot: I’m not trying to reduce any weight, I’m actually trying to become very powerfull (strength and explosiveness) with relatively small muscles.

    • I’d recommend you eat actual food because that’s a lot of “empty” calories. Eat some nutritious carbs instead, like grains or starches.

  • I stopped eating sugar for 1 year then I got Hypoglycemia, now I eat sugar daily and I feel healthier.

    • Great!

    • Evie

      Please see http://www.radiantrecovery.com – it shows you a way of eating which includes complex carbs (i.e. low GI foods) but cuts out the fast sugars. Each plan is tailored to your own individual needs and feelings. There are thousands of people on there who have impoved their physical *and* mental health by eating this way.

  • Jakob

    Some of your points make sense but to say sugar isnt physically afdictive is just not true. Try cutting it out of you diet for a week. It is extremely hard. Personally i got body shakes, headaches and extreme cravings. I would like to see a recen tstudy that concluses sugar isnt addictive.

    • Generally speaking, sugar doesn’t produce the physical withdrawal effects that addictive drugs do. It’s mainly psychological (really wanting to eat sugar)…

      • arnaud nicolas

        Consumption of sugar releases dopamine in the accumbens, the region of the brain associated with reward and motivation. When saying sugar is addictive, people cite studies that indicate dopamin receptors density is reduced in patients consuming sugar in large amounts.

        Suggar hits your reward center, your brain associate sugar to pleasure, and then build tolerance to it. That is a neuro-physiological addiction loop right there. So people being grumpy when cutting off sugar aren’t just weak willed, their brain is craving and there are withdrawal effects.

        But I fully agree with you, it isn’t relevant unless you were already eating junk food to begin with, and not a valid excuse anyway.

        Great article!

        • Thanks for the comment. I’m putting an article on up this today over here:

          https://legionathletics.com/blog/

        • Evie

          I agree with your first 2 paragraphs, however the last paragraph is extremely short sighted and lacking in compassion and understanding. It is important to wean yourself off sugar carefully and slowly as you would when coming off any addictive drug. ‘Excuses’ don’t even come into it. This is a purely physiological process of withdrawal – blame doesn’t even come into it.

      • Evie

        I think you have got confused here Mike. I am a GP and medically qualified to talk on this topic. When I cut out sugar I experience body
        shakes and migraines – every bit as similar to the withdrawal effects of addictive drugs.
        Psychological cravings are caused by physiological withdrawal, i.e.
        physical cravings cause psyochological pain. I think you are doing an incredible disserve to the general public by posting your ridiculous articles. Please leave this stuff to the experts.

    • Evie

      I agree Jakob. I got the same effect when cutting out sugar – body shakes and migraines – it was like coming off heroin. That is *physiological* not psychological. This Mike guy sounds like abit of an idiot. He doesn’t sound like he has a clue what he’s talking about. Psychological cravings are caused by physiological withdrawal, i.e. physical cravings cause psyochological pain. Mike is obviously not medically qualified.

  • McKenzie

    Howdy!
    This was an interesting read. Thank you very much for all your compelling insight!
    I don’t intend to ask such a shallow question, but this is something I am slightly concerned and confused about.
    I also understand if you are unable to give me a definite, solid answer, as no two bodies are the same, and the information I am providing is very limited. But I’ll shoot for it anyway.
    I have been jogging roughly four miles at least four time per week for the past several weeks, and I try to stick to that routine. I normally do not consume refined sugars and try to balance my intake between lean proteins, fruits and non-starchy vegetables. However, seeing it is “comfort-food” season, I feel like I have completely overindulged in “bad” sugars for the past week.to What’s even more sad is that, even though I am usually very observant and picky with nutrition labels, I didn’t realize until after I wolfed it all down that one of the two main ingredients (the first being popcorn) was “raw cane sugar”. If my calculations are correct, the nutrition facts per 120g bag are as follow: 200 calories, 42g total carbohydrates, 18g sugar (that part scares me), and 24g dietary fiber. I am embarrassed to admit I ate nearly four bags….a couple days in a row. As much as I want to scold and criticize myself, I know that venturing on a self-inflicted guilt-trip will not erase my mindless actions. Anyway, to get to the point, my question for you: How much damage do you think I have done? Mainly in terms of weight/fat gain? How much weight/fat will I possibly regain? Can you offer any guidance?
    Thank you, and I am sorry, in advance

  • Wayne Hortman

    Mike one small Question ? Are You A Diabetic ??

  • Laura

    Great article Mike! We share the same views on sugar.

    • Great! Glad you enjoyed the article.

      • Evie

        Mike, yes of course all foods break down *into* sugar, but I think you’re getting confused. For me it’s about the RATE at which the food breaks down that’s the problem. For me I feel tons better and healthier if I stick to LOW GI foods. From *my* personal experience sugar is most definately DEFINATELY a
        drug. From a very young age I knew I just couldn’t stop eating it, I
        would seek out all my mums hiding places for it (poor mum would have to hide this stuff as it’d be all gone in a day or so otherwise!). I never felt that
        way about vegetables or meat or dairy funnily enough. There’s definately
        an addictive quality about sugar (for many of us). For some of us it is like cocaine – see medical literature on the C57 mouse who choooses liquid sugar over cocaine. It literally
        ‘soothes’ me. I feel really spaced out and ‘mellow’ when I’ve eaten pure sugar/sweets/choc/white bread. If I eat sugar on a empty stomach I feel
        drunk. Sugar to me is like alcohol to an alcoholic. But of course that
        brings about all sort of health issues including depression, anxiety,
        painful joints and bad skin.

        • Hey Eve,

          It definitely sounds like you should stay away from sugar in general, but you might find these articles interesting:

          https://www.muscleforlife.com/glycemic-index/

          https://legionathletics.com/sugar-withdrawal/

          • Evie

            Hi Mike, thanks for your reply and the articles attached. Please note that no 2 people of the same and your experience of sugar is clearly different to mine, therefore whilst this article may well reasonate with you it certainly doesn’t with me. Whenever I’ve tried to cut out fast carbs and sugar I have indeed experienced a hard drug withdrawal like the one described in the article – to suggest that I am lying and did *not* experience this is deeply offensive to me. To suggest that I am a ‘victim’ and do not take responsibility is *also* deeply offensive and an extremely discompassionate and ignorant attittude to take. The fact that sugar affects me like a drug is NOT my fault. I did not ask to be born with this brain/body chemistry and I also did not ask for my father to sexually abuse me. Despite having much counselling (i.e. taking responsibility for my feelings and *not* being a victim) I continue to experience low serotonin/low endorphins and volatile blood sugar. It is indeed like being an alcoholic I, of course, am the only one that can take responsibility for that and the eating plan outined in http://www.radiantrecovery.com and ‘Potatoes Not Prozac is the only thing that has helped me *stop* craving sugar and instantly gave me more energy and the semblence of a normal life. Please read for the science behind sugar sensitivity. The author, Kathleen Des Maisons, has worked with alcholics and drug addicts for 40 years and she was the one that made the connection between sugar and alcoholism and drug abuse in that all are opioids and endrophin raisers. It is not a coincidence that alcoholics use sugar instead of alcohol as a way of coping with not drinking alcohol – they substitute one drug with another. *Of course* it’s not just sugar – you can also watch too much TV, use sex or work in an addictive way – *anything* can be addictive – but that doesn’t mean that sugar *isn’t* addictive.

          • Evie

            P.S. To re-iterate if you have an addictive physiology (i.e. low serotonin levels and/or low brain beta-endorphin levels and/or volatile blood sugar) you are a sitting duck for addiction. Anything can become addictive, e.g. work, sex/porn, gambling, shopping, exercise, over-cleaning, you can even become addicted to people. When I weaned off sugar and followed the plan as outlined in http://www.radiantrecovery.com I found that my improved/balanced brain chemistry meant that I was able to ‘live in the flow’ more easily and was able to leave work at a reasonable time, I was able to go to bed at a reasonable time instead of watching TV into the early hours (even though I was exhausted). Even sex became less endorphin-driven (hard-core) and became much more loving and connected – something that amazed me because I didn’t even realise I wasn’t already doing it in the best way possible ha ha. Go figure. There’s so much we don’t even realise/understand.

    • Evie

      You are lucky that you’re not affected by sugar. All I can say is that from *my* personal experience sugar is most definately DEFINATELY a drug. From a very young age I knew I just couldn’t stop eating it, I would ‘seek’ out all my mums hiding places for it – I never felt that way about vegetables or meat or dairy funnily enough. There’s definately an addictive quality about sugar (for many of us). It literally ‘soothes’ me. I feel really spaced out and ‘mellow’ when I’ve eaten a couple of chocolate bars. If I eat sugar on a empty stomach I feel drunk. Sugar to me is like alcohol to an alcoholic. But of course that brings about all sort of health issues including depression, anxiety, painful joints and bad skin.

      • Laura

        Hi Evie sorry to hear you such trouble with sugar. I have problems with dairy it actually makes my muscles ache really bad, plus I am highly allergic to red bell peppers and anything real spicy.

      • somethingsomethingsomething da

        They did a study back in the 80s or somthing where they gave rats water with cocaine in it for sustained period of time and then added anotter supply of water for the rats to drink as well which contained sugar. By the end of the study, i think it went for a couple of weeks, all the rats were drinking the water with the sugar in it

  • Brett M.

    When cutting and in a calorie deficit; you said sugar is a form of carbs, so how does that fit in to my macros for the day? Lets say a choc cookie or protein bar has 10 carbs and 5g of sugar, do you add the carbs and sugars together or how does that work? Trying to cut to 10% bf but still need 5%-8% to go and wondering how if I get a sweet tooth I can fit in a piece of cake or a few cookies. Even if its just once a week.

  • Jtreacyc
  • somethingsomethingsomething da
  • somethingsomethingsomething da

    If you havent seen it check out the documentary “Fed Up” on netflix. This article is bs.

  • Jsdm17

    Seriously, this is just irresponsible to post. You literally cited a study from the sugar Beaureau, a body primarily funded BY SUGAR MANUFACTURERS. No bias there whatsoever. To write this drivel is irresponsible, especially coming from a “health” website. Seriously, awful.

    • Hey, while it’s possible that the funding source from a study could influence the results, unless there’s a sign of bias in the actual full text of the paper, it’s unlikely that was the case. When you put that study in the context of all of the research, it’s pretty much spot on with what everyone else has found.

  • Ruo Xing Antoinette Loh

    It is amazing the huge amount of sugar intake by children didn’t really cause them to be less intelligent. And children will continue to consume large amount of sugar and remain very intelligent. Just observe their superb memory and their ability to learn so rapidly – whether consuming a lot of sugar not. What the scientist conclude may be quite untrue.

    • It’s probably not going to make children less intelligent, but there are certainly other long-term healthy consequences to consuming an excess of sugar. But, excess is the key word there. 😉

  • Ruo Xing Antoinette Loh

    And I also observed my brother who is used to taking excessive amount of sugary stuff remains very intelligent and continue to be so.

  • Ruo Xing Antoinette Loh

    And according to Ayurvedic tradition, sugar cane provides good energy and keeps the brain alert and intelligent.

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