Americans unconsciously consume more sugar year after year – why don’t we think more about it? Until this century humans didn’t really have much access to sugar. Athletes interested in enhancing performance sometimes think that simple sugars will work. I’m not sure that real science backs that claim up but that is an untruth for another time.
Decades’ worth of research shows excess sugar damages your health, yet the sugar industry has managed to bury the evidence and cover it up with faux science that supports sugar as an important food. There is substantial evidence that the sugar industry has spent decades manipulating, molding and guiding nutritional research to exonerate sugar and shift the blame to saturated fat instead.
In my research and after looking at many studies the majority of Americans (70%) get at least 10 percent of their daily calories from added sugar; in many studies at least 20% of people get 25 percent or more of their daily calories from added sugars. The average American consumes more than 20 teaspoons of sugar per day, which amounts to more than 70lbs of sugar per year.
- People who consumed 21% or more of their daily calories in the form of sugar were twice as likely to die from heart disease compared to those who got 7 percent or less of their daily calories from added sugar.
- The risk nearly tripled among those who got 25 percent or more of their calories from sugar.
More recent research shows that high-sugar diets are also a significant risk factor for cardiovascular disease in children — and pose a significant risk even far below current levels of consumption. As noted in the latest scientific statement on children’s sugar consumption from the American Heart Association (AHA):24
Let’s look long term first. It is very clear that diets that are high in sugar increase your risk of disease. It can cause chronic metabolism issues, liver and cholesterol problems and inflammation and weight gain just to name a few. I’ve seen a growing trend in sweet snacks over the last generation, even in the wrestling community. If you or your child is cutting weight and also consuming a high sugar diet you’re creating an internal tug of war that keeps your body or your kid from performing at their highest level. There is no doubt about it, sugar messes up metabolism and metabolism is the foundation of a wrestler’s weight and diet balance. Food is fuel for the body. Soda, sports drinks, goldfish etc. are common foods at most wrestling tournaments and are truly holding you or your kid back from having top energy and health, short and long term.
Humans are actually not made to consume and process excessive amounts of sugar, especially fructose. It will damage your liver and is metabolized directly into fat. If you’re not burning fat for fuel that will compound the problem further. Some studies point to sugars capability of feeding cancer growth in the body and speeding its spread. So consuming high amounts of sugar can have far-reaching effects on your health not to mention sports performance.
It is impossible for a food that wreaks havoc on the body’s health to be considered beneficial for any competitor. Don’t believe the advertisements for sports drinks.
What is the cause of our sugar cravings? Sugary foods are everywhere in society. You are never far from an advertisement for high sugar products. Sugar lurks in everything and we add it to our diets from the time we get up in our morning cup of coffee or tea. Read the ingredients: usually there are 3 or 4 different types of sugar listed just to confuse you (maltodextrin, sucralose, fructose, high fructose, evaporated cane sugar, corn syrup to name a few easy ones). Every year sweetener companies come up with new names to obscure the truth.
Many of us close the day with dessert. No wonder Americans consume so much it’s in almost everything and we add it to the products that do and don’t already contain it.
As I mentioned it’s especially in processed foods that we don’t think of as sweet but are. Fast foods are everywhere in society and are loaded with sweeteners. It has been researched many times that sugar is one of the most addictive substances on the planet. Oreos have been shown to be more addictive than heroin or cocaine. What? No wonder my son will risk all to sneak downstairs late at night for an Oreo knock off. Or break into wrapped Christmas sweets two weeks early.
If everyone is eating them it can’t be that bad for me can it? Sugar is linked to depression too. Not great for anyone trying to reach for the stars. However, it has been my experience that most sugar cravings arise because of an emotional stress and challenge. So, once we reach for the stress sugar the addictive sugar keeps us coming back for more.
As a general recommendation, keep your total sugar consumption below 5% of your daily caloric intake. This won’t be easy unless you examine your diet closely. A diet diary is a great tool to start the process.
Ways to Reduce Sugar Intake
Sugar is an addiction and a reset of your system could take 3 weeks to kick the cravings totally. The easiest way to be sure there is no added sugar is to eat real food with no additives. Most of the added sugar we eat comes from processed foods. Other ways to cut down on the sugar in your diet include:
- Only drink water. Half of young people who consume energy drinks experience an adverse effect
- Add spices to flavor foods it can also boost your metabolism, thanks to the capsaicin found in hot peppers
- Don’t keep a supply of sweets in your house
- Eating healthy fats can reduce your cravings for sugar
- Pay attention to labels and sugar ‘alternatives’
- Explore alternative sweeteners (not chemical sweeteners like Splenda) highlighted by many Keto bloggers
People that want to reach their potential should avoid this additive. It won’t be easy but it will be worth it. It’s kind of like getting in shape, it’s not easy but is totally good for you and it can be achieved with a simple approach.
A few mat side food and beverages recommendations.
Water and coconut water.
Fruit, jerky, trail mix, sweet potatoes, cold left over meat (chicken, beef, sausage, etc.)