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Sugar, The Enemy Of Fat Loss?

February 15, 2016

 

Sugar, the fat loss enemy of the decade; In the 90’s fat was the enemy, nowadays the attention has been drawn to sugar, accused of all sorts of health damaging effects and blamed for the current obesity epidemic…

 

Now before I tell you whether sugar is your worst enemy or not, let me explain a few things.

 

The main concern people have with sugar is its insulin response. When we consume sugar (carbs), our body immediately increases the production of insulin from the pancreas, which then signals the shutdown of the release of fatty acids from adipose tissue and the increase of fatty acid uptake. 

 

In simple terms, this means that fat loss is shutdown and fat gain is increased while insulin production is high. So technically, sugar does inhibit fat loss due to its insulin response. But, and this is a big BUT... What most people fail to realize is that sugar isn't the only food that causes an insulin response. Protein itself is highly insulinogenic, in fact, it can be just as potent of a stimulus for insulin as carbohydrates. And the amino acid Leucine, the main driver of protein synthesis stimulates pancreas cells to produce insulin, so much so that taking BCAA's while doing fasted cardio actually breaks the fast. So technically, if you’re one of those people that likes to do cardio on an empty stomach and takes BCAA’s during, you’re not actually fasted! But well, fasted cardio is a whole different topic I’m not going to get into right now.

 

And not only that, beef and fish release as much insulin as brown rice. Pasta releases less insulin per calorie than cheese. And according to the insulin index of foods, the five lowest insulin foods are peanuts, eggs, bran cereal, white or brown pasta and grain porridge. Doesn't seem very low carb does it? 

 

There’s also the simple fact that all carbohydrates are eventually turned into glucose (sugar) through our digestive system. Glucose is our source of energy, and even when carbs are absent from the diet, our body turns protein and fats into glucose through a process called gluconeogenesis. So at the end of the day, sugar will always be present and needed in our body even if you avoid it all together.

 

It's also important to point out that insulin doesn't just stimulate fat storage; it also stimulates your muscles to build more protein (protein synthesis). So avoiding foods just because they spike insulin may not be an advantageous thing to do. Because without insulin, how will amino acids go to your muscles to make them grow?

 

Now here’s the ironic part, people avoid carbs (sugar) because of their insulin response, but love whey protein BECAUSE of its insulin response! Wut? Yeah, that’s right, that’s why the bro’s always recommend a protein supplement immediately after training; because its digested faster and produces a high insulin response to transport those amino acids to your muscles quickly. So its kind of a love/hate relationship with insulin.

 

A second concern that arises with sugar is its lack of nutrients. But this does not apply for all forms of sugar; dairy and fruits tend to be very high in sugar, yet we all know that these foods are also very high in their nutritional value. Other forms of sugar however, like sodas and candy must be limited within the diet. Not necessarily eliminated, but moderation is advised since these foods contain little to no nutrients at all; its what we call “empty calories”, meaning they provide calories but no benefit. Well, probably some mental benefit, because you know, who doesn’t crave some sweets every once in a while?

 

And a last note: The insulin response to a meal will never supersede the weight loss effects of a calorie deficit. After meals fat is deposited with the help of insulin. However, between meals and during sleep, fat is lost. So fat balance will be negative over a 24-hour period if energy intake is less than energy expenditure.

 

Here’s an example of how lipogenesis (fat gain) and lipolysis (fat loss) occur throughout the day:

 

 

So as you can see, insulin does not remain high, it has spikes that eventually fall and allow fat burning to occur. And if the total net balance is negative, that means that fat will be burned. And if on the other hand, the net effect is posistive, fat gain occurs. Its what we do over time that determines how our body composition changes. 

 

Now I can imagine the comments that will arise, so before you go all ballistic let me point out that this does not mean that you can have a 100% pop-tart-based diet. My point here is that you CAN include foods containing sugar in your diet without them causing a negative impact on your health or progress. Everything in MODERATION!

 

Any negative effect that can come from sugar only comes when consumed in excess, just as it does with almost any other nutrient. Water, vitamins, minerals… All have detrimental effects when consumed in excess. But it’s the dosage that makes the poison. 

 

References:

  • Strasser B, et al. Fat loss depends on energy deficit only, independently of the method for weight loss. Ann Nutr Metab. 2007;51(5):428-32.

  • Naude CE, Schoonees A, Senekal M, Young T, Garner P4, Volmink J. Low carbohydrate versus iso-energetic balanced diets for reducing weight and cardiovascular risk: a systematic review and me- ta-analysis. PLoS One. 2014 Jul 9;9(7):e100652.

  • Hu T, et al. Effects of low-carbohydrate diets versus low-fat diets on metabolic risk factors: a me- ta-analysis of randomized controlled clinical trials. Am J Epidemiol. 2012 Oct 1;176 Suppl 7:S44-54.

  • De Souza RJ, et al. Effects of 4 weight-loss diets differing in fat, protein, and carbohydrate on fat mass, lean mass, visceral adipose tissue, and hepatic fat: results from the POUNDS LOST trial. Am J Clin Nutr. 2012 Jan 18.

  • Eelderink C, et al. Slowly and rapidly digestible starchy foods can elicit a similar glycemic response because of differential tissue glucose uptake in healthy men. Am J Clin Nutr. 2012 Nov;96(5):1017- 24. doi: 0.3945/ajcn.112.041947. Epub 2012 Sep 18.

  • Raatz SK, et al. Reduced glycemic index and glycemic load diets do not increase the effects of energy restriction on weight loss and insulin sensitivity in obese men and women. J Nutr. 2005 Oct;135(10):2387-91.

  • van Loon LJ, et al. Plasma insulin responses after ingestion of different amino acid or protein mixtures with carbohydrate. Am J Clin Nutr 2000;72(1):96- 105.

  • Raben A. Should obese patients be counselled to follow a low-glycaemic index diet? No. Obes Rev. 2002 Nov;3(4):245-56.

  • Melanson KJ, et al. High-fructose corn syrup, energy intake, and appetite regulation. Am J Clin Nutr. 2008 Dec;88(6):1738S-1744S.

  • Soenen S, Westerterp-Plantenga MS. No differ- ences in satiety or energy intake after high-fructose corn syrup, sucrose, or milk preloads. Am J Clin Nutr. 2007 Dec;86(6):1586-94.

  • Lowndes J, et al. The effects of four hypocaloric diets containing different levels of sucrose or high fructose corn syrup on weight loss and related pa- rameters. Nutr J. 2012 Aug 6;11(1):55.

  • Dolan LC, et al. Evidence-based review on the effect of normal dietary consumption of fructose on development of hyperlipidemia and obesity in healthy, normal weight individuals. Crit Rev Food Sci Nutr. 2010 Jan;50(1):53-84.

  • Livesey G, Taylor R. Fructose consumption and consequences for glycation, plasma triacylglycerol, and body weight: meta-analyses and meta-regres- sion models of intervention studies. Am J Clin Nutr. 2008 Nov;88(5):1419-37.

  • Melanson KJ, et al. High-fructose corn syrup, energy intake, and appetite regulation. Am J Clin Nutr. 2008 Dec;88(6):1738S-1744S.

  • Soenen S, Westerterp-Plantenga MS. No differ- ences in satiety or energy intake after high-fructose corn syrup, sucrose, or milk preloads. Am J Clin Nutr. 2007 Dec;86(6):1586-94.

  • Rodin J, Reed D, Jamner L. Metabolic effects of fructose and glucose: implications for food intake. Am J Clin Nutr. 1988 Apr;47(4):683–9.

  • Livesy G. Fructose ingestion: dose-dependent responses in health research. J Nutr. 2009 Jun;139(6):1246S-1252S. Epub 2009 Apr 22.

  • Livesey G, Taylor R. Fructose consumption and consequences for glycation, plasma triacylglycerol, and body weight: meta-analyses and meta-regression models of intervention studies. Am J Clin Nutr. 2008 Nov;88(5):1419-37.

  • Holt SH, Miller JC, Petocz P. An insulin index of foods: the insulin demand generated by 1000-kJ portions of common foods.

  • http://weightology.net/weightologyweekly/?page_id=319

  • Yang J, Chi Y, Burkhardt BR, Guan Y, Wolf BA. Leucine metabolism in regulation of insulin secretion from pancreatic beta cells

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