Tyler Robbins Fitness

B.Sc. Biochemistry, Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS), Certified CrossFit Trainer (CCFT/CF-L3), USA Weightlifting Level 1

Filtering by Category: "Sugar"

Day 202 - Sugar

Sugar tends to not be as victimized as its diet cousin "fat" but I would go as far to say that sugar is actually worse for us because of the high quantities we ingest on a daily basis. There is a direct correlation to rising obesity rates around the world with the rising use of high-fructose corn syrups (sugar product) in so many products. Sugar is like mostly all things though, it is fine in moderation, you just need to know how and when it is okay to have...and no, having 1 can of pop a day is NOT moderation. Listed below are some tips and ideas on what to watch out for and how to limit your sugar intake.

1. Education - First we need to know how sugar affects our bodies, I will give you a very brief education lesson on how this works. There are a few ways your body recognizes sugar. When you put something sugar-filled in your mouth (chocolate for example) the first thing that happens is you teeth and saliva start to break down the chocolate which bathes your tastebuds sending a signal to your brain that you are eating something sweet. As you swallow and the partially digested chocolate reaches your stomach, your body sends in enzymes to break down the sugar and recognizes that it is in fact sugar that you ate, and also sends a signal to your brain. In both cases, you receive a flood of endorphins and hormones that give you that "feel-good" feeling of eating something sweet.

As your stomach digests the chocolate, the next stop is the small intestine where the sugar is absorbed into the blood stream. Remember how your tastebuds first recognized something sweet, and then your stomach confirmed this? Well those signals that were sent to the brain then activate your pancreas to release insulin to match the spike in your blood sugar levels. Insulin acts as a transport system to carry that sugar around the body. The sugar is either stored in your liver, or taken to your muscles for immediate energy usage. Whatever sugar is not burned off almost immediately is then stored as fat.

Insulin is an incredibly efficient chemical, and you almost immediately have a rush of energy after eating sugar which can cause that feeling of a "sugar-high". Unfortunately, since your blood sugar can raise so quickly, it can fall just as fast. The next thing you know, your blood sugar levels have dropped below the level of what they were before and you experience what is known as a "sugar-crash".

Sugar crash is unfortunate because one of the primary sources of fuel for your brain is sugar, so it panics and sends out a signal for a craving of guess what...more sugar. It is a vicious cycle!

It is entirely possible for us to base a diet around naturally occurring sugars such as fruits, vegetables, pastas, and breads and receive more than enough energy, never having to turn to quick fixes such as candy and energy drinks, however we are all human and we like to indulge from time to time, the trick is moderation! Majority of the time however, you should be ingesting sources of sugar (also known as carbohydrates) from carbohydrates like whole grains, fruits and vegetables as the fibre in these items slows the digestion of sugar and creates a much lower insulin spike.

2. Moderation - Now this is where everyone is going to be different and everyone tends to make their own 'rules' as to being 'good' or having things in 'moderation'. Let me be perfectly honest here, a can of pop a day is NOT moderation. Having a dessert after dinner every night, or even a couple of times a week is NOT moderation. Having a teaspoon or two in your coffee in the morning and then staying active throughout the day while having a balanced diet IS moderation. See the pattern here? You should be consuming your carbohydrates on a need-to-use basis. Sitting down to watch tv so you decide to have a can of coke or an energy drink...probably not the best idea as that will cause an insulin spike, almost all of that sugar get stored as fat, and worst off, you will cause a crazy insulin crash creating more sugar cravings.

3. Remove High Fructose Corn Syrup Whenever Possible! - There are more and more studies coming out today linking high rates and rises in obesity to products containing high fructose corn syrup (HFCS). The reason may be that there is a slightly higher ratio of fructose to glucose in HFCS and during its refinement, there are unbound fructose molecules which case the HFCS to be absorbed much quicker. Table sugar contains fructose and glucose as well, but the fructose is chemically bound to the glucose in table sugar, causing an extra step in the digestion process.

HFCS can be found in such things as pop, cakes, candy, pies, cookies, etc. But what may alarm you is the use of this product (or its derivatives) in other products such as ketchup, peanut butter, salad dressings, and even bread! *cough* Subway *cough*

Check out the following articles: herehereand here

I don't mean to pick on Subway individually, I just want people to realize that these kinds of things are hidden everywhere and it is up to you to make educated decisions as to what goes in your mouth.

If you wanted even more reason to give up HFCS, check out some new scientific studies being done that links diets high in fructose to pancreatic cancer! Read here and different spin on it here 

4. Fruit Has Sugar OH MY GOSH! - Yes, you are correct, fruit has sugar, and a lot of it! Fruit also has a lot of other vital components to them such as fibre, nutrients, vitamins and minerals. The key here is the fibre as it slows digestion of sugar and drastically reduces the highs and lows of a blood sugar spike/crash. Fruit is still one of the best ways to give your body those simple sugars that it so desires.

5. Sugar can be useful! - Immediately before or after a workout is a great time for you muscles to have a shot of carbohydrates. Before a workout is obvious as it will give your muscles that extra kick to blast through a tough workout or sporting event. Just make sure you are working hard enough to burn the sugar you took in...having an energy drink and then walking on the treadmill for 10 minutes is not going to cut it. Secondly, carbs after a workout have been shown to have very positive effects on your muscles as they help replenish your electrolytes as well as help protein synthesis (rebuilding of your muscles).

6. If sugar is bad, why is it so prevalent? - There is no simple answer to this, but it is probably along the same lines as any other company...supply and demand. That is what drives the economy. Think of it this way, a company and all of its employees only have jobs if they keep selling things. If you sell something that people like, great, you get to sell more of that stuff. For the rest of the population that consumes sugar, this stuff sells itself! When you ingest sugar, we already talked about how sugar releases those feel-good hormones in the brain that can make the feeling somewhat addictive. That is why most people turn to sweets when they are depressed, anxious, etc. It is a vicious cycle because every time you get that craving, you reach for sugar, and then that sugar causes you to crave MORE sugar...and so on and so on. The companies that produce such tasty products reap all of the monetary benefits. Also, pound for pound, sugar is one of the cheapest food products to use on the market, yielding a very high profit...even if it is void of any nutritional benefit. So if you were a company that produces food products, you would be stupid not to add something to your products that people enjoy eating in large quantities and also drops your production costs.

7. Be Aware - What would you do if you saw someone putting 10 teaspoons of sugar in their morning cup of coffee? You would probably think, "That person is going to rot the teeth right out of their head!" Well guess what, the average can of pop contains 40g or 10 teaspoons of sugar! That big gulp at 7-11 or at the movie theatre...try 53 teaspoons of sugar! It is hard to equate something unless you can understand it in a recognizable measurement, so try and remember that about 4g of sugar is equivalent to 1 teaspoon. So the next time you are reading a food label, check out how many grams of sugar per serving it has to better understand.

Also keep an eye out for sugar derivatives. A company may break down "sugar" into multiple ingredients on the label to try and trick you. Watch for any of the following names: molasses, honey, sorghum, corn syrup, high fructose corn syrup (HCFS), glucose, fructose, lactose, dextrose, sucrose, galactose, maltose, or concentrated juices like grape or apple.

8. Hidden gems - You can swear off certain products that you KNOW contain high amounts of sugar (I don't drink pop at all anymore) but you can't always avoid sugar unless you know what you are looking for. Companies hide sugar in a lot of products for a few reasons, some of which we have touched on. One, it is a cheap, high-profit calorie (filler). Two, it makes things taste good, and if things taste good, it increases the likelihood that you will buy a product again.

Here is a list of products that may surprise you as to how much sugar they contain!

Pasta Sauce - Yes, they contain natural sugars from tomatoes and other vegetables in it, but companies also add sugar so aim to choose the lowest sugar-quantity product you can find.

Ketchup - Up to 20% sugar! High in salt as well...

Low-Fat - Companies are aiming at the current trends that people feel "low-fat" means "healthier" and better for you. Truth is, fat tastes good, humans like the taste of dietary fat. So when a product has most of its fat removed, they have to make it taste good too so they often pump it full of sugar...which makes us fat...

Bread - Processed breads contain a lot of sugar. Aim for whole-grains.

Fast-Food - I don't think I even need to add this to the list but I will. Not only does pop and desserts have lots of sugar, but sugar can also be hidden in fries, burgers, buns, etc.

As I have said before and will say again, moderation is the key here. Yes, we all like a sweet treat now and again, but realize that when you think you are limiting your sugar consumption by only having dessert 'every once in a while' you are forgetting about all of the other potentially sugar-laced products you are consuming throughout the day that adds up.

Quote of the day:
"Strong is what happens when you run out of weak."
~ Unknown

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Day 51 - The Ongoing Battle with Liquid Calories...

Not sure if you folks have seen this or not, but USA Today sat down for an interview with Katie Bayne, who is the president of sparkling beverages at Coca-Cola. I will post the interview below, with some of my thoughts added in.

Q: If Mayor Bloomberg were sitting across from you, what would you say to him?

A: I'd say, Mayor, we believe you're absolutely right. Obesity is a critical health challenge facing our nation. But singling out single brands or foods is not going to help the situation. Working together in a partnership will.

Me: To be honest, this interview actually starts on the right foot. Bayne is correct in saying that obesity is a much larger issue than finger-pointing just 1 product.

Q: Is there any merit to limits being placed on the size of sugary drinks folks can buy?

A: Sugary drinks can be a part of any diet as long as your calories in balance with the calories out. Our responsibility is to provide drink in all the sizes that consumers might need.

Me: This is where things start getting a bit off track. Bayne wrongfully comments that, "as long as your calories in balance with the calories out", then everything will be ok. I would like to ask her if she truly believes in that statement. Does she truly believe that the nutritional value of say 100 calories worth of Coke is the same as 100 calories of broccoli? Food is more than just calories, it is meant to be nutrition and fueling for your body, and although sugar does play a part in fueling our bodies, the levels of sugar found in soft drinks goes well beyond what most people ever need...let's move on.

Q: Is anyone at Coca-Cola trying to figure out a way to get sugar out of all drinks?

A: There is a large portion of the population that relies on the carbohydrates and energy in our regular beverages. When my son gets home from school, he needs a pick-up with calories and great taste.

Me: Way back when, beverages like Coke used to be an "energy drink". Remember, when folks had busy lives, farming, construction work, or whatever else that may entail? Unfortunately, soft drinks of all sorts, shapes and sizes have made their way into people's every day lives as just a regular beverage...or in this case, according to Bayne, a "pick-up with calories and great taste". I am never one to want to tell someone else how they should or shouldn't raise their children, but what is wrong with your son having an apple as a "pick-up with calories and great taste"?

Q: But critics call soft drinks "empty" calories.

A: A calorie is a calorie. What our drinks offer is hydration. That's essential to the human body. We offer great taste and benefits whether it's an uplift or carbohydrates or energy. We don't believe in empty calories. We believe in hydration.

Me: You are absolutely right, the body needs hydration...from water. I think if people started drinking more water and less liquid junk, then maybe water wouldn't taste as 'boring' as some people think it does now. As for the empty calories comment, as far as I'm concerned, and backed-up by Wikipedia, here is a definition of what "empty calories" means:
"Empty calories, in casual dietary terminology, are a measurement of the energy present in high-energy foods with poor nutritional profiles, with most of the energy typically coming from processed carbohydrates, fats, or ethanol. Also known as a discretionary calorie, an "empty calorie" has the same energy content as any other calorie but lacks many accompanying nutrients such as vitamins, dietary minerals, antioxidants, amino acids, or dietary fiber. Although carbohydrates, fats and water are also nutrients, they are typically ignored for this analysis, with the exception of essential fatty acids."

That sounds like the EXACT definition of soft drinks to me...but it couldn't be since Coca-Cola doesn't believe in "empty calories".

Q: Because sugary drinks have been linked with obesity, some suggest soft-drink makers place "warning" labels on cans and bottles.

A: There is no scientific evidence that connects sugary beverages to obesity. If you look at the data, you can see that during the same period obesity was rising, sugar intake from beverages was decreasing. Between 1999 and 2010, sugars from soda consumption decreased by 39%, but the percentage of obese children increased by 7%, and 13% for adults.

Me: To be honest, I will actually have to somewhat agree with Bayne on this one. Similar to the very first answer she gave, it is extremely difficult to point a finger at any single culprit in the rising obesity epidemic. Dietary studies are very hard to complete and make reliable because there are literally an infinite number of variables involved in studying one's diet.

The only way to truly prove/disprove any food or drink as being part of an illness is to hire a large group of study participants and have them eat/drink 1 product for weeks/months/years at a time. Not only that, but they would all have to live the same lifestyle, exercise the exact same amount, live in the same climate, etc., etc., etc. Since eliminating so many variables is not logistically possible, we have to base our knowledge on generalized research and studies that try and find overall trends.

Having said that, there have been trends that find those who consume not only sugary drinks, but also artificially-sweetened beverages, have higher risks for obesity and the gambit of disease that is associated with it.

Q: Shouldn't teens drink less cola and more milk and water?A: Teens should get a healthy diet through food and beverage choices throughout the day.

Me: Absolutely. But teens are not the only ones who Bayne's advice should be targeted towards. Every individual should aim to make as many healthy choices in their day to day lives. Choosing water over sugary beverages is always the better choice!

Q: How much Coke should a kid drink a day?A: We don't make recommendations on what kids should drink. But a 12-ounce can of Coke has 140 calories, the same as a lunch-box-size bag of pretzels.

Me: Here we go with the discussion of calories again, not only that, but Bayne lets on like a bag of pretzels is a healthy snack, ha! Anyways, regardless of calories, a 12-ounce can of Coke not only has 140 calories, but it also has 39g of sugar, which is just short of 10 teaspoons of sugar. Would you put 10 teaspoons of sugar in a lunch-box-size bag of pretzels and ship that off in your child's lunchbox as well?

Q: What sugary drink limits do you place on your kids?

A: My job as a parent is to guide them through the day to make the best choices. If my son has lacrosse practice for three hours, we go straight to McDonald's and buy a 32-ounce Powerade.

Me: I could be WAY off here, but I played a lot of sports growing up. I played a a fairly high-level of competitive hockey and soccer, and even went on to play Division II soccer at University. I can't ever remember a time when we had practice that would last more than 90 minutes. The odd time I could see our practices maybe reaching 2 hours, but that was the absolute most.

I am not calling this woman a liar, but 3 hours seems pretty extreme to me. Having said that, if her son actually is practicing for 3 hours, you know what? A Powerade is perfect for him. I still don't really understand why she had to throw in the McDonald's name there. Name-dropping at its finest I guess...
Q: What do you drink daily?

A: I might have a mini Diet Coke while cooking breakfast for my family. After the kids leave for school, I go for a run and then have a Powerade Zero. At work I may have a Diet Coke in the morning and in the afternoon, Gold Peak Tea. In the middle of the afternoon, I may have an 8-ounce Coke. I'd rather have that than a candy bar or cookie for a pick-me-up.

Me: More name-dropping (or should I say brand-dropping), but that isn't all that surprising. What is surprising here is the amount of crap this lady ingests...Maybe if she didn't have so much sugar in the morning, she wouldn't need even more sugar in the afternoon to balance-out her expected sugar-crash.

Q: What do you say to those who believe that sugar — particularly in soft drinks — works on the brain like an addictive substance?

A: There is no scientific evidence.

Me: Has this woman ever heard of Google?


I could keep going too...

Q: Critics say Coke is pushing sugary drinks in China and India and will cause obesity there just like here.

A: Every person in those countries is different and should be able to choose what's right for them.

Me: ....speechless

Anyways, this interview, as expected, is full of PR-type responses. Take from it what you will. Excuse me, I am going to get a glass of water and some fruit for a mid-morning pick-up.

Quote of the day:
"The surest way not to fail is to determine to succeed."
~Richard Brinsley Sheridan

Day 45 - Your Brain on Sugar

An interesting study to come out of UCLA:

It turns out, this study has found that rats that are fed a diet high in fructose have troubles with brain function and memory.

However, the study goes on to detail how they believe eating foods high in omega-3 fatty acids can have a reverse effect on the damage done to the brain caused by fructose. The rats that were also fed omega-3 fatty acids had better memory and cognitive function when compared to their fructose-only counterparts.

This is quite startling information to think about considering diets in Western society are becoming increasingly more and more filled with sugars and sugar substitutes, yet lower in foods rich in omega-3s.

I wonder if this is part of the equation when thinking about the future of the human race and how it could potentially be like that found in the movie Idiocracy...

Quote of the day:
"When you know what you want, and you want it badly enough, you'll find a way to get it."
-Jim Rohn

Defeat Your Cravings!

Well, the holidays are almost over, and although many of you probably tried your best to be "good" and not indulge too much, I am sure we all had a few extra snacks while celebrating the holidays with our friends and family.

It is inevitable for anyone to start feeling sluggish and/or crummy after the holidays are over for a number of reasons, including paying off those credit cards, but to also start looking towards the new year and possible "New Year's Resolutions!"

Two of the big issues with eating junk food for an extended period of time is that not only do you begin to feel crummy (from sugar-crashing), but you also tend to get terrible cravings in the wake of your new healthy eating plan. Not to fear, however, as I am here with a few tips to help you shut your cravings up and help you start the year off on the right foot!

Think Short-Term

One of the main reasons many diets and lifestyle changes fail for so many individuals is because they set their goals too high, or too far into the future. For example, someone may say, "I am not going to eat any junk food for 6 months!" When they suddenly come across that piece of chocolate cake for dessert, one little "slip-up" seems like such a small ripple over a 6-month period.

Instead, try and set short little goals for yourself to start out with and plan on expanding them later as you accomplish them. For example, say, "I plan on giving up all sweets for the rest of this week." Once you get to the end of the week and realize that you are still alive, you can then start formulating your next goal.

Keep a Food Journal

Start writing down how you feel each day once you start changing your diet, such as your mood, body aches/pains, etc. You may soon realize how much better you feel just from changing what you eat. You will also realize that the saying, "you are what you eat" really does carry some meaning.

I remember when I used to eat junk all the time, I used to get canker sores in my mouth and heartburn quite regularly. Now that I have cut a lot of the junk out of my diet, I can't remember the last time I got a canker sore, and heartburn only arises on very rare occasions!

One Little slip-up...

So your friend just had their 20th/30th/40th/etc. birthday party and you had a few pieces of cake and a few too many cocktails, so what, move on! One bad meal/snack is not going to totally derail your results. Having said that, do not for a second think that you are fooling anyone (yourself included) if you think you can "reward" yourself every few days for eating healthy.

If you have a cheat meal/snack, make sure you follow that up with at least 9 healthy meals/snacks to counteract your bad behavior. Tony Horton uses an system that I really like called the 90/10 plan. He says that 90% of the time he eats healthy, the other 10% of the time, he allows a little cheat. If you are eating wholesome, healthy foods 90% of time, trust me, that 10% will hardly even seem like a blip on the radar.

Find Your Motivation

If you plan on dieting and exercising so that you can look good in a bathing suit on the beach, guess what? That is never going to last! You need to discover a true motivation inside of yourself that allows you to push through and stick with your goals no matter what.

If you are married and have kids, use them as your motivation. Maybe you want to stay youthful and healthy so you can play with your kids and spend many active years together with them. If you are still young and single, remember that what you do now lays a healthy foundation for the rest of your life. Either way, find something that has actual meaning to you, and use that to keep you going!


You have probably heard of this one before, but I will say it again. When you roll out of bed in the morning, your body is essentially running on an empty tank. If you skip breakfast, by the time you reach mid-morning or lunch time, your brain and body are absolutely screaming for something to eat which usually clogs your judgement as you reach for something calorie-dense.

I know a lot of nutritionists advocate breakfast, which works for a lot of people to help start the day off right, but I know that it is not for everyone (myself included). If you are absolutely dead-set against breakfast, at least do me a favor and try and make sure you are eating something every couple of hours throughout the day. The more you stay on top of your own hunger, the less-likely you are to reach for something unhealthy. Have healthy snacks nearby all day such as fruit, nuts, etc.

Clean Out Your Cupboards

I like to live by the adage that if something isn't in my house, I am not going to eat it. Quite often I get cravings for things late at night. At that point, I have a few options (assuming the stores are still open), I can either drive to go and get something unhealthy to cram into my stomach, or I can just make due and find something healthier to eat in my fridge. 99% of the time, I end up staying home because that is much more appealing to me than to head out.

When you are at the grocery store, stay away from the junk. That way, if its not in the house when you are craving it, chances are, you won't go out at that time to get it!

Here's to a healthy and happy 2012!

-Tyler Robbins