While I do not profess to be a registered dietician, after 8 years of fueling my bodybuilding lifestyle under the guidance of a talented nutritionist as well as other coaches, I would love to share a bit on how to avoid the pit falls associated with dieting. Eating healthy is harder than it sounds and often one common mistake is not truly understanding what the components of your food choices are. In my first article, I touched on not relying on the creative marketing of products with luring labels to convince you whether an item is healthy. I also referenced sugar as being a hidden mishap on the diet journey that can set you back as quickly as an unfortunate turn on a monopoly game, sending you to the jail corner; one minute you are prepping to collect $200, the next you end up watching those around you moving along their lucrative journey.
Sugar, while good in moderation and has many beneficial effects on the body, can be an obstacle of weight loss. In short, sugars, more generally carbohydrates, are nature-made substances and can be of the varieties sucrose (table sugar), fructose, glucose, lactose, and more. Sugar is found naturally in vegetables, fruits and nuts, and overall serve as fuel for energy. Studies have shown a variety of positive effects, including one where the brain centers respond by reducing your appetite following sugar (glucose) ingestion. Another benefit to sugar within the body is the mood uplift that follows, which is due to the ability of the body to replenish its mood-boosting hormones serotonin and dopamine; hence one reason we crave and enjoy sweets so much.
Why is eating a meal of grapes then not ideal for weight loss if by the definition of fuel, you are getting the “sugar” that is naturally made as energy for the body? While there are “fruitarian” diets out there, in general if you are looking for the healthiest approach, this is not advised especially if you are planning to build up muscle as well as a lean body. Eating large amounts of fruit can provide benefits of high fiber, detoxification boosts, and cut back on your intake of processed foods, though overall will lack nutritional necessities like amino acids, certain vitamins, minerals, protein and essential fatty acids. Carbohydrates are one component of the diet pyramid needed to create a balanced diet and are an important part of healthy eating, but not the sole source of what your body needs.
Our common first instinct to eating “healthy” is to load up on fruits and salad. As established, carbohydrates are not meant to be the only source of nutrition for muscle health and weight loss, and other setbacks generally occur when consumed in excess. One hiccup to selecting all fruit or salad in attempt to maneuver through a diet is the “underfed factor” that leads to the potential for binges as your hunger intensifies, due to your metabolism kicking in gear (as your body processes energy from digestion of the meal). Going hungry also leads to the risks of temptation and eating unhealthy items due to cravings, as we all have done when something is appealing and irresistible. Salads today are also more than lettuce and can be a pile of hidden calories if topped with dressing, and very few of us enjoy a salad dry and plain. Starving (“underfed” or eating too small of a meal with low calories) can have a negative effect on your intention to lean out, which sometimes comes with the price of your body reducing muscle to replace the calories it’s missing, in order to spare fat storage.
Sugars can be hidden within many items and set you up for more calories than intended, and more “energy” than your body needs, which in turn results in fat storage and further issues with how your body regulates insulin and so on. Sugar traps include milk, coffee additives, juices, and more. Sugars are best when paired with exercise or an activity, and should be skipped during your more idle times of the day. You may make it to the end of the diet game board with sugars in your meal game plan, but if you are aiming to cross the finish line with an overall, balanced diet as well as a goal to pack on some muscle during your health journey, minimizing sugar will be a great way to reach your endpoints with “maximum muscle results.”