Sweet as! Sugar or artificial sweetener?

By: Quinton de Bruin

Happy Thursday! It was a great day across in the Bay of Plenty and I decided that I would make the most of the time there by using a gym membership I had failed to cancel to get a workout in before heading back this way – I knew there was a good reason I hadn't cancelled it!

I do enjoy the starts I get on a Thursday there. I meet with a group of fantastic small business owners to discuss our businesses and generally have a good time with many laughs. I had my standard breakfast order at the Raft Café which is an omelette with spinach, mushroom and bacon. Oh, and a large flat white (no sugar).

The gym is in the same area so thought ahead and packed my training gear. Shot in and had a session which was chest and triceps today with a treadmill interval session to get the cardio in. It was good to use the same weights gear again after a few years just to test how I was progressing in my 'old age' – was I able to lift less, the same or more. I have to say that I was rather satisfied that this early in the piece I was benching the same weight as back then. The deep satisfaction in that comes from the fact that the diet I was on back then was vastly different to the Wild Lifestyle and one probably more likely associated to weight training and trimming down. It looked something like this (six small meals per day):

Breakfast: Oats and protein powder
Morning tea: Rice crackers and 90g of chicken
Lunch: Green salad with rice and tuna
Afternoon snack: oats and protein powder
Dinner: lean steak/chicken and a large salad or green veggies (broccoli)
Late snack: protein shake
Oh, the joy and variety kills me! Seriously though, that the plan was without variation was great, it made it easy to prepare multiple meals at once. I used to cook a few days' worth of rice, grilled three or four chicken breasts and made a pile of salad at a time. Did it get results? Yes. Was it sustainable for the long term….? not if I wanted to stay in a relationship!

I digress… lunch was a vegetarian broccoli salad today. Although I was prepared enough to pack training gear, I didn't get around to packing a lunch so café salad it was. Dinner tonight was supposed to be at the school. They do this very cool thing where they have a family picnic at which the wider school community gets the opportunity to mingle. Unfortunately, we had rain so the packed roast chicken and BFGS (Big Freak'n Green Salad) did a trip to school and home –a few people hung around while the kids had a swim so it was sweet as!

Talking about "Sweet as" I do wonder whether that saying came about when they created artificial sweeteners, "wow!! That is sweet as…sugar!" – No? Okay possibly a bad dad joke but the realities around both sugar and its artificial cousin is no laughing matter.
To refresh your memory, when we consume sugar (or other simple carbohydrates) your blood glucose levels spike. As a response, your body releases insulin which immediately tells your body to stop burning fat and to store it, while the body attempts to burn the sugar.

The thing to remember about sugar is that it is almost purely caloric, it contributes no nutrition to our bodies – no vitamins, no minerals, no protein, no antioxidants or phytochemicals. If sugar had an animal sign it would be the fox! It is sneaky and makes its way into everything, be vigilant.

Like me you might say, but I have a sweet tooth – or possibly more accurately you have a sugar addiction. The great news is that you can kick the cravings which will stop after a couple of weeks adjusting to not having any sugar. Even better news, as I had stated previously, we can still enjoy real chocolate (70-100% Cacao).

Right, so I need to cut out sugar, can I have my artificially sweetened cake and eat it too? Think again. The problem with artificial sweeteners is that by regularly consuming it, one would stimulate the appetite which leads to weight gain. You see, I call it the evolutionary payoff – our bodies have developed into a system that when it tastes sweetness, it wants a payoff and in the form of calories. Here it would get no calories so what does this magnificent machine do? It slows down our metabolism to make the most of the calories it gets from the other foods we consume at that time. Yes, I did say that with artificial sweeteners the calories don't count. The reason being is that technically speaking they are not food – they are chemicals.

Interesting party fact – Splenda (which is now a very popular sugar substitute here in New Zealand), was discovered by two young lab technicians while they were testing for a chlorinated pesticide!

With that gem in mind, when you do occasionally use an artificial sweetener, limit using it to occasions where the food or beverage you are using it with inherently adds something positive to your diet, otherwise leave it. Also, when choosing to sweeten food, choose to use a natural option such as Stevia, xylitol or erythritol – all derived from plants. Don't forget you also have the option of honey or coconut palm sugar.

Making lifestyle changes is not about depriving yourself to a degree that makes it impossible to maintain or even worse you can't leave home in fear of running into something that contains sugar! Changing your lifestyle is about understanding which foods serve you and which ones won't. It's about keeping this valuable and potentially lifesaving information in mind when you go shopping or rummage through the pantry when hunting for a snack.

The small print: now is probably a good time to encourage you to have a discussion about your personal situation with your doctor, a nutritionist and the Body and Motion trainers to work out how best to achieve any challenges you have in mind. The thoughts in these blogs are my own personal opinion and shouldn't be taken as direct advice. Some of the choices around what I consume or what activity I partake in may not be endorsed by Body and Motion. However, the team will always be keen enablers of your fitness goals! Talk to us today.


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