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What's sugar got to do with it?

As part of my greater focus on sugar this year, I have been investigating how it can affect performance. We have had a lot of snow in California and when I look at redwood trees sprinkled with the snow, it gives me imagery of how well strawberries look when sugar is added. I imagine how a puddle of syrup collects on the surface of the strawberries. Yummy strawberries. The high amount of sugar outside the strawberry's cells and sugar's ability to attract water causes the water to seep out of the fruit. Daydreaming about strawberries over! - though wait - I have never sprinkled my strawberries with sugar and I do not add sugar to food I prepare so my relationship with sugar is all good - that is what I thought!

As a coach, I work with clients on lots of different items and I view things like food intake and social media interactions as influences that can complement the challenges that we all have. Items like these could be the difference between the fine line of how successful you want to be. When it comes to nutrition though, I want to point out that it is important to consult your practitioner or nutritionist before making any major changes to your diet,

Sugar is a vital source of energy, and we need it to survive however it may be limiting the happiness and success you have and should be taken seriously. Below are some types of sugar.

  • Fructose-natural: Fruits and vegetables.

  • Lactose-natural: Dairy-rich foods.

  • Added sugar: Processed foods.

According to the dietary guidelines for Americans 2020-2025 - the average person consumes 270 calories of sugars, or 17 teaspoons each day. It recommends limiting calories from added sugars to no more than 10 percent each day.

  • 100 calories (6 teaspoons) for women/children.

  • 150 calories (9 teaspoons) for men.

I want you to think of times when you had to do something important. It could be a job interview, a meeting, a presentation, a demo, etc. Did you have anxiety during any of these events or did you either not feel good or come out of them with the impression that you did not do your best? This could be you just being hard on yourself (we all do) however consider that it may have been something else that caused you to underperform. It is important to note that performance is not only while you are working or in the middle of a life event. It is the build-up and preparation in addition to the actual execution. I ask you to consider how you feel day to day and what impact sugar may have when you intake it. There are two main areas when this is taken into consideration:

1. Your Physical well-being.

2. Mental well-being.

Table sugar (which is what comes to mind when I think of the word sugar) contains the same carbohydrates as what is found in fruits, vegetables, and other whole foods. Though wait - whole foods are good for us right? Yes, however even though table sugar is the same carbohydrate, the body processes it differently. Without going into too much Into the weeks, this is due to the starches that are present also. Starches are complex carbohydrates that are polysaccharides (multiple glucose molecules stuck together.)

When you intake sugar, it mixes with acids in your stomach and makes its way to the duodenum. Here enzymes break down specific carbohydrates into glucose and fructose modules. These are absorbed through the wall into the bloodstream and the liver.

  1. Glucose: Used immediately for the energy of stored energy for later (think of it as a battery wall in your house or a portable battery used to power a device). The liver and muscles store some of this as glycogen. This is a molecule that can be turned back into glucose when your body needs it. When glucose enters the bloodstream, levels of blood glucose rise. In response, the pancreas secretes insulin to help glucose get where it needs to go in your body.

  2. Fructose: The liver does not have a way to deal with this type. Think about it, before the industrialization of food - these types of foods were not as abundant so our ancestors did not intake them as much as we do. Let's think again about the battery. It is full of fructose (unlike glucose) so the body needs to put it somewhere. The body will turn it into fat called triglycerides. Some of the fat will stay in the liver (fatty liver which increases the risk of insulin resistance) while the rest are sent into the bloodstream which can lead to weight gain, blocked arteries, etc.

Enough about the science of it, let's look at how sugar can impact our energy and moods. It is not only the liver that can respond negatively to fructose. The brain also can react in strange ways which can cause issues in your day-to-day life. Eating sugar can give you a quick burst of energy (the brain releases dopamine which makes you feel good in the body) by raising blood sugar levels fast. When the levels drop as your cells absorb the sugar (fructose is used up quickly), you may feel anxious.

Reviewing a scenario: you have a job interview and before the interview, you eat a breakfast bar/candy bar and instantly get energy. You are going to kill it and get your dream job. The interview starts well however you hit a wall and start to struggle. Have you set yourself up for the best of yourself? Would you drink gassy water before an interview and then burp throughout? think about it! We are all conditioned to think about alcohol, tobacco, and drug intake in our bodies however the thing we put into our bodies more is food - so why is it that I (or we) do not factor this in when I have a goal to reach in life? The body also releases opioids when you eat a sugary item. These cause even more cravings and a distraction to you and your focus. Fructose also blocks the appetite centers of the brain which leads to you feeling even more hungry than you should be. It can cause a never-ending cycle in your day.

Thank you for staying on this journey with me. In summary, it is important for you:

  • Look into how you intake sugar. My nutritionist gave me some awesome advice when looking at food labels. Divide the grams of sugar by 4 to indicate how many spoons of sugar are there. For example, a slice of bread has 6 grams of sugar = it has 1.25 teaspoons of sugar. This needs to be under 1 spoon or less. If you look at pasta sauce, there may be 19 grams in one serving. That is 4.75 teaspoons!

  • When you intake sugar, keep a mental note (or write it down) on how you feel. Did you get a burst of energy and then feel lethargic or cannot concentrate, did you feel great? (likely you took a small amount of the intake was a balanced meal). Learn how your body reacts and adjusts accordingly.

  • Check with your healthcare provider or practitioner if there are any courses that you can join if you believe your sugar intake is too high (or your blood results indicate). Online group courses can be beneficial and help you track your intake and gain support.

Here is a challenge:

Through the remainder of March, track the foods you eat especially any that are sugar-rich. Look for alternatives and make note of how you feel afterward. For example, you are meeting with your manager or having a presentation. How do you feel at the start, middle, and end of the meeting? What could you have done differently or what foods may have contributed to you either feeling awesome or sluggish? It takes time to make a lifestyle change or modify a habit so be easy on yourself and learn as you go.

Feel free to contact me


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