The amount of sugar you eat on a daily basis matters. I will never say it doesn’t. But, where the sugar comes from and how much energy you spend worrying about matter more.
Here is when sugar intake matters most:
- If it puts you over your daily calorie goals. Remember, the three macro-nutrients that will ALWAYS add up to the total amount of calories you eat in a day are: protein, fat and carbs. Sugar falls under the carb category. So, you will always have some sugar in your diet but shouldn’t have so much that you are eating too many calories. Here is what I mean:
- One gram of protein = 4 calories
- One gram of carb (sugar) = 4 calories
- One gram of fat = 9 calories
- Mutiply the grams of protein, carbs and fat by 4 or 9 respectively to find the total calories in a food item. For example:
- 1/3 cup of Peanut Butter Bear Naked granola has 4g of protein, 20g carbs (6g of those are sugar), 7g of fat. If I do the math: 4×4 +20×4 + 7×9 I get 160 calories per 1/3 cup serving.
- Notice the sugar content is a sub category under carbs. It is important so it goes on the label, but since it is a sub category it goes UNDER carbs.
- Also, notice that on every food label you look at, calories are on top…above protein, carbs, sugar, fat, cholesterol etc. What do you think this is saying? Yup, calories are king. They matter the most for you goals 🙂
- If the sugar in your diet is mainly coming from processed “treat” foods that trigger you to eat more of them. We all have our trigger foods that taste amazing and make us want more right away. Mine is currently flavored granola, but donuts would be my vice if there was a box sitting on my counter every morning. These type foods are processed and usually don’t have much nutritional value. That is important. But, the sugar in these foods is still sugar and your body still breaks it down the same way as sugar in fruit. Sugar is sugar. So, why do these “trigger” treat foods matter more and get us in trouble? Because they taste so great we eat too much of them…AKA we eat too many calories from them. Indirectly sugar seems to be the culprit for weight gain…
See a trend so far?
I am bolding calories for a reason 🙂
Sugar is calories. If you eat too many calories you will gain bodyfat/weight. People too often blame sugar for their weight gain, when it was simply that they ate too many calories (probably a huge portion of those calories coming from sugar…but sugar didn’t make them fat). You could technically get fatter on only a fruit diet…IF you ate so many calories of fruit that put you in a calorie surplus (eating more calories than your body burns). But, the chances of anyone over eating that much fruit is rare. The chances someone over eats cookies and ice cream? Well, that happens all the time…..
So, back to Margo’s question. What if she goes over her “sugar goal” on Myfitnesspal for the day but she has stayed within her calorie goal for the day? That is a win in my book! I am beginning to simplify nutrition for many of my clients because we only have so much energy each day to expend tracking our nutrition and thinking about our food. If you can hit the following two things 90% of days you will see results and won’t ever have to worry about tracking sugar (or sodium, or iron, or potassium etc).
- Hit your calorie range. No ifs, ands or buts. Even if food quality sucks on a given day, hit your calorie goal 90% of the time and you will lose weight…and more importantly body fat.
- Hit your protein requirements. This important for staying full enough to be in a calorie deficit. Remember from above, that if you eat too many calories you will gain weight. If you eat less calories then your body expends you will lose weight. This is called being in a calorie deficit. Protein doesn’t inherently lead to weight loss, but enough protein will keep you full for longer than just eating carbs and fat. The more full you are the less likely you will over eat on snacks after dinner. Am I right? Protein is in an indirect weight loss tool.
In the end, sugar intake matters. You can’t just pile on candy and treats to each meal and expect to see weight loss results…that would be adding too many calories. But, far too often people are concerned about the red warning number that pops up on Myfitnesspal that says you are failing at your day if you go over your sugar goal by 3g. Worry about your calorie range and your protein number and you will be just fine in the long run 🙂