Give Me Some Sugar

Daniel Rogan

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The perfect beach body may be a fantasy for some, or just within grasp for others, but for some reason you just can’t seem to drop that last pound. Why is that? You could push your body to the breaking point and still never see the scale tip in your favor. All the cardio and weight lifting just seems pointless if you aren’t achieving your desired body. However, the reason for this stagnation may be as easy a fix as changing a light bulb.

The human body converts excess calories into fat. This is a simple fact. What most people do not realize is that the body does not wait until midnight to see if you burned 2500 calories. What you eat throughout the day also plays an important role in this process. A hormone called insulin controls the formation of fat in the body. Insulin is released by pancreatic β cells when too much sugar is consumed at once without proper physical exertion. The question then arises, “When is insulin released?” The answer may seem a bit trickier than expected.

Monosaccharides and polysaccharides – also known as simple and complex carbohydrates – are sugars, found in essentially every food on the planet and necessary for basic bodily function. The body digests simple carbohydrates such as glucose and fructose, which you may find in honey, syrup and candies, almost instantly and absorbs it into the bloodstream. However, the blood sugar concentration should be kept within particular limits, usually 4.0 – 8.0 mmol/L for an adult.[1] If the concentration of sugar is consistently too high, it may damage the blood vessels and lead to the death of tissues around them. Here insulin comes into play. Say I drink a 12 fl oz can of Coke, which has approximately 39 grams of sugar.[2] The blood sugar concentration spikes and the consequent release of insulin triggers liver to convert excess glucose into glycogen. When the liver is full of glycogen, glucose will be converted into fat instead.

Among complex carbohydrates only starch is digestible, while others – cellulose, lignin, dextrins – are insoluble and cannot be broken down in the human body. The insoluble polysaccharides or dietary fiber are important in a balanced diet – at least 20 – 30 grams should be consumed a day.[3] A few fibers can be digested by intestinal bacteria and are broken down into short-chain fatty acids. In fact, it causes the intestine to produce glucose itself, which increases energy expenditure at rest and makes hunger sensation fade away for a while.[4] As long as your portions are within reason, fibrous foods such as whole grains, vegetables and fruits will help your body to stay lean.

Regardless of the desire to drop that last pound, a decent healthy diet should always have a regulated amount of free sugar. The World Health Organization recommends no more than 6 teaspoons or 25 grams.[5] However, if you would like to mitigate fat gain as much as possible, I highly recommend having your daily sugar just before or after a workout!

[1] Sprague, J. E., & Arbeláez, A. M. (2011). Glucose Counterregulatory Responses to Hypoglycemia. Pediatric Endocrinology Reviews : PER, 9(1), 463–475.

[2] Retrieved September 11, 2016 from http://www.coca-colaproductfacts.com/en/coca-cola-products/coca-cola/

[3] Retrieved September 11, 2016 from https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/carbohydrates/fiber/

[4] CNRS (Délégation Paris Michel-Ange). (2014, January 14). How fiber prevents diabetes, obesity. ScienceDaily. Retrieved September 11, 2016 from https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/01/140114090822.htm

[5] Retrieved September 11, 2016 from http://www.who.int/mediacentre/news/releases/2015/sugar-guideline/en/

Edited by: Nelli Morgulchik, Karen Yung and Shreya Singireddy