My Evolving Opinion of Sugar

There is a big divide in the nutritional blogs I read about sugar. Most conventional and Paleo type blogs are still anti-sugar. Many claim that sugar is toxic, inflammatory and more likely to be fattening than other foods. On the other side, you have the defenders which argue that sugar is fine and how it can help boost metabolism. They write about how sugar is an anti-stress food and should be embraced. I’m now somewhere in the middle.

Below are 2 books that I have not read. One is anti-sugar and one is pro-sugar.

Fat Chance: Beating the Odds Against Sugar, Processed Food, Obesity, and Disease
Fat Chance: Beating the Odds Against Sugar, Processed Food, Obesity, and Disease by Robert H. Lustig

I Didn't Quit Sugar

I Didn’t Quit Sugar: Why sugars are essential for optimal metabolism and health by Platt and Skinner (Book no longer available

Nutritional science is not my background, so my opinion is about my relationship with sugar. I personally entertained the idea that sugar might be OK a year ago in the post Why Ice Cream is Better Than Protein Powder. For me I saw sugar as a tool. I needed a food that I could easily eat past satiety that would help me reverse my weight loss and gain weight. In the post, I speculated that ice cream could be beneficial to lean ectomorphs.

The good news is that sugar in the form of ice cream did exactly what I wanted. I stopped losing weight and gained muscle. The bad news is that the more ice cream I consumed, the more I wanted. My appetite for sugar escalated. What started as a post workout tool became a daily treat and I gained weight. Almost 10 pounds more than I wanted.

The Peat-atarians claim sugar can boost metabolism via increased body temperature and pulse. It did neither for me.

My opinion is that sugar is probably fine, but it can mess with appetite. Foods with sugar tend to be highly palatable. Again if your goal is to boost metabolism or gain muscle, then sugar seems like a valid tool. But I found the more sugar I consumed, the more I wanted. I did not find sugar to be anti-stressful either. My sugar cravings actually ended up becoming disruptive and mildly stressful.

The solution for me will likely be a cyclical approach. More in the summer and more on high activity days. Less in the winter and on rest days. But right now my goal is to cut way back to get control of my appetite.


Add yours

  1. Hi there

    I’ve been going in the same direction for a while, gradually leaving behind low carb and paleo dogma. I have the second book and it is good. Well written and grat photos. Very influenced by Stone, Pear, Danny Roddy and Andrew Kim

  2. I am coming round to a sugar-agnostic position like yourself.
    If it causes the problems you describe, avoid it; but if it’s not problematic, I’m not certain it’s a must-to-avoid toxin for everyone. A high intake of vegetable PUFA, a high carb/fat ratio (sugar included) are much easier to tie to disease. For some people – maybe lots of people right now – sugar causes behavioural problems, it’s a gateway carb that leads to excessive eating. If you couldn’t go a day without sugar, then it might be time to try. If you can and do go without it, using a little now and then doesn’t seem like a big deal. I don’t know I’d take advice from someone who doesn’t go without sugar periodically. It is addictive and creates hunger.
    HFCS I have issues about what this is and how it’s made. These are more important to me than the fructose content which isn’t that different from honey, a paleo food.
    Molasses, dried sugar cane juice, treacle, honey. I can see times when these’d be useful foods.
    Agnostic. No way of knowing. No reason to eat sugar either. Best to be guided by whim.

  3. Hi Mass, why not meet them in the middle : glucose.

    It is the fructose part that is the most damaging / sweet and craving triggering .

    Leave that part aside and use pure glucose (grape sugar, can be found in any health store).
    It is not very expensive and not addictive.

  4. @Ahrand – Can you make pudding with grape sugar or would it taste weird?

  5. @Chris – The pattern I am seeing with those leaving low carb is that they’ve already succeeded on their health goals, tend to be younger and tend to be more active. People have clearly benefited from lower carb diets. I have. The trend I am seeing is that these same individuals are jumping on the ELMM bandwagon and all that matters is calories. I’m hesitant to do that, because I’ve come to believe we are still in the infancy of understanding nutritional science.

    @George – Sugar Agnostic is the perfect term. Wish I had thought of that for the title.

  6. Mass, glucose is NOT very sweet, you would need lots of it or helped by Stevia to get the same sweetness you are ‘expecting’, else it would taste weird yes.

    But was is ‘weird’ ? Deviation form accepted norms ?
    So everyone diabetic/fat/depressed/stressed/sick is the norm ?
    Is being healthy/balanced weird then ?

  7. @Ahrand – That is what I thought. I’ll just pursue a reduction instead of a replacement strategy.

  8. I’ve started adding sugar to my diet lately, just to see what happens, essentially… now that I’m not convinced it’s bad for me (especially with low PUFA intake).

    A couple spoonfuls of dry sugar on the go seems to make me feel very good, actually, without being very palatable or making me hungry (yet). I did tend to feel tired A LOT prior to this, energy levels just going up and down drastically through the day. I did move out of a mold-ridden house at the same time, though, among other confounders.

    Unfortunately, if anything I feel a bit *less* hungry than previously. This is a problem as I WILL undereat and still feel “full.” I do know that ice cream increases my appetite, but not dry sugar so far.

    The days I have been eating supplemental sugar on top of a good food intake, however, I have been feeling less stressed, running a LOT without subsequent stiffness (really weird), and seemingly lacking the digestive problems I associate with eating wheat even after eating most of a pizza while moving house. Time will tell if this is an actual change.

    I suspect that having the glucose readily available to provide energy means that more of the fats and proteins I consume are going to structural repair and hormone production, and additionally that there’s more energy available for those processes. It’s a fun theory, anyhow.

  9. If you ate ice-cream that’s made with cream as the main ingredient, it was not a balanced food. It needs to be made with high-quality wholemilk, high-quality from pasture-fed chickens egg yolks, vanilla or fruit for favouring and sugar or honey to sweeten. If you add some gelatine to it, you have a perfectly healthy healing food. Starch from root vegetables help also in not always being hungry. Here’s an article you might enjoy:

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