Sugar is Secretly Smuggled into Drinks
It’s clear that drinking soda isn’t healthy, but most people don't realize that most everything added to a drink is sugar: natural honey, sweetened coffee creamer, supplement tablets and even powders designed to boost your immune system! All of it is liquid sugar, even a hundred percent natural fruit juice & fruit smoothies are all sugar! Even alcohol that's been distilled from fruit, like wine and champagne are all liquid sugar.
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Sugar is the one substance that can most easily derail weight loss. And I'd say the number one piece of weight loss advice I give is "Don't drink sugar. Don't add sugar. And don't eat or drink added sugar."
Drinking sugar is absolutely the worst! And that's because the human body was never made to drink sugar, because the dosing, or amount, is higher when you drink it. And when we consume sugar at higher levels, not only does sugar cause the body to store fat, it also shifts your metabolism into slow and low gear. It also accelerates fat storage, increases your appetite, hunger, and cravings; which all leads to more consumption, overeating and weight gain. Drinking sugar also decreases your energy and motivation to move too.
When we were kids, getting a sugar high and crashing after it all wore out, we assigned this phenomenon to kids eating too much candy. And the same thing happens in adults after drinking orange Juice, which is all of nature's sugar liquified.
How Sugar Works in Humans
Evolutionarily speaking, sugar was only found in nature seasonally, in the form of fruits and vegetables. Way before blenders and juicers came along, humans were eating fruits and vegetables whole; which is exactly how nature intended. Nature includes an important protective nutrient designed to protect the body: fiber.
When fruit is whole, fiber is intact and it offers a digestive system protection. Whole fruit slows down the impact of the natural sugars as they're leaving the stomach. We weren't drinking sugar or fruit juice until we invented things like the blenders and mixers and the juicers.
Fructose & Fat Storage
Fruits and vegetables are typically full fructose, which was naturally intended to function to help our survival. In nature, fructose is found in high concentrations in things like honey or agave. And those things contain as much as 50-97% fructose. Scientifically, we now know that fructose triggers fat storage in animals, humans specifically and this is really helpful because it helps us survive things like famine and seasonal food shortages; like a long winter or drought. In the animal kingdom, it helps animals store energy and fat for hibernation and migration. That's why bears are known to eat honey and fruit before they hibernate, they load up on fructose before settling down for the winter.
Just like the bears, humans get tired and sleepy and they feel like they have no energy and they lose motivation to move after too much fructose or sugar. Because at a molecular level, fructose doesn't hit the bloodstream, it goes directly to the liver and it's the liver's job to basically detox the fructose.
Fructose is a molecule that takes a toll on the entire body. Fructose literally zaps cellular energy, which causes the metabolism to slow down. You probably felt the sugar slump after consuming excess sugar; you feel sluggish and you don't really feel like moving or getting off the couch.
Why The Sugar Slump?
That low energy feeling, it's real, it’s not imagined. It's the body's response at a chemical level to the tsunami surge of sugar. And that's because in high doses or amounts, sugar activates a survival mechanism in the body. When the body gets a surge of fructose, it's sent into a panic. The body thinks there's a reason why we're overeating and over consuming: there's a food shortage. Biologically, our body is designed to respond by protecting its survival, so it starts to slow down. Which is why, when you eat or drink too much sugar, not only will you feel sluggish, your metabolism will actually slow down to conserve energy.
Craving More Starchy Carbs & Sugar?
After consuming too much sugar, the body also increases the demand for more energy. Now, remember it thinks it needs more energy. Not just because it thinks food is short. It's also because the fructose molecule actually zaps your body's cells of energy. So now the body alerts the brain ‘bring in more energy.’ Because fructose is essentially attacking your body. So your body's going to tell you to eat more food in order to restore that cellular energy. And the type of food that delivers the fastest form of energy is carbs.
Why The Weight Gain?
Your brain sends a signal to trigger your appetite, hunger, cravings & thirst. Which is why in the same way that a bear can pack on the pounds with honey & fruit, humans can pack on the pounds with fructose and sugar. More specifically, your body can pack on the pounds any time you drink liquid, fructose or liquid sugar.
That's why I always say that you want to "avoid adding sugar, drinking sugar, and you definitely don't want to drink added sugar". That includes things like table sugar, but it also goes for natural sugars like honey and agave. There's always two things to consider when it comes to sugar:
Fruit Juice vs. Soda
One whole apple contains about 13 grams of fructose. But if we juice apples, it takes four to six apples to produce an 8oz glass of juice. Which means that you're drinking essentially 39 to 79 grams of fructose. That's the same amount of sugar as a full regular sized soda. A 12 ounce can of soda includes 39 grams of sugar. Depending on the brand, the sugar content in that soda can shoot up as high as 69 grams.
We're all told and we all know that soda is loaded with sugar, but no one ever thinks that fresh, squeezed juice has the same amount of sugar as soda.
Alcohol vs. Juice
Alcohol is the other substance that we know to be processed by the liver. The body actually has a few natural stopping mechanisms to help you stop from overdosing on alcohol: you get dizzy or the spins, you blackout, throw up, and eventually you'll pass out. The problem is, the only natural stopping mechanism that the body has to prevent sugar overload is fiber. And that's why you can probably eat maybe 1-2 whole apples, but then you're going to get too full and you're going to need to stop. And that's the natural fiber telling you to stop. Which is why it's easy to overdose on sugar when it's fruit juice, the fiber is destroyed & doesn't function.
How to Avoid Added Sugar
Fructose is infused in most all processed, packed, canned and bottled food and drinks. It's become part of our modern food environment. The problem is that all sugar is still sugar. No matter what it is, brown sugar, powdered sugar, cane, sugar, sugar in the raw, coconut sugar, it doesn't matter. It's all sugar, and the response in your body in regard to weight gain is all the same. No matter what type of sugar, artificial or natural, it's all the same.
So let me tell you how this works for me in my day to day life. No soda. I'm not drinking soda, period. And that's an easy one. In fact, I think I might drink diet soda maybe once or twice a year. And that's it. I've just steered clear from all of it because the chemical composition of it doesn't appeal to me, and I know my body at a cellular level needs hydration, which is why I primarily drink water.
I don't drink fruit juice, even if it's 100% all natural fruit juice, it doesn't matter. I don't drink it. If I want fruit, I'm going to eat the entire piece of whole fruit.
I also avoid flavored drinks because the flavor is where the sugar is added, even in something basic like vanilla, for example, when I see anything that's highlighting "natural flavor" on the package or the bottle, I know to slow down and take a look to validate the claim.
How to Find Added Sugar
Flip the can or the container around and I read it. And I'm looking into places first, I look at the nutrition facts and I'm looking for added sugar. If sugar is added, it needs to be included on the label and listed specifically on its own line item as "added sugar".
In the case of fruit juice, you're not going to necessarily see any added sugar because they're not necessarily adding sugar. They're just liquefying it. It's only simply going to be listed as total sugar.
More Ways to Find Smuggled Sugar
You can't just look at one section of the nutrition facts, the added sugar section on the label. That's why I also look at the list of ingredients. If the list of ingredients are truly all natural, then you should be able to recognize and pronounce each and every item on the list. And if you can’t, guess what, it's not natural.
Some of what's listed may be natural, but most often you're going to find that the entire list of ingredients aren't entirely natural. And that's why my rule of thumb is to completely avoid all added flavors because added flavors are typically an easy way for sugar to smuggle its way into your food and drinks.
Plain coffee, instead of anything flavored is the best way to avoid added sugar. The natural sugar from adding milk or half-and-half doesn't contain fructose; it is lactose. No flavored coffee creamers, no sweetened beverages of any kind. No sweet tea, no sweetened milks or flavored milks, and no flavored waters.
Flavor Your Own Water
There is one exception to the high fructose juices and that's lemon and lime. They contain the least amount of fructose, which means they're a great flavor add, with no worry about fructose.
You could technically have lemonade just as long as it's straight up squeeze plain lemons with absolutely no added sugar. So it’d be a very tart lemonade. But this does mean you can use lemon and lime to flavor your waters, as well as herbs like mint.
The basic rule of thumb when it comes to alcohol, the sweeter the taste, the higher the sugar content. The sweetest tasting alcohols are liquors, so you want to completely avoid the ports and the dessert wines. Sparkling wines and champagnes, all have added sugar in them too. So those are going to be higher in sugar content. From there, the white wines are higher in sugar than the red wines. So if I'm going to drink wine, I'm going to stick to a full body red wine, which contains the least amount of sugar. I drink wine on occasion, as an exception and maybe one or two glasses, but typically no more than that.
The Best Alcohol
The best choice with the least amount of sugar is clear alcohol like vodka. And for me, I want to be extra sure that I'm steering clear of fruit and fructose, which is why I avoid any vodka that's distilled from fruit so that I can completely avoid fructose entirely. So I'm specifically saying not distilled from fruit because there are vodkas that are distilled from fruit. I also avoid vodka that includes added or infused flavors for all the reasons we already covered.
It's not about entirely eliminating all or any of these things. I still want to, on occasion, enjoy a specialty cocktail. Made with fruit juice or flavored with something sweet, like agave or honey. But I consider it more like a dessert. Now, remember that dosing and amount. That's why I'm going to limit myself and enjoy just one of those specialty cocktails as an exception. And then I'm going to resume the rest of my evening, enjoying the vodka drink that I know won't inundate and destroy my body.
Beer is an American favorite. Well, that's an occasional exception that you're going to want to limit too. Now, technically it's not liquid sugar per-se, but it is basically liquid bread. That's why you're going to get the same type of belly fat from drinking beer as you do from drinking sugar. It's all converting in your liver as fat and storing around your belly as visceral fat too. The thing to know about beer that implicates it most directly is the yeast. And that's why it's mimicking liquid bread. So steer clear of the beer and drink it only as an exception.
Bottom Line: Alcohol
If you want to enjoy other alcohols, I would say the rule of thumb is look for an alcohol that's distilled from a potato or a grain, and then you should be okay. Your best bet is to really keep a close eye on what you're mixing it with, because that's the biggest runaway train is the mixer that you're adding to the alcohol, that's typically the "added sugar". So the more "straight" you drink it, the better off you're going to be.
Learn more & Listen to my PODCAST EPISODE specifically detailing more on this topic, link below: E5 - Drinking & Sugar: The Fastest Way to Weight-Gain