Want Ripped Abs? Decrease Your Added Sugar

There is nothing more upsetting than not getting results after dedicating hours to workout sin the gym and dieting over the course of many months! You pushed the weights regularly, did cardio and improved your diet, but in the end, there was still that unwanted layer of body fat covering your abdominals. It may have been because you did monitor one very important item…added sugar.

Are Doing Sit-ups Enough?

You may wonder why your abs are not showing as much as you would like, especially since you’ve been hitting the gym every other day for months now. A research study at the University of Massachusetts, in 1984, looked at various fitness outcomes of subjects who performed 5,000 sit-ups over the course of a month. Performing hundreds of sit-ups on a daily basis wasn’t enough to lose abdominal fat. The subjects, a group of college students, had body measurements taken as well as a painful muscle biopsy procedure. The subjects body fat didn’t change and not even an inch was lost around the abdominal area by the end of the study. In the end, they had much stronger abs but their body fat and girth remained unchanged.

Many factors can influence the way you look and feel on a daily basis as well as over the course of your lifetime. A healthy, sustainable lifestyle also plays a huge part in how lean you ultimately get. You have probably heard that genetics are also important. True. Don’t forget about physical activity (in and out of the gym), this plays a significant role too. The missing “ingredient” in most exercise plans though is cutting back and monitoring added sugar.

What is Your DASI? Daily Added Sugar Intake

The term, DASI, is an acronym that I coined and stands for daily added sugar intake. It’s an important component of any nutrition program and it’s a game changer for those looking to get ripped abs. For the majority of people, getting a lean, ripped mid-section will be a lifelong challenge. Some never seem to realize that how they fuel their body in turn effects their midsection and abdominal area. This goes well beyond doing a daily plank challenge. Learn from the story of the UMass college students.

Follow These 2-Steps to Get Strong, Ripped Abs

  • Beware of added sugar in all foods and drinks. How? Start reading food labels and keep track of your daily added sugar. Put yourself on a sugar budget. Eat no more than 150 calories of added sugar a day for men. That’s about 38 grams a day for men and 100 calories or 25 grams a day for women. Carbohydrates (sugar) contain 4 calories per gram. There are two types of sugars, natural sugar and added sugar. Added sugar is hidden in just about everything we eat and drink. Examples of natural sugar are milk and fruit, and unlike added sugar, they contain more fiber, vitamins and minerals. Added sugar has minimal nutrients, basically no fiber, and can quickly raise blood sugar levels like all types of fast food or junk food.
  • Add a weekly HIIT session on the cardio side, in addition to your weekly strength training sessions. Begin adding intervals into a cardio session or two with bouts of hard work followed by brief periods of recovery and repeat several times. A whole cardio session could be an interval-based workout for 15-20 minutes or you can periodically add it to the cardio work you’re doing now. Any type of cardio will do the trick from jogging, biking, to rowing.

Final Thoughts

Remain focused with your weekly core routine and incorporate the two steps above into your training plan. This will definitely move you in the right direction in terms of getting those long wanted ripped abs. Shaking things up periodically, from the way you have been doing things, is a great way to stimulate not only your body but also your mind. Use the Jefit app to help track your progress and keep you moving toward your goals. Remember, you don’t own it until you right down or record it, so use the app. Good luck Stay Strong!

Use the Jefit App to Record Your Workouts

Try Jefit app, named best app for 2020 and 2021 by PC MagazineMen’s HealthThe Manual and the Greatist. The app comes equipped with a customizable workout planner and training log. The app has ability to track data, offer audio cues, and features to share workouts with friends. Take advantage of Jefit’s exercise database for your strength workouts. Visit our members-only Facebook group. Connect with like-minded people, share tips, and advice to help get closer to reaching your fitness goals. Try one of the new interval-based workouts and add it to your weekly training schedule. Stay strong with Jefit as you live your sustainable fitness lifestyle.

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Added Sugar Associated with More than Just Weight Gain

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For anyone heading back to the gym to start the process of getting their body out of pandemic hibernation mode, the following information on added sugar, is for you!

Added sugars are found in processed foods. They contain only four calories per gram, similar to protein, but when consumed in surplus, those calories can become “toxic in the body”. According to the American Heart Association, Americans eat an additional 355 extra calories a day from simple carbohydrates. The by-product of this is among other things, potential weight gain. Added sugar has been reported to decrease testosterone levels in men by 25 percent. We know the impact it can have on conditions like diabetes and risk of cancer. Too much can also negatively affect the cells in our body, a study in 2009 found a positive association between glucose consumption and the aging of our cells. A 2012 study in the Journal of Physiology linked too much sugar to deficiencies in cognitive health.

Suggested Recommendations

It has been said that “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” To help prevent all the various side effects from eating too much added sugar, it’s important to have an idea of how much you’re consuming in the added sugar department on a daily basis. The easiest way to do this is to start reading food label, then start monitoring the amount of daily added sugar (in grams). Put yourself on an added sugar budget especially prior to Summer & Holiday seasons. 

Our craving for sugar has increased 39% between 1950 and 2000, according to reports from the USDA. The average American consumes about 156 pounds of sugar each year (about three pounds of sugar each week). The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends less than 10 percent of daily calories come from sugar and for the majority of people this is about 50 grams a day. Keep in mind that just one can of soda contains up to 40 grams (around 10 teaspoons) of sugar. WHO further suggests that “a reduction to below 5% of total energy intake per day would have additional benefits.” This should be your goal, especially if you’re trying to lose weight. Finally, be aware of the following guidelines.

Cutting back on added sugar will help you look and feel better as well as improve your workouts as you head back to the gym.

  • Focus on eating about 2.5 grams of added sugar per 100 calories.
  • Men = Consume <150 calories (38 grams) a day of added sugar or about 9 teaspoons a day.
  • Women = Consume <100 calories (25 grams) a day of added sugar or about 6 teaspoons a day.

Suggested Reading

Dietary Sugars Intake and Cardiovascular Health: A Scientific Statement From the American Heart Association

Lustig, R. (2012). Fat Chance: Beating the Odds Against Sugar, Processed Food, Obesity, and Disease

Use Jefit to Track All Your Workouts

Try Jefit app, named best app for 2020 and 2021 by PC MagazineMen’s HealthThe Manual and the Greatist. The app comes equipped with a customizable workout planner and training log. In addition, the app has ability to track data, offer audio cues, and has a feature to share workouts with friends. Take advantage of Jefit’s exercise database for your strength workouts. Visit our members-only Facebook group. Connect with like-minded people, share tips, and advice to help get closer to reaching your fitness goals. Try one of the new interval-based workouts and add it to your weekly training schedule. Stay strong with Jefit as you live your fitness lifestyle.

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Common Mistakes When Trying to Build Muscle

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It can be frustrating when you put in hours each week at the gym or with your home workout, yet you see minimal or no gain. Here are some of the more common mistakes that could be preventing you from building muscle and what you can try instead.

Don’t Skip Leg Day

Let’s start with the most common mistake. Focusing wholly on your upper body may cause you to end up out of proportion, but more likely than not, this won’t be the case – you won’t be able to build the upper body muscle to begin with. Having strong legs allows you to support a bulkier upper body, making it easier to build muscle. Many compound leg exercises, such as squats and deadlifts, are also better at increasing testosterone, which helps when developing muscles elsewhere.

A study by the University of Texas found that “performing squats synthesizes more testosterone and growth hormone than a similar session on the leg press.” Although the test subjects lifted more weight on the leg press, their exhaustion was 42 percent higher after doing squats.

Avoid Sugar Spiking

Consuming too many sugary energy drinks, chocolate milkshakes or even some protein bars, could be taking away your ability to gain muscle. While they may give you the energy and protein necessary to build muscle mass, the excess sugar, in turn, could be inhibiting your ability to take in muscle-building amino acids. Look out for low-sugar drinks and snacks that will still give you the protein and energy. Keep in mind, men should consume no more than 38 grams a day and women 25 grams a day of added sugar.

Consuming the Wrong Kind of Calories

When trying to build muscle, you do need to consume additional calories. However, it’s important to eat the right kind of calories. Fast food, ice cream and pizza will more likely cause you to pile on fat. Increase your calories in more healthy ways by eating more fish, chicken, rice, potatoes and vegetables.

Mis-using Supplements

Some people can go overboard on supplements like creatine and fish oil, using these instead of taking up a healthy diet or taking too many causing nutritional problems. There are then those who take the wrong kind of supplements (i.e. performance enhancing drugs like steroids). Steroids are notoriously common amongst some gym-goers but as most know, they can run all kinds of other health risks. You’ll bulk up faster, sure, but you also damage your body in the process, causing severe long-term health problems.

Avoid Too Much Cardio

Cardiovascular exercise, is very beneficial, but, should be reserved to a minimum when trying to bulk up. This is because it steals the calories needed for repairing muscle tissue, converting the calories instead into fuel for aerobic exercise. Try limiting your cardio to twenty minutes, three times a week and see if this has any impact. A few short, HIIT sessions could also work well.

Ignore Weight Training Technique

There are specific techniques to follow for each strength training exercise. For example, proper deadlift form, requires keeping your legs about hip-width apart, not arching (flexing) your back, tucking your chin etc. These will all help build muscle more effectively in addition to protecting your spine and hips in the process. Make sure that you’re using the right technique with each exercise, otherwise you could be preventing yourself from building muscle.

Reference

Shaner, A.A., Vingren, J.L., Hatfield, D.L. et al. The acute hormonal response to free weight and machine weight resistance exercise. Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research 2014, 28, 4, 1032–1040.

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What Happens to Your Body When You Binge on Added Sugar?

We know how much our senses love something sweet but at the same time we’re aware it’s not the best food choice. It’s the Holiday season, though, so it’s ok to eat a little added sugar, right? Like Mom says, “everything in moderation”. Not everyone has the will power or self-control to eat just one though. One statistic that I’ve read shows 74 percent of packaged foods contain added sugar. Even though we have seen a 15 percent decrease in added sugar consumption since 1999, according to government data, the typical person still eats about 94 grams (or 375 calories) on a daily basis (U.S. Department of Agriculture).

If you know you’re the type of person, who has control issues, then it’s probably easier, and healthier, to avoid certain snacks and desserts altogether. After a few weeks you won’t even crave it.

Have you ever wondered what actually happens inside your body when you do go overboard and eat one too many chocolate chips cookies? Feel free to substitute cookies for ice cream, pizza, fast food etc. Whatever your “fix” is. They all have added sugar and maybe knowing more of what happens to your body, will make you pause and think twice about eating it. Let’s note that we’re not talking about one item or a typical portion size. That’s ok. It’s only when you go overboard, on a regular basis, that you should be concerned. This is where diet can begin to affect overall health. If your physician has mentioned that your A1C level is getting high, then you have been warned. Get your house in order or you may end up becoming a diabetic or worse.

How Added Sugar Affects Your Body

  • We consume food that is high in added sugar on a daily basis.
  • Carbohydrates are what cause blood sugar to rise. It’s is important to eat protein and fiber with carbs.
  • The body breaks down carbohydrates into simple sugars and away they go into the bloodstream.
  • As a result, the body releases insulin, which is a hormone produced by your pancreas.
  • Insulin’s role is to absorb excess glucose in the blood and stabilize sugar levels.
  • Insulin helps blood sugar enter the body’s cells so it can be used for energy.
  • The amount of insulin released usually matches of glucose in the blood stream.
  • Once insulin does its job, your blood sugar drops again (the result though is you feel “drained” following the sugar rush).
  • Repeated blood sugar spikes, many times a day, over time leads to an increase in stored body fat (typically around the abs in men & hips in women).
  • Over time, cells stop responding to all that insulin – because they’ve become insulin resistant.
  • Finally, your body can’t lower blood sugar effectively leading to type 2 diabetes.

A Few Interesting Facts About Added Sugar

  • Eating too much sugar initially causes a spike in insulin while elevated, long-term levels can lead to kidney damage.
  • Added sugar causes a surge in feel-good brain chemicals dopamine and serotonin. So does using certain drugs, like cocaine. When you consume too much added sugar over time, you end up wanting more of it (just like certain drugs). Your body gets addicted to it.
  • One study of more than 3,500 people found that those who drank 34 ounces (about 1 liter) of water a day were 21 percent less likely to have issues with high blood sugar than those who drank 16 ounces (473 ml) or less a day.
  • A second study showed subjects who got 17-21 percent of their calories from added sugar had a 38 percent risk of dying from cardiovascular disease compared to those who consumed 8 percent of their calories from added sugar. The risk was more than double for those who consumed 21 percent or more of their calories from added sugar.
  • Men who consumed 67 grams or more of sugar per day were 23 percent more likely to be diagnosed with depression in a five-year period than men who ate 40 grams or less.
  • One study from UC San Francisco found that drinking sugary drinks, like soda, ages our body on a cellular level as quickly as cigarettes can.
  • According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), the average American consumes 156 pounds of added sugar per year.

How Much Added Sugar Should We Eat?

Added sugars can come in more than 60 different forms and it’s hidden in just about everything you eat. Added sugar is found in a wide range of foods, from ketchup to fruit-based yogurt to (sadly) sports drinks like Gatorade. In terms of how much we eat, the American Heart Association suggests that men consume no more than 150 calories (about 9 teaspoons or 38 grams) of added sugar per day. That is close to the amount in a 12-ounce can of soda. Women should try to eat less than 100 calories (or 25 grams) of added sugar per day. It may seem easy to do but keep in mind a bar of chocolate and a can of soda will already put you at 75 grams.

Keep in mind added sugar is much different than natural sugar found in fruit. It’s fructose, yes, but it also has fiber. This in turn helps release sugar slowly into the blood stream compared to the spike you get after eating half a dozen chocolate chip cookies.

Your Brain on Too Much Sugar

Eating too much added sugar affects just about every cell and organ in the body and the brain is no exception. Previous research indicates that a diet high in added sugar reduces the production of a brain chemical known as brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF). Without BDNF, our brains can’t form new memories and we can’t learn (or remember) much of anything. There is also additional research, published in the journal, Peptides, showing chronic consumption of added sugar dulls the brain’s mechanism for telling you to stop eating.

Hopefully this article sheds more light on the pitfalls of eating too much added sugar. You can pick your poison, it leads to weight loss, brain fog, low energy, oral health issues, you name it. Eating added sugar in moderation is fine. Too much of it though will lead to a multitude of health issues including insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes.

Physical activity and regular strength training makes you more sensitive to insulin, one reason why it’s a cornerstone of diabetes management. Focus on maintaining a healthy bodyweight and body fat level. Basically, a healthy, sustainable, lifestyle will do the trick. It’s the best way to keep blood sugar levels where they need to be.

Use Jefit

Try doing what millions of others have already done, use Jefit as their workout log app. This in turn, will help you meet your fitness goals. By providing an extensive exercise library, you can pick and choose your workouts according to your goals. You can also join our members-only Facebook group where you can connect and interact with your fellow Jefit members. Share your successes, stories, advice, and tips so you learn and grow together. Stay Strong!

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Know the Difference Between Added Sugar and Sugar Alcohols?

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Poor nutrition, as in eating too much added sugar, can easily ruin all the hard work someone puts in at the gym. Sugar is in just about everything we eat and drink. For instance, take a look at the food labels on those protein bars and protein drinks. Heck, read the labels on the different sports drinks while you’re at it. Gatorade has added sugar, it’s just in the form of high fructose corn syrup (HFCS). Many of these foods and drinks contain so much added sugar and sugar alcohol they could found in the candy isle…seriously. According to JAMA Internal Medicine, sugar-sweetened drinks are the single largest source of added sugar (37 percent) in the American diet.

Does Eating Too Much Fruit Mean I’m Eating Too Much Sugar?

To begin with, fruit does contain sugar but its natural. The source of sugar found in fruit is fructose. As mentioned, fruit contains natural sugar as opposed to added sugar or sugar alcohols. One key ingredient found in fruit is fiber. Basically, fiber slows down the speed of glucose entering into the blood stream. As a result, it won’t raise blood sugar level quickly. When you eat a candy bar, though, which has no fiber and is loaded with added sugar, your glucose level will spike. In fact, the body releases insulin from the pancreas to bring down the glucose level. “The amount of insulin released usually matches the amount of glucose present.” This is important to understand. If this happens often throughout the day, there is a high probability that the body will begin storing more body fat as a direct result.

Many people consume a high percentage of sugar (carbohydrates) over three meals during their waking hours. When this happens, they end up with the scenario mentioned above. Now that you have a better understanding on fruit and natural sugar, let’s look at the differences between added sugar and sugar alcohols.

Added Sugar

Added sugar is in 74 percent of all packaged foods. Think about that for a moment. In order to make foods low fat, many of the food companies replace added fat with added sugar. Americans currently eat about 76 pounds of different forms of sugars each year. Even though we have seen a 15 percent decrease in added sugar consumption since 1999, according to government data, the typical person still eats about 94 grams (or 375 calories) on a daily basis (U.S. Department of Agriculture). Lastly, Dr. Robert Lustig, author of Fat Chance, and his colleagues, have shown through their research that every additional 150 calories (38 grams) of added sugar consumed above daily requirements, was associated with a 1.1 percent increase risk of type 2 diabetes.

Sugar Alcohols

Added sugar and sugar alcohols are carbohydrates but with slightly different chemical makeups. Sugar alcohols are considered less sweet and contain fewer calories than sugar; they also affect blood sugar levels less significantly. They are also known as polyols, which are ingredients used as sweeteners and sugar replacers. If you have diabetes you want to stay clear of sugars and lean towards sugar alcohols …if you must. Keep in mind they may also cause bloating and an upset stomach in some people. Best advice, stay clear of all three forms of sugar.

Read Food Labels When it Comes to Protein Bars, Sports Drinks and Protein Shakes

So, the next time you want to order your favorite box of protein bars on Amazon or get a protein or sports drink at the gym, read the food label first. If either has more than a few grams of added sugar, then avoid it. The goal should be 0 grams of added sugar. Many of the bars say they contain zero or <1 gram of added sugar but don’t be fooled. Added sugar likes to hide its toxic self under more than 60 different names like the HFCS mentioned above found in Gatorade. It doesn’t sound like a big deal, but the total grams of added sugar consumed over a day can add up fast. A candy bar and a Coke has more than 75 grams of added sugar. Men should consume about 38 grams/day while women need about 25 grams/day.

One study showed subjects who got 17-21% of their calories from added sugar had a 38% risk of dying from cardiovascular disease compared to those who consumed 8% of their calories from added sugar. The risk more than double for those who consumed 21% or more of their calories from added sugar (D’Adamo, 2015).

Bottom line, any form of sugar, other than what’s found in fruit, is potentially harmful to your body. In addition, eating too much sugar will zap your energy level which you’ll need during workout time. One thing that really loves added sugar is body fat. If you want a lean, hard body, reduce the amount of sugar you eat! If that’s not enough – read the quote above one more time. Stay strong!

References

Berardi, J., et al., The Essentials of Sport and Exercise Nutrition, Precision Nutrition, 2017.

D’Adamo P.J., The Many Consequences of Sugar Imbalance, 2015.

Additional Reading on the Topic

Shanahan C., Deep Nutrition (2nd Ed.), 2017.

Taubes G., The Case Against Sugar, 2016.

Fitzgerald M., Diet Cults, 2015

Ludwig D., Always Hungry?, 2016.

Freedhoff Y., The Diet Fix, 2014.

Duffy W., Sugar Blues, 1986.

Lustig, R., Fat Chance, 2012.

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