Sugar is not bad for you

Be sure to know what a “Complex Carbohydrate” really is. It doesn’t mean long-chain starches. Those are still sugar. A baked potato, bowl of white rice, a slice of bread, and even corn on the cob are just fast-acting sugars to the body. In fact, they all have a higher glycemic index than table sugar (except some low-carb breads such as Ezekiel bread).

“Complex” means trapped inside of other things. So, an apple is complex. Broccoli is complex. Kale is complex. Peppers, asparagus, etc. You have to chew it, and it has fiber that hasn’t been milled in a factory.

Not apple juice, or any type of juice. As soon as you juice or puree something, even if you “leave the pulp in”, it’s no longer complex. The body no longer has to wait to absorb the calories out of it.

Sitting at a desk, you need about 0.4 kcalories per pound per hour. There is no need to eat anything starchy or sugary. It is turned into glucose before it enters the blood stream, and it only has a half-life of 15 minutes. Anything you didn’t burn in an hour will be turned to fat. Most sugars other than glucose, including half of table sugar, is sent to the liver, converted to glucose, and only about 10% of it makes it into the blood before being turned into fat.

If you’re exercising for 2 hours, you should be able to fuel that with reserves, even at maximum effort. The key is to keep your water and mineral levels happy (20-30oz per hour, with a gram of salt mixed in, and whatever else you want to flavor it). If you want to eat, eat whatever you can stomach.

However, if you’re exercising hard for 5 hours, there is no reason to eat fresh vegetables during your workout. You should have done so before, and will do so after, because of the vitamins and minerals. Those are just too slow to provide your energy needs during cardio.

Exercising at maximum effort, you need about 4 kcalories per pound per hour, plus water and extra minerals. At sustainable effort, you need 3kcal/pound. A tablespoon of corn syrup (not HFCS) washed down with water is almost exactly what you want. (2mg magnesium, 4mg calcium, 9mg potassium, 31mg sodium, 16g glucose, 57 kcal).

Even if you stop for an hour in the middle, you’re still running 30% over idle. If you don’t supplement during the exercise, even with a meal break in the middle, you’ll run out of energy. This will feel like you’re too tired to go on, and if you’re measuring, you’ll lose 30% or more of your peak effort. The refill rate is 3x longer than the burn rate, so once this happens, it’s too late to come back.

Ultra-athletes can double this reserve, and improve their ability to burn fat to extend their peak efforts. Also, their peak efforts move further up, so they can operate at a lower percentage of peak, meaning they can refuel a higher percentage of their reserve consumption during the workout.

Even so, even the best athlete will eventually run out of glycogen reserves. They just have learned how to keep going at this point. They’ve killed off the muscle cells that can’t handle it, and walled off the parts of the brain that tell them they are too tired to continue (fatigue is mostly in the mind if your hydration and electrolytes are okay).

Proof? Look up ultracycling mph ranges. 7hour riders might be in the 17mph range, 12 hour rides in the 16mph range, and 2.5 day rides in the 13.5mph range. Many of these riders can easily average 20mph for 2-3 hour rides, and push 22mph averages for hard workout days. These stats do not subtract rest stops.

Comparatively, my non-athlete speeds, and I did 40mi at 14.8mph, 23mi at 16.3mph, and I can easily hit 18-20mph on flats, even 34mph on a downhill if I don’t have far to go. I *do* subtract out rest stops.

One Response to Sugar is not bad for you

  1. Rambly stuff I didn’t edit or add in because I’m tired:

    Sugar is not *bad*. Potatoes are not good. Before you get confused, don’t go eat a cake and yell at me because you gained weight.

    Sugar is necessary for hard, prolonged exercise. Only. Any other time, high-density carbohydrates of ANY kind, whether it’s brown rice or table sugar, would be excessive and just converted to fat.

    Also know that “Complex Carbohydrate” is a complete marketing lie. It has no basis in reality. Sandwich bread, with the crust, has more glucose available and at a faster rate than table sugar. The same with pasta, or most anything you see listed as “carbohydrate” on a food label.

    “Starch” is literally glucose polymers, broken down in the gut.

    If you want a long, slow absorption of carbohydrates, then you have to eat low calorie foods. Crunchy vegetables and fruit have their sugar and starch trapped inside of fiber. That is why it takes a long time to absorb, and lets you get energy over more time. That’s also why they’re lower calories per pound of food.

    Whole Grains are just that. If you buy “whole wheat flour” you’re actually buying white flour with wheat bran in it. It’s not a whole grain flour. If you mill your own grains and sprouted grains, that’s different. That’s a little less than table sugar, and about a third of pure glucose by way of glycemic index (amount and speed of sugar absorbed).

    For people who like juice, know that Apple Juice is the same thing to your body as Coca Cola. It doesn’t matter if you throw a tablespoon of fiber in there. As soon as you juice this, or pulverize it, or puree it…. You’ve released the sugars and starches from their cages. Your blender is MUCH faster than your teeth+stomach+intestines.

    So, how much carbohydrate (aka glucose) do I need in my diet?

    At rest, you burn about 10 kcalories per pound of body mass per DAY. This doesn’t mean sleeping. It just means hanging out at home, or working an office job.

    At 100% of your maximum heart rate, you burn about 4 kilocalories per pound of body mass per hour. At 75% you burn about 3. At 50% you burn about 1.5. This includes the above mentioned BMR/RMR of 0.4kcal/hr/pound.

    Not all of that can be from glucose, though excess glucose CAN be converted to fat and then burned. At rest, you burn about 35% glucose and 65% fat. At 70% max heart rate, you burn about 50/50. At 90% max heart rate, you burn about 98% glucose.

    That means, for me, at 260 pounds, I need 2600 kcalories on a non-exercise day, and 910 of those should be carbohydrate (227g). Carbohydrate (sugar) has a pretty short half life of about 15 minutes in the blood, so after an hour, only 6% of what’s absorbed is still available, whether it’s burned or stored as fat.

    Going for 1/2 cup servings, 4oz of M&Ms might absorb completely in 30 minutes for 320 calories of sugar (or 544 calories total). 4 slices (5oz) of Ezekiel bread might absorb in 90 minutes for 240 calories of carbs and 320 calories total. 3oz of broccoli, cooked, might take 180 minutes to fully absorb, yielding 62 calories of carbs, and 75 calories total.

    None of the broccoli’s carbs would be converted to fat, because it absorbs slower than my resting body burns it. I could have a head of broccoli and end up the same as 4 slices of sprouted-grain bread, but over twice the time. This would just about balance with my waking calorie needs. The Ezekial bread would be more carbs than I could burn, though if I just had 2 slices and a big glass of water, the fiber would expand and I’d be in a good place there too. For the M&Ms, 4oz is a lot, and obviously is way more than I would use at rest. A “handful” of M&Ms would still be an ounce or more, which is still too calorie dense.

    Unless I’m exercising hard. M&Ms were designed for the Army, when they would burn 6000+ calories per day.

    When exercising hard, your body can burn 5-15% energy from protein, but mostly protein is just to rebuild damaged muscles and complex molecules. You need 0.25-1.0 grams of protein per day per pound of body mass. Ultra-Athletes may need more, but unless you train for 24-hour bike rides, or Olympic swimming competition, this is more than enough. Excess protein is converted to glucose, and excess glucose is converted to fat.

    The rest is fat. That’s a lot of calories from fat, something like 50% ? Well, I have excess fat to burn, so yup. However, fat isn’t bad for you either. It’s your overall health. Your liver makes most of your cholesterol regardless of how much you eat. The stuff that collects in your arteries are more from the oxidative stress of not keeping your blood flowing.

    Now, it’s fine to shift more to carbohydrate and less to fat. Your body will just convert the excess sugar to glucose, to a point. If that machinery gets overloaded, then your blood sugar goes up, insulin resistance and all sorts of other metabolic issues develop, and it’s just a bad thing. So, protein, whole veggies, whole fruits… those are slow, and won’t clog up the lipogenesis machinery the same way that a pile of candies on an idle day might.

    However, if you’re burning 1000 calories per hour, then stuffing M&Ms down your gullet isn’t going to be a problem. Whatever you can stomach. You’ll probably find that after 8 ounces, you’re done with M&Ms for a long time. It’s probably not fast enough… not sugary enough… to supply you. Plus, it needs water to digest, which you’re probably squirting out of your pores.

    So when do I need to be worried about whether I’m consuming enough simple carbohydrate (sugar, starch) during exercise?

    Generally, after you factor in your muscle mass (which is about 2% glycogen), your average heart rate over a long workout, and the maximum depletion you can reach (about 0.5% unless you’re an ultra-athlete), you find that you have about 2 hours of glycogen stored in your muscles. Ultras can double this reserve, and exercising at a lower percentage of peak rate will extend this time by using more fat.

    Once you begin depleting glycogen, this also opens up space to store sugar in your muscles as glycogen (glucose polymer, similar to amylopectin in corn starch). You can refill that space at about 35% of the speed you can burn it, which means at about 60% of your max effort, you should be able to consume your calorie burn, with 50% as sugar, 40% as fat, and 10% as protein, consumed in portions at 15 minute intervals.

    If you stop for an hour rest, you’re still burning excess glucose at about 25% of your workout rate. The whole, yummy foods are good for the long haul, but you probably need some lemonade or a baked potato with it.

    Once you run out of glycogen, your power level drops because you’re limited by the oxygen inefficiency of oxidizing fat vs the amount O2 you need for everything else. Gluconeogenesis can produce one glucose per triglyceride broken, and that pretty much provides the fuel for the machinery to make energy from fat.

    To further extend your glucose reserves, you can supplement 35% of your glucose needs with ride fuel, starting about 20 minutes before you start, and evenly distributed through your exercise. The amount of sugar you can absorb for muscles is roughly 1 kilocalorie per pound of body weight per hour, or roughly 1/4 your pounds in grams of sugar/maltodextrine/modified starch. After hour 3, after subtracting our breaks, you can start adding in protein at a rate of 5-15% of your carbohydrate intake. This is more to reduce muscle breakdown than anything else, but it does provide a small amount of usable fuel.

    Carbohydrates do not enter your blood. Simple sugars enter your blood. If your carbohydrate is not glucose based (dextrose, glucose, amylose, amylopectin, etc) then most of it will be converted to fat by the liver after it’s converted into glucose. All of your body has a use for glucose, so it’s important to have the right amount for your needs.

    Table sugar is 50% glucose, 50% sucrose. It’s broken down in your intestines, and absorbed rather quickly.

    Maltodextrine is 100% glucose, in strings around 20 monomers long. This also is broken down very quickly, but it’s not called “sugar” on package labels.

    If you eat “starch”, this is 3,000 to 20,000 monomers of glucose in branched chains. It still absorbs rather quickly, especially if it’s “modified” or “enzyme treated”. This is something that’s good to have already in your intestines, mixed up with high fiber foods (crunchy vegetables).

    When you are sitting around, you don’t need hardly any extra glucose. Anything that converts to glucose, or produces glucose from energy stores will just confuse your metabolic system unless you’re recovering from recent exercise.

    When you exercise, your exertion level dictates where energy comes from. Your body can oxidize fat, or glucose. At around 70% of your maximum effort, you burn about 50% fat, and 50% glucose. Either direction from that effort favors glucose, more-so on the high-end because energy from glucose is more oxygen efficient.

    Glycogen, the fuel your muscles run off of, and which is stored by your muscles and your liver, is almost exactly the same as corn starch, with the difference being how tightly branched the polymer is stored.

    When you’re exercising for a long time, you can refill about 35% of your energy needs from high glycemic foods. The rest has to come from glycogen stores already in your muscles, and from fat. Your muscles have their own stores, which feed those muscle cells. Your liver has its stores which can be converted to blood glucose at a slightly slower rate. Once you deplete your glycogen stores, you are limited entirely by the amount of glucose you can get into your blood, and the efficiency of metabolizing fat (food or stored doesn’t really matter).

    To be used for fuel, the carbohydrates must be broken down and converted into glucose.
    If you want that magical “complex carbohydrate” that everyone talks about as being better than sugar, then you need something that actually takes time and energy to digest. For instance, whole fruit has most of the carbohydrate locked up inside of complex structures made of fiber. If you eat a whole, fresh nectarine, that’s 60 calories and will take a couple of hours to get those 60 calories.

    If you drink 60 calories of apple juice, that is sugar, and you will get those calories in about 30 minutes.

    SUGAR IS NOT BAD FOR YOU. Simple carbs have an important part to play. If you are sitting on your butt, typing on a computer, then you have no need for simple carbs. You need about a teaspoon of sugar every 20 minutes to operate, and your body will happily get this from your last meal assuming it wasn’t enzyme treated flour.

    If you are exercising hard, above 70% activity, then you need sugar to maintain that effort. (At 70% effort, you burn 50% fat, 50% sugar).