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Decoding Sugarspeak

SUGAR IN DISGUISE: What they aren’t telling you


The “added sugars” line is finally here!

January 1, 2020 represented a watershed moment in the battle for sugar awareness and moderation. Although the legislation that changed the beloved nutrition facts panel to include the amount of sugar added to a serving was passed in 2016 and set for implementation on January 1, 2018, the sugar industry was able to push it back two years. They were also successful in delaying implementation for companies with less than $10M in annual revenues another year, until January 1, 2021.

It’s not only the soft drink industry that is unhappy about providing this information, given that more and more people are waking up to the fact that a highsugar diet is central to all of the diseases we see today. The sports nutrition industry now has a growing PR problem, which has led to some very creative marketing/ messaging. I’ll have more on that in a minute.

The updated nutrition facts panel (NFP) is now required to show three numbers for carbohydrates; the first being total carbs, the second being total sugar, and the new third line being the amount of added sugars. I say this is huge for consumers because, for the first time ever, we’ll be able to easily see how much of the sugar in a serving is from naturally occurring sources and how much is coming from actual sugar that has been added.

For example, the NFP for Hammer Gel usually is as follows: 21- 23 grams of carbohydrates, 1-2 grams of sugar, and 0 grams of added sugar! Conversely, the new NFP carbohydrate numbers for a can of soda pop would look something like this: 38-40 grams of carbs, 38-40 grams of sugar, and 38-40 grams of ADDED sugar. The new line showing added sugar gives you a new and convenient way to calculate your total daily sugar intake AND see how much of that is from added sugar sources such as glucose, sucrose, fructose, high fructose syrup, etc.

Armed with this new data, you can see how much sugar you are truly eating on a daily basis. The World Health Organization’s recommended 25 grams per day of sugar comes out to about 20 pounds per year! Keep in mind that the average American is said to consume 150 pounds per year, and athletes consuming sugar-based fuels during exercise and training can easily double that figure.

I know, it’s scary.

Despite the fact that their products are made primarily from sugar, they never use that word anymore. No, they say it’s honey or maple syrup or “clean carbs” (whatever that is?) or dried cane juice or a half dozen other confusing labels. It reminds me of an adage my Dad taught me when I was young. He said, “If you see a creature that looks like a duck, walks like a duck, and quacks like a duck, it’s a duck, and don’t let anyone try to convince you otherwise.” I’m looking at a duck, and it’s all sugar.

The bottom line is you’ve got to read labels and become an expert in finding products with the least amount of total sugars and especially added sugars. That’s because sugar kills; and before it kills, it makes life a lot less enjoyable. Don’t be in denial about how much you eat. Do your best to reduce how much sugar you consume every day, and enjoy the amazing, life-changing benefits that a low-sugar diet guarantees. Of course, I would be remiss if I did not point out that one of the easiest ways to reduce your daily sugar intake is to avoid sugar-based sports nutrition products!

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