BY KIRSTIN LAURITZEN
We've all heard it, we all know it - sugar is something we should keep to a minimum. But, when it comes down to it and that carbladen treat or soda is in front of us, will you choose to have it or pass?
Glucose, basic sugar, is utilized in the body for energy. When food enters the digestive system, it gets broken down into the basics: glucose, amino acids, and fatty acids. Depending on the food, there may be simple sugars/carbs (absorbed and digested faster) or complex sugars/carbs (digested slower, takes more energy to absorb them).
When glucose enters the bloodstream, the pancreas goes through a series of chemical processes to manage the increase in blood sugar. One of these processes produces insulin. The purpose of insulin is to bind to the sugar and help it get processed and stored. The body stores glucose in muscles and in the liver, and the left over either gets utilized immediately for energy or gets stored as adipose tissue (fat).
The problem is the typical Western diet contains a constant source of sugar. The body is bombarded with spikes in blood sugar all day long. Over time, the pancreas begins to get resistant to the amount of sugar in the body, so it now has to produce even more insulin per blood sugar spike. At the same time, other healthy chemicals like adiponectin, which help the body maintain a healthy weight and amount of adipose fat, stop working. This is how, as a nation, we are seeing an obesity epidemic and a rise in pre-diabetes, diabetes and cardiovascular disease.
Excess sugar, refined carbohydrates, and processed/ fried foods also increase inflammation. For the athlete, this can be a problem.
First, athletes do need a healthy level of inflammation in their muscles post-training in order to promote muscle adaptation to build strength and power. Inflammation brings certain inflammatory markers that promote rebuilding and new tissue growth. This is usually the process of the 2-3 day muscle soreness called Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness (DOMS) that occurs after difficult and intense training.
The problem is, inflammation should not stick around, but in many people, it does. Sugar and other refined foods/foods of a poor diet promote inflammation in the gut and the persistence of inflammation in the body. This leads to joint aches and pains, which can lead ultimately to injury.
Poor diet creates longer periods of DOMS, leading to longer periods between training sessions for recovery, and many other issues with digestion and cognitive function. Each exposure to sugar makes it even more difficult for the body to utilize the kill switch for inflammation.
Ultimately, a diet high in plants like vegetables, some fruits, some starches, some nuts/seeds, good sources of protein and fat, filtered water, and fueling/ supplements that are clean and low in sugars (enter Hammer Nutrition) helps the body reduce overall inflammation and is the perfect fuel for any athlete. Skipping sugary drinks, fuels, and foods is the best option for your training and your health.