5 Ways to Cut Refined Sugar

Oh, sugar. It’s arguably the most popular (and controversial) food to discuss when it comes to our health.

We consume too much on a daily basis. It’s hiding in our yoghurt, our sports drinks, our store-bought breads, our juice, and our muesli bars. It’s linked to obesity, metabolic syndrome, and even cancer.
As runners, we definitely need sugar in our diet. And no matter how health conscious we are, we’re bound to crave a sweet treat time and again. But even though we may be able to justify our sweet indulgence thanks to burning more kilojoules per day than our nonrunning neighbors, we need to consider where and just how much sugar we’re consuming.Sugar not only sends our energy levels on a roller-coaster, it also affects our hormones and the messaging signals to our brain. Which means that even though we feel while we enjoy that sweet treat, we almost always eat more kilojoules than our bodies need since sugar has the evil ability to trick our bodies’ satiety cues into thinking we need more than we do. We’ll get a rush of feel-good hormones, known as endorphins, followed by a let down, which will trigger the whole process all over again.

But there are definitely ways to resolve this cycle, maintain steady energy levels, and avoid extra, added sugar.

Scan the ingredient list
Added processed sugars typically will have an ingredient ending in an “ose,”such as maltose, dextrose or sucrose. Other sugars, besides the obvious, are corn syrup, fruit juice concentrate, maltodextrin, brown rice syrup, and molasses. A good rule of thumb is that if sugar is one of the first three ingredients and it’s not from natural sources (like 100 percent fruit juice), then it’s best to put it down and move on.

Go Low
While the package is turned around, look past the ingredients to the nutrition fact panel. Choose a product with the fewest grams of sugar. For example, plain yoghurt naturally has eight to nine grams of sugar due to natural sugars present in lactose. But a fruit yoghurt can have more than 20 grams! Reach for the plain, and then add fruits to control the sweetness level.

Natural Always Wins
I’m not saying avoid all sugar. Eating fresh fruits is a great way to get natural sugars our bodies need prerun (think banana) and can help satisfy that sweet craving. Plus, fruits are high in water, low in kilojoules, and provide our bodies with other essential nutrients, including fibre, vitamins, and minerals.

Out of Sight, Out of Mind
Make a goal to increase whole foods and limit buying processed foods. I always tell my clients it’s easier to resist the temptation once in the grocery store rather than over and over again in the pantry.

While I totally get that we’re all busy, try to devote time each week to making foods, snacks, and treats to control the amount and type of sugar. Even something like store-bought tomato sauce tends to have added sugar, which can be avoided by making your own. One of my favorite ways to sweeten baked goods, yoguhrt, oats, and more is using dates or bananas. Try making a large batch of muesli bars or protein balls to store in the refrigerator or freezer for a quick grab-and-go snack.

Cutting all sugar out of our diets is unrealistic and we’d be both setting ourselves up for frustration and failure, plus possibly compromising our runs. We can, however, control how much sugar we are eating and the type we’re reaching for. Being mindful of this is beneficial to our bodies and our running!

How do you control your sugar intake?

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