weight loss

Sugar Isn't The Villain Here

So recently ive been on a bit of a roll blogging about carbohydrates, and this post is no different. Today we are dicsussing wether sugar deserves the bad reputation it has received in recent years through the media, and since sugar is a form of carbohydrate it is certainly worth discussing.

So is sugar really the villian that the media has portrayed to us in recent years? Is really that extra doughnut? Or slice of cake that is making you fat? Does all that sugar in a can of coke really make a difference?


Well here is the seriously interesting thing, and it’s that when you look at the data on sugar consumption and not the sensationalist media headlines, it has actually dropped since the 2000's, yet obesity has continued to rise unabated.

source: USDA Economic Research Service, image courtesy of Layne Norton Phd

source: USDA Economic Research Service, image courtesy of Layne Norton Phd

So why is this? Well, each year the US economic research centre releases a summary of food consumption patterns and it summarised:

"According to the loss-adjusted food availability data, Americans are consuming more calories per day than they did 40 years ago. In 1970, Americans consumed an estimated 2,039 calories per person per day; whereas in 2010, they consumed an estimated 2,536 calories (after adjusting for plate waste, spoilage, and other food losses).

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Of this 497-calorie increase, grains (mainly refined grains) accounted for 171 calories; added fats & oils, 225 calories; added sugar & sweeteners, 34 calories; fruit and vegetables, 10 calories; dairy, 27 calories; and meats, eggs, and nuts, 19 calories".

So we're eating about 500 more calories per day than the 1970's - that's equivalent to about a pound of fat per week, given that 1lb of fat is = to 3500 kcal, and 500 kcal x 7 days = 3500 kcal.

We're eating more refined grains (like cakes, buns and things containing flour etc) - easy to overeat as they have a very low satiety.

We're eating more fats and oils - the biggest increase in calorie intake, which are very calorie dense (fats containing 9 kcal per gram) and not very satiating (sorry keto fans).

So what about added sugar intake? A tiny 34 calorie increase in the last 40 years. THIRTY FOUR CALORIES!

Basically the issue here, is simply the calories, obesity is primarily linked to calorie excess, Fat containing 9 kcal per gram and Carbs (including sugar) 4 kcal per gram & Protein 4 kcal per gram. ANY of these eaten in excess, will lead to weight gain and all the associated health problems with it. The graphs above highlight this that its the increase in calories that have continued the trend of increased obesity, and that is what we need to focus on.

But, "Added sugar consumption is unhealthy" i hear you say, “that’s what the media tells me! That’s what Jamie Oliver and Davina Mccall tell me”.

Well, science also disagrees with that claim. A summary of the the clinical research to date on added sugar consumption and health found:

"We conclude that added sugars consumed in the normal forms in which humans consume them, at amounts typical of the human diet and for the time period studied in randomized controlled trials, do not result in adverse health consequences".

Which is basically a fancy way of saying: unless your  diet consists solely of coke, and haribo you should be ok.

Well… fair enough your dentist won’t love you, but you should be ok otherwise.




Water weight vs Fat loss

Firstly, this is NOT a post telling you to stop eating carbs, but i think some people need to understand something about them. for every gram of carbs you eat, your body will store 3 grams of water...

so 100g carb, = 300g water (net 400g weight increase)

so here's some perspective, if i eat 300g of carbs in a day, my body will then hold 900g of water which means a net gain of 1.2kg or over 2lbs

This is NOT fat, this is short term, and can partly explain the wild fluctuation we experience, daily and even hourly in our weight.

This is short term, and if handled correctly can be reduced fairly quickly. often its this water loss that is responsible for many diets, and shake plans causing you to lose "weight" and feeling less bloated.

so can we stop saying carbs are making us fat? they aren't... they may cause an increase in water retention, but overeating is what makes us fat!

so lets go over all of this in more detail!

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If you search “best diet for weight loss” on the internet recently, you will have probably found something called “the ketogenic diet,”which is essentially a rebranded Atkins diet. After a little bit of digging, your questions start to stack up:

  • How does keto work?

  • Will keto work for me?

  • Is it dangerous?

  • Does it burn fat?

  • Will i keep the results?

To answer these questions, we must first understand our body’s relationship with carbs and in particular glycogen.

Ok, what is glycogen?

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Is glycogen a carbohydrate? Well, sort of. Glucose (a type of sugar) is a carbohydrate that your body uses for fuel and glycogen is stored glucose. essentially when the body gets excess fuel, the glucose (sugar) molecules are linked together in a chain, producing longer units, called glycogen.

When we exercise and perform activity our bodies draw upon the glycogen tucked away in our muscles (i.e. glycogen stores) for fuel, which is why you hear about athletes “carb loading” in the days before a big race or match. They are fueling their bodies for extended periods of activity.

So where is glycogen stored?

Like we said above, some glycogen is stored in the muscles but there are also some glycogen stores in the liver (this is important for the water retention aspect, because as we absorb glucose our body will also retain sodium, which leads into the body holding more water. The glycogen stored in the liver is what keeps the body functions running (i.e., brain, digestive, and cardiovascular function).

Am I losing fat or water weight: Carbs and water retention

It’s common for those new to a low-carb lifestyle to lose a significant amount of weight at the very beginning of their carb restriction. That could mean four, 10 or even 12 pounds in the first two weeks depending on a person’s starting weight. You will often see these dramatic results as part of advertising for various fad diets, weight loss/shake plans. You might ask,”is this rate of weight loss sustainable” and the answer is simply, NO.

It’s all about the glycogen stores and the association between carbs and water retention.  Each gram of glycogen is associated with 3-4 grams of water, which i talked about at the very beginning. So, as your body burns its way through the reduced dietary carbs and into the glycogen stores, the water attached to the glycogen is lost as well resulting in the phenomenon commonly known as “losing water weight.” There’s no fat loss here yet, it’s like the glycogen and accompanying water are squeezed out of your muscles and liver, (any fat loss will come from a negative calorie intake, and will be much slower than water loss).

This also explains why plenty of folks experience an alarming weight loss, in a relative short space of time on diets like keto, or protein shake meal replacement diets, and also the vice versa, why people experience shocking weight gain the day following a “cheat meal.” Even if the ingested carbs are at a moderate level (i.e. consumption of a grilled cheese sandwich, not an entire deep-fried birthday cake), your liver and muscles snatch up as much glucose as they can take, including up to four grams of water to accompany each gram of glycogen. I myself experience a weight gain of over 10lbs in 2 days after consuming carbs after my final physique competition of the year, a result of being extremely carb depleted for and extended period of time. Psychologically for me it was important to remember this was water weight i had gain, and not fat.

Will i keep my results?

Well as i stated in the previous section, any fat loss will be the result of a calorie deficit/negative calorie diet. If you maintain the diet structure and activity level that allowed you to achieve this then YES, you will keep your  results. However, any ‘weight loss’ that is a results of simply a reduction in carbs and not calories, will NOT be fat loss, and as soon as you return to eating carbs, your body will hoover up the glucose and lead to the immediate return of water weight.

It is therefore important to understand the difference between ‘water weight’ and ‘fat loss’ and not to wrongly villianise carbs as evil food source that will make you fat.

Conclusion

  • Glycogen is a way the body stores glucose as energy for later

  • Consuming less than 100 grams of carbs per day will begin to deplete glycogen stores

  • Glycogen binds with water molecules; when the body uses glycogen, it results in a loss of “water weight”

  • Depleted glycogen stores will ultimately lead to a reduction in water weight

  • Water weight and fat are separate

  • Fat loss is a result of calorie deficit, but water loss is results or carb reduction

BUSTING BOOTEAS AND KILLING KETO COFFEE

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Ok so if your reasing this post then, either you are someone who is considering purchasing a specialist fat burning coffee/tea, in the hope that this will aid you in your quest to shed a few extra pounds, or you’re like me and have a borderline chronic addicition to that miraculous dark nectar of the gods, and want to see if there is any benefit to these “fat loss” coffee/teas

Perhaps you have seen an insta model promoting it as a secret to their slim and toned figure, or a friend on your facebook feed has been promoting the fantastic results that someone they know has had from using the particular brand they represent, and they have peaked your interest, and are now asking are these products worth it?

My answer… is a resounding NO!

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Before we even get into the tenuous links to science these products claim to have, by using “specialist” ingredients, lets factor in something that will probably speak to you more. The price, after a quick google search for various brands i have found some of these products costing over £27 for just 50g of coffee… lets put this into perspective for a second, i personally drink lavazza coffee (shameful plug), which is a known brand and considered a quality coffee by most, and i pay £3.50 for 250g. Think about that for a second for JUST £3.50 i can buy 5 times more coffee than what you get for the price of a “skinny coffee”, so the next question to ask… is it worth it?

So why are you paying upto and around 45x the price of a regular coffee? is it for the specialist ingredients that they add? If so lets look at the common ones.

Caffeine - this is the most obvious one, as caffeine has always been an active part of both coffee and tea, and yes it is known to help increase metabolic rates by upto 4% in the short term. This is one of the reasons that many Pre-workouts include it, as well as stimulating you in the gym it enhances you metabolism allowing you to burn more calories. The problem here, is that REGULAR coffee will do the exact same job as a skinny coffee/tea.

Caffeine also has a diuretic effect, what this means is that it aids in shedding water weight, it is important here note that water weight is NOT fat loss, and learning this distinction is crucial to your goals. You may feel less bloated due to the shedding of water weight, and loss “weight” in the short term, but again this is only temporary. Also its important to note that both coffee and tea both have mild laxative effects, now its unclear as to if this is linked to the caffeine, but regardless, some immediate weightloss maybe due to the fact you are going to the toilet more regular and therefore removing the weight from digested food in your gut, which is again only a short term loss.

So based on this ingredient, you would be better off sticking with regular coffee instead.

Tumeric - This on its own is a fantastic ingredient, and i have seen this banded around with many of these teas/coffees. Tumeric is extremely high in anti-oxidants which are known to prevent free radical damage. Which in turn helps reduce inflamation and swelling that is common in those who are overweight, the caveat here is that coffee and green tea are all ready extremely high in anti oxidants, so you are merely topping up what is already being provided by the coffee/tea on its own.

cinnamon - ok this is an ingredient that has SOME credibile benefit, cinnamon like most spices has a naturally thermogenic component to it, meaning that this will raise raise your bodies heat through an increased metabolism.

Green tea/coffee extracts - often seen as another ingredient in these specialist coffees, primary function here is again, to increase anti oxidants and boost caffeine levels.

Ginseng - another anti oxidant booster.

I can keep adding to this list, but we can already see that the added benefits of these common ingredients, serve only to top up, what the original coffee/tea provides us with, which brings us back to the first point? are they worth the 45x inflated price? Well given that a quick google/amazon search for each of these ingredients provided me with vast options of these ingredients with significantly more than 50g for LESS than £5, the answer is a firm NO.

What it tells me, is that if you REALLY want to go down this route and try these specialist coffee/teas, your best and cheapest option, would be to buy yourself a good reasonably priced coffee, and purchase these ingredients seperately and make them yourself. At the VERY least you will save yourself a significant amount of money, whilst still reaping the benefits (if any) from them.