When dumping sugar, beware of the binge

sugar-wall

Photo credit: Alesa Dam

I had a four hour meeting at work last week. We were notified ahead of time that treats would be served so I thought that since it was also casual Friday, I could fest things up and treat me with some hot chocolate. Healthy hot chocolate.

That was mistake #1.

I searched my fitness recipes pinboard on Pinterest and chose this hot chocolate recipe. It’s made with coconut milk, some boiling water, a few spoons of pure cocoa, a spoonful of honey and a dash of vanilla.

Except I replaced the water with more coconut milk and added some vanilla maple syrup since while cooking, the concoction tasted a little flat.

That was mistake #2.

Well, no. Mistake number 2 was drinking the hot chocolate and eating a croissant, carrot muffin and later a stick or two of chocolate covered wafers and nothing else. I didn’t drink water because I was too lazy to get up and walk over to another floor to the water cooler. Besides, I was in an important meeting and didn’t want to miss anything.

It was noon by the time I ate the chocolate covered wafers and that’s when it all hit me. BOOM! Major dizzy spell that got worse and worse.

I had to sit down. Close my eyes a bit. A colleague kindly filled my water bottle.

Sugar crashes aren’t cute

“Eat some protein and in 20 minutes you’ll be fine”, my colleague said when we sat down in the cafeteria. I ate my meat, avoided the fruits I packed and ate few leaves of the spinach and kale salad I prepared the night before. I kept my eyes closed for most of the conversation and thought about a new podcast I had recently began listening to last week.

Yes, this happened last Friday. I, Mr. Blogging About Dumping Sugar From His Diet did a little bingeing. At the time, I didn’t think of it as bingeing. After all, I was treating myself! Or was this a sign of emotional eating? Has something like this ever happened to you?

Treat yourself the proper way

The podcast mentioned above was Evil Sugar Radio. Despite it’s title, the show is about debunking diet fads. Including paleo. I listened to episode 2, The Truth About Carbs & Sugar,  and according to the show summary, sugar isn’t exactly as bad as everyone (bloggers, fitness gurus, etc.) makes it out to be. While I thought it was a weird claim to make and wondered if the podcast was sponsored/funded by a sugar factory, I thought I’d give it a listen.

I didn’t agree with some of things they said (mind you, I’m no food expert), but I did learn a valuable lesson. Table sugar, honey, maple syrup, fruit sugar, high fructose corn syrup – they are all sugar. None are “healthier”. Sugar isn’t “bad”. It gives us energy. And our organs need energy. Only, sugar has no nutritional value on its own. The danger of sugar is eating too much of it.

And that is the problem with our society’s food consumption. Food is everywhere. And food manufacturers disguise sugar into practically anything and everything. We also eat a lot more than yesterdecade causing us to exceed our recommended daily intake of sugar.

I also learned that bingeing comes in different forms. Being an avid strength trainer, I’m all too familiar with the “cheat meal” concept. That’s when you eat healthy and clean all week then eat whatever you like in one meal. Be it pizza, chocolate ice cream, whatever. The popular belief is “otherwise you’ll go crazy”.  Some people even have a cheat day. According to the podcast, this is only driving you to binge on sugar to make up for what you’ve missed out on during the week. You go all clean with your diet then throw it all out the window once a week.

Ok, so what I did wasn’t exactly bingeing but I still messed up my blood sugar levels, spiked my insulin and overworked my liver and pancreasLesson learned. I ate too much sugar with nothing else over a 4 hour period. 

Back to the cafeteria… my colleague’s advice worked like clockwork. Twenty minutes later, the protein I ate made me feel better again.

But I had a healthy drink!

As I  said, sugar is sugar. There’s no “eat as much of X as you like and you will still be a good person!”. It all depends on what the sugar comes with. A spoonful of sugar is “healthier” than a cream filled donut only because the latter has who-knows-what-chemicals in it including even more sugar (well, the former has no nutritional value either, but you get my drift). A spoonful of honey is healthier than a spoonful of sugar because the honey comes with some nutritional benefits. Just don’t eat too much of it.

Some bodybuilders and paleo diet enthusiasts even avoid fruits because of the sugar in them. They are not only missing out on the vitamins, they are also missing out on anti-oxidants, fibre and other nutritional benefits. Just don’t eat too much.

It also depends on the individual

Are you diabetic? Then the rules are different. Are you active all week? Then chances are you’re burning off all that sugar energy anyway. Are you sitting at a desk all day for work like myself? Then we need to be careful about how we eat our food. More on this in future posts!

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2 comments

  1. “Eat protein and in 20 minutes you’ll be fine.” I admit I sugar-binge a lot (not good, I know), so thanks for the tip :) And I think I’ll try that Coconut Milk Hot Chocolate recipe myself.

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