Taken in moderation, sugar is helpful in bodybuilding. Sugar provides your muscles the much needed energy with which you lift weights at the gym.
However, two candy bars and bodybuilding doesn’t sound like a good idea.
On the other hand, two bananas and bodybuilding sounds like a perfectly good and normal idea.
You can already begin to see that not all sugar is the same. Where the sugar comes from is important too and will decide how your body handles it.
So, is sugar bad for bodybuilding? Not entirely. We NEED sugar to live and to carry out all of our processes of living. Plus, the gym requires a ton of energy and a ton of sugar- so does muscle growth! But, it’s important we focus on HEALTHY sugars from fruits and vegetables and NOT candy bars. Bad sugars tend to put on more body fat and not digest as easily.
In this piece we discuss the working of sugar, its types and when sugars are good for you- and ultimately, is sugar bad for bodybuilding?
How Sugar Works
Sugar is an umbrella term that includes a bunch of substances. Being a sugar means that the body digests it quickly and converts to glucose for immediate usage by the body.
The amount of glucose in the blood is known as blood sugar level. Think of glucose as the energy supply of the cells. Glucose from the blood is taken in by the cells and reacts with oxygen in the mitochondria to produce energy.
What sets sugars apart from other types of foods is that they digest super quickly and reach the bloodstream really quickly. This in turn causes the body to release insulin, which is the blood sugar level controlling chemical in the body.
Insulin decides the healthy level of glucose to keep in the blood. Extra glucose is either converted into glycogen or stored as body fat.
- Glycogen: This is a form of sugar storage in the body. It is controlled by and stored in the liver. It is relatively easier to convert back glycogen into glucose.
- Fats: This is another form of sugar storage in the body. Fat is stored in different body parts such as the stomach, thighs and other areas of the body. Too much sugar gets stored as fat in the body. It is relatively harder to convert back fat into glucose, hence people seem to have a hard time getting lean.
The Different Types of Sugars
Earlier we mentioned that the term sugar is an umbrella term. It is time to look beneath the surface and understand what sugars actually are. We will first start by looking at the different types of sugars, based on the number of molecules:
- Monosaccharides: These types of sugars are made up of only one molecule each. Think of them as the simplest types of sugars out there. Being the simplest form, these also digest the fastest. Consequently, they cause an insulin spike in the blood because of their fast digestion. They are generally very sweet to taste. Monosaccharides include fructose, glucose, dextrose among others.
- Disaccharides: As the name suggests, these types of sugars are made up of two molecules each. They too digest fairly quickly and cause an insulin spike. These types of sugars aren’t as sweet, but they’re still sweet. They include lactose, maltose and sucrose among others.
- Polysaccharides: These sugars are made of multiple molecules bonded together. Hence, their name. These sugars are longer in size and therefore harder for the body to digest. These sugars don’t create an insulin spike in the body. They are considered to be the healthiest type of sugar providing a slow, sustained source of energy. These include starch and glycogen.
We got down the different types of sugars based on their chemical structure. Next, we should look at the different types of sugars commonly categorized based on their source of origin. After all, it is important to note where the sugar comes from since the source of sugar makes a whole lot of difference.
- Fructose: found in fruits and honey
- Galactose: found in dairy products such as milk
- Glucose: biscuits, fruits and vegetables
- Lactose: found in milk and other dairy products
- Maltose: found in the likes of barley
- Sucrose: found in plants and veggies
- Xylose: found in wood and woody items such as straw
Natural vs Refined sugar
We began our discussion with a simple comparison between two chocolate bars and two bananas. Both contain sugars. But the banana option is considered to be healthier. What is the reason for this?
The main difference between the two is the type of sugar that is found in the two items. Bananas contain natural sugar whereas the chocolate bars contain refined sugar.
As we look at different food items and compare their sugar contents, we learn of a simple pattern. Natural sugars pass through the body easily.
On the other hand, refined sugar tends to accumulate in the body in the form of glycogen and fat.
It is refined sugar that causes the real problem. We can thus divide sugar into healthy and unhealthy sugar.
Sugar that is natural such as found in fruits and honey is healthy, and sugar found in processed foods which is refined or added extra is harmful to the body as it tends to accumulate in the body in the form of fat.
Best Time to Take Sugar For Bodybuilders
We primarily have two good times for bodybuilders when taking sugars is considered beneficial instead of harmful. These are times when the body is deprived of energy and is in need of a healthy sugar rush.
The first best time is right after your workout. Throughout the workout, your muscles use up energy constantly. The glucose available to the cells is used up constantly and as a result, post workout, your body is severely sugar deprived. All the energy available to the muscles was used up and now none is left.
- This is the perfect time to eat fresh fruits and get that healthy sugar rush throughout the circulatory system. You will feel less exhausted and more in control of your body after the workout.
The second time is right after waking up.
- Depending on how long you sleep, your body was busy keeping you alive for seven to eight hours. Lots of energy is used in the process. Naturally, the body’s sugar levels get used up and become low. This is also a perfect time to take in healthy, natural sugar in the form of honey or fruits. Remember the source of the sugar matters a great deal. Stick to natural sugars.
How Much Sugar Per Day Bodybuilding?
Currently, according to the American Heart Association, it’s recommended you have around 9 teaspoons of sugar per day for men, and 6 teaspoons per day for women when bodybuilding.
Now, this is bit of a tricky number. Firstly, bodybuilders have a much bigger metabolic demand and use much more sugar than most people do.
So, here’s how much sugar you should have per day when bodybuilding: Ideally, you don’t want to be going above 9 teaspoons for men, and 6 teaspoons for women. But, listen to your body. Focus on getting healthy sugars from fruits and vegetables instead of refined sugars as you’ll get less of a crash and feel much better.
Sugars have always been a topic of debate in bodybuilding communities. Hopefully, this article brings some clarity to the debate.
Sugars are healthy as long as taken at the right time and from the right sources. Sugars taken from refined sources such as found in candy bars will simply not do. Instead of those, it is much better that you don’t take any sugar at all. But obviously, you cannot live entirely without sugar.
Stick to the natural kinds such as sucrose and fructose with fruits and vegetables and have them at the right times to keep up your bodybuilding game.