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Spirit Day at Roots!

Spirit Day at Roots!

It surprises me every time. Our daughter Harriet, who is 2 years and 5 months, has a reaction to sugar like no other food product. For a kid who has had limited exposure to this highly processed carbohydrate, it certainly has made an impression on her.

Recently, we celebrated Trevor’s birthday with mini gluten-free cupcakes. The next morning Harriet woke up and wanted Trevor to come over for dessert! Later in the day, she wanted to have another party so we could have cupcakes. That evening, she melted down at bedtime because no one would give her chocolate. And this all translates to, “I want sugar!”, she just can’t quite articulate that.

These stories become more powerful to me when I enter another food. Take sweet potatoes. She has them everyday, likes them, and half the time asks for seconds. Imagine if this were the story:

Recently, we celebrated Trevor’s birthday with mashed sweet potatoes. The next morning Harriet woke up and wanted Trevor to come over for more dinner. Later in the day, she wanted to have a party so we could have sweet potatoes. That evening, she melted down at bedtime because no one would give her sweet potatoes. 

Yea…no other food has quite the power that sugar does. Sugar is such a little shit. 

CrossFit’s dietary prescription is this: “Eat meat and vegetables, nuts and seeds, some fruit, little starch, and no sugar.” We are often good at reading the parts of the sentence that tell us what TO eat, but not as good at the part that tells us what NOT to eat. 

So, let’s talk about sugar.

Sugar is a carbohydrate, but it’s important to note that sugar isn’t like any other carbohydrate. Carbohydrates such as potatoes and rice contain starches, which are polymers of the monosaccharide glucose (big groupings of glucose molecules). Glucose is a vital part of the human metabolic process and if one does not eat glucose, the body will voluntarily produce it on its own.

Added sugars (such as high fructose corn syrup, sucrose, and yes Bones, honey) are a combination of glucose and fructose.

Fructose is different than glucose, most notably because it is metabolized by the liver and it is not the desired energy source for the muscles and brain. Fructose is more lipogenic (fat-producing) than glucose. When an individual eats added sugar in the form of fructose and the liver is already filled with glycogen, the fructose is turned to fat. This process can cause insulin resistance, leading to chronically elevated levels of insulin in the blood, and metabolic derangement.

Highly active and lean individuals can get away with eating some added sugar (don’t get too excited yet) because their body’s glycogen (energy) needs are higher. The liver and muscle cells utilize such a high turnover of sugars to fuel their activity level that they do not overfill their liver on a daily basis with the foods they eat. Some may remember stories of Michael Phelps’ 12,000 calorie per day diet in which he started each day with, “a hearty breakfast consisting of three fried-egg sandwiches, three chocolate chip pancakes, a five-egg omelette, three sugar-coated slices of French toast, and a bowl of grits. While this strategy might be fine in the short term, it does not address the serious mental and long term side effects of eating sugar. We’ll talk about those in an upcoming post. 

There are many great books out there on how to avoid metabolic derangement which is simply the process of destroying one’s insulin response. Chronically elevated levels of insulin can lead to a condition known as the “Deadly Quartet” – upper body obesity, hypertension, glucose intolerance, and hypertriglyceridemia.

I can give you the cliff notes here – don’t eat sugar. But why not invest some time in learning about the ill effects of sugar consumption. The CrossFit Journal put together a great list of books that touch on the topic. My personal favorites are Sugar Blues and Lights Out. Check it out here:

Avoiding Metabolic Derangement