What’s an athlete to do without sugar?Ã‚Â Or, perhaps more to the point, why would an avid cyclist want to take sugar out of their diet?
Welcome to my (although Sweetie’s getting dragged into it) February experiment: One month with no added sugar.
The inspiration for this experiment came from many things, but oddly enough the concept popped into my head as one of my friends recounted what a visiting revival preacher recently said while he was in the big tent. Amidst the proselytizing, he asked the congregation if they knew the number one addiction in America. His answer: Sugar.Ã‚Â Then, I was reading Esquire Magazine’s monthly column with Dr. Oz, who’s answer to the question “if you had to tell America to give up one vice what would it be?”Ã‚Â His answer: Smoking?Ã‚Â Drugs?Ã‚Â Nope, Sugar.
I’m also reading two of Dr. Oz’s books, You: The Owners Manual and You: Staying Young, and the latter in particular suggests cutting out refined sugar (FWIW, I highly recommend these books). On top of this, we get Hammer Nutrition’s monthly (or more) newsletters which absolutely bash sugar.
Given that I’d like to live as long and healthily as possible, I figured it’d be interesting to see:
- Would eliminating refined sugar make me feel better overall?
- How hard would it be to eliminate refined sugar from my diet?
- How would if affect athletic performance?
For clarification, sugar in its naturally occurring state (fruit, juice, etc.) is fine, at least for the purposes of this experiment.Ã‚Â For health reasons, too much of sugar in any form is bad, but the goal here is to eat and drink things that don’t have added sugar for the entire month of February.Ã‚Â If the ingredient list has Sugar, High Fructose Corn Syrup, Corn Syrup, Sucrose or the like, it’s out.
It’s reported that Americans consumed 95 to 100 lbs of caloric sweetener per person in 2008Ã‚Â¹.Ã‚Â That’s more than a 1/4 pound per person, per day!
Wait, we’re cyclists, we measure everything in grams.Ã‚Â OK, that’s 124 grams of sugar per day (almost 500 calories).
This “caloric sweetener” is a combination of refined beet and cane sugar (generally just listed as “sugar” or “sucrose” on ingredient statements) and high fructose corn syrup.Ã‚Â And it’s everywhere.Ã‚Â Bread, cereal…heck, even the Salt-n-Pepper potato chips I had with my sandwich the other day had sugar listed as an ingredient.Ã‚Â Seriously? Potato chips?
My hunch is, if you’re an avid athlete that’s consuming sports and recovery drinks, gels and eating whatever because you think it’s offset by all the training, almost certainly you’re at or above the per-capita average.Ã‚Â Heck, I was close, and I was already fairly conscious of my sugar intake.Ã‚Â I’m not judgin’…just saying.
In order to still train effectively, ride hard and recover well, I had to find something for during and after riding to keep me fueled up.Ã‚Â While there are other products out there, and we’ll cover some of those throughout the experiment, Hammer Nutrition has by far the most extensive lineup of no-sugar-added sports nutrition products that are developed for endurance athletes.Ã‚Â There are plenty of body-building and diet products with no sugar, too, but being a cyclist, I wanted to focus on sport-specific products.Ã‚Â So, for the experiment, Hammer agreed to provide an assortment of their gels, sports drinks and recovery drinks:
I’ll also be tapping some of their research and knowledge throughout the experiment, so look for an interview or two this month.
IS IT DIFFICULT?
I’ll report back frequently on this experiment.Ã‚Â While the “how I’ll feel” part of the experiment’s results will come only after time, the “is it difficult” part will be an ongoing story and, I suspect, somewhat of a challenge.
For example, what about things like Ketchup that are what they are because of added sugar?Ã‚Â And what about swapping for sugar substitutes…do I really want to start consuming a lot of artificial sweeteners?Ã‚Â Do natural sweeteners like Agave, Maple Syrup and Honey count as refined sugars?Ã‚Â If so, are they as bad?
Lots to cover this month, and as I do, I’ll share and adjust my diet accordingly.Ã‚Â But for the start, it’ll be as strict as possible in terms of not adding sugars.Ã‚Â Here’s my meals so far on this first day:
My waffles (and pancakes, for that matter) are entirely homemade (recipe below!) and have no added sugar in the mix.Ã‚Â And I put Costco’s organic peanut butter on them, which has only two ingredients, peanuts and salt. It is absolutely the best peanut butter I’ve ever had.Ã‚Â I used Harris Teeter sugar-free syrup, which wasn’t as bad as I anticipated, but still not as satisfying as the real deal, and it uses artificial sweeteners.
Couple that with scrambled eggs (mostly egg whites) with Kraft fat-free shredded cheese and you have a no-added-sugar breakfast that’s delicious.Ã‚Â Oh, and coffee with skim milk…no sugar.
While I’m not doing this experiment for weight loss, I saved 100 to 150 calories versus the “light” syrup I normally use. That said, I’d like to find an alternative to sugar-free syrup without giving up waffles…I have them four or five days a week!
Mix these ingredients into a large Tupperware, it’ll make enough mix for several days of waffles.Ã‚Â To make the batter for about 2- to 2-1/2 large waffles, mix the following:
I put the milk in a blender with about 1/4 cup blueberries (or some apple or a banana, even goji berries occasionally, but they tend to make it taste a little like hay) and a spoonful of flax seeds and blend.Ã‚Â Pour that into a bowl, add the egg and oil, then whip it good.Ã‚Â Add about six or seven heaping spoonfuls of the dry mix and stir, adding more or less to achieve your desired consistency.Ã‚Â While Alton Brown says put the whisk down after 10 seconds and walk away, I stir it until no lumps remain and *surprise* it turns out just fine.Ã‚Â If you’re not starving, let the batter rest for a minute before pouring your first waffle.
Lunch was leftover grilled chicken breast sliced on top of mixed lettuce.Ã‚Â Since every dressing in our fridge has sugar added, I made my own from OJ, balsamic and apple cider vinegar and olive oil (poured it all into a shaker and shook vigorously…it actually stayed mixed, I was expecting immediate separation).Ã‚Â Not too bad, but I ended up shaking a bit of Tony Chachere’s on it to liven things up.Ã‚Â Here’s another dilemma…does adding fruit juice to sweeten something count as added sugar?Ã‚Â We’ll see what the experts have to say.
Almonds, a banana and a water bottle with ZYM’s no-sugar, caffeinated Catapult Berry flavorÃ‚Â².Ã‚Â While I prefer ZYM’s lemon-lime flavor, it has a very small amount of sucrose added.
To be determined… Does Papa John’s or Domino’s pizza sauce have sugar in it?
WHAT DO YOU THINK?
Here’s where you come in.Ã‚Â Is there anything about this experiment you’re interested in?Ã‚Â Anything you’d like to contribute or have me research?Ã‚Â Leave a comment on this and/or any of the forthcoming posts and I’ll do my best to address them.Ã‚Â And if you’ve got a great recipe or product worth mentioning that would contribute to this experiment’s success, let me know! (don’t spam it though, we approve every comment manually, and salesy comments for diets, plans, etc., will not be approved. It’s a conversation, not a commercial.)
- U.S. Department of Agriculture, Economic Research Service. 2009 (PDF download)
- Throughout the experiment, I’ll mention products by name and brand where applicable.Ã‚Â Some products were sent in separately for review, others we have laying around and some, Hammer Nutrition in particular, were sent specifically for this experiment.Ã‚Â Some (likely most) were sent to us for free, however the mention of their names, products and brands are for informational purposes only and are not meant to imply endorsement.Ã‚Â If I/we like the product or it proves useful to the experiment, I’ll say so, and vice-versa.