How Sweet it Is!



Cutting Out Sugar to Lose Weight

For anyone trying to lose weight, whether as a professional fighter or your average, weight conscious guy, one of the hardest critters to kick is the Sugar Bug. Yes, the sweet stuff. It's delicious, enticing and makes you feel good (even if just temporarily). Unfortunately, its incredibly detrimental to your health as well as your waistline and, worse still, it is found in just about every product you see on your grocers shelves. As a fighter it can be frustrating because you need carbohydrates and sugars for your body to use as fuel for energy. So for most people, when they cut back on the sugars and carbs, its usually accompanied by a huge slump in energy. The good news is that there are healthy sources of carbs, sugars, and sugar alternatives available that, not only provide you with energy, but that also satisfy your sweet tooth and do not leave you feeling deprived.

One great alternative to sugar is a product called Stevia. Stevia is small, shrub-like herb that grows in the wild parts of Paraguay and Brazil. The leaves on a average Stevia plant contain glucosides. This includes 10% Stevioside, which accounts for its incredible sweetness. If purchased in its refined form (which is the normal white powder), it is considered to be 200-300 times sweeter than table sugar. This is a great product for adding sweetness to coffee, tea, protein shakes or even oatmeal. It has zero calories and zero glycemic index (meaning that it won't cause a rise in blood sugar) and, as opposed to artificial sweeteners such as NutraSweet and Splenda, there have been no reported negative side effects. Some people may dislike Stevia, claiming that it "leaves a bitter aftertaste", but this is most often due to the way it was processed. Certain brands vary in their processing techniques and and that results in producing inconsistent flavor. So its best to try a few different brands and see which one suits your tastes buds best. Among the most respected Stevia brands, Kal is known for bringing exceptional quality to the table.

Another great sugar alternative is Xylitol. Xylitol is a white crystalline substance that looks and tastes like sugar, but is actually a 5-carbon sugar alcohol. This sugar alcohol can be found in many fruits and vegetables and is even produced in small amounts naturally in the human body. It has the same sweetness as sugar, and can be used interchangeably in any recipe that calls for sugar. The benefits of Xylitol is that it has 40% fewer calories than sugar, has a low glycemic index, won't cause tooth decay and even has anti-bacterial properties. Since it carries the same mass and consistency as sugar, this is an ideal choice for someone who cooks. All you have to do is replace sugar with Xylitol to enjoy a variety of recipes you like, but still lose weight.

When it comes to losing weight, cutting calories is essential. Refined sugar is the biggest, most harmful empty calorie there is...meaning that it has all of the calories and no nutritional value. Knowing that, it should be number one on your list of substances to limit, if not all but eliminate. Banning it from your food plan doesn't have to be hard or painful. Stevia and Xylitol are two fantastic products that are readily available, easily substituted and all natural. They can still satisfy your sweet tooth...without the negative repercussions.

Implement them into your diet when training starts and when making adjustments to your food choices. If it makes cutting weight easier and lessens the pre-fight struggle wouldn't it be worth it? Imagine going into your next fight with more ease, confidence and feeling more full of energy. Looking forward to not having to use a sauna suit or extreme dieting to get to the scales might be as easy as making this slight adjustment to feeding your sugar craving. This one choice could be the difference in your trip to the ring leaving a sour taste in your mouth or allowing you to savor sweet success!

Spencer Ward is a Nutritionist with the Acupuncture Center in Overland Park KS.