Ah, sugar. Tastes so good, hurts so bad.

Sugar is everywhere – in soda, cereal, salad dressing, bread (white & whole grains), even canned soup. You’ll find it disguised in refined carbohydrates like pasta, rice and bread. It’s not just hiding – OK, not hiding in this case – in that delicious dessert you’re about to consume. And it contains no fat.

But here’s the kicker: Sugar is making us fat.

Yes, that lovely ingredient that makes food ‘taste better’ is actually adding inches to your waistline. It also comes in a variety of assumed names that can fool you if you don’t know what they mean – sucrose, dextrose, high fructose corn syrup, and so on. Check the label before you indulge.

So what’s the science behind all this insanity? Why is the same thing that’s causing us cavities also causing us to become obese?

HERE’S THE WHY

Once you consume sugar it enters your bloodstream very quickly. Because your bloodstream can only handle so much sugar at a time (imagine the overload that doughnut is sending), insulin is released from the pancreas to remove it, and stores some of it in the muscle and liver cells as glycogen.

BUT THERE’S MORE.

Insulin also prompts the release of an enzyme called LPL – which stores fat. Instead of burning that extra sugar into immediate energy, it stores it as fat! There’s only so much glycogen that can be stored.

Where is the excess stored? In fat cells. In other words, consuming sugar basically flips on a switch that signals your body to store fat.

MORE FOOD FOR THOUGHT

The more sugar you consume in one sitting, the longer you stay stuck in the fat storage mode. That’s because there’s a greater rise in blood glucose.

Here’s some other fun facts (OK, maybe not so fun): Consuming too much sugar can raise your bad cholesterol (LDL), and cause diabetes.

Did you know that studies have shown that one piece of bread is converted into glucose equivalent to four tablespoons of sugar?

IT’S ADDICTIVE

Sugar not only tastes good, and causes all the other things listed above to happen, but it’s addictive. One study using laboratory rats that were made addicted to cocaine, showed that those same rats preferred sugar over cocaine when offered both.

THE GOOD NEWS

Enough with the negativity already. You understand the general idea by now – that too much sugar means too much fat.

But consider this: Research has shown that decreasing the blood glucose levels in your body decreases your appetite, and the risk of diabetes, cancer and heart disease.

WHAT TO DO?

Here’s more good news: There is no shortage of things you can do to get over the sugar habit while trimming inches off of that gut.

Want a great idea to get started? I recommend that you take a two-week vacation from consuming refined sugar. It’s a vacation you won’t regret, or forget.

FIVE-GRAM RULE

During your sugar ‘vacation’, only eat carbs – besides fruits and vegetables – that contain more than five grams of fiber or less than five grams of sugar. Here’s a tip: If sugar appears anywhere before the fifth ingredient on the label, there’s too much sugar in the food. Avoid it.

POST-WORKOUT SUGAR

If you must have sugar, then plan to have it after you work out. When you work out, you’re creating more room for your body to store glycogen in muscle and liver cells, not in the fat cells.

You’re probably wondering what you can eat during your two-week sugar break.  Here’s some more advice – don’t eat the granola bar(s) that advertising hype wants you to believe is good for you. Most ‘performance’ bars are crammed with sugar.

How about that delicious salad? Enjoy it with vinaigrette instead of the countless dressings chock full of sugar. Studies have shown that vinegar – which contains acetic acid – helps reduce blood glucose levels.

By now, you get the hint. Sugar may be the thing that’s holding you back from gaining the body and overall health that you want. Keep working out like mad. But stop being counter-productive by consuming sugar.

Your slimmer stomach will thank you for it.

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