Is Sugar Bad?

January 5, 2018 Written by

Foundation Nutrition Coach, Angela Salveo

Written by Foundation Nutrition Coach, Angela Salveo

Is sugar bad? Will sugar make me gain weight? When is it OK to eat sugar?

We need carbohydrates for energy, yet somewhere along the way, we started hating on all sources carbs.


No doubt, this is a difficult topic to address because most of us are emotionally attached to where we stand on food, especially sugar.

Try talking about the topic it at the dinner table and you’ll be just as welcome as if you were talking about politics. Trust me, I’ve been there.

Let’s take a fresh look at it now and address the question many are wondering: is sugar bad… in all forms?

Eating Sugar: The Good. The Bad. The Ugly.

Is Sugar Bad? It Can Be Ugly.

Many of us think of sugar as the white stuff people put in their coffee and the stuff that makes up most of those cereals in the breakfast “food” aisle. Stay with me for a moment while I go on a little rant about cereal …

Most cereals are just as sweet as cookies and should not be considered a part of healthy meal. 

Here’s why:

is sugar bad?

Many of us think of sugar as the stuff that makes up most of those cereals in the breakfast “food” aisle.

  • On average, cereal’s that are marketed to children have more than 40% more sugars than “adult” cereals, and more than 2x the sugar of oatmeal.
  • According to EWG’s analysis, Kellogg’s Honey Smacks all lead the list of the highest-sugar cereals.
  • And, even with the update in food label regulations, since serving sizes on cereal labels are still unrealistically small, many adults and children will typically eat more than one “serving” in a single sitting. And according to FDA’s analysis of food consumption data, 97 percent of the most common cold cereals underestimate the amount of cereal people actually eat.

If you just can’t give up cereal, opt for those that contain 1 teaspoon or less (4 grams) of added sugar per serving.

Eating Sugar: The Good


Carbohydrates are not the enemy here. This is why choosing the right source of food where those sugars come from is important.

It should go without saying that you’ll find much more sugar in processed foods than in whole, nutrient-dense foods.

Along with starch and fiber, sugars live under the larger umbrella: carbohydrates. The more complex the molecule, the slower digestion takes. Simple sugars, like from fruit, digest quickly and can have a positive effect in the right amount at the right time (ie: before/during exercise). Starch and fiber, which is a much more complex molecule, digests slowly and help you feel fuller, for longer.

 Sugar: The Good The Bad. The Ugly

Choosing the right source of sugar is important

When in doubt, opt for a diet mostly composed of lean meats, vegetables, essential fats, little starch, little fruit, and lots (and lots) of water. Your body, your training and your health will thank you big time!

Why Does Sugar Taste Good?!

Sugar tastes good, partially because when it’s in its natural state, whole foods, like berries, are full of good stuff like vitamins, minerals, and energy. Our bodies are naturally attracted to them.

But everyone is different. Some of us pull the dessert plate closer after dinner while others can easily shrug off grandma’s pumpkin pie. Some of us simply respond to sugar more than others which could be from genetics or something we learned growing up. Which brings us to question number one.

Will Eating Sugar Make Me Gain Weight?

Sugar alone probably isn’t the main driver of weight gain. But if we eat more processed, sugary foods, we might be eating taking in more energy (calories) overall. Many of these foods are so tasty, they’re hard to stop eating. And since we digest and use their energy quickly, they tend to overstimulate our brain’s reward/pleasure centers which can lead to weight gain and even obesity.

The World Health Organization defines “obese” as having a Body Mass Index higher than 30. But of course, some fit and muscular athletes tend to have a higher BMI even though they still have a low percentage of body fat.

Currently, the average body fat percentage for women is about 40%, for men: 28%. To compare, the “healthy” range for a woman is 22-33%, for men, that range should be between 11-22%.

Data from the USDA tracking food intake from a variety of angles show consistent trends. Since 1980, Americans have continued to eat about the same total amount of fat, yet ate more carbohydrates, especially refined ones with added sugars. Over this time, the obesity rates in the United States have also grown significantly.

We can’t blame one single thing alone, including sugar, for all the health problems and obesity surge. Multiple studies show that an increased sugar consumption does correlate with increased obesity levels. But, there are many factors working together that contribute to weight gain and obesity.

How Much Sugar Should I (Can I) Eat?

Is Sugar Bad? | CrossFit Salus

Let’s get this straight. Sugar (alone) doesn’t provide nourishment.

Let’s get this straight. Sugar (alone) doesn’t provide nourishment. No vitamins, no minerals, no fiber, no antioxidants, phytonutrients or  hydration.

Sugar from nutrient-dense, whole foods, like fruit on the other hand, may contain a high amount of sugar, but the health benefits that fruit provides far outweigh the bad.

When it comes to how much sugar (from whole foods) you should eat, everyone is different and has unique energy needs. Some people do well cutting sugar out of their diet (almost) completely, while others thrive on a high-carb diet. Some athletes will count their sugar intake down to the gram, while others do well with the general guideline of “eating less-processed foods & more healthy foods” and be very successful.

As a general guideline, the Dietary Guidelines for Americans (2015-2020) recommends limiting sugar to 10% of your intake. So, for example, if you’re eating 2000 calories per day, that would be about 50 grams, or 200 calories from sugar.

Start reading food labels to get a clear look at how much sugar you’re actually eating. It tends to hide in packaged foods (a lot). So, better than that, eat more foods without a label (like fruits and vegetables, nuts and seeds, meat and seafood, etc.).

When Should I Eat Sugar?

As far as when to eat sugar from nutrient-dense carbohydrates, it’s very specific to your body type, time of training training intensity, training duration, stress levels, health and a slew of other factors. Nutrient timing is very specific. When done right, it can positively affect your performance and recovery, but what works for your training partner (or a template) may not work for you. In fact, it could actually backfire.

In general, your pre-workout meals should be consumed about 1-2 hours before training. It should be carbohydrate-rich (about half complex and half simple, which can be consumed during the workout depending on workout length), moderate in protein and fiber and low in fat. Intra-nutrition and post nutrition are just as specific as pre-workout nutrition.

80% of your goal success is dependent on how well you eat. So, remember this, even if you’re eating the “right number of macros” or counting your sugar grams before and after your workout, it will make a negative impact on your goals if those sources are from crap processed foods.

More Questions About Nutrition?

If you eat more nutrient-dense foods and get your portion sizes right most of the time, your can still indulge in a small portion of those treats on occasion. It doesn’t have to be “all or nothing.”

Not sure if you’re eating the right amount sugar, carbohydrates or other macro-nutrients to reach your body composition and performance goals?

Contact Foundation Nutrition Coach, Angela Salveo, at to chat more about your 3-month individualized nutrition plan to get the personalized structure you need.



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