Disclaimer: We by no means are telling you not to eat sugar. Just to understand sugar and its place in sports nutrition and general daily nutrition.
What's the deal with Carbs and Sugar? Carbs are energy. Carbs are also sugars. It's like how a square is a rectangle, but a rectangle is not a square. In this case, Sugar is the Square. Are we confusing you yet? Basically, all sugars are carbs. Carbs fuel you. They are energy. Without carbs you will bonk. But too much sugar is bad for you. Too much sugar can make you fat. In fact, when a food says it's fat free, that probably means it has a ton of sugar, and that sugar could make you fat.
Okay, but wait, before we rag on sugar it's important to note, sugar isn't all bad. Our bodies need sugar to survive. Every process in the body requires energy, and the body burns sugar to have the energy for life. In fact, diets that eliminate all sugars can be inheritantly dangerous because they force the body to burn muscle and fat for energy. While this is great from a weight loss perspective, the by product of this breakdown creates very toxic ketones. These are super bad for your body, and make you go into ketosis. This isn't to say that you cannot use fat breakdown to fuel your body, but it shouldn't be the only thing fueling your life. Sugars are essential.
The real problem is that you do not need as much sugar as you think. Excess glucose (which is what sugar is broken down to inside the body), gets stored as fat. Your liver can store only a tiny amount of glucose. Anytime you have more sugar than you need to fuel your life, your body stores the sugar as fat. When your liver is full, the excess sugar is converted into fatty acids and put back into the bloodstream. Then the body scoops up that sugar and stores it as fat, in your least favorite places. In addition to storing the fat on your love handles, hips, chin, or wherever your body likes to store adipose tissue, the fatty acids also begin to infiltrate your organs, heart, liver and kidneys. They put a lot of stress on them, raise your blood pressure, decrease your metabolism and weaken your immune system.
Now, that's not to say that all sugars are created equal, or do this equally. In fact, this is why it's important to understand the type of sugar you're consuming. For the most part, the sugars (or carbohydrates) that are the most harmful to the body are simple and refined sugars. This means sugars that lack fiber, and include, sodas, cakes, white flours, corn syrups, jelly, etc. When you eat these sugars, the carbs hit your blood stream fast, and put stress on your pancreas to make insulin - -because insulin is what is used to pull the sugar from the blood, convert it to glucose and fuel your system. The problem becomes excess insulin.
So lets back up. You eat something very sugary. Your body begins to make insulin. Your insulin levels begin to spike. . The insulin goes into your blood stream, takes the sugar and starts delivering it to your muscles. This is great. But when your muscles and energy stores are full, the excess sugar is converted to fat. In the meantime, your body's fat burning process is halted so that the sugar that you just ate can be used immediately for energy, instead of the fat.
Now, your blood sugar has been reduced because the sugars are being converted into fat in your liver. Your muscles are pumped up with sugar, waiting to be used, and your body tells your pancreas to stop making insulin. Great! But ut-oh, your body's feedback mechanism is a bit delayed, so the body makes more insulin. Now your blood sugar dips, you may even get bonking sensations. Now your body either needs more sugar, or it begins to produce a stress hormone called cortisol to make your body slightly insulin resistant and bring your blood sugar back up. Cortisol triggers the entrée fat storage process all over again.
But all that said, you need carbs to live. The most important thing is to avoid, on a day-to-day basis, these de-stabilizing sugars that send your blood sugar and body on a roller coaster ride. When you're working out hard there is an immediate need for fast sugar.
Some ingredients to look out for are:
sucrose, maltose, dextrose, fructose, galactose, glucose, arabinose, ribose, xylose, deoxyribose, lactose.
Juice has a lot of sugar.
If you are bonking. Eat sugar. If you worked out hard, and you feel depleted. Eat sugar.