Question of the Week: Sweet Enlightenment

by Denis Faye | May 25, 2011

Wow. You guys ask a lot of questions. I don’t know whether to be honored that you’re looking to me for answers, or really disturbed that you’re looking to me for answers. Either way, I’ve committed myself to this, so pull down your pants, turn your head, and cough, as I get on with it.

I think I’ll start with The Grumpy Buddha’s question. Frankly, I could use the karma boost, so if you could put in a good word with the Cosmic Oneness, GB, I’d appreciate it. I’d rather not come back next life as a goat, which is what a recent ex-girlfriend strongly suggested might happen, but only after I rotted in hell for 5 million years. (I didn’t question her co-mingling of afterlife beliefs given she was holding a golf club at the time.)

Dear Mr. Real Fitness Nerd –

Most anti/pro-sugar wars I see look like this:

Atkinsy Health Nut: Sugar is bad!
Not-Atkinsy Health Nut: Not really! Just the processed crap!
Atkinsy Health Nut: I dunno, I still think sugar is bad!
Non-Atkinsy Health Nut: Just ignore the processed crap. Fruits and veggies are fine. They have fiber, so the sugar is absorbed slowly and stuff! I mean, it’s FRUIT. How could it be bad?
Atkinsy Health Nut: Whatever! Sugar Is Bad! You should just eat seal fat, like all our ancestors did.
Non-Atkinsy Health Nut: Seriously, if fruit is bad for you, then WTF?

Sadly, I have yet to see the conversion continue in this way:

Slacker Junk Food Addict Pseudo-Health Nut: Eeeexcellent, so, Non-Atkinsy-Health-Nut, I can have a few Little Debbie snack cakes, and as long as I down some All-Bran with it, I should be fine, right?

What say ye?

– Favoring Fudge and Fiber Fusion in Fiji

That all ya got, GB? Easy! First off, no, a bowl of All-Bran will not offset that snack cake, not that it wouldn’t be delicious. Sadly, the fiber in the All-Bran is busy slowing the absorption of the carbs in the cereal itself. A confectionery blast would overwhelm it. However, theoretically, yes, you could lace the treat with psyllium husk, ostensibly reverse engineering the world’s first whole grain Little Debbie snack cake, but it would be really nutrient-poor, so while they might be slow-absorbing calories, they’d be slow-absorbing empty calories.

Which brings me to why I think people who shun fruit are mostly dumb-asses. Sure, some fruit can be slightly off re: the fiber/sugar ratio, but they’re so nutrient-rich that it doesn’t really matter. For example, everyone’s favorite low-carb whipping boy, the banana. A large one is 121 calories, 31g carbs, 17g sugar, and 4g fiber – which isn’t all that bad and therefore kind of moots my point before I make it – but pretending it is an unhealthy blast of sugar, it’s also loaded with electrolytes and vitamins, so it’s worth it. Furthermore, it’s really filling, so you’ll eat less. A King-Sized Snickers is 537 calories. I could totally eat a King-Size Snickers, but could I eat the 4.43 large bananas I’d need to meet that calorie count? Gross.

As for refined sugar, yes, it’s bad for you, but don’t be a freak about it and you’ll be okay. A good rule of thumb is 80% of your diet should be rock-solid so that we can all pretend we didn’t see you eat the other 20%. This rule works out nicely for sports supplementation as well. For example, if you’re lifting weights and you want to supplement creatine, the best way to transport it to your muscles with straight sugar. Technically, this should be just fine because if your protocol is right, your hard workout should tap your blood sugar and glycogen so the rush of sugar carrying the creatine should just recharge your stores. But if you want to get all Gary Taubes about it and fret that refined sugar gives you everything from cancer to ingrown toenails, I still think it’s okay if the rest of your diet is top-notch. Like I said, 80/20.

Of course you could swear off sugar completely and it wouldn’t be a bad thing. It would be super healthy in fact, but, well, like that’s going to happen. As I always say, moderation, Buddha Boy, is the key.

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One thought on “Question of the Week: Sweet Enlightenment

  1. Anonymous

    “…theoretically, yes, you could lace the treat with psyllium husk, ostensibly reverse engineering the world’s first whole grain Little Debbie snack cake”

    That’s all I wanted to hear! Thanks!

    -TGB (OpenID is a bit messed up, it seems.)


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