At Power Kitchen, one of our founding commandments for general health is ‘zero refined sugars.’ We often get asked why we take such a serious stance on eliminating refined sugar from our menu, so here’s a quick rundown.
Why is sugar so bad?
For years we were told that saturated fat was the root of all ill health, and the only real arguments for avoiding sugar were to avoid ’empty calories’ and of course because ‘it’ll rot your teeth’. However, mounting evidence now shows that we were wrong to avoid dietary fat, and that too much sugar in our diets is the real culprit in causing a wide range of serious health issues, including fibromyalgia, type 2 diabetes, metabolic disease, and cardiovascular disease.
We were not built to metabolise the concentrated amount of fructose present in processed food and drink from refined sugars such as sucrose (granulated sugar), isoglucose and high fructose corn syrup. The stress that high amounts of dietary fructose from refined/added sugar places on our bodies is widespread.
Excessive sugar consumption is linked to higher instances of yeast (candida) infections and fungal/bacterial infections such as ringworm and staph, common in hot and sweaty training environments.
Fructose is metabolised through the liver, and too much fructose places stress on the liver, resulting over time in fatty liver disease.
Our guts are unable to easily digest too much fructose, and this excess ‘free fructose’ literally punches holes in our intestinal lining, letting bacteria, food particles and other irritants into our blood, triggering an inflammatory response. Free fructose is one of the main culprits (along with gluten) in causing intestinal permeability or ‘leaky gut syndrome’ which is now acknowledged as a key contributing factor to the 80 (and counting) major diseases which have been identified as autoimmune in nature, and chronic systemic inflammation, the precursor to all of the health issues mentioned earlier. Any athlete with an injury or two under their belt will recognise the pain issues associated with the onset of systemic inflammation, and will tell you to avoid triggering inflammation at all costs.
While our guts may struggle to digest free fructose, our gut bacteria have no such issue, and this is why excess sugar consumption so often leads to small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO), a condition which also leads to inflammation and many of the same health symptoms as ‘leaky gut.’
All sugars are not created equally
There’s no reason to get pedantic about avoiding ALL sugars. Those who thrive off carbohydrates pre and post training can turn to more wholesome, natural sugar sources for that blood sugar hit. Fruit, for example, may contain fructose, but generally in small enough amounts for our bodies to digest without issue, and of course fruits are rich in a whole host of dietary goodies such as fibre, micronutrients, and antioxidants which make for a beneficial trade-off.
The same can be said for other natural or unrefined sugar sources, such as honey, and maple syrup. In small amounts, assuming you have no underlying medical issues, fruit, honey and unrefined sugars will not cause or exacerbate injury and ill health, so you can enjoy them in moderation as part of a truly healthy training diet.
Stella Blackledge, Dip BNC RegNutr
 http://m.ajcn.nutrition.org/content/86/4/899.full.pdf https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/m/pubmed/23594708