The concept of sugar impeding fat loss is nothing new. In fact, pretty much every dietician, nutritionist and guru agrees that the over consumption of sugar can cause obesity, attention deficit disorder, diabetes, stroke and even cancer.
However, one thing you may not know about sugar is that it can also decrease testosterone leading to muscle loss.
I have spoken about testosterone, fat burning hormones and body composition in other posts. One area of particular concern is the link between testosterone levels and where men and women hold body fat.
Testosterone determines fat patterning
Sex differences in fat patterning become evident as changes to testosterone levels occur. As a man’s testosterone drops he can see a shift away from visceral fat towards hip, thigh and chest fat with the opposite sometimes occurring when a woman enters menopause. Other symptoms of low testosterone (or low T as it is commonly known) include:
Loss of lean body mass, including muscle and bone density, along with an increase in body fat
Changes in body composition
Low sexual desire and sexual response (including difficulty achieving orgasm)
High blood pressure and poor blood lipid profile
Depression, mood swing and loss of interest in everyday activities
One of the most interesting testosterone-related discoveries I recently uncovered was that glucose lowers testosterone levels. In a study commissioned by the Endocrine Society, subjects were administered the standard 75 gram glucose test. Testosterone levels were monitored before and after ingestion of the drink. The results were very interesting. Researchers discovered that testosterone was significantly lowered for up to 2 hours after administering the glucose drink!
The testosterone lowering effects of the glucose drink were not limited to those who had any pre-existing health conditions- the glucose beverage decreased testosterone levels by as much as 25% regardless of whether the men were diabetic, pre-diabetic or healthy. But the ill effects didn’t end there- nearly 15% of the subjects were actually driven into the hypogonadal range, in other words there levels were so low that their physician would likely prescribe some form of testosterone therapy to correct the problem.
If this wasn’t bad enough consider this- men who are interested in maximizing their manhood should remember that sugar is like anti-Viagra and lowers nitric- oxide- a key component to male sexual performance.
Rethink your post workout nutrition
One of the areas that many people screw up is their post workout nutrition. In a gym near where I live they have a “Jugo Juice” juice bar where people line up to get their post workout nutrition shake. This is a mistake- especially if your goal is to improve body composition- in other words to have more muscle and less body fat. The typical beverage sold at these establishments is loaded with fructose. As discussed in a previous post fruit can make you fat and can easily make you pack on extra pounds.
What many people don’t realize is that your body does not need a huge hit of carbs after a workout- especially if your workout volume was relatively low and didn’t deplete muscle glycogen to any great degree.
But doesn’t insulin increase protein synthesis?
Yes, insulin is required in order to shuttle nutrients into your muscle cells after a workout BUT protein will do the job just fine on its own. As long as protein intake is sufficient (25 grams or more) muscle protein synthesis is maximized to an equal degree as if the protein was taken with 50 grams of carbohydrates post-workout.
I personally reduced the amount of frozen berries I use in my protein shakes (and the ones I make for my clients) to contain just a few (5 or 6) small berries in order to keep the fructose low and minimize the sugar load.
What you should do
I believe that eliminating sugar laden processed foods is the single most important action you can take if your goal is to improve health, body composition and hormone levels. I am aware that there are several popular diet books that recommend having a weekly “cheat” day each week in order to increase calories and carbohydrates and raise metabolism and fat burning hormones. This approach is only partially correct. The truth is that refined sugar is ALWAYS bad and does not do a good job of replenishing muscle glycogen anyways. A much better approach is to strategically eat REAL carbohydrate foods such as potatoes, rice, and even bread and pasta in order to accomplish this. Of course there will come a time when you may want to indulge in a sugar laden treat like a birthday cake or something of that nature. Here is what I do when those situations arise;
Cinnamon- the anti-sugar
Cinnamon’s glucose lowering action is well documented. This wonder spice ushers glucose into the cells in much the same way that insulin does. Just 1 gram of cinnamon can reduce blood glucose levels and improve insulin sensitivity. I personally use 5 grams (1 teaspoon) in each of my protein shakes and sprinkle it wherever it seems like a good fit to the meal I am consuming. If I happen to have some sugar (such as a dessert) I always have some cinnamon and protein with it (along with 1-2 grams of fish oil). This is an inexpensive and easy way for you to mitigate the ill effects of this harmful substance.
Add some acid for even more protection
The acid found in vinegar and lemon juice helps to blunt insulin and glucose responses while simultaneously increasing satiety. Because of this it is fair to say that the post meal consumption of vinegar and lemon may also help with protecting testosterone levels.
We know that the consumption of sugar is the major driver of insulin fluctuations. These fluctuation s have serious implications on our health, percent body fat, muscle mass and even our testosterone levels. Understanding the consequences of eating these types of refined foods is one of the keys to keeping them off the menu.
Caronia, L., Dwyer, A., et al. Abrupt Decrease in Serum Testosterone After an Oral Glucose Load in Men. Clinical Endocrinology. July 2012. Published Ahead of Print.