There's little doubt you're eating too much of it.
In a day and age when the average American consumes a staggering 88 grams of added sugar per day (the American Heart Association recommends a limit of 24 grams per day for women and 36 grams per day for men), food producers are using lots of it to ensure they're appealing to consumers' tastes. It's not just in junk food, either. Added sugar is often hiding in places most people would never imagine.
Too much added sugar causes to you pack on pounds, rots your teeth, ruins digestion and causes increases your risk of cancer, heart disease and Type 2 diabetes. One of the easiest ways to transform your body and elevate your performance is to start developing habits that help you cut down on your added sugar consumption. With that in mind, here are five habits that can help you beat your addiction to added sugar.
Purify Your Pantry
The battle for success starts with your willpower, right?
Well, if you've got a bunch of added sugar-laden products inside your pantry, fridge or freezer, you're making things much more difficult. We eat what is available to us. It's been proven that our willpower often decreases as the day goes on. In morning, it will be easier to deny yourself tasty treats, but when night time rolls around, you are much more likely to give in. And due to the addictive nature of high amounts of added sugar, "just one little bite" almost never ends there.
Added sugar is often used to create intensely rewarding flavors that have highly addictive potential. A 2013 study discovered that Oreos and drugs such as cocaine and morphine have similar effects on the brains of rats. The study's authors wrote, "Rats formed an equally strong association between the pleasurable effects of eating Oreos and a specific environment as they did between cocaine or morphine and a specific environment. [The researchers] also found that eating cookies activated more neurons in the brain's 'pleasure center' than exposure to drugs of abuse."
If you want to eat less added sugar, the best thing you can do is not buy products that contain significant amounts. If your kitchen looks like a candy store, odds are your willpower won't last very long.
Water is Half the Battle
If you're constantly downing soda, energy drinks, fruit juice and high-sugar sports drinks, you will have enough added sugar to last you a lifetime. If you want to quickly decrease your added sugar intake, make water the only thing you drink.
Unsweetened teas or plain coffee can be used to spice things up, but if you're consuming a lot of added sugar via your beverages, you're going to find it very difficult to cut down your consumption to an acceptable level. While sports drinks are occasionally needed during especially lengthy and strenuous exercise, water will be just fine in the majority of cases.
If you need the electrolytes, then you can also start making your own sports drinks from home, so you know exactly what is inside the drink. You can get all the electrolytes that you need, minus all the sugar you do not. Water is also free, so you'll be doing both your body and your wallet a favor by drinking more of it.
Shop on the Outside of the Grocery Store
When you are shopping at the grocery store, one of the easiest rules of thumbs is to stick to the outside perimeter of the grocery store. Almost all of the natural or lower-processed foods are located on the outside. Veggies, fruit, meats, cheeses, milk, yogurt—all sit along the outside of the store. That's the stuff that does not come loaded with the unhealthy sugars you do not need.
Once you begin walking up and down the isles, you are saying hello to "processed-ville." There is not a lot of good stuff for athletes or humans, in general, on those inner aisles. If you make it a rule that you have to stay on the outside for all your shopping, and then choose one other aisle you can go down, your efforts to cut out added sugar should be quite successful.
Have Healthy Snacks Ready
Junk food preys on you when you are hungry. They wait until you are starving and have no other food cooked or ready to eat. Eventually, you start diving into the junk food.
Sugar used to be scarce. We could only get a big hit of sugar as humans if we saw a beehive. Now sugar is everywhere, and we can get it so quickly, but our brains still see it as quick, resourceful energy.
One of the biggest problems with snacking on items high in added sugar is that they simply don't fill you up. You need foods high in protein and/or fiber to feel full. The best way to fight against consuming too much added sugar via snacks is by having healthy snacks on hand. These can include nuts, nut butters, produce, yogurts, whole grain products, cheese and much more.
Stay Away From Sugar Heads
If you have friends who always have candy or other junk food on them, either stay away from them or establish the fact you don't want any of their snacks. If they keep offering you sugar, you're eventually going to cave. The mistake you make as an athlete is thinking that you have the willpower to overpower any temptation, and that is just not true.
If a teacher has a big bowl of candy on her desk, try to prevent yourself from going over there. It may sound ridiculous to avoid these situations, but added sugar is powerfully addictive and alluring. The more you can simply stay away from the temptation, the better.
Photo Credit: gruizza/iStock
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