October 25, 2018

Perform at your best by fueling with sugar?

The current trend in the media is to compare sugar to hard drugs.  They suggest the two have addictive properties and these properties can lead us to an early death.

Do we need to start hiding our children and picketing with anti-sugar messages to protect the youth? 🙂

I quite often have clients proudly tell me of the successful diet they subscribed to and the first choice they made was to cut out the apparent death food of sugar.   The sad truth about cutting out sugar is that it is found in almost all the food we consume.

Our body converts food into the usable form of energy which is sugar (glucose). Glucose is the main energy source for our brain and muscles.   Cutting out foods that contain sugar is viewed as a badge of honour (I would too if I hadn’t had a ‘hangry’ blackout and likely hurt someone to get food that contains ‘sugar’(energy)) but will inhibit performance versus enhancing it.

Athletes that adhere to the mantra of the sugar-free diet typically are listening to the diet culture that lives around us.  There is a general misunderstanding of the relationship of sugar or glucose to performance.  The right amount of sugar, delivered at the proper times, can and will drive your best performances.

Your body converts food into sugar or glucose and this is eventually stored in your muscles and liver as glycogen.  Glycogen is recovered from your muscles during exercise and the storage and efficient use of the Glycogen is what allows athletes to perform at their best.

We need energy to enable growth and repair tissues, to maintain body temperature and to fuel physical activity.  Energy (sugar) comes from foods rich in carbohydrate, protein and fat.

Adenosine triphosphate (ATP) is the source of energy used to contract muscles.  Three biochemical systems are used to create ATP.  The biochemical systems that produce ATP are 1. Phosphagen (quick energy sprinting, throwing, etc), 2. Anaerobic (long burst of energy), and 3. Aerobic (this system is used once 1 & 2 are fatigued).

To perform at our best, we need to fuel with enough carbohydrate (sugar) and have good stores of carbohydrates that will allow our body to perform at its maximum capacity.  If we under fuel this critical component we will feel sluggish, we will probably have cravings and our performance will certainly be affected.

Carbohydrates should provide 55-60% of athletes total daily calorie intake.  When you are training hard this may need to be Increased to 65-70%

You may feel a craving when you under fuel.  It is ok to have your favourite sweet snack or fuel with quick sugar.  The key is to understand your cravings and adjust your daily diet to give yourself enough energy during the day and potentially fuel with additional fuel during training.  This can help ward off or reduce ‘hangry’ incidents, bonking or inability to reach optimum performance and slower recovery.

If you need help with this please call me and we can talk about how to fuel and to also plan meals for your heavy training days or competition schedules to get your best results!

Here are some examples of different sugar sources that can give you energy:


  • Rice, Bread, Barley, Crackers
  • Veggies/Fruit:
  • All of these will contain sugar.  Higher starch veggies will contain more energy (sugar); Squash, Sweet Potato, Potatoes, turnip, Juice, All fruits and veggies



  • Beans and legumes

Dairy Product:

  • Milk, Yogurts


  • (WHO recommendation states that the other category of added sugar can make up to 10% of our totally daily Kcal intake)
  • Chocolate bars, cookies, ect.  I believe we all know these ones well. 😊


Leslie Steeves RD | 587-438-0464 | lsteeves@grassrootsnutr.com




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