• Rebecca Watts

The Sweet Truth of Sugar

We all love it, but is sugar killing your weight loss goals?

So many of us follow the calorie deficit rule when trying to lose weight but is it really as simple as reducing calorie intake?

The effects sugar has on our bodies is much bigger than calories and its in so much of what we eat.

Understanding Sugar

Sugar can come in the form of a carbohydrate found naturally in food like vegetables, fruits and dairy or “free” added sugars such as table sugars added to foods and drink and also found naturally in honey and syrups. Foods containing naturally occurring sugars have other nutritional benefits such a as fibre, vitamins and minerals and can be consumed as apart of a balanced diet, where as added / free sugars are seen as empty calories - having little nutritional value.

It is the high intake of free sugars that has be linked to our growing obesity crisis.

Free (added) Sugar has become a significant part of our diets, with easy access to processed, convenient foods and sugary snacks and treats, but it would seem at the detriment of our waistline and health.

It is advised that we should get no more than 5% (approx 19-30g / 5-7 teaspoons) of our total daily energy from sugar, but our current consumption is said to be up to 15%, nearly 200% more than advised.

So how can sugars effect your weight?

There is still some varying opinions as to whether it is the effect of high sugar intake has on total calories consumed or the effect sugars has on the body that leads to weight / fat gain.

What is not disputed is that it is linked to the gain and other heath issues.

Insulin response & Fat Storage

This is a big when it comes to fat loss. Insulin is well known to help control our blood sugar levels, but it also has a role in fat storage. When insulin levels are high much of the energy (glucose) in our blood gets stored in our fat cells. The more sugar we eat, the higher the risk of becoming insulin resistant (cells become resistant to the effects of insulin), which will mean you will have more insulin in your blood all of the time. Leading to more fat storage and difficulty in accessing those fat stores.


Different foods can have different effects on our brains and the hormones that control our food intake - through appetite and forfillness. With “free” sugars not having the same effect of lowering hunger as other foods, thus leading to higher intake of food and weight gain.


Sugar can be addictive for some people. Sugars can cause a large dopamine release in the brain making you want more. For those that are more susceptible to addiction this can be dangerous. The triggering of this dopamine release can lead to over consumption and weight gain.

Knock on effect

High sugar intake can also have a negative effect on how you feel, think, your immune system and health. Eating foods high in sugars can cause mood swings, energy dips, hormone imbalances, brain fog, nutrient deficiencies. The natural knock on effects of reducing sugars in your diet will mean more nutrient intake and use, and less consumption of the other added nasties that often come with sugar in junk foods. Leading to better balanced energy and hormones, better focus and attention, and overall healthier. Not to mention the health benefits of reduced risk of developing conditions such as type 2 diabetes.

How to cut free sugars in your diet

Take the plunge, its not easy but cut the sugars in your diet and reap the benefits - drop the pounds whilst improving your health.

It is virtually impossible to completely cut sugars from your diet and not always that healthy, however reducing your sugar intake, in particular, “free” sugars, is key for long term weight management and health.

Here are a few tips to help you get your sugar intake into control

  1. Avoid Sugary Snacks and Drinks - the most obvious of all is the readily available biscuits, cakes, chocolate bars and fizzy drinks but many are not fully aware of the actual sugar content. a chocolate bar has up to 7 teaspoons of sugar, and a can of coke 8. Both exceeding the daily advised intake.

  2. Eat Naturally - Prepare your own foods using natural ingredients. Avoid processed and pre- prepared foods that are usually packed with hidden ‘free’ sugars. Even savoury pre-prepared foods / meals have added sugars

  3. Labels - Always check your food labels, the higher sugars come in the ingredient list the higher the content. Be careful as sugars come under many names. Also the nutritional content table will give the total sugar content under carbohydrates. Although this is all sugars and not just ‘free’ sugars it is a good indicator. The NHS advises anything over 22.5g of sugars high and anything 5g or below is low. Try to keep to as low as possible

  4. Avoid Low Fat Foods - although technically nothing to do with sugars, more often than not low fat foods tend to have more added sugar to substitute the taste, bulking and texture of fats. have the full fat versions but less of it if watching calories.

  5. Be wary of sugar free - although sugar free options do not contain sugar, the substitutes can often have a negative effect on the body and weight loss. Many artificial sweeteners, have confuse the brain when no energy is received and trigger over consumption. There are also many other possible negative side effects that are still not clear.

  6. Carbohydrates and Fruits - Although not classed as ‘Free” sugars, in large amounts can cause blood sugar glucose to be elevated triggering insulin response and possible fat storage. Use carbohydrates to fuel activity. The more active your lifestyle the more tolerance you will have for carbohydrates and sugars, don't over consume. When eating carbohydrates select the wholegrain slower energy release type.

  7. Balance - as with all things the key is balance. balance your meals with protein and fats which will prevent you overeating on carbs and reduce cravings.

  8. Dopamine - Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that helps control reward and pleasure and can be responsible for our focus and motivation. If its a dopamine release you crave try some natural enhances - exercise, listening to music, go for a walk, meditate