The following is adapted from the new book Sugar Free 3 by Michele Promaulakyo, former editor-in-chief of Women’s Health and Cosmopolitan.
Let’s start with the pros: sugar is what fuels—literally—your runs, when it gets broken down into blood glucose. And it’s not just your body, your brain needs sugar to survive and thrive. But, eat too much sugar and suffer the opposite effect. You’ll be sluggish during workouts—and everything else. Research shows that one of the brain chemicals (called orexin) responsible for making you feel awake gets suppressed when you consume sweets.
The thing is, getting too little sugar is not a concern for the majority of women who eat a well-balanced diet that includes fruit, healthy carbs like sweet potatoes, and even dairy products. Those are all healthy sources of the sweet stuff. And the occasional mindful indulgence in the form of a cookie, the latest pastry sensation, or whatever your fancy, is not off-limits. No—sugar in its most sinister form exists as “added sugar” in products you may not even realize its lurking within. Think: flavored Greek yogurt, ketchup, salad dressing, and other staples that you thought were totally healthy.
To help you reduce your intake of added sugars and feel more energized, here are three strategies to implement to kick off your 2020 on the right foot.
Look for “added sugars” on the ingredient label.
In 2016 (and going into full effect in 2021), the FDA mandated food manufacturers include “added sugars” under the Nutrition Facts in addition to “total sugars”. They define the former as sugars that “are either added during the processing of foods, or are packaged as such” and include a laundry list of what qualifies. When you flip over the package of an item you’re considering, make sure there are zero grams of added sugars.
Select a sugar sponsor.
Talk to your SO, your BFF, or a trusted colleague about your desire to cut back on added sugar. Ask them to be your “sponsor” and to help you stay on track. Then, if you’re tempted to overindulge in the sweet stuff, shoot them a text or call them for a reminder of why you’re doing this. Maybe it’s because you want all the energy you can get for your runs, or maybe it’s to feel more clarity at work, or to clear up your skin (yep, reducing sugar can do that too!)—whatever your reason, internalize it and share it with a buddy. Maybe you’ll inspire them to get on board with you too.
Drink more water.
Whether you’re a La Croix junkie or prefer good old tap water, try sipping some H20 when you get a sugar craving, as thirst can sometimes masquerade as hunger. Better yet: Make your own “spa water” by spiking the plain stuff (flat or sparkling) with fruit (think: sliced citrus, strawberries, pineapple or watermelon), cucumber, or even herbs like mint. Set a goal to drink half your body weight in ounces per day—more on run days.
(For more tips, plus recipes and a 3-week plan for more energy, better sleep, and surprisingly easy weight loss, check out Sugar Free 3, available now on Amazon. Or or check out the companion video series on Openfit.com.)