Sugar Overload – Part 2

Written by: Lea Crosetti, RD (

IF you did not read “Sugar Overload – Part 1 yet – CLICK HERE -first

The actual molecule of sugar (glucose) is needed for energy production within our bodies. When people go on extreme diets and eliminate all types of sugars or carbohydrates, our bodies begin to break down muscle and fat to produce glucose. However this process isn’t without its side effects. When muscle and fat are broken down at that level, the body can go into ketosis. Ketosis leaves the body in an acidic state and puts excess pressure on the kidneys from all the metabolic byproducts.

The higher the energy demand the higher the nutrient or fuel need we have. For athletes, we are constantly running our engines, so we naturally need more. However, the time, place, and amount consumed impacts our performance. Often athletes may feel justified to over indulge in sugar or sweets because of all the calories they burned. Excessive amounts of sweets and sugars can cause insulin surges which over time can inhibit fat oxidation. For cyclists riding in centuries and tours it is essential for them to maintain good fat oxidation because that is our major energy reserve. Without fat oxidation we would need to be supplementing almost every calorie we burn as we ride…talk about GI distress!

What we do off the bike can be just as important if not more important than what we do on the bike. What we do in our daily lives sets the stage for what do on the bike. Including carbohydrates as part of a balanced meal and spread them throughout the day helps your body utilize them more efficiently. Choosing whole grains, legumes, fruits, vegetables and dairy are a great way to get your carbohydrates in and pack in the vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and other phytonutrients. Always balance carbohydrates with lean protein and healthy fats to maintain appropriate insulin response.

On the bike gels, GUs, drinks and bars tend to be what is preferred. They are easy to carry, consume, and they don’t spoil. However these products are often widely overused. They are often not needed for short duration or low intensity workouts. When I talk to my athletes, one of my focuses is to make sure they maintain a consistent energy level by avoid “sugar crashes” in addition to promoting metabolic efficiency. Too much of a highly concentrated sugar product can cause insulin to peak which not only inhibits fat oxidation but also causes blood sugar levels to plummet, leaving you crashing and needing more sugar. One of the best methods to assure adequate energy is to go into your ride well fuel. As I previously said, eating well throughout the day when you are off your bike makes a huge difference. To promote fat oxidation on long slower rides its best to not consume straight sugar product. Products that have some protein with the carbohydrate can help with a slower release and prevents less crashes. Cliff bars and Infinite are products that have a mix of carbohydrates and a little protein that works great and also help with recovery.

In efforts to cut down on sugar, many people turn to non-nutritive sweeteners. The sugar-free craze does not always leave use responsible for the amount and types of food we consume. Just because a cookie is sugar-free doesn’t mean you should have 10 of them. I would much rather have someone eat a “real” cookie, savor and enjoy it, then eat 3 “sugar-free” cookies and be left feeling not only unsatisfied but also guilty for eating 3 cookies. Another issue with non-nutritive sweeteners is that our taste buds can become desensitized from the intense sweetness. Apples and carrots no longer seem as sweet. Studies have shown that large amounts of these sweeteners over a long period of time can actually be dangerous for our health. Small amounts here and there aren’t a problem, but then again, the same is true with sugar. It all comes down to moderation again.

I am going to leave with some great ways to naturally enhance the sweetness of foods:
• Sprinkle cinnamon, nutmeg or even all spice to cereals and yogurts.
• Add extracts (i.e. vanilla, coconut) in coffee, yogurt, baked goods, cereals, and smoothies are also great.
• Squeezing lemon or lime on fruit can bring out its own sweetness. Try it on papaya, its great!
• Freezing fruit can create an enzymatic reaction that increases the sweetness of it naturally. Try throwing bananas, berries or grapes in the freezer!
• Thawing out frozen berries and adding them with their natural juices to plain yogurt or oatmeal is also a great way to add sweetness, fiber and antioxidants.

For more info contact – Lea Crosetti, RD (


  1. Hayes Joseph says:

    Good explanation and shocking numbers. 37 lbs of HFCS!?

    It is interesting that for 200-1200km brevets the strong advice (warning) of Hammer Nutrition is to consume less. But nearly all cycling books say to consume much more calories than you would think. A contradiction, but both are reputable sources. It seems that this article was not proof-read though. ‘avoid[ing] “sugar crashes” in addition … to go into your ride well fuel[ed].’