I have spoken numerous times about eating refined sugar and too much foods containing sugar. Unless you want to sabotage your health, then by all means go for it. But sometimes you find different forms of sugar on the market that seem to be a healthier option. With terms like low G.I., slow release and longer lasting energy, they sound great. But some can really be a trap and cause harm in many ways you couldn’t imagine.
Fructose is one of those sugars. I have mentioned it briefly in the past, but I really think it deserves elaborating on a bit further.
As athletes, we are quite often in more danger of over consuming this sugar than many others. Being such a low glycemic rated sugar, the theory is that it enters the blood stream at a much slower rate than other sugars (like glucose for instance). This makes it perfect for use in energy drinks and gels. Or should I say, it makes it far more marketable!
Fructose unfortunately doesn’t act like other sugars in the body. Sure, most sugars enter the blood stream, we produce insulin to process it (unless your diabetic) and it gets stored in your cells, muscles and organs for later use. With any excess being stores as fat. The danger with fructose is the fact that it doesn’t create an insulin response, so the only thing that the body can do with it is send it off to the liver where it is converted directly into fat. Is that the ideal result from your energy gel when running? I don’t think so.
This is not the only thing that happens with the fructose. Your liver can’t always get rid of all the fat, so some deposits remain in the liver causing an issue called fatty liver. If you have been diagnosed with this or know someone who has, you need to get yourself or them off the fructose immediately. It can cause damage to the liver tissue and even lead, in worst case scenario, to liver failure or diseases more commonly associated with alcoholics.
Some people actually have problems with absorbing fructose through their intestinal walls. At first this sounds good as they are less likely to get a fatty liver, although the fructose that hangs around in the intestines can start to ferment and encourage growth of bad bacteria. This will result in bloating, excess gas and possibly diarrhoea. Not something that would be too pleasant during an ultra.
Again, this is one of those topics that is far too big to cover in just one of these posts and really, you don’t need to know all the side effects of this damaging sugar. You just need to know how to avoid it as best you can.
You may be now panicking about that piece of fruit you had earlier, but there is no need to worry too much. Yes, fruit is high in fructose, but as it is part of a whole food, there are things like fiber, vitamins, minerals and many antioxidants that make fruit a good choice. The issue comes about when it is isolate from its natural state and then consumed. Fruit juices on the other hand are to be avoided as they can be very high in fructose.
Other things to avoid are high fructose corn syrup and agave nectar as they are sometimes promoted as a healthy sweetener. Also avoid any gels or sports drinks containing fructose, all you need to do is read the ingredients list.
So in a nutshell, don’t sabotage your good health with a seemingly innocent ingredient. There really is no point to consuming fructose in anything other than fruit itself and maybe the occasional bit of honey!
P.S. Remember, if there is any topic you are unsure about, or would like me to cover, just email me at firstname.lastname@example.org with your suggestions.