How Much Sugar Is Too Much?Jun 30, 2023
As evidence-based health and nutrition coaches, we’re here to help you learn the healthy habits that support your individual goals, but not just because “we said so.” The way we work to educate our clients is rooted in research and substantiated information.
One of the questions we get all the time is, “My sugar intake in MyFitnessPal looks really high. Should I be worried about that?”
This is a great question! But before we answer that question, we need to establish where this sugar is coming from and determine if it’s added or natural because not all sugar is created equal.
This blog post will explore the science behind sugar intake and its impact on health and fitness. By understanding the recommended guidelines and making informed choices, you can strike a balance that supports your fitness goals and overall well-being.
How Much Sugar Can I Have Daily?
According to an article by the Harvard School of Public Health, we should limit added sugars to less than 50 grams per day. In fact, about half of this (24 grams) is the more optimal limitation on added sugars per day.
The American Heart Association suggests limiting added sugar to no more than 25 grams (6 teaspoons) per day for women and 36 grams (9 teaspoons) per day for men. And the World Health Organization advises keeping added sugar intake below 10% of total daily caloric intake.
These guidelines aim to reduce the risk of obesity, heart disease, and other chronic conditions associated with excessive sugar consumption.
However, these recommendations do not include natural sugar from things like fruit! The sugar from your fruit intake can cause concern because tracking apps don’t separate natural and added sugar.
Where Does Sugar Hide?
While we don’t concern ourselves much with natural sugars, like what you get from fruits, there are certain sugar-rich foods that you may want to be mindful of.
Added sugars can hide in surprising places. Processed foods, including packaged snacks, sodas, condiments, and even seemingly healthy options like flavored yogurts, protein bars, or granola bars, can contain significant amounts of added sugar.
Reading nutrition labels and ingredient lists can help you identify these sources and help you make informed choices to keep your sugar intake within recommended limits.
However, if your diet consists primarily of whole, nutrient-dense foods, these foods shouldn’t concern you too much since they don’t make up a significant portion of your diet.
Sugar Intake and Your Fitness Goals
It's important to balance your sugar intake with your fitness goals. If you’re aiming to lose weight or change your body composition, reducing your overall sugar intake can be beneficial.
However, completely eliminating sugar is unnecessary and unrealistic.
Instead, we recommend focusing on nutrient-dense foods and emphasizing natural sources of sugar, such as fruits, which can provide essential vitamins, minerals, and fiber alongside a moderate sugar intake.
Practice Flexible Dieting
A general rule of thumb: don’t obsess over limiting your sugar intake, as this can lead to over-restriction. Just be aware of what you buy and eat, and limit those yummy treats to a reasonable amount based on your health and fitness goals.
Structured flexibility is what we’re about here at KJO Coaching!
Need more specific help with your nutrition? Get in touch with us, and we would be happy to talk more with you! Our team has a unique combination of high-level education, such as a Ph.D. in Psychology, a Physician’s Assistant, Bachelors of Exercise Science in Psychology, Nursing, Sociology, and more.
We would love to use our education and expertise to help you sustainably achieve your health and fitness goals.
You can learn more about working with us here.
You can also get started on optimizing your fitness with our FREE macro tracking guide. This guide will help you learn what macros are, why you should track them, and how this flexible method can help you achieve your goals without restriction — meaning, yes, you can have that ice cream or piece of birthday cake without sacrificing your goals!
Get your free guide here, and remember, if a diet is restrictive, it won’t be sustainable.
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Added Sugar. (2022, April 26). The Nutrition Source. https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/carbohydrates/added-sugar-in-the-diet/
Added Sugars. (2021, November 2). American Heart Association. https://www.heart.org/en/healthy-living/healthy-eating/eat-smart/sugar/added-sugars
Healthy Diet. (2020, April 29). World Health Organization. https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/healthy-diet#:~:text=Less%20than%2010%25%20of%20total%20energy%20intake%20from%20free%20sugars,additional%20health%20benefits%20(7).