I was sitting in my car this one time, eating chocolate chip cookies before teaching a spin class to get hyped up.
That’s when I realized I was micro-dosing with sugar in the same way someone might take a small amount of a drug (weed, ‘shrooms, giggle pig) to feel the effects of it, but remain in control.
I love sweet treats. And I like to think that I have ~control~ right now, but there were many times when I haven’t been in control:
About a year and a half ago I was low-energy before teaching a class, so I bought a six-pack of cinnamon buns, intending to have just one. Obviously I ate all six. This was when I started to realize I had a problem and decided to give up sugar for a full month (the timing was perfectly aligned with a trip to Hawaii I had just booked, so there was the added motivation of being on a beach in a bikini).
The month off of sugar was definitely what I needed to reset those addictions.
Now I feel a lot more normal around sugar AND I like to use it to fire me up before a workout. Before you think I am crazy, there is actual science behind this. Here is a good source if you care for a more in-depth explanation, but this is the short and short of it all:
- The source of energy that is used to power the movement of contraction in working muscles is adenosine triphosphate (ATP)
- ATP is not stored to a great extent in cells. So once muscle contraction starts, the making of more ATP must start quickly.
- ATP is so important, the muscle cells have several different ways to make it:
- using creatine phosphate
- using glycogen
- aerobic respiration
Fortunately, muscles also have large stores of a carbohydrate, called glycogen, which can be used to make ATP from glucose. But this takes about 12 chemical reactions so it supplies energy more slowly than from creatine phosphate. It’s still pretty rapid, though, and will produce enough energy to last about 90 seconds. Oxygen is not needed – this is great, because it takes the heart and lungs some time to get increased oxygen supply to the muscles.
And do you know what glycogen is?
DUN DUN DUUUUUUUUUUN
“Glycogen. The body breaks down most carbohydrates from the foods we eat and converts them to a type of sugar called glucose. Glucose is the main source of fuel for our cells.”
You might still think I’m crazy, but other diets incorporate this into their “rules” too, they’re just less obvious about it. What do you think carb-cycling is? Or having sweet potato around your workouts on Whole30? Carbs turn into sugar (and only into fat if you don’t use that energy).
I do not want to eat a sweet potato before my workout. I would much rather eat a cookie. I’m not saying you have to do it my way, but I have had enough people ask me why I eat so many sweets and no one seems to accept the answer that I just really like them. So here’s another: to jumpstart my energy before the ATP kicks in.
Here are some ways you can do this effectively (and without eating the whole pack of cinnamon rolls):
- stick to small, single sizes. One cookie. A fun size chocolate bar.
- split something with a friend (Chris and I will have espresso and share a pastry pre-workout)
- eat a piece of fruit or veggies just before your pre-workout — the fibre will slow the sugar spike (from an interview I did with Stephanie Kay a few years ago: “Fibre does help to slow down the digestive process and absorption of sugar into the bloodstream.”)
- maintain a balanced diet — having everything else running smoothly in your body will make the sugar spikes less extreme
- Keep your faves in your diet on a regular basis. If I’m craving something sweet, I eat it. I’m sure you’ve heard this before, but demonizing anything is going to backfire on you eventually. You’ll either ward it off for so long that you eat several packs of Oreos instead of one cookie (been there), or you’ll end up eating a whole whack of other food you don’t even want (sweet potatoes?) to try and stifle the craving, and eventually you might still cave.
I really do eat donuts and post pictures of donuts because I love them. Not because I want people to think I can eat anything I want and still look the way I do (which a couple of toxic people have suggested to me).
- I work hard to look the way I do
- I count macros because I am not one of those people that can stop eating when they’re full
- I enjoy having sweets in my life
There is already a lot of shit in the fitness industry — a lot of ways people are made to feel bad about themselves. I really don’t think there should be stigma around pastries in the gym. I really don’t think someone should try to make me or anyone feel bad or wrong or out of place because of something chosen to eat (or wear or say or listen to or read).
I am lucky that I have thick skin and good self-esteem, so it doesn’t get to me, but many others don’t.
So don’t be an asshole. Let people enjoy what they enjoy.