Sugar wagon

Short of a jovial Facebook post or two, I didn’t really boast or advertise that I’d gone on an added and refined sugar strike that’d started on January 1st. And that wasn’t a New Year’s Resolution thing. I decided to cut back (or try to cut out) on the sugar because over the Christmas holidays, I admittedly let myself go wild with the holiday candies and cookies that are abundantly available at the in-law’s house.

And prior to the holidays, I still ate a lot of sugar and carbs in general. And while I didn’t proactively seek and crave sugar and sweets, I kind of justified its consumption by the fact that I run a lot and can afford to consume a lot of calories. I can easily justify an additional 1,000 calories per day.

But a calorie is not a calorie.

During the holidays I decided to cut out the sugar because, to put it simply, added and refined sugar isn’t good for anyone. I think everyone can agree on that. And by and large, refined sugar is just empty calories. Aside from glycogen, I’m sure it can be argued that refined sugar doesn’t really do the human body much good.

I know at some point I’m not going to run as much, and if I’m not running as much, I can’t keep eating like someone who runs 50 and 60 miles per week. So I decided to refrain and retrain. So I cut back on the added and refined sugar, and it just so happened that that date January 1st when we were driving back to Austin from Des Moines after the Christmas holidays.

And I did really well for a good month or so. I didn’t get overly strict about it. But I didn’t buy or consume cookies, candy, ice cream, and all of the other sugar-laden stuff that I’d ordinarily treat myself with on a daily basis. I became conscious of the foods and drinks I’d consume. I’ve never been much of a sugary drink consumer, so the vast majority of my sugar calories came from sweet treats.

It was finally on Elise’s birthday that I decided to indulge. Just for once. I made a Boston Cream Poke Cake for her and I had a small piece with her and the family that evening. And that was it. I was good. I was surprised by how overly sweet it was. I mean, a sheet cake punched with a bunch of vanilla putting and then smothered in chocolate icing really is nothing but sugar. But I hadn’t had any refined sugar for over a month, so the sugar hit was a pretty significant.

And then the next day I justified having some more cake because the cake existed. I would indulge until the cake no longer existed. And, like returning to any kind of addiction, I fell off the wagon. I was back on the sugar as easy as that. I probably wasn’t as “bad” as I’d previously been, but it wasn’t difficult to get back to a bit of a daily indulgence again.

And what is interesting is that I can admit that I noticed a difference.

In the first couple weeks, I noticed I had some withdrawals. I don’t think they were sugar withdrawals so much as they were habit withdrawals. I’d grown accustom to having a mid-afternoon sugar treat. You know, right about when that post-lunch food coma sets in and all you want to do is hop on the couch and take a nap? Instead of napping, I’d plow through a fist full of candy or a stack of cookies. I didn’t get cranky or jittery when 3 p..m. rolled around. It was more my brain reminding me, “Hey! This is when I usually get a huge surge of calories!” So then it became an exercise in finding calories that weren’t sugar. And since sugar gives us a false full feeling, I sought filling calories. I’d mostly try to find something with a lot of fiber, like fruit. And that was also a good reminder to drink a lot of water to fill my belly and give me that full feeling.

And I think I scientifically proved to myself that the omittance of sugar reduced muscle inflammation. When I’d cut out the added and refined sugar at the new year, I was in the thick of training. I was mid-way through the Austin Distance Challenge and I was training hard for the upcoming 3M Half Marathon and the Austin Half Marathon. I’d go to the track or do a hard tempo run on Tuesdays, and I’d feel 100% later that day and the day after. I had very minimal (if any at all) muscle soreness or fatigue.

A couple of weeks ago we were at the grocery store and Elise wanted Oreos for something. Since I was “off the wagon,” I told her I wanted some chunky chocolate ice cream to accompany said Oreos. So we went home with chocolate ice cream and Oreos. And that night I packed a large cup with cookies and ice cream. And I’d have that nightcap every night until the ice cream was gone. And recently Elise made some cookies — I believe they’re called “trash can cookies,” or something like that. These are chocolate chip cookies that also have chopped potato chips, pretzels and toffee chunks. Of course I had to buy some good ol’ plain vanilla ice cream to go with the cookies. And I’ve been plowing through the ice cream and cookies on a nightly basis per my recent normal.

While I say I didn’t boast or advertise that I’d gone on a refined or added sugar strike, there were some who knew about it. Obviously, the folks who live under the same roof as I do knew, but so did some close friends, just by means of casual conversation, usually in the form of conversation about post-run donuts.

My friend Scott was on a week-long cruise with his family for Spring Break last week. Scott’s one of the friends who knew about my sugar strike. I’m assuming he indulged in the all-inclusive indulgences of a Caribbean cruise, so he emailed me yesterday to tell me that he was home and that he wanted to pick my brain about cutting sugar out of his diet. Since Scott’s a good friend, I replied and “confessed” that I’d fallen off the wagon and, in fact, that very day I’d consumed more cookies than any other food.

And that got me thinking that I should really get back on the wagon. I’ve done it before and, looking back, it wasn’t that hard to cut back or cut out the added and refined sugar.

2 Replies to “Sugar wagon”

  1. Basically your sugar fast involved “sweets? Desserts?” You didn’t go so far as to look at ingredients in foods and cut out anything with sugar as an ingredient I assume.
    And your takeaway is you had less of an issue with recovery from long runs when you were off the sugar?

  2. I read labels too. I didn’t buy or consume anything with added sugars. Those were things like cereals, bulk foods (i.e HEB’s trail mix, nuts, etc.), packaged and canned goods. The majority of our meals are prepared at home and rare is it that sugar would be added to a meal staple. So yeah, the vast majority of my sugar consumption came from sweets and desserts. We ate out a handful of times during my “fast” — I specifically remember us going to get burgers at Five Guys one evening. I’m sure there’s probably sugar added to something (which is fine. I wasn’t looking to completely omit sugar), but I went so far as to omit ketchup since it’s probably 50% sugar.

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