How Does Sugar Make Us Gain Weight?

Funny, isn’t it? Sugar (simple carbohydrates) doesn’t have an ounce of fat in it. Yet, it makes us gain weight. How does that happen? Learning about it will not only help you lose weight but also help you plan your diet in an efficient way. It’ll help you understand how different diet programs like Keto Diet have been developed. You will also know how diet pills work. Let us get into it, shall we?

What is carbohydrate?

Carbohydrate (Carbon-hydrogen compound) is the basic unit of energy. When it comes in contact with oxygen, it produces carbon dioxide (CO2) and a few units of energy we know as calories.

simple carbohydrate
Simple Carbohydrate

As a matter of fact, that’s how the very first life evolved on earth. A single-celled organism was able to use sunlight and some nutrients from the water to produce a simple form of sugar (carbohydrate), which gave it energy, and it was able to divide into two cells. Then two became four and now, here we are.

The point is we all need carbohydrates to maintain our basic bodily functions. Plants can make it. Animals can’t. That’s why animals evolved to move (in search of food), and plants stand still.

Herbivores (Plant eaters) eat plants to get the sugar they need. Carnivores eat the herbivores and get it from them, and that is the entire circle of lifesugar exchange (we also call our loved ones ‘sugar’ or ‘sweety’, coincidence?).

We, humans, are much more complex. We have a complex brain that requires a lot of energy. That’s why, we are omnivores– we take sugar from wherever we can- meat, fish, vegetables, and fruits.

However, humans always tend to make things easy. Thus, we also came up with an idea to deliver carbohydrates easily into our body- Sugar. Most natural sugar forms found in plants and animals are quite complex. However, the sugar that you buy from the grocery is not. It is a simple form of carbohydrate that can release a massive amount of energy really quickly. But wait a minute. Isn’t that supposed to be a good thing?

No, it isn’t. And here is how sugar makes us gain weight without having any fat in it.

How does sugar make us gain weight?

refined sugar for weight gain
Refined Sugar

First of all, let’s clarify one thing. Carbohydrates are many types, but when we say ‘Sugar’, we’d only think of the simple carbohydrate types– not the complex forms. Sugar is a double-edged sword. It makes us gain weight in two steps:

Step 01: By Releasing Energy Fast

Simple means easy. Sugar is easy for our digestive system to process. It takes a really short time for our body to extract the energy it needs. Fat (animal fat, oil, butter, etc) is also a source of energy. As a matter of fact, a spoon of butter contains almost 8 times more calories than a spoon of sugar. The problem is fat molecules are quite complex. It’s difficult for our body to break down fat cells and extract energy.

Now, our body is just like us. If you are given a choice between an easy job and a hard job to make money, which do you choose (given that the hard job makes more money, but the easy job also makes an okay amount of money)? The same goes for our body. It generally chooses the easy job. If you eat a cupcake (Which has both sugar and butter), our digestive system breaks down the sugar fast and gets the necessary energy. And what happens to the fat? Our body stores it for later purposes (emergency situations) starting in the area around our digestive tract (big and small intestines). And we wonder why belly fats are so hard to get rid of.

digestive tract
Digestive tract

Step 2: The Rise of Insulin

Insulin is a type of hormone produced by our pancreas (a sack of digestive enzymes). Our body is a creature of habit. If it’s your mealtime, your body knows it and releases the necessary digestive enzymes to the tract. Among them is insulin. Aside from metabolizing carbohydrates, insulin signals the brain that it’s time to eat. As a result, we feel hungry. When we are full, another hormone called Serotonin is released and it signals the brain to stop eating so we feel full and lose appetite.

If the insulin level is high in your blood, you will naturally feel hungry. All diabetes patients know this. Now, if you are a sweet tooth and too much into desserts, more insulin will be required to metabolize the extra sugar. And since our body is a creature of habit, after a few months, it will automatically start producing more insulin than it needs (Unless you are diabetic), and the result is catastrophic. People who eat sweets much also feel hungry more frequently and need more food. This induces frequent snacking behavior.

And that is how sugar becomes our double-edged sword. First, it won’t let fat be metabolized, and secondly, you will feel hungry again and again and have frequent snacks.

How do we solve the problem?

Well, habit is hard to change, but if you are really willing to live a healthier life, you can make the effort. Here are 3 Simple Steps you can take right away.

Step 01: Drink a lot water

water for weight loss
Water for weight loss

Yes, water is life. It is a universal solvent and a cleanser. If you drink a lot of water during the day, it’ll help you in two ways.

  1. The extra sugar will get dissolved and ejected with urine.
  2. It’ll reduce the concentration of insulin in your blood, which means that you won’t feel as hungry.

Step 02: Eat Complex Carbohydrates and Protein-Rich food

As a matter of fact, you don’t even have to worry about carbohydrates. We mentioned earlier that all pants, fruits, and vegetables have carbohydrates in complex forms. For example, carrots are sweet. They are quite rich in carbohydrates, but since the form is complex, it takes our body some effort and time to extract energy from them. This means that our body actually has to burn some calories in order to extract calories from carrots. The same goes for whole grains such as oatmeal, brown rice, brown wheat flour, etc. Give your body complex food and it’ll have to burn calories to get calories.

Meat and fish also have some complex carbohydrates. However, lean proteins like chicken breast and egg-whites have another advantage. They don’t require insulin much. Protein processing is done by some other enzymes. That’s why lean proteins are much more fulfilling. The reduced level of insulin means that you won’t feel the need for unnecessary snacking.

Even if you consume some fat together with a high-protein meal, it won’t cause any problems. In the absence of simple sugar, our body will be forced to metabolize the fat. That’s how the Ketogenic (Keto) Diet works.

Step 03. Exercise

Exercise for weight loss

I know. Nobody wants to hear it, and everybody knows it. It’s no secret. Yet, I must insist on this. However, it’s not what you think. Many believe that exercise is needed to burn calories fast. That is true, but not necessarily the most important.

The real reason for some exercise every day is to improve a lot of other functions in the body. Physical exercise improves blood flow. Blood carries all the nutrients and distributes them all over the body. It really helps overall health. Exercise also releases Endorphin, a relaxant and a natural pain reliever. It can relieve pain, anxiety, and stress, which, in turn, translates into a good night’s sleep. And believe me, sleep is one of the most relaxing ways to lose weight.

Should I take a Weight Loss Supplement?

Well, that is not really necessary. However, the hardest thing in the world is to change habits. Most of the time, it defines who we are. If you are a sweet tooth, then you are and you can’t help it. The internet is full of different kinds of weight loss supplements. Pick a good one that can help. Those who love sweets and are gaining weight rapidly, look for an appetite suppressant. As mentioned earlier, sugar makes you hungry, which is a much bigger problem than sugar itself.

Find an appetite suppressant
Find an appetite suppressant

So, there you have it. We explained how sugar makes us gain weight. If there is something we haven’t covered, please don’t hesitate to leave a comment below and we’ll answer as soon as possible. You will be notified via email.

Stay Healthy.

Thomas Hardman (Pharmacologist)

Thomas Hardman is a renowned pharmacologist. He graduated in M.A. Pharmacology from the Johannes Gutenberg University of Mainz. He held chief researcher position in Bayer, and Genzen Inc.

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