How sugar makes you gain weight — and what to do about it

sugar-wpBefore I can delve into this topic, I need to introduce a concept: the difference between “food” and “nutrition.” Food is the undigested matter that enters your body, nutrition is the broken down components that actually enter the blood stream and are used by your body.

When I think of healthy eating, I think in terms of nutrition – not food. This may seem like a small distinction, but when it comes to the healthiness of carbohydrates, it is extremely important. Carbohydrates are the broad category that describes all sugars. If you’re trying to eat low sugar, you must eat low carb. If you’re eating complex carbs, you’re still eating high sugar.

Let me explain! The carbohydrate family of foods consists of 3 types: mono-saccharides (simple sugars), di-saccharides, and poly-saccharides (complex carbs). Saccharide simply means “sugar.” Here are some examples from each category:

Mono-saccharides (simple sugars)

  • Glucose
  • Fructose
  • Galactose


  • Fruit
  • Vegetables
  • Table Sugar
  • Lactose (milk sugar)

Poly-saccharides (complex carbohydrates)

  • Breads
  • Cereals
  • Starches
  • Legumes

Mono-saccharides are the only category that represents actual nutrition, the rest are simply unbroken down foods.

Have you ever heard someone say they eat “natural sugar?” For instance, that fruit is an O.K. sugar because it consists of “natural sugar?” Technically, there is no such thing as an “unnatural sugar.” Everything is either glucose, fructose, or galactose, even the “artificial” stuff. The artificial stuff is usually just isolated fructose (another topic entirely). If you’re eating fruit and limiting table sugar, in terms of sugar nutrition, there is very little difference. As well, when comparing the sugar nutrition of fruit vs table sugar vs complex carbs? Again, not much different. Eating bread is no different than eating a lot of sugar.

Why does excess sugar make you fat?

On the cellular level, your body runs on two fuels: mono-saccharides (sugars) and fatty acids (fat). The reason we are a hybrid energy system is because of oxygen – sugars are meant to be used when we are out of breath and fatty acids when we are breathing normally. It has to do with the chemistry of the whole matter: it turns out fatty acids require lots of oxygen (breathing normally) in order to be metabolized.

Here’s a primal explanation: when we’re walking around the cave and sitting by the fire, we’re burning fat. When we’re running from a cougar, we’re burning sugar. This is the design of the system. It’s dual use coming in handy to deal with both normal and emergency situations.

So where did we go wrong? As a society, we started eating so much sugar (mainly because of convenience), and living lives of stress (your boss is the new cougar), that we use the emergency sugar system all the time. But why does this lead to a person gaining body fat?

Again, bio-chemistry! — Sugars are a 6 carbon molecule (6C), which can then be converted in to a 3C molecule, and then eventually a 2C molecule. All this magic is done by the liver. But here’s the thing: 2C molecules are fatty acids! This means sugars can be converted directly into fat molecules by the liver. The fatty acid that the liver converts sugar into is called “triglyceride.” And then, sadly enough, triglycerides are sent directly to fat tissue for storage. Unfortunately, fat molecules can’t be converted back into sugar molecules, which would solve the whole bloody problem. So once fat is created, it must be used up or else it stays stored – until you speak to us at SmartFit on how to mobilize it.

Poly-saccharides (complex carbs) may be contributing to your weight-gain

“Eat your complex carbs!” they say. Are they crazy? Unless you’re an athlete, or someone super active who is using up oxygen (aha bio-chemistry AGAIN), all that poly-saccharide is just a mountain of sugar. The oatmeal breakfast you have before your commute and 8 hour desk job, is just a ha-uge surge of sugar that will find its home by being converted to triglyceride – eventually. The only way to eat this way — while living an inactive life — is to create a bunch of artificial activity to use up the sugar. So instead of jogging when you get home from work in order to use up the oatmeal you had for breakfast, and the rice you had for lunch, it’s better to simply avoid it in the first place.

The first step in helping someone to lose weight is to build their nutrition around their natural activity level. Giving you an artificial plan of 4-5 workouts per work, a jog in the morning, 6 meals a day of complex carbs, is simply overwhelming and unnecessary.

Lose weight by embracing your current (in)activity level

If you live a typical inactive life, that’s fine! You can lose weight at almost any activity level so long as you understand what I’ve said here about sugar. Once you start losing weight, and the pressure on your body diminishes, you can start upping your activity in an enjoyable and natural way.

In conclusion

To lose weight, you need to fully understand the impact of sugar, whether its simple sugars or complex carbs. You then need to match your carbohydrate intake to your natural activity level, otherwise any excess carbs will be converted in triglycerides (body fat).

At SmartFit, we assess your current and natural propensity for activity, and then build a nutrition plan from there. Once we get your personal formula correct, weight-loss becomes a weekly trend that ends when you’ve hit your ideal and optimal body composition.

It’s easier than you think!