Healthy Eating: How Much Sugar is too Much Sugar?

Katie Mazzia

Katie Mazzia

This is the first article in a multi-part series about athlete nutrition and eating for performance.  These articles are written by Katie Mazzia, Clinical Dietician and Diabetes Educator at the Vail Valley Medical Centre in Colorado.  Katie is part of the Golden Ultra family and a fantastic runner herself.  As a multiple time podium finisher at the TransRockies Run, she knows a thing or two about healthy eating as an athlete!

How much sugar is too much sugar?

Sugars are carbohydrates. Whether its natural sugar, like molasses or honey, or processed sugar, like cane sugar or high fructose corn syrup, too much is harmful for your health and training. On average, Americans consume more than 22 teaspoons of added sugar each day or about 140 pounds in one year!

Simple sugar during exercise is okay!

  • Simple sugars such as glucose, fructose, cane sugar/syrup are the most important energy source during endurance activity. Studies suggest a combination of these sugars can increase absorption 40% faster than just one type.
  • Maltodextrin is “technically” a complex carbohydrate although breaks down fast and is often found in sports gels or other sports nutrition products.
  • Aim for a minimum of 25gm carbohydrate per hour if exercising > 60 minutes.
  • Quick energy ideas: Clif Shots or Bloks, Honey Stinger Chews, 2T. Raisins, Skratch or Tailwind sports drinks.

Too many simple sugars are not okay!

  • Excess added sugar in your diet increases your risk for heart disease and diabetes.
  • Limit added sugars to 25 grams a day for females (100 calories) or 37 grams per day for males (150 calories).
  • Added sugars are on the Nutrition Facts label are under “Total Carbohydrate-Sugar”.
  • Limit your juice intake to 8 oz. per day.
  • Remember fruits and plain milk have NATURAL sugars and this is not counted as “added” sugar. 

What does 100 calories of added sugar look like? ½ ounce dark chocolate (10gm), cereal (10gm), 1 tsp. brown sugar (4gm).  20 oz. Vitamin Water=31 grams added sugars. Starbucks flavoring (2 pumps) =10gm added sugars.

Stay tuned for more healthy eating tips to get you ready for event day!

Katie Mazzia on the top step of the podium at TransRockies Run

Katie Mazzia on the top step of the podium at TransRockies Run

The Golden Ultra is a three-day stage running race (or relay) in Golden, BC, Canada.  Runners may participate in all three stages as a solo or part of a relay, or may register for any single or combination of two stages separately.