Dream Chasers

Truth About Sugar

These days with fitness industry growing so fast everybody seems to have their own ideology and sticking to it no matter what. Sometimes we even forget to look into science based straight facts, or we find a simple fact taken out of the context and interpret it in a way that would suit our ideology the best.

What I keep hearing and I think we all can agree on it is that, Sugar is bad and Vegetables are good. Right? But is this a black and white truth? Let me explain.

Eating till you can’t move

If you eat until you can’t move all day everyday (ad libitum, as researchers call it), and you start adding sugar to your coffee, your oatmeal and your protein shakes, you are most likely going to gain weight. But that does not mean that “sugar made you fat”.

The reason is simple. Sugar scores very low on the satiety index. This means it doesn’t fill you up much relative to how much energy you consume. So if you add sugar to a meal, you won’t eat much less of it. In fact, you may eat more of it because it’s tastier (higher palatability, as labcoats say). Adding sugar to your meals will increase your overall energy intake.

And since your body follows the laws of physics, specifically the laws of thermodynamics, what happens to your weight depends on your body’s energy balance. You gain weight in an energy surplus, because energy will be stored. You lose weight in an energy deficit, because your body will have to oxidize AKA burn bodily tissue to get enough energy.

What is sugar and how it affects You

So what is sugar? Is it really more fattening than oatmeal or rice?

Table sugar AKA sucrose (50% glucose, 50% fructose)

Many studies have compared groups eating a diet with the same macronutrient composition (% protein, % fat, % carbs) that differed only in which carb sources were consumed. The groups eating lots of sugar lose just as much fat without losing more muscle mass than the groups consuming little or no sugar. In studies where complex carbs like whole-wheat bread are replaced with sugar but the total caloric intake is kept constant, no body composition changes take place.

So as long as you are aware of what you are consuming daily, having sugar in your diet is in itself not bad for your physique.

Simple and Complex Carbohydrates

A 6 month study of 390 participants found that this is true for all simple carbs, like fructose (fruit sugar) and lactose (milk sugar): whether you consume simple or complex carbs, it does not affect your body composition. Also important blood markers such as your blood lipids (an important marker of your cardiovascular (heart) health) has not been effected due to amount of sugar being consumed, as long as overall caloric intake was acquitted.

So is it right to classify simple carbs as bad and complex carbs as good? It think it is more than anything a medical tradition that we call carbohydrates with 3 or more sugars ‘complex carbs’ and we call carbohydrates with 1 or 2 sugars ‘simple carbs’.

What about “sugar crash”?

It is a myth that sugar causes a massive blood sugar spike followed by a complete crash. The effect on a food’s blood sugar is measured by the glycaemic index (GI). Sugar, due to its 50% fructose content, has a GI of ~68, which is a ‘medium’ effect on blood sugar. Sugar even has a lower GI than whole-wheat bread, which has a GI of ~71. The same applies to the insulin index.

Sugar is “unhealthy”

Just think for a second, there are many cultures in tropical climates thriving on diets of up to 90% carbohydrates. And we’re not talking oatmeal and broccoli here. These cultures rely on sugary fruits. In fact, honey is the favorite food of the Hadza from Tanzania.

Evolution has made sure our bodies can deal with sugar, because it is found in many of the world’s most nutritious foods: fruits. Fruit is in fact one of the foods humans have consumed for the longest period of our genetic existence. It has been a staple in our diet ever since we were still monkeys living in the jungle. And glucose is literally in our blood.

“To eat is a necessity, but to eat intelligently is an art.” – La Rochefoucald

Conclusion

Sugar isn’t bad. Nor is it good. Sugar has empty calories. It doesn’t satiate and you feel hungry soon after you finished a sugar based meal. But if your overall diet is nutritious, you are healthy and physically active and your diet consists mostly of whole foods, sugar won’t make your waistline any bigger, or won’t make your “abs disappear”. You don’t have to live on rice and broccoli. And unless you have a food intolerance, you certainly shouldn’t avoid fruit or dairy because they contain sugar. That’s exactly the kind of broscience that drives fitness enthusiasts into following obsessive and monotone diets that aren’t healthy in psychological or nutritional terms.

How to become the happiest man alive in 4 easy steps

Took me 30 years and a worldwide pandemic to realise this so better read this carefully.

Since I was a kid I’m chasing happiness, growing up I used to always think that if I had things that I desire, if certain events would take place in my favour, or if I worked really hard towards a goal then definitely once I achieve that I would be the happiest man alive!

Then as I got older I started to realise that there is more to happiness and it is not about what could happen but more about what is happening in this very moment that we live in. However thoughts like “if I would workout hard for a year or so and improve my physique so I look more like Frank Zane, or Rocky Balboa I would definitely be happy!” were still in my head.

Only till about a year ago I realised that we can’t control what is happening in the world and we definitely can’t control other people, so if we will let outside events decide our happiness or if we will depend our happiness on other people, we will never be happy. Things will happen no matter what and people will come and go as they pleased and you can’t control any of that.

Without happiness, I’m dead. For me, happiness equals good luck. On a scale of happiness from 0 to 10, I think I’m about a seven or eight. But that’s a big improvement.

So here is my formula of being happy, happiness only happens when I stick to four simple goals:

MY ONLY FOUR GOALS IN LIFE

1.     I want to be happy.

2.     I want to eradicate unhappiness in my life.

3.     I want every day to be as smooth as possible. No hassles.

4. I want to keep doing what I love in a way that I love.

That’s it. I’m not asking for much. I need simple goals, or else I can’t achieve them.

There’s been at least ten times in my life that everything seemed so low I felt like I would never achieve the above four things and the world would be better off without me.

Other times I felt like I was stuck at a crossroads and would never figure out which road to take. Each time I bounced back to happiness and everything was fine again.

When I look back at these times now I realize there was a common thread. Each time there were four things, and only four things, that were always in place in order for me to bounce back. 

Now I try to incorporate these four things into a daily practice so I never dip low again.

THE DAILY PRACTICE 

Physical

Being in shape. Doing some form of exercise daily.

In 2010 for a whole year I would wake up at 5am and go for 7.2km run. Why 7.2km you might ask? Well simply because that was the distance from my house to the beach and back. I used to live on North-West coast of Ireland.

If you have ever been to Ireland you know that it rains every single day no matter what season of the year it is. especially on the West side of the country. But that never stopped me, I didn’t care, I ran when it was raining, I ran on my birthday, I ran Christmas morning before opening Santa’s presents.

Same people would drive by every morning while I was running looking at me with their sleepy faces and would wave to me out the window. Now, I just exercise daily whenever I am free but I always make sure I find time for it. It is one of my priorities. It helps me achieve my 4 goals in life!

All you need to do, minimally, is exercise enough to break a sweat for 10 minutes. So about 20-30 minutes worth of exercise a day. This is not to get “ripped” or “shredded”. But just to be healthy.

You can’t be happy if you aren’t healthy. Also, spending this time helps your mind better deal with its daily anxieties.

If you can breathe easy when your body is in pain then its easier to breathe during difficult situations.

Here’s other things that are a part of this but a little bit harder:

  1. Wake up by 5 a.m. every day.
  2. Go to sleep by 9-10pm. (Good to sleep 7-8 hours a night!)
  3. No eating at least 2 hours prior bed time. Can’t be happy if indigested at night.

Emotional

If someone is a drag on me, I cut them out. If someone lifts me up, I bring them closer.

Nobody is sacred here. When the plane is going down, put the oxygen mask on your face first. Family, friends, people I love – I always try to be there for them and help.

But I don’t get close to anyone bringing me down. This rule can’t be broken.

Energy leaks out of you if someone is draining you. And I never owe anyone an explanation. Explaining is draining.

Another important rule: always be honest. Its fun. Nobody is honest anymore and people are afraid of it.

Try being honest for a day (without being hurtful). Its amazing where the boundaries are of how honest one can be. Its much bigger than I thought.

A corollary of this is: I never do anything I don’t want to do.

Mental

Every day I write down ideas.

I write down so many ideas that it hurts my head to come up with one more. Then I try to write down five more.

The other day I tried to write 100 ways on how to reach out to people using social media. Because that’s the next thing I want to focus on. Helping people I can’t reach physically. I came up with 15, I couldn’t come up with anymore.

Then the next day I came up with another 10. It definitely stretched my head.

No ideas today? Write down 50 favourite quotes, translate your favourite song into different language and memorise it.

Need ideas for lists of ideas? Come up with 30 separate chapters for an “autobiography.” Try to think of 10 businesses you can start from home (and be realistic how you can execute them).

Give me 10 ideas of directions this blog can go in.  Think of 20 things you can do to improve your life after life goes back to normal, whatever that will look like. List every productive thing you did yesterday (this improves memory also and gives you ideas for today).

The “idea muscle” atrophies within days if you don’t use it. Just like walking. If you don’t use your legs for few weeks, they atrophy.

You need to exercise the idea muscle. It takes about 3-6 months to build up once it atrophies. Trust me on this.

Spiritual

Bintan island, Indonesia

I feel that some people don’t like the word “spiritual.” They think somehow related to “god.” Or “religion.” But it is not!

I don’t know what it means actually. But I feel like I have a spiritual practice when I do one of the following:

  • Pray (doesn’t matter if I’m praying to a god or to dead people or to the sun or the sea in front of me – it just means being thankful. And not taking all the credit, for just a few seconds of the day).
  • Meditate – Meditation for more than a few minutes is hard. It’s boring. You can also meditate for 15 seconds by really visualizing what it would be like meditate for 60 minutes. Here’s a simple meditation: sit in a chair, keep the back straight, watch yourself breathe. If you get distracted, no problem. Just pull yourself back to your breath. Try it for 5 minutes. Then six.
  • Being grateful – I try to  think of everyone in my life I’m grateful for. Then I try to think of more people. Then more. Its hard.
  • Forgiving – I picture everyone who has done me wrong. I visualize gratefulness for them (but not pity).
  • Studying- If I read a spiritual text (doesn’t matter what it is: Bible, Tao Te Ching, anything Zen related, even inspirational self-help stuff, doesn’t matter) I tend to feel good. This is not as powerful as praying or meditating (it doesn’t train your mind to cut out the BS) but it still makes me feel good.

My own experience: I can never achieve the four “simple” goals on a steady basis without doing the above practice on a daily basis. And every time I’ve hit bottom (or close to a bottom, or I’ve been at some sort of crossroads) and started doing the above 4 items magic would happen:


THE RESULTS

A)     Within about one month, I’d notice coincidences start to happen. I’d start to feel happy and lucky. People would smile at me more.

B)      Within three months the ideas would really start flowing, to the point where I felt overwhelming urges to execute the ideas.

C)      Within six months, good ideas would start flowing, I’d begin executing them, and everyone around me would help me put everything together.

D)  Within a year my life was always completely different. 100% upside down from the year before. More happniess, more luck, more health, more money, etc.

And then I’d get lazy and stop doing the practice. And everything falls apart again. But now I’m trying to do it every day again.

Its hard to do all of this every day. Nobody is perfect. But I know when I do it, it works.

Amazing Feeling of Accomplishment

There are many goals we give ourselves. Some get done while others get pushed to the side. Sadly, more goals are being pushed to the side than there are goals getting done. Whether it be because of time management or no more desire to continue, many people give up on their goals.

However, the feeling of accomplishing a goal gives us the motivation we need to accomplish our other goals. We all feel great when we accomplish something. I feel amazing when I do a hard workout in the gym, write a certain number of programs and nutrition plans every week, finish reading some educational material, climb Mount Everest (still working on this one).

The feeling of accomplishment invigorates us to raise our standards. Putting the giant check mark in front of a goal boosts this invigoration. In order to get the best feeling of accomplishment, you need to acknowledge the accomplishment. Writing down the goal and putting a giant check mark in front of the one you accomplished is the best way of doing that.

In order to continue to do the work we do, we need to have an incentive. The best incentive is the feeling of accomplishment. Some people will quickly argue that a monetary incentive is the stronger of the two, but the feeling of accomplishment raises our standards and as a results makes us pursue more challenging goals. Maybe your first goal was to walk 5km. Now your goal may be to start jogging every week for a certain amount of days.

The feeling of accomplishment allows us to raise our standards. By raising those standards, we will be able to accomplish the goals that once seemed impossible.