Consequences of Sugar Overconsumption


In today’s world of on-the-go, fast-paced lifestyles, convenience has come to play an important role in the lives of many Americans, including many of the clients you may work with and their diet choices. This means they consume more processed foods than nutrient-rich whole foods that take more time to prepare. In addition to less nutrient-dense foods consumption, virtually all processed foods contain added sugar. Lurking added sugar leading to sugar overconsumption can have more of an impact than many probably realize.

Consequences of Sugar Overconsumption

Fat Storage

Sugar is an ingredient that can make something taste so good (no denying that). Most people know that high sugar consumption should be avoided for general health, however, fewer people know that sugar can be one of the biggest obstacles keeping clients from reaching their goals. Consuming high amounts of added sugar leads to dysregulation of lipid and carbohydrate metabolism. In other words, it can lead the body to promote fat stores and weight gain making the hours put in at the gym much less effective in losing weight.

Nutrient Depletion

While some clients might not have an issue with weight, sugar can still be impacting their athletic goals. Many vitamin, mineral, and hormone deficiencies can be responsible for dysfunction in the body leading to weight gain or decreased athletic performance. As it turns out, sugar can be responsible for these deficiencies.

Overconsuming added sugar depletes the body of its stores of vitamins and minerals. Common sources of added sugar like sugar cane, beets, and corn go through refining processes that leave the sugar with zero nutritional value. That means it contains no protein, fat, fiber, or enzymes that are essential for your body to digest and use the sugar. Since the added sugars contain none of what your body needs to metabolize the incomplete food, your body must borrow vital nutrients from healthy cells to make use of the sugar.


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Short & Long Term Effects of Sugar Overconsumption

In the short term, this can reduce athletic performance by drawing minerals such as calcium, magnesium, potassium, and sodium from cells all over the body. Sodium and potassium, in particular, are known to be crucial in maintaining proper hydration. Excess sugar can throw off the balance and lead to dehydration; symptoms such as cramping and heat injuries during exercise are more likely.

Long-term effects of this constant depletion of minerals from healthy cells can cause an increased risk for chronic disease (diabetes, heart disease, thyroid disease, etc.) which in turn, can even further impact athletic performance, if preventing chronic disease isn’t motivation enough.

Sources of Added Sugar

As previously mentioned, virtually all processed food contains added sugar in some form even if the ingredients don’t list it as plainly as the work “sugar”. Added sugar can be labeled using many different names that many of us don’t recognize. In fact, there are over 50 different names for added sugar! Here is a list you can use to familiarize yourself with all the sources:

‍Basic Simple Sugars (monosaccharides and disaccharides):

  • Dextrose
  • Fructose
  • Galactose
  • Glucose
  • Lactose
  • Maltose
  • Sucrose
  • Beet sugar
  • Brown sugar
  • Cane juice crystals
  • Cane sugar
  • Castor sugar
  • Coconut sugar
  • Confectioner’s sugar (aka, powdered sugar)
  • Corn syrup solids
  • Crystalline fructose
  • Date sugar
  • Demerara sugar
  • Dextrin
  • Diastatic malt
  • Ethyl maltol
  • Florida crystals
  • Golden sugar
  • Glucose syrup solids
  • Grape sugar
  • Icing sugar
  • Maltodextrin
  • Muscovado sugar
  • Panela sugar
  • Raw sugar
  • Sugar (granulated or table)
  • Sucanat
  • Turbinado sugar
  • Yellow sugar

Liquid or Syrup Sugars:

  • Agave Nectar/Syrup
  • Barley malt
  • Blackstrap molasses
  • Brown rice syrup
  • Buttered sugar/buttercream
  • Caramel
  • Carob syrup
  • Corn syrup
  • Evaporated cane juice
  • Fruit juice
  • Fruit juice concentrate
  • Golden syrup
  • High-Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS)
  • Honey
  • Invert sugar
  • Malt syrup
  • Maple syrup
  • Molasses
  • Rice syrup
  • Refiner’s syrup
  • Sorghum syrup
  • Treacle


What Trainers Can Do

Avoiding sugar altogether is nearly impossible (nor should it be the goal). The current (yet overstated) recommendations are to limit sugar calories to 10% or less of daily caloric intake at most. That’s 150-200 calories (approximately 37 grams) a day for adults and 100 (25 grams) for kids.  Knowing the obstacles added sugar presents to client goals is important. Becoming familiar with the sources of added sugar and the different names used can help to bring awareness to the issue and a shift towards choices of natural sugars (fruits, vegetables, complex carbs) to fuel our bodies for workouts.

As a trainer, there are some things you can do to help clients avoid excess sugar intake:Sugar Chartf 1024

  • Give clients a cheat sheet of the most common terms used for added sugar
  • Encourage clients to do a kitchen inventory and identify their sources of added sugar.
  • Encourage them to research alternatives to those sources they identify.
  • Set a good example!


About the Author: 

Ethan MathisEthan Mathis, ACE-CPT, is a college athlete who is passionate about health and wellness. Ethan believes in a holistic approach to health and athletic performance and strives to instill this same approach in his clients. He loves to teach clients the importance of a balanced diet, proper exercise, and overall healthy lifestyle choices.


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