Since 80% of physical fitness is determined by eating habits, what a gymnast puts in her body might be even more important than how much time and effort she puts in at the gym! Some unhealthy ingredients that gymnasts will want to avoid include two that many of us associate with comfort foods: white sugar and white flour.
What’s Wrong with White Flour?
White flour starts out as natural whole wheat, but it’s then stripped of all nutritional value, including naturally occurring vitamins and minerals. The refined flour that results has plenty of empty calories but no nutritional value, causing a spike in blood sugar that leads to fat storage and intense hunger cravings.
The majority of breads are made with white flour. If you look at the label, you may see this unhealthy, refined flour listed as any of the following:
• Enriched flour
• Wheat flour
• White flour
All three names are pseudonyms for refined flour. And it gets even trickier: even breads that have earned the label “whole grain” or “whole wheat” may also include a portion of white flour. To be sure, read through all ingredients, and make sure “whole wheat flour” is the only type of flour on the list.
What’s Wrong with White Sugar?
Like white flour, white sugar is highly refined. The sugar cane plant produces a juice that’s highly processed, robbing it of all nutrients, such as enzymes, fiber, vitamins, and minerals. Since white sugar lacks any nutritional value while piling on the calories, it’s stored by the body in the form of fat cells. Refined sugars contribute to ADD, dental cavities, enlarged liver and kidneys, hyperactivity, hypoglycemia, imbalance of neurotransmitters, mental and emotional disorders, weakened immune systems, and weight gain. Decreased sugar intake leads to higher energy levels and moderate weight loss, along with increased feelings of general well-being.
While too much of anything can be a problem, eating excess amounts of foods made from refined sugar can be especially easy to do, as a result of sugar’s highly addictive nature, which some scientists actually compare to the body’s response to cocaine: when you ingest either, your body releases opioids and dopamine. Dopamine produces that “high” that has you coming back for more; and over time, you have to eat more sugar, more often, in order to get that same feeling.
Sugar isn’t just found in what we think of as “sweets,” like cookies and candy. Added sugars may also be hiding in food products where you don’t expect them, ranging from breads and salad dressings to energy drinks and granola bars. You can find them listed under any of the following names:
• Brown Sugar
• Cane Sugar
• Corn Syrup