We did it… We quit sugar for 10 days!
By now we’ve probably all heard that sugar is one of the worst things you can do to your body and still the average adult currently consumes about 17 teaspoons (68 grams) of sugar a day, which translates to close to 66 pounds of sugar each year. Sugar is literally in everything.
Sure, it’s pretty obvious that sodas are packed with sugar, but sugar is hidden in the most unlikely places and unless you have a good hard look at the nutrition label, you, too, could be eating way more sugar than you think. So we decided to go on a 10-Day Sugar-Free Fitness Diet and experience for ourselves what it can do to our body and how hard or easy this experiment was going to be.
Sugar has been linked to serious health issues like obesity, heart disease, type 2 diabetes and even cancer. And while sugar is naturally found in fruits and vegetables, the real culprit is added sugar in processed foods. And even if you look for sugar on your nutrition label, it’s sometimes hard to find and hidden in names such as cane sugar, high fructose corn syrup, dextrose, maltose, fructose, sucrose and a bunch of other names that nobody can even pronounce. In fact, there are at least 61 different names you can find for sugar on food labels. While the sugar in fruits and vegetables has little effect on our blood sugar and is actually considered healthy because they contain lots of healthy vitamins, minerals, fiber and phytonutrients, added sugar should be avoided as much as you can. The daily recommended limit for women is 6 teaspoons (25 grams) a day and 9 teaspoons (37 grams) for men.
So how did we go about our 10-Day Sugar-Free Fitness Diet, why did we do it and what was our experience? Let’s get into that a little bit more in-depth.
Of course, we want to live a long, healthy life and support our fit and active lifestyle through food. But there is so much more to cutting out sugar than that. While many people go on a sugar-free diet to lose weight, that wasn’t our real motivator, even though we both experienced a slight weight loss. What we really wanted was to increase our energy levels, lose body fat and improve our body composition, reduce cravings, clear our mind and boost our mood.
How did we do it? We cut out all hidden, artificial sugars, focused on eating lean protein, healthy fats and unprocessed carbohydrates and allowed only a limited amount of fruits. We’ll go into more details a little bit later, but just to give you a general idea of what our plan actually looked like. Keep in mind, if sugar is in your diet, you crave more sugar because sugar is highly addictive. In fact, some even compare sugar to heroin when it comes to its addictiveness.
After doing some research the task of going sugar-free for 10 days seemed daunting because sugar really is added to almost everything. However, once we started, we realized that it was actually a lot easier than it seemed. In the end we both were surprised at how much variety of food is still available to us and with a little bit of creativity we actually came up with some amazingly delicious ways to eat on a daily basis.
And how did we do? Pretty well, if I could say so myself. Yes, we both had our days of sugar cravings. For Monika it came on Day 3, which expressed itself in quite a bit of moodiness and for Joschi it came on Day 4 when we were out and about and hungry, looking for a quick no-sugar snack to keep going. But after that, our experiment with the 10-Day Sugar-Free Fitness Diet was really positive.
We both felt more energized, leaner and were able to eliminate the afternoon brain fog that used to come around 3pm. Plus, no more sudden drop in blood sugar that left us feeling squeezy. Because truth be told, on Day 11 we shared a bagel with cream cheese to go with our eggs and sure enough, Joschi had some issues half an hour later when he took a shower and had to take a break and eat some nuts to feel better.
The one thing though that was a negative surprise was that eating sugar-free was a lot more expensive than having a sugary treat. While we generally eat pretty healthy to begin with, we did indulge in an afternoon delight in the form of half a croissant with Nutella. Cutting that out and replacing it with a healthy, high-protein snack was surprisingly more than twice as expensive. Whether it was a homemade guacamole, tuna salad or egg salad with veggie sticks, turkey roll-ups or some grilled chicken, eating healthy food comes at a price. However, can you really put a price tag on health?
But be that as it may, we believe that eating healthy should be somehow rewarded rather than being punished and after watching several documentaries on sugar and its effects, we actually agree that implementing a sugar tax would be a great idea and with that there might be a way to award healthy eating instead. Just some food for thought.
So now let’s get into the nitty-gritty of our daily 10-Day Sugar-Free Fitness Diet. Like we mentioned earlier, we were cutting out all hidden, artificial sugars, which means for one, no sugary drinks whether that’s sports drinks, sodas, energy drinks, fruit drinks or coffee drinks as they contribute an astounding 44% of the added sugar in the American diet.
For some sugar-free drink options go with:
* Sparkling water with a squeeze of fresh lemon or lime
* Infused water with mint or cucumber for freshness
* Herbal or fruit tea, which are delicious hot or cold
* Coffee and tea straight up or with unsweetened almond, soy or oat milk.
* Green smoothies
We cut out all sugar-laden desserts such as muffins, croissants, cakes, pies, cookies, ice cream (though you can make amazing sugar-free ice cream with cashew nuts), donuts, candies, chocolate, and protein bars as sugary treats account for 18% of added sugar in the American diet.
If you have a craving for sweets grab some berries that are naturally sweet, but also full of vitamins, minerals and fiber, eat a Greek yogurt with cinnamon and almonds, enjoy an apple with peanut butter or snack on any kind of nuts or seeds.
Keep in mind, sauces, condiments and salad dressings are often times packed with sugar. Just one tablespoon of ketchup for example comes with 1 teaspoon (4 grams) of sugar. So instead to add some great flavor to your food, opt for:
* Spices and herbs
* Yellow mustard
* Vinegar (though sadly we found out that Balsamic vinegar does come with 3 grams of sugar, so choose a sugar-free option like apple cider vinegar instead)
* Jalapeños, fresh chili
* Sugar-free Mayo
Avoid starchy vegetables such as potatoes, sweet potatoes, winter squash, and parsnip, as they are packed with sugar. Sure, it’s natural sugar, but still, if we want to eat a sugar-free diet, we also want to keep our natural sugar down as much as possible.
Unfortunately beans and legumes like black, pinto and kidney beans as well as chickpeas and lentils also come with high amounts of sugar. This was probably the hardest for us to give up, because we love hummus as well as edamame in our salads.
Additionally, for our 10-Day Sugar-Free Fitness Diet we wanted to keep carbs down as much as possible, which means no bread, no pasta, no grains — unfortunately that meant also no quinoa — no crackers and no tacos.
Another thing to keep in mind, breakfast cereals are usually packed with added sugar, so we kept it simple and stuck to good, old old-fashioned oat meal (steal-cut is even better if you like it). Yes, we just said we wanted to keep the carbs down as much as possible, but we still maintained our regular workout schedule, so we had to make sure that we fuel our body and have the energy to power through our workouts and oatmeal was the one piece of carbs we left on the list (besides of course fruits and veggies, but more to that later).
And now to the most important part, what did we actually eat?
Lots of lean protein including chicken, salmon, tilapia, shrimps, tuna, turkey, pork and beef. Lots and lots of non-starchy vegetables including spinach, kale, celery, broccoli, arugula, bell peppers, cucumbers, tomatoes, mushrooms, zucchini, red radish and cauliflower. To be honest, our new obsession became cauliflower rice, which is super easy to make, absolutely delicious and incredibly filling.
As snacks we mostly ate nuts and sugar-free nut butters (peanut, almond, walnut, cashew,…) as well as seeds (pumpkin and sunflower seeds were our favorites).
Of course, we had lots of eggs and avocados and used olive oil as well as coconut oil.
As far as fruits were concerned, we skipped the high sugary fruits like mangoes (which was kind of hard because we simply love them) and bananas and stuck mostly to berries (blueberries, blackberries, raspberries and strawberries) as well as apples and dragon fruit.
Generally speaking we made sure to eat whole foods that had not been processed or refined and were free of additives or any other artificial substances. This means we made regular trips to the meat market, farmer’s market and fish market to get the best possible foods. Of course, if you can afford it, organic is always the best choice, to avoid pesticides and other toxins, but we are well aware that this is simply not always possible.
Another thing to keep in mind is that while we did cut out most dairy and dairy products (we’re both lactose intolerant anyways), if you do choose to have milk or yogurt, make sure you go for the full fat version, as low-fat or non-fat options mostly make up for the loss in taste with added sugar. Keep in mind, all dairy products will have sugar on their nutrition facts as there is naturally occurring milk sugar, but make sure that they don’t come with added sugar, which we want to avoid. However, we did keep plain Greek yogurt on our list of foods to eat, for one because we love it and also because it’s a a great source of protein and probiotics, which keep the gut healthy with the good kind of bacteria.
Besides going for whole foods and buying your produce and lean protein at local markets, make sure that you read the nutrition label for any food you buy. Like we mentioned earlier, added sugar is in almost everything and is often hidden under a different name in the ingredient list. And when you go off our 10-Day Sugar-Free Fitness Diet and add a little sugar back in, make sure that sugar is further down the list of ingredients as ingredients are listed in the order of the highest percentage first.
Another big tip for making our 10-Day Sugar-Free Fitness Diet successful is to never go food shopping when you are hungry and make sure that you get enough good-quality sleep that will help you to keep your willpower intact when you get hit by a sugar craving.
So to bring it all together, let’s recap what we experienced when we cut out sugar and followed our 10-Day Sugar-Free Fitness Diet:
#1 We felt lighter.
#2 We discovered a new level of willpower.
#3 We got creative in the kitchen.
#4 We realized we generally eat pretty well to begin with.
#5 We had more energy.
#6 We felt healthier — in fact, studies reveal that cutting sugar lowers blood pressure and bad cholesterol and keeps the heart healthy.
#7 We lifted the afternoon brain fog.
#8 We improved our mood — Research reveals that too much sugar is actually linked to depression so that makes totally sense.
#9 We said good-bye to sugar addiction.
#10 We had fewer cravings.
#11 We lost some belly fat.
#12 We lost some weight.
Keep in mind, there are plenty of approaches to a sugar-free diet, some are more restrictive, some less. We wanted to be successful and keep our active lifestyle with lots of workouts in mind and added maybe a few more carbs than others, but that’s why it’s a 10-Day Sugar-Free Fitness Diet and not just a sugar-free diet.
One more thing, you need to also give up alcohol for 10 days. While we hardly have more than a glass of champagne on New Year’s Eve, this is more of an afterthought for us anyways, but we do know that a lot of people enjoy a glass of wine or beer with their dinner or the occasional cocktail after work. Alcohol is loaded with sugar and comes with a lot of empty calories that don’t do you any good. And yes, we are aware that red wine is packed with antioxidants and considered healthy in moderation, but go all in and skip the alcohol for 10 days, it’s really no big deal.
Now, we do have to mention that the first time around we did go to a party on Day 2 of our 10-Day Sugar-Free Fitness Diet, which was a little challenging, because we really couldn’t eat or drink anything but a seltzer with lime. It was totally fine and a great conversation starter, but if you know that you are struggling to give up sugar and carbs for 10 days, be aware of what you do. There were some great treats that we would normally have tried and I’m still thinking of the apricots with goat cheese, but sticking to the 10-Day Sugar-Free Fitness Diet for its entirety and succeeding will be so much more satisfying than giving in to a momentary craving.
So, we loved it so much that we will do our 10-Day Sugar-Free Fitness Diet again and we want to invite you to join us. Reality is, after going back to having a croissant in the afternoon for a few days — even without Nutella — we don’t even enjoy it anymore and realized that a guacamole is much more satisfying. Sure, we did have some chickpeas, sweet potatoes, quinoa and edamame, but generally we actually stuck to our new way of eating. Still, we want to keep the awareness and the power of clean eating and want you to get the same advantages as well.
Are you going to join us? Let’s do it together and help each other out when a day of cravings comes, swap recipes and food ideas and send a strong sign to the food industry that their way of feeding us with enormous amounts of sugar is unacceptable, especially when it comes to feeding children.
HOW LONG DO YOU NEED TO EXERCISE TO BURN OFF FOOD?
Balance the right kinds of carbohydrates with healthy fats and proteins and see how that fuels your healthy, active lifestyle. Once you go sugar-free, you never want to go back.
GOOD THINGS HAPPEN WHEN YOU QUIT SUGAR
Joschi & Monika
Joschi & Monika