Coach Sean on Artificial Sweeteners during prep
The following is a very simplified overview of my main issues with the consumption of artificial sweeteners during contest prep.
Re-enforces the craving for sweets and overeating. Sends a very strong signal (stronger than sugar) to the control centers in the brain to remind and push to consume sugar because it creates pleasurable feelings. What ends up happening is people end up craving sugars even more and end up getting it eventually and when they do, it’s more than they would have eaten had it not been for the artificial spike. Eliminating artificial sweeteners from your contest prep diet honestly makes dieting 100 times easier because you’re not providing a constant reminder to eat more sugar.
Changes the way foods are metabolized. Research confirms that artificial sweeteners can negatively impact the way the body processes and metabolizes certain foods. So even if you are eating healthy, your body may not be processing the nutrients appropriately and partitioning them accordingly how they should be. (i.e. more gets potentially stored as fat, not muscle cells). Research has also suggested artificial sweeteners can impair glucose metabolism.
Creates an artificial insulin spike. Mixed research on this but enough in my mind to warrant mentioning it. Artificial sweeteners can send a signal to the body that sugar has just been dumped into the blood. In some individuals, this can actually cause the body to produce insulin (a storing hormone). While in contest prep, we try to suppress insulin with the exception of very specific times. Stimulating it’s release multiple times through the day is not the best way to get shredded.
Long term use linked to changes in the brain-metabolism balance. Artificial sweeteners can create an energy imbalance that mimics the actions of fasting on the brain – which can be highly detrimental to the metabolism. The pathway here is AMPK, which causes certain cells to produce NPF – a peptide that promotes hunger.
Can trigger gut inflammation. In some individuals, consuming artificial sweeteners can irritate the gastrointestinal tract, leading to some degree of inflammation, bloating, water retention and stomach distention. Any category of competitor should be focused on coming to the stage with the tightest waistline possible and it’s difficult to achieve that when your gut is inflamed….regardless of how low your body fat is.
Studies have correlated artificial sweeteners with weight gain and metabolic syndrome. While correlation is always up for debate and doesn’t confirm causation, we shouldn’t just dismiss it. I doubt consuming the occasional artificial sweetener in moderation will lead you down the diabetes path, but for individuals concerned with their long term health, you’re probably not doing yourself any favors.