Does sugar make you gain weight?

[Article updated on 19/09/2023]

Although a nutrient classified as “non-essential”, sugar has become one of the most consumed foods of our time. Its consumption has increased from less than 3 kg/year per individual, a few decades ago, to more than 30 kg/year per individual. Pointed out by all nutritionists, this food continues to gain ground. The question on everyone’s minds is this: does sugar make you gain weight? In order to answer this, we are going to take a close look at this much-maligned food.

Before reading on

I’m not an expert in this field, but I am passionate about nutrition and health.

The articles you’ll find on my site are the result of in-depth research that I’d like to share with you. However, I would like to stress that I am not a health professional and that my advice should in no way replace that of a qualified physician. I’m here to guide you, but it’s important that you consult a professional for specific questions or medical concerns. Your well-being is important. So be sure to consult the appropriate experts and take the best possible care of yourself.

What is sugar?

Sugars are the basic molecules on which the entire large family of carbohydrates is based. Depending on their molecular complexity, they can be classified in different ways. A single sugar molecule is called a monosaccharide. Two sugar molecules joined together form a disaccharide. Many sugar molecules joined together to form a polysaccharide.

When we think of “sugar,” we immediately think of the classic white table sugar that we add to tea or coffee. In fact, table sugar is only a small part of the vast world of sugars.

The most important monosaccharides in the diet are glucose, fructose and galactose. From the union of these monosaccharides, we obtain the disaccharides, the most important of which are maltose, sucrose and lactose.

Since simple sugars are very short molecules, their digestion is very easy. Digestion times are short and the feeling of hunger reappears quickly. Examples of foods high in simple sugars include fruits, candies, cakes, jams, chocolates, fruit juices…

Unlike simple sugars, complex sugars are much longer molecules: our digestive system has to work harder to digest them. Digestion times are longer and the feeling of hunger returns after much more time. Examples of foods high in complex sugars include bread, potatoes, pasta, rice, spelt, barley, couscous…

Does sugar make you gain weight?

The answer to the question “does sugar makes you gain weight ? » is complex. Artificial sugars, like white sugar, brown sugar, and other sweeteners that we can find in a wide variety of products, do not provide vitamins or nutrients, but simply change the taste of foods. They make food more appetizing, which makes us want to eat larger quantities. For some people, it can even become addictive.

For every hundred grams of white sugar, we consume almost four hundred calories. This makes our body work hard when digesting this artificial sweetener. This not only contributes to being overweight, but can also lead to diseases such as diabetes.

To avoid gaining weight, we must limit the consumption of foods with added artificial sugars and read labels carefully. This check must take place even if they are natural juices or yogurts, as they may also contain them. You should keep in mind that health professionals and nutritionists not only give you this advice because artificial sugar makes you fat, but because it can be harmful to your health in the long run.

Fruits and vegetables also contain sugar, but they are good allies. They naturally provide you with many vitamins and health benefits.

Does consuming sugar in the evening make you gain weight?

Many believe that consuming sugar and carbohydrates in the evening makes you gain weight. This common opinion is widespread especially among athletes. The latter in fact categorically eliminate carbohydrates from their dinner, thinking that if they are taken before bedtime, they will turn into fats. Experts say this is not true.

In most diets, carbohydrates and sugars are generally eliminated beginning in the late afternoon. But not eating sugars in the evening is not a valid rule to avoid gaining weight. For a balanced and effective diet, the important thing is the total amount of calories consumed daily. What makes you gain weight is excess calories, regardless of the composition of the diet. You should avoid meals that are too large and adjust meal portions according to your physique, your age and your physical activity.

If you eat a lot of carbs, you won’t gain weight from the sugars, but from the excess calories.

Of course, for a balanced diet you should always consider what you eat, preferring healthy foods.

Why does sugar make you gain weight?

Excess sugar can promote weight gain for a number of reasons.

Sugar promotes fat storage. Added sugars are absorbed very quickly after being ingested. They then cause a sharp increase in blood sugar and the release of large quantities of insulin. Insulin is a key hormone. Its elevation excessively stimulates fat storage. And over time, fat can contribute to overweight and obesity.

If we do not want to gain weight, it is best to limit sudden increases in blood sugar levels as much as possible. To do this, it is advisable to limit added sugars and their main sources such as ultra-processed foods.

On the other hand, sugar encourages us to eat more. Sugars absorbed very quickly cause an addictive effect which has been noted by research. Therefore, they increase the need to consume more sugar. They also encourage us to eat more. Which then stimulates calorie intake and leads to weight gain.

Finally, sugar does not calm the appetite and does not satiate. In addition to its addictive power which can push us to eat more, added sugars are not satisfying at all. They are digested quickly and do not satiate. Sugars are big enemies of weight loss.

To avoid gaining weight, you must therefore avoid honey, syrups and table sugar as well as processed foods which are the main source of added sugars.