In my recent post about sugar, I briefly addressed the perils of artificial sweeteners, but I really think they deserve their own investigation. I have always been alarmed by how easily people can consume diet soft drinks without pausing for a second to think how something can taste exactly the same as the original version yet have zero calories. While diet drinks may be calorie-free, it does not mean they are problem free!
In my experience, people who are overweight tend to drink Diet Coke, but people who are thin seem to drink the regular version – spend just a week watching carefully if you don’t believe me. Now, by no means am I condoning the consumption of sugar, which I still believe is the absolute worst thing you can put in your body.
The alarming results of a 10-year study by the University of Texas were recently published, which concluded that drinking diet soft drink is in itself a factor in gaining weight. Furthermore, artificial sweeteners can cause type 2 diabetes as they elevate glucose levels in the exact same way sugar does.
The weight gain is thought to be the result of the body’s innate response. When you eat or drink ‘diet’ food, the body prepares for an influx of calories regardless. When it doesn’t receive those calories it switches into survival mode and when you eat normal, non-diet food again, that food will automatically be stored as fat when your body is not prepared for digestion.
Sweeteners have also been shown to trigger an increase in appetite, especially increasing your desire for more sweet foods, which is doing nothing to break your sugar addiction. I also think the weight gain theory speaks a lot about people’s eating habits in general: those who consume diet soft drinks usually use them as a justification for their poor diets.
One of the worst (and most common) offenders is aspartame, which has been reported to have more than 100 side effects, many of which are related to impaired brain function and even brain tumours and death. Aspartame is found in more than 6,000 products and distributed all over the world. Aspartame was approved under suspicious circumstances but has stuck ever since. Within six months of its release, the rate of brain tumours increased by 10 per cent, diabetes increased by 30 per cent, and brain lymphoma increased by 60 per cent. Yikes!
But if you can’t have sugar and you can’t have artificial sweeteners, will you be condemned to a bitter life? Thankfully, stevia is a natural sweetener derived from a plant and a common oatmeal-topper of even the fittest bodybuilders. It is calorie-free and does not spike blood sugar levels. Most importantly, it has been used for more than 1,000 years without any side effects.
Personally, I generally avoid any liquids apart from water and protein shakes but when I have no other options I still tend to gravitate towards diet varieties of soft drinks. However, with all this new scary evidence emerging, I’m really starting to reconsider…
Yesterday I had the rare opportunity to work out with Rob. He was supposed to be working most of the weekend, but a rain shower saved the day and I was able to hit the gym with him. My excitement quickly waned when he assumed his all-too-familiar tough love approach. But his strategy worked because I lifted heavier than I ever have before. At first, he really helped me through it by spotting me a lot, but by the end I was so determined to shut him up that I pulled through on my own! We were working on using a shorter range of motion to allow greater and prolonged isolation of the muscle, as well as increasing my speed.
Here’s the workout, focusing on delts and traps:
Seated dumbbell press – 5×8 @ 12kg
Military press – 4×8 @ 20 kg
Wide upright rows – 2×10 @ 20kg, 3×8 @25kg
Dumbbell side raises – 5×10 @ 8kg
Front lateral raises – 5×20 @ 6kg
Rear delt dumbbell rows – 2×20 @ 5kg, 3×8 @ 12kg
Barbell shrugs – 2×20 @ 20kg, 3×10 @ 35kg
I had a really tough week, and woke up feeling completely exhausted on Friday, so I left work early in the afternoon. Rob kindly sent me to get a full body massage – my masseuse was notably horrified at the state of my shoulder muscles, and I’m sure yesterday’s workout only undid all his good work! We then went home and watched movies (Blue Valentine and The Adjustment Bureau – the former horribly depressing and the latter surprisingly romantic) and had a night of wine, cheese and ice cream. I just needed a night off my diet, and some time to really relax.
So, do you ever choose diet options over the regular version of a product? Are you concerned about artificial additives?