The 30 day no sugar challenge

For the next 30 days, I’m not going to eat any sugar. Period.

Wait, did I just say that? No…that can’t be right. Dude, you rely on sugar. You eat it everyday. It’s noon on a Thursday and you’ve already consumed 11 grams of sugar in things like peanut butter (your favourite food), your protein shake (even this has sugar) and chicken wraps from No Frills (seriously, how the fuck did they add sugar to chicken wrapped in bacon and why?).

But here I am, taking this pledge or this challenge to drop sugar completely out of my diet for the next 30 days during a time of Canada’s 150th birthday and the summer months when ice cream and sweets are primed for the diets of thousands across the world.

I must be out of my mind.

In a way, I guess I am. I’m unique. Different. Abnormal — pick whatever word you like. But mostly, I’m doing this as a way to see, basically, what the hell is going to happen if I cut out this one thing that we all value so highly — the thing my father told me as a child was, “the strongest drug in the world,” — and not consume it for 30 days. Will my performance at the gym struggle? Will I become mentally depressed/unstable from not consuming sugar while out with friends? Does sugar make me happy? Will my stress levels be affected? Will I sleep better? What about my energy levels?

All of these questions fascinate the hell out of me.

As any scientific test ever undergone would suggest, I should have some initial hypotheses for how I expect things to go, or why I’m studying this in the first place as well as ways I’m going to measure it throughout the “diet” and afterwards.

First, will it affect my performance in the gym? This is integral to my life as someone who derives most of my passion and happiness from my daily ritual but also, participating in two CrossFit competitions over these next 30 days. Through being a part of the community in the past, I’ve often heard athletes suggesting you need carbohydrates (essentially sugar) to fuel your body in order to perform at an optimal level. In the CrossFit world, I’ve seen athletes consume dextrose (a nearly identical cousin of sugar) and baby food right before a high-intensity workout in order to spike insulin levels and increase performance. Without this sugar in my diet, how am I going to perform?

To examine this, I’m going to track my workouts each week doing a check-in workout that will determine if I am staying within my normal level of fitness. I hope to keep my numbers for bench press (275), squat (370/305)(back and front), deadlift (475) while maintaining times for WODs such as Angie, Grace and Fran.

One of the main components to this challenge, if you will, will be whether it has a measurable effect on my social life. This may sound weird considering that food is a physical experience but if you don’t think it has inherent social elements, you’re sadly mistaken. Try to remember a social event (party, gathering, coffee date, golf trip etc.,) that didn’t at some point at least have the option for food. You can’t. Food is almost integral to those experiences and in many cases, those foods contain sugar. It’s business really. Sugar sells, ergo, if you’re out in public purchasing food, there’s a strong chance you’re going to be consuming sugar.

My job, for the next 30 days then, will be to try and avoid these situations but not only that, have it not affect my social life and the decisions that go into that social life. If I go on a date, am I going to be comfortable saying no to a beer or a meal I know is laced with that sugar? Can I handle being around others as they eat cake and baked goods while I watch and snack on something whole foods like? Can they?

More importantly, how will it impact my mental health? Living with an eating disorder, will I stress out more about food eating this way or less? Alternatively, could I actually see benefits with my mental health situation through eliminating my blood sugar rollercoaster situation?

Lastly, what will this experiment do to the number on the scale and overall leanness of my body? I currently weigh in at 187 pounds and would like to sit around 182 for competition sake, but all in all, I’m satisfied with where I’m at with the scale so we’ll see where that goes and if it changes at all. I don’t expect it to change as the scale of calories in and calories out should be the same, just different foods that go into each.

These are all good questions and ones I’m excited to explore with this experiment in food.

So what will I be eating?

Well as the creator of CrossFit Greg Glassman put it,

“Eat meat and vegetables, nuts and seeds, some fruit, little starch and no sugar. Keep intake to levels that will support exercise but not body fat.”

Or as Ben Bergeron put it,

“Eat real food, not too much of it and most of it should be plant based.”

So I’ll get going on that. Wish me luck.