I gave up sugar in my tea about 5 years ago, after a years of persuasion from my dentist. At first it was a challenge, having been used to a sweet cuppa giving me a caffeine and sugar boost, tea without just didn’t seem to cut it. But soon enough I was used to the more subtle taste and a sweetened cha now just seems sickly! Even with the shift from tea-with-two I still have a fair amount of the white stuff in my daily diet; bread, cereals, flavoured yoghurts and protein shakes, even cold meats, are often laced with that extra kick of sweetness that keeps us coming back for more.
What if we were to cut these foods out of our diets? How would our bodies react and what would our diet look like? How would we cope without that sweet taste of glucose or sucralose?
This is where Richard Callender’s “Sugar Challenge” comes in to give a helping hand.
What started as a three day stint via Twitter towards the end of May has now evolved to a 30 day, 2000+ participant strong challenge starting this Saturday, 15th June.
My Personal Challenge
I took part in the original three day challenge after seeing it on Twitter, sugar has always been my downfall when following a diet or nutrition plan; I have a weakness for chocolate (white, milk or dark – it doesn’t matter!), biscuits and cakes. I also enjoy the odd glass of wine (or two) especially after a hard day at work, or come the weekend. But, I do know how excess sugar makes me feel: sluggish, tired, and after an evening at the cinema with pic’n’mix the sugar hangover hits! So I thought I’d give it a go and see how three days without any sugar in my diet would make me feel.
And you know what? I didn’t really feel any different except for a few sugary cravings… three days just isn’t long enough for the benefits to sink in. Too short for any noticeable energy increase or improved sleep, far too short for any aesthetic changes to take place. But I knew it would happen if I stuck with it, so when I saw Richard was starting a 30 day version of the challenge I knew I had to get involved.
Originally, I had planned on starting the challenge a couple of days late; I’m doing the London to Brighton bike ride on Sunday 16th June, on the second day of the challenge and I didn’t think I’d be able to fuel properly without sugar-laden energy bars and sandwiches. But when I told Richard this during my Armageddon instructor training course (post about that soon!) he gave me a look as if to say “And what kind of excuse is that?!”. His reaction was justified – it was just an excuse. Surely people cycled 54 miles or more before the invention of Cliff bars? I started investigating and decided that, yes, I can do the London to Brighton without sugar for fuel!
So now, without excuses, here I am. Having baked my own sugar-free energy bars, stocked my kitchen with healthy fresh food and unsweetened snacks and protein powders, I am ready to go. Keep an eye out for updates from me either via my Twitter or Facebook pages, or right here in blog form!
The challenge sounds simple right? Just give up sugar in your tea, chocolate and sweets, maybe the occasional sugary cereal brand. But that’s not the only place the white stuff hides. The rules for the Sugar Challenge are clear:
Do not consume:
- Sugar (cane, brown, granulated, powdered, etc.)
- High fructose corn syrup
- Honey, syrups or jams
- Biscuits, cakes, chocolate (in any form)
- Rice syrup & coconut sugar
- Agave nectar
- Flavoured dairy products
- Bread based items (pre-packed sandwiches, wraps, etc) & baked products unless home-made
- Carbonated (fizzy) & manufactured drinks
- Energy drinks
- Artificial sugars or substitutes (aspartame, saccharin, sucralose, Splenda, etc.)
- Alcohol (beer, wine, liquor)
- Dried fruit
- Fast food
- Processed foods/ready meals
- Concentrated Fruit Juice, pre-packaged smoothies
- In fact…if it has an ‘E’ number (which is assigned to all food additives) then give it miss
Read LABELS. Any food whatsoever that contains sugar or sweetener of ANY KIND is not allowed.
- Unflavoured Dairy
- Fresh fruit
Basically everything else! Make sure you get enough food if you are used to eating a lot of sugary stuff.
- Plan ahead – know where the sugars are in your usual every day food and either remove or replace them. Bulk-cook meals and snacks and keep them in your fridge or freezer for busy days. Take your own supplies to work or on day trips. Be prepared!
- Know the lingo – the most common name for sugar on labels is, simply, “sugar”. But it can also be hidden by any of the following names (and more!): agave nectar, cane crystals, corn syrup, dextrose, fructose, fruit juice concentrates, high-fructose corn syrup, honey, lactose, maltose, malt syrup, molasses, raw sugar, sucrose and syrup. Also look out for the common sweeteners: sucralose, aspartame, saccharin, sorbitol, xylitol, erythritol, polydextrose, stevia, etc. Let’s face it – none of these sound like nice, natural ingredients do they!
- Get creative – do you always buy jar or packet sauces? Why not make your own? You can make a lovely bolognese sauce simply with some chopped onion and carrot softened in olive oil, add garlic if you like, and herbs like oregano, basil, parsley etc. and a can or two of chopped tomatoes, simmer until thickened. Look up recipes for homemade sauces on websites like BBC Good Food.
- Keep a list – come up with a simple list of quick go-to snacks and meals, then when time gets the better of you and your stomach is growling you have something to check for food that will keep you on plan.
- Be social – use the Facebook group; it’s a community for us all to share and help eachother! If you’re not sure, ask! We’re also on Twitter, follow @richcallender, and the challenge admins: myself (@fitcetera), @carolinesdean, @katiebulmer1 and @l_sherriff and use the hashtag #sugarchallenge to track your progress and keep up with the latest!
If you’re taking part in the challenge, or would like to know more, please feel free to comment below and share your experience with us!
To find out more, and to join in, visit the Facebook group here.