How Fruit is Metabolized Differently and Can be Stored as Fat - OptimizeCEO - OptimizeCEO

Thomas DeLauer

Executive Body & Business Coach

Why You Need Fruit

Fruit gets a bad reputation because it contains sugar, however not everything with sugar should be avoided. Fruit is full of nutrients, electrolytes, antioxidants, vitamins, minerals, fiber and is low in fat and calories. In comparison to sodas and desserts, fruits have very low levels of sugar.

Because fruits are high in fiber, they digest slowly and will help to keep you feeling full. If you consume fruit at the right time, it can be helpful for energy and muscle fatigue. Feeling full and healing faster are great benefits that you do not want to miss out on!

One example of this is tart cherry juice. Tart cherry juice has been found to decrease inflammation and preserve muscle function in multiple studies. One such study in 2010 published in the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition found that long distance runners who consumed tart cherry juice for seven days before a race and during a strenuous running event experienced minimized post-run muscle pain.

In order to get our bodies to where they need to be, it is helpful to have quick energy available and to feel physically restored faster after our workouts.

So how is fruit sugar different than dessert sugar, and how can we use what we know to get the most out of what we eat and when?

Understanding How Sugar is Used in the Body

Carbohydrates are an important source of energy for our bodies. They are stored by the body in the form of glycogen in the liver and skeletal muscles. Our bodies absorb the single units of sugar and starches, called monosaccharides, which include glucose, galactose and fructose.

Glucose is good for replenishing muscle glycogen and fructose is good at replenishing liver glycogen, however neither one will do the opposite. Muscles only contain the enzymes necessary to convert glucose into glycogen, and this energy is only available to the muscle. The liver makes glycogen from fructose, lactate and other three-carbon metabolites. The glycogen produced by the liver is responsible for supplying energy to the whole body.

Fruit is made up of mostly fructose, thus this fructose cannot be used for muscle glycogen but only liver glycogen. Liver glycogen stores are small – it would only take three, 8-ounce glasses of orange juice to fill up these stores completely.

Once the liver glycogen stores are full, an enzyme signals the body that these stores are full, and the excess glucose is converted to fat and stored in adipose tissue. Simply put, fruit sugar in the form of fructose is easily stored as fat.

Fill Up Your Liver Stores Before Your Workout

When the liver’s glycogen level is low and you are not adding more through diet, it takes alanine and other substrates from the muscle to make more, which results in muscle atrophy. The last thing we want to do is go to the gym and break down the muscle that we are working so hard to build, so it is very important to be sure that the liver’s glycogen is full prior to working out.

If you have not had a high-carb meal for several hours before a workout, it is a good idea to eat fruit about 30-60 minutes prior to the workout. Liver glycogen levels will be restored, avoiding muscle atrophy, helping to prevent muscle fatigue post workout.

Any fruit can restore liver glycogen, however strategically picking fruit can help when you want to get the most out of a workout. Bananas are an especially good option since they contain potassium, which is an electrolyte that will help with nerve and muscle function during the workout as well as provide the liver with liver glycogen.

Other Tips

Eat fruit first thing in the morning. When you sleep your liver is burning its glycogen store to supply the brain with glucose. When you wake up in the morning your body has started to burn muscle due to this lack of liver glycogen. The fastest way to restore this is by eating fruit. Good choices are pineapple, honeydew, oranges and bananas.

After you workout, both your muscle and your liver glycogen levels will be depleted, so it is a good idea to eat carbs such as sweet potatoes or oatmeal. If you do add fruit, do very little to be sure and not over-fill your liver’s glycogen tank or that exces will convert to fat.

Buy organic, non-GMO fruits whenever possible. If you compare wild-growing fruit to what we sell in supermarkets, those in supermarkets have been bred or altered to contain higher sugar content to increase their taste. Do what you can to get fruit that is as close to natural as you can find.

Eat fruits with low sugar and high fiber content. Most of us to not get enough fiber in our diets, and fruit is a great way to get some of the fiber that we need. Avocados and berries are both high in fiber and low in sugar. To boot, avocados have healthy fats and berries are full of antioxidants.

Lastly, do not be afraid of fruit or think of it as a guilty pleasure. Many studies show that fruit can help in weight loss, and with fiber and antioxidants there are endless reasons why adding fruit to your diet is important. Just be sure to think about when you eat fruit and how much to avoid excess fat storage.

References:
  1. Does Fruit Make You Fat?
    http://www.bodybuilding.com/fun/issa14.htm
  2. Carbs and Glycogen
    http://www.fitnessforoneandall.com/nutrition/article/glycogen.htm
  3. Carbohydrates, Insulin and the Glycemic Index
    http://www.weightrainer.net/nutrition/carbs.html
  4. Best Fruit For Bodybuilding
    http://www.muscleandfitness.com/nutrition/gain-mass/best-fruit-bodybuilding/slide/3
  5. The Best Pre-Workout Foods
    http://www.mensfitness.com/nutrition/what–eat/best-pre-workout-foods
  6. 4 Things You Should do Before Every Workout for Unstoppable Gains
    http://www.bodybuilding.com/fun/4_steps_pre_workout_nutrition.htm
  7. Glycogen Supercomposition Enhances Athletic Performance
    http://members.tripod.com/jpe_sportscience/Supercompensation.htm
  8. Fruits with High Fiber & Low Sugar
    http://www.livestrong.com/article/531532-fruits-with-high-fiber-low-sugar/
  9. Efficacy of Tart Cherry Juice in Reducing Muscle Pain During Running
    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2874510/

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