I am curious about your recommendation in your Sports Nutrition Guidebook to drink fruit juice to gain weight. I have never served my kids juice because of the sugar content. I find that many of your other recommendations also seem to be fairly high in sugar—such as granola and flavored yogurt. Is it ok for me to be pumping my skinny son full of sugar to gain weight? I’ve always been told to push high protein foods, as well as nuts, nut butters and avocado. Isn’t that a better alternative to high sugar to gain weight?
Mom of a skinny teenDear Mom,
Thanks for your question. You seem to be looking at juice as being just sugar. I am looking at the vitamins and minerals (spark plugs) that come along with the sugar (calories, gas). For example, 8 ounces of orange juice offers all of the vitamin C you need for the day. Orange juice is also rich in potassium and folate. The sugar in granola comes along with fiber, B-vitamins and other nutrients.
Dietary guidelines suggest that 10% of calories can come from added refined sugar. (Note: 100% fruit juice has no added sugar.) You son could easily consume 200 calories of refined sugar a day and I wouldn’t blink an eye. Are there healthier options than Coke and Skittles? Of course. But if he is consuming 2,000+ quality calories, then 200 empty calories is insignificant, in the scheme of things. His muscles will use the sugar (carbohydrate) to perform well and he can get all the vitamins and minerals he needs within 1,500 calories from a variety of wholesome foods.
I do not consider 100% fruit juice to be “empty calories,” particularly for athletes who need addition carbohydrates (sugar) to fuel-up and refuel their muscles. Athletes metabolize sugar far differently —with no no sugar spikes—than an unfit, overfat person. Do I recommend juice to overfat, sedentary people? Doubtful. Athletes deserve a different conversation.
Yes, your son can fill up on extra calories from nuts, avocado and other healthy fats. But those foods will leave his muscles poorly fueled because only carbs (including fruit juice, as well as all grains, fruits and vegetables) get stored in the muscles as glycogen. When glycogen stored get depleted, your soon will experience needless fatigue.
Perhaps you want to look at the whole diet and not just one ingredient?