There is a lot of debate in the fitness world about whether sugar should be avoided completely, with a lot of bad science being thrown around by both sides. The truth is that sugar is nowhere near as bad as it is made out to be. Yet, limiting your sugar intake may be helpful for most people. But do bodybuilders need sugar?
Sugar can be useful for bodybuilders, particularly when taken after a workout. It would be very difficult to bulk up on a no-sugar diet, but not impossible. Eating too much sugar could make bodybuilding more difficult, but avoiding it completely is a bad idea.
As with most things in nutrition, an all or nothing approach can make things pretty difficult. Let’s take a closer look at the whole bodybuilder vs sugar debate.
Is it possible to be a bodybuilder without consuming any sugar? Yes, just about. There are bodybuilders who follow ketogenic diets after all. So no, a bodybuilder does not need sugar to be successful. However, removing sugar from your diet completely will make becoming a bodybuilder much harder.
It’s a bit like asking whether bodybuilders need barbells to succeed. Of course, it is possible to build an excellent physique using just dumbbells and resistance machines, but what would be the point?
The only reason people would choose to avoid sugar completely is that they believe that sugar is harmful to your health, and this has been disproven by scientists repeatedly. Has increased sugar consumption contributed to increased obesity rates over the years? Probably. Is it solely to blame? Absolutely not.
In fact, sugar consumption has actually decreased over the last decade yet obesity levels have continued to rise. Surely, if sugar was entirely to blame then obesity levels would have dropped? The reality is that too much sugar is consumed by members of the public, but that is just a small part of the story. Portion sizes and calorie intake have also increased, which leads to weight gain.
If you are a bodybuilder, then your diet is unlikely to be too high in sugar as you are going to be eating a lot of protein and fats, while also paying attention to your overall calorie intake. You are also going to be more active than a sedentary person and will have no need to worry about diabetes etc.
No, the fact that ketogenic bodybuilders exist is a testament to that. It is certainly possible to build muscle without consuming sugar. But following a ketogenic or no-sugar diet does make bodybuilding more difficult.
You will have to spend more time getting your diet to fit your ideals, you may struggle with energy levels and recovery. It is harder to bulk properly, and you will have to invest more into your diet as ketogenic diets can be expensive.
You don’t need sugar to build muscle, and if you want to avoid sugar completely then you can still expect decent results. But avoiding sugar is not going to make building muscle any easier, if anything it will have the opposite effect. There are no real benefits to avoiding sugar when it comes to building muscle.
This is a common question online. Sugar is so often portrayed by anti-sugar “experts” as a poison that it is easy to see why people can be concerned about its effect on muscle growth. The truth is that sugar can actually help improve muscle growth.
When taken immediately after a workout, a high-sugar drink or snack (even some fruit could work wonders) can help to spike insulin and lead to greater muscle protein synthesis and glycogen replenishment.
That being said, following a diet that is too high in sugar can lead to health complications, and can make it harder to exercise and build muscle. But that’s not due to the sugar specifically. It is down to consuming too many calories, gaining weight, and increasing your risk of metabolic diseases.
Sugar is not bad for bulking, when used correctly it can make bulking a lot easier. It can help to replenish glycogen. It will provide energy, and due to its energy density, it can help you to gain weight fast.
The mistake that many people make though is to overdo it with sugar. Bulking is often seen as an excuse to eat whatever you want. This can lead to big gains in muscle, but also too much fat accumulation during a bulk.
As I’ve stated earlier, sugar needs to be limited where possible but does not need to be avoided. If you are following a dirty bulk, then you can eat a lot more sugar than you would normally, but you will have to deal with the fat accumulation later.
The ideal bulk is somewhere in between a clean and a dirty bulk. Lots of fruit, vegetables, fibre, and protein, but also some high-sugar, high-fat foods thrown in every now and again. This will hopefully ensure that you gain weight at a decent pace, without overdoing it and having to deal with fat gain.
There are no benefits to avoiding sugar completely, but it is wise not to have too much sugar in your diet as it can lead to weight gain and metabolic diseases. Do bodybuilders need it? Sugar is not essential to building muscle, but it can certainly help. Not only is it useful for bulking, but it can help with muscle glycogen replenishment and muscle gains. Rather than say “You need sugar for bodybuilding”. Let’s say “Don’t worry too much about your sugar intake, just focus on protein, fruits, vegetables, and fibre”. The rest will sort itself out.
Grab yourself a chocolate bar post-workout and stop worrying so much!
Matt Smith is the owner of Beer N Biceps. He has a degree in Sports Science, 10 years of experience working in the fitness industry, and has written for hundreds of fitness websites. He is a lover of good quality beer and believes that drinking in moderation can form part of a healthy lifestyle.