This question recently came up with two of my clients, one male and one female, as a result of their body fat scores. The female made significant progress in all areas of her body but in the ones that she originally came to me for – her legs. The male lost significant body fat, but still had problems with fat around the waist and on his upper back. Both times, the clients did everything correctly except for one thing: they had significant sources of artificial sweeteners in their diet.
Artificial sweeteners are, at the heart of everything, chemicals. Most of them were actually discovered accidentally, while chemists tried to create better fertilizers or pesticides. Through a little bit of dumb luck – and sloppy chemistry – these chemicals were inadvertently tasted during formulation, and found to be sweet. A few bucks later, lo and behold, a chemical that tasted like sugar without the calories was patented, and artificial sweeteners were born.
Artificial sweeteners are new molecules. That means that they never existed in the world before. When they are ingested, your body has no idea how to break them down and metabolize them. In their whole state, artificial sweeteners become potent endocrine disruptors.
Endocrine disruption is the creation of an imbalance in hormonal chemistry. The affected hormones may be related to reproduction, blood sugar management, or a host of other possibilities.
Artificial sweeteners disturb blood sugar regulation. Since most people use artificial sweeteners habitually – morning / afternoon coffee, chewing gum, diet soda, and the tea made from the worst stuff on earth – these repeated insulin spikes create lowered insulin sensitivity. Lowered insulin sensitivity results in lowered rates of metabolism of regular sugars, which in turn leads to increased body fat storage.
Just because you are not using Splenda, Equal, or Sweet & Low, does not mean that you do not have artificial sweeteners in your diet. Diet soda, no- low-sugar foods, and even some low-fat foods add artificial sweeteners to their recipes to make them more palatable. I always dissuade my clients from eating any processed foods of any kind, but everybody likes their candy now and then, so when you do cheat, cheat with the real thing, not some halfway kind of garbage food.
NYC Personal Trainer / Strength Coach
Mark Diaz is the head strength coach and owner of Physiqology, a personal training business based in New York City. He offers New Yorkers a sustainable system of personal fitness training that seamlessly integrates exercise, flexibility training, diet and supplementation.