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Making sense of sugar

POSTED Monday 11 November 2019

Have you ever taken note of how your body reacts when you have something sugary?  We chatted to UoB Sport & Fitness interns, Sam, Katie and Jonny, about what sugar actually is, and the positive and negative impacts it can have on your health, as well as its role in our everyday diet.

What is sugar?

Sugar is a simple, sweet-tasting carbohydrate and is present in most of the foods we eat. The scientific name for common table sugar is sucrose, which is made up of glucose and fructose and is commonly referred to as “added” or “free” sugar. You may also have heard of lactose, a naturally occurring sugar found in dairy products, for example, milk and cheese. Other foods such as fruit and honey also have high amounts of naturally occurring sugars in the form of fructose.

How much sugar do we need and why?

Some sugar in your diet helps supply energy to fuel your muscles, so it should be consumed in moderation as part of an active lifestyle. Sugar can be digested and absorbed rapidly into the bloodstream which means it can provide you with a sudden spike of energy. This means food high in sugar can be an ideal fuel source to help you through high-intensity training sessions. Sugar also increases cognitive performance, making it ideal for those long study sessions and to maintain concentration during performance. The general consensus between health organisations is that adults should consume no more than 7 teaspoons (30g) of sugar in a day.

What are the downsides of too much sugar?

Consuming high amounts of sugar in a short period of time can have common negative side effects such as sickness, headaches, and sugar rushes which can actually result in fatigue. Excess sugar consumption over a prolonged period of time can lead to elevated blood glucose levels which can result in more serious issues such as Type 2 Diabetes. A diet high in sugar can also contribute to high-calorie consumption, which can lead to obesity and many other related health issues.

Foods surprisingly high in sugar:

  • One ketchup sachet from McDonalds – 5g of sugar
  • One 40g serving of granola – 12g of sugar
  • One 150g serving of Yeo Valley yogurt – 13g of sugar
  • One VK alchopop – 25g of sugar!!

Top tips on balancing sugar in your diet:

  • Plan ahead and make your own snacks so you can control the amount of sugar in them (for example…Flapjacks)
  • Swap white bread, pasta, and rice for wholegrain versions
  • Read nutrition labels on the food you buy and pick the lower sugar option
  • Reduce the amount of sugar you put in your tea/coffee
  • Avoid buying foods with lots of added sugar
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