Can fruit help your fitness goals? Or is it just dead weight?
If you are a regular weightlifter like me, the odds are you take your health quite seriously. And just like all healthy individuals, we bodybuilders do our best to eat a well-balanced diet, especially when it comes to fruit.
But can too much fruit negatively affect your health? Or can it become dead weight when trying to lean out? These are some of the questions I will tackle below as well as giving you a deeper insight into the relationship between fructose and muscles.
The Role of Fruit in the Diet
A Source of Antioxidants
Fruit plays a significant role in human health, largely because it is an excellent source of antioxidants. Antioxidants are chemical compounds that stabilise and remove substances known as free radicals. Free radicals are oxygen compounds produced in our body every day through normal metabolic processes. These free radicals can cause oxidative cellular damage and eventually lead to cell death or mutation that can increase the risk of diseases such as cancer.
The production of these harmful compounds is increased when we are subjected to stress or vices such as smoking. There is no avoiding the production of free radicals, but one can take preventative measures to make sure the levels of free radicals are kept in balance. Scientific studies have revealed that intense repetitive exercise can increase stress thereby increasing oxidative damage. If you are not nourished properly, this can hurt gains in the gym. Antioxidants from fruit sources can aid in limiting this damage and improve muscle maintenance.
Many health care professionals insist that fruit is an important part of any well-balanced diet and for good reason. Fruit contains high doses of vitamins that we need to maintain a healthy body. If building lean muscle mass is your goal, here is a quick rundown of some vitamins you should definitely include, all of which can be found in various fruits.
This is essential for the maintenance of collagen (most abundant protein) and other connective tissues.
Sources: Oranges, grapefruit, and pineapple.
You need vitamin A to maintain regular cell division, and it is also essential to immune function, ensuring you never have to miss a gym session due to illness.
Sources: Mangos, apricots, and cantaloupe.
This vitamin aids in protein synthesis as well as the production of haemoglobin which is essential for delivering oxygen-rich blood to the muscles.
Sources: Bananas, prunes, and avocados.
Folate is essential for the production of red blood cells which contribute to recovery as well as increasing one’s endurance.
Sources: Avocados, mangos, and oranges.
Of course, there are many more vitamins and minerals that can be found in the incredibly diverse world of fruit, but these are just some of the most essential vitamins as it pertains to building muscle.
While fibre does not directly lead to an increase in muscle mass, it does significantly impact healthy digestive function, an important factor for any bodybuilder. Fibre helps lower cholesterol and improves intestinal health so you can absorb nutrients at maximum capacity. While not all fruit is high in fibre, there a few that provide a dense amount. Some of these include apricots, apples, figs, raspberries, and mangos.
So that’s it! Fruit is the wonder food, and you should eat it till you pop, right? Well, it’s not that simple.
Fruit Can Hurt Your Progress
High Fructose Content
Fructose is another form of sugar similar to glucose or lactose but has very different physiological effects in high doses. And as it happens, high concentrations of fructose can be found in most fruit.
Interestingly, fructose was once recommended for diabetics because it does not spike insulin levels as sharply as other sugars. While this is true, it was later revealed that chronic, high fructose intake could result in obesity, insulin resistance, and type 2 diabetes. These issues occurred despite a low glycemic index because excess fructose can potentially damage hepatic tissue which is necessary for sugar metabolism. As you have observed, these health issues will do you no good at cutting body fat or obtaining a sculpted physique, and as a result, fruit must be considered when calculating your macros.
Fructose and Muscle
One main fact that weightlifters need to understand is that our muscles do not have the enzymes to break down fructose. Although fructose can be converted into glucose by our liver, this process does take some time and only a portion of the fructose is transformed while the other half is stored as fat.
In addition, studies including this one have suggested that fructose is a very poor at replenishing muscle glycogen especially after a workout. Meaning, that it is not an ideal source to consume if the goal is to stock up on muscle glycogen.
With that said, let’s see what IFBB Pro Ben Pakulski has to say about consuming fruits and building muscle.
Fructose vs Glucose
Glucose is the primary form of sugar the human body uses for energy as well as being the most abundant nutrient found in food groups, and it is a significant factor in many regulatory systems.
So how does it stack up against fructose?
On one hand, glucose spikes your blood sugar levels more sharply than fructose does. When blood sugars are spiked significantly, often the only result is the accumulation of additional body fat. On the other hand, fructose is taken into cells and converted into body fat twice as fast as glucose. Glucose intake is insulin dependent, but fructose can be either insulin dependent or independent, meaning it may increase body fat regardless of a spike in actual blood sugar.
However, one study did reveal that it is only very high levels of fructose intake that can be harmful, and when taken in the same amount as glucose, the physiological effects were negligible. It would appear that when it comes to fructose consumption, balance and moderation is the key.
So how much is too much?
Recommended Fruit Intake
Most sources suggest 4 to 5 servings of fruit for men and women each day. This number is certainly reasonable, and it is recommended that you stay within these guidelines for optimal health. Moreover, for those who track their fructose intake, be sure always to stay below 50 grams. Studies have manifested that an average liver can only digest 50grams of fructose. Any more will directly lead to fat accumulation.
How to Incorporate Fruit in a Healthy Diet
Substituting Fruit for Simple Sugars
The next time you have a craving for something sweet, avoid refined sugars which lead to an insulin spike and ultimately fat accumulation. Fruit is an excellent alternative to simple sugars as it provides a sweet taste for the pallet and essential vitamins and minerals necessary for good health.
However, fruit is not a substitute for complex sugars such as the starches found in wheat and rice. These complex starches are digested slowly and are made up of large networks of glucose molecules. They provide a feeling of fullness and provide you with energy for hours. Fruit contains far less glucose, and as a result of fructose being absorbed so rapidly, it only provides energy for only a short amount of time.
Fruit and Cutting
If you are looking to seriously cut body fat and obtain a sleek, athletic look, the types of fruit you eat, as well as when you eat them, can have an impact towards your results. While many consider fruit an acceptable form of sugar for most cutting phase diets, you can avoid unnecessary fat accumulation by minimizing your intake by eating particular fruits.
Fruits that are lower on the glycemic index is the most ideal as it doesn’t cause a release in high insulin levels. Some of these fruits include pears, apples, grapefruits, and cherries. And just like every other carbohydrate, it is ideal to digest fruit after a workout when you are looking for a little extra sugar to aid in muscle recovery.
Another fact to bear in mind is that fruits digests rather quickly. This results in a burst of energy as opposed to a slow digesting carbohydrates such as brown rice which provide a steady flow of energy for hours. Even so, apples and grapefruit are types of fruit that make excellent fat burners and should be incorporated into your diet.
All in All
Fruit will always serve a crucial role in maintaining a balanced diet. Although they promote fat accumulation due to the speed at which our bodies digest them, you cannot exclude the reality that they also provide essential vitamins, minerals and antioxidants that promote optimal health. Ideally you should be eating fruits every day, especially if you are neglecting your vegetables. However, by choosing the right types of fruit and eating them at the right time, can go a long way in helping you achieve your fat loss goals.