Why Fruit Is Making You Fat!

Now that I have your attention, I would like to clarify that there is no doubt about it, fruit is good for you, it’s low calorie, full of essential vitamins and micronutrients and can be enjoyed as part of balanced and nutritious diet; however, there are better times to consume fruit than others, especially if you are consuming fruit in a calorie surplus and not using the readily available energy, it can lead to fat gains. In order for me to explain this, you firstly need to understand how carbohydrates are metabolised within the body.

When you consume carbohydrates they are stored in 2 forms, as either “muscle glycogen” or as “liver glycogen”.

Muscle glycogen is a product of starchy foods and liver glycogen is a product of fructose, the naturally occurring sugar from fruit.

The thing people forget or just don’t understand when it comes to food in general, is that food is fuel and we should only eat what is required to fuel our daily energy requirements, especially when it comes to carbohydrate intake. Carbohydrates are an important energy source for us, they are important for brain function and important for muscle function and therefore should be eaten around specific times depending on your energy requirements.

For example, if you work at a desk all day, you are going to require fewer calories to fuel your daily energy requirements in comparison to someone working in manual labour. This also applies to people that exercise, you need to fuel both your workouts and recovery which require increased energy to fulfil and therefore more calories from food. What is most important is the food your putting in and at what time.

A common misconception is that fruit post-exercise is beneficial as it will replenish muscle glycogen; however, as previously mentioned fruit will only replenish liver glycogen and not muscle glycogen. Glycogen is our muscles fuel source and will be depleted during intense exercise and therefore needs to be replenished afterwards with starchy carbohydrates such as rice and potato’s. Now don’t get me wrong, there are advantages of eating certain fruits post-workout, such as blueberries for anti-inflammatory purposes; however, my objective here is to clarify the common misconception that fruit itself will replenish muscle glycogen, when it won’t.

So when should we eat fruit?

Fructose is a product from the naturally occurring sugars found in fruit, fructose is transported into the liver as liver glycogen.

We want to ensure that when we eat fruit we will maximize the energy we receive from it, but more importantly ensure that the fructose is used by the body as either an energy source or stored as liver glycogen; if liver glycogen stores are full and fructose isn’t used as energy which is often the case in a calorie surplus diet, this excess fructose will simply get converted and stored as body fat.

The liver in comparison to the bodies muscular structure is tiny and can on average hold 2-3 glasses worth of orange juice or fructose equivalent. Therefore, the body is more forgiving when we eat starchy carbohydrates compared to fruits, as when our liver glycogen stores are full we will store that excess fructose as fat.

Therefore, the best times to eat fruit are first thing in the morning and 15 minutes before a workout as your body will use this readily available energy to fuel morning activity and then your exercise. Fructose will become almost immediately available in the blood stream upon consuming fruit, so ensure you create a demand through exercise to supply and use that fructose as energy. Fructose can also promote an anabolic state, your liver glycogen stores will deplete extremely quickly during intense exercise and if liver glycogen levels are low, your body will be forced to produce alanine from your muscles, causing a catabolic effect and muscle breakdown. This is the last thing we want as the more lean muscle we have, the more efficient our bodies are at breaking down body fat due to an increased metabolic rate.

As I mentioned at the start, fruit is low calorie, full of essential vitamins and micronutrients and can be enjoyed as part of balanced and nutritious diet; the fructose content of a single apple for example is nothing to worry about, in fact, you would have to consume around 7 apples to equate to the amount of fructose in a can of fizzy soda; however, this is where people are going wrong and often being mislead, because the calorie, sugar and fructose content of “fruit juices” are significantly higher than you may think and if you flood your liver with excess fructose that it can’t store and there is no energy demand to fuel, this fructose will be stored as body fat. A calorie surplus therefore isn’t necessarily essential for gains in body fat, if you consume too many fructose rich products within your day, you can promote fat storage.

There is practically no limit as to how many calories the body can store as fat, hence why we have such a huge obesity crisis in today’s society. People believe that fruit is good for you, and by all means it is; however, people are being mislead by “fruit” labeled products that are laden in sugar and fructose and consequently, their body fat is increasing. Remember, food is fuel/energy and we only need to eat what our bodies need to maintain our energy expenditure!

Anytime you complete an intense workout, your muscle glycogen stores will be drained & then need to be replenished with quality nutrient dense starchy carbohydrates. It is important that glycogen stores are restored post workout to ensure you maximize your recovery & promote being ANABOLIC (an anabolic state will promote lean muscle growth).

Key facts about carbohydrates:

  1. Glucose will ONLY replenish muscle glycogen.
  2. Fructose will ONLY replenish liver glycogen.
  3. Starchy carbs ONLY post-workout.
  4. Fruit in the morning & 15 minutes pre-workout