Fruit, friend or foe?
We hear it all the time—“Make sure you get at least 5 portion of fruit a day!” Then we have some of the athletes who say, “I swear, as soon as I cut fruit out of my diet, I lost a ton of weight!”
We have studies that claim they found links between fruit and diabetes, fruit and obesity and then on the other extreme, we have them saying we’ve found fruit with cancer fighting properties and also helping to reduce body fat.
So what is real and what is fiction? Here we’ll answer the big question—Fruit, Friend or Foe?
Now, who doesn’t like a nice piece of fruit? But really, what is the truth on fruit? I feel it’s overlooked in bodybuilding, but not looked at enough in normal living.
Bodybuilders overlook fruit, because I feel that they see it as a non-issue, something that will make you fat! Something that just isn’t good for building rock hard massive muscle, which we all want. But there is a different side to fruit that people in the bodybuilding world should know, some know of it already but some don’t, fruit is a GREAT pre and or post workout meal, its got simple sugars, most fruits have plenty of those energy giving carbohydrates. They’re just a great source of simple sugars/carbohydrates for pre/post workout.
Here is the catch though, many bodybuilders avoid fruit because of a thing called fructose. Now fructose is a form of simple sugar much like dextrose or glucose, which many of you may use, but bodybuilders seem to overdo the whole fructose thing. Let me give you an insight why this generally happens;
Fructose is a simple sugar, yes we all know that… but fructose is a little different to other simple sugar sources. See fructose is much more easily stored as body fat, unfortunately. it has to travel through the liver first to be converted into glycogen. Then the problem is when liver glycogen levels get full it begins turning into fat! This is the reason bodybuilders try to avoid fruit, because seeing as though you can’t tell when your liver is full of glycogen, many bodybuilders just forget about fruit all together and don’t find it worth the risks.
But many bodybuilders do tend to over react about how much fructose really is in fruit, many fruits don’t contain loads of fructose but they do contain something that is very important to a bodybuilder, which is phytochemicals (micronutrients). Also fruits are packed with muscle growing nutrients.
So now you might be asking yourself, why do we need this glycogen stuff in our muscles anyway? Well unless you want flat looking muscles I can guarantee you want some glycogen in there. Apart from making your muscles fuller and harder, it also helps with strength gains. Simple sugars such as dextrose, glucose and fructose are converted into glycogen, which is a form of carbohydrates that is stored in your muscles. What does it do, when it’s in your muscles? It helps you recover, grow, give you a full look (so you look bigger) and so you can have overall better performance at all workouts.
Back to good old fruit, when would the best times to eat fruit be? Well there are 3 best times to use fruit and they are:
1. As soon as you get up and make breakfast, because while you’re sleeping your glycogen levels are getting lower and lower, because your body has been using them for an energy source while you sleep and if you don’t get any glycogen in you when you get up in the morning, your body will start to turn to using muscle for energy and you certainly don’t want muscle catabolism now do you!.
2. Before training. Try and get a piece of fruit in around 30 to 20 minutes before training to get those glycogen levels up again and save muscle glycogen. The fructose in the fruit will also not stop fat burning like other simple sugars do i. e glucose.
3. After a hard, heavy workout. Have a piece of fruit to get your insulin spike going and to get the fructose and glucose into those muscles, so you can recover and GROW. Try and go with a fruit that is higher is glucose than it is fructose, such as; peach, cherries and banana. (A great way to do this is making a smoothie with some protein powder and fruits, yummy!)
One thing I must say though is try and stick with fruit at those times, don’t eat too much fruit or it will overload your liver glycogen levels and will be stored as body fat. If you are going to eat fruit at other times, limit the amount you eat.
Fruits have plenty of fibre in them, that help slow down the rate of protein digestion to give you that steady release of amino acids.
Fruit also adds to how I believe people should eat more whole foods and try not to live on supplements all the time. You have a great source of simple sugars/carbohydrates here so use it, so when you go out and buy a supplement that has the simple sugars have a think if you need it or just have a couple of peach’s. Don’t eliminate fruit from your diet PLAESE, Fruit has so many good things going for it and is so overlooked in bodybuilding. There is lots of nutrients, fibre and like I said before those most important simple sugars that get your insulin up, glycogen stores up and gets into those big muscles and gets you growing, which we all want to do!
Back to eating the whole foods, fruit is known to pick up your appetite for food so you can eat more, so when you eating your 4th cup of oats for the day, have a little bit of banana and the sweetness of it will help If you’re feeling down and out and have no energy just have a little fruit to pick you up again, but remember never eat too much, need to keep the liver glycogen levels in check.
If your reading this and saying to yourself, “I want fruit, but just can’t bring myself to eat it because of the fructose and liver glycogen levels,” then why not try a citrate supplement with it, such as; calcium citrate or creatine citrate. It just helps that fructose to go to glycogen production and away from fat.
You might be asking yourself what fruits are good at what times, well I might just tell you a few fruits and what times would be best to take them: Pre-training: apple, grapes, strawberries, pears. Post-workout: cherries, peach’s, bananas. Breakfast time: orange, kiwi fruit, and nectarine. They’re just a few fruits that you can pick more; if you really want to chop and change then you can, but be careful of fructose and glucose levels.
Well I hope this article has helped some of you young (and old) aspiring bodybuilders out there to not overlook fruit when you’re writing up your next training/diet plan, it might even save you some money on supplements!
Always eat your fruit and veg but never go crazy with fruit, look after yourself and eat more whole foods, get a good supplement and training plan and your set for better gains.
Fruit, friend or foe? You decide.