What is the recommended intake of sugar for fat runners?

I love sugar. Skittles, Charleston Chew’s, Swedish Fist, and anything chocolate are all within my recommended intake of sugar. Or maybe there’s a more healthy sugar intake amount?

Sadly, to be a healthy runner, there is a daily recommended amount of sugar. The only problem is that it is everywhere, it’s in everything, and it’s difficult to avoid. It’s in practically every food we eat and though we know it’s not good for us in excess, it’s also hard to resist. 

What sugar does to your body and brain

You’ve heard terms like a sugar rush, or sugar shock. That’s because sugar affects both the brain and the body.

Sugar on the brain

Eating sugar induces the brain’s dopamine receptors (the same response as drug addiction), and it makes us feel great, and full of energy and focus. At least until that buzz wears off.

According to Katherine Basbaum, clinical dietician at the University of Virginia Health, “the feeling of reward is the same for sugar as it is for those addicted to drugs and alcohol. You don’t want to get addicted to something that causes inflammation, weight gain, and chronic disease.”

The recommended intake of sugar affects on the body

As chubby runners, the sugar problem is amplified. 

We tend to be chubby or overweight due to excess sugar intake. The actual effect on the body depends on the level and consistency of sugar consumption. Here’s a breakdown of how it affects different parts of the body. 

  • Skin – Sugar exacerbates aging and conditions like rosacea and acne.
  • Liver – Converts excess sugar intake to fat.
  • Kidneys – Excess sugar causes kidneys to spill sugar into the urine. 
  • Mouth and teeth – Too much sugar can cause tooth decay and gum disease.
  • Heart – Excess sugar hardens arteries and heart tissue.
  • Stomach – Sugar interrupts the microbiome in the digestive tract.
  • Pancreas – Sugar causes the pancreas to speed up insulin production.
  • Sexual health – Both male and female fertility issues stem from high blood sugar. 

What is the daily recommended intake of sugar?

Running doesn’t make chubby runners exempt from the health effects of eating too much sugar. Just because you run, doesn’t mean you can consume excess sugar. So what is excess? What is the recommended amount of sugar consumption?

Added recommended intake of sugar

Added sugar is added sugar.

Aside from the foods you eat that contain natural sugars, like milk or fruit, added sugar is what you eat that has added sugar. This would include things like:

  • Candies
  • Cookies
  • Everything else that tastes good

The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends added sugar intake to be less than 10% of daily calories per day. This equates to about 200 calories of sugar per day or about 12 teaspoons. The American Heart Association recommends added sugar intake of 6 teaspoons (25 grams) for women and 9 teaspoons (38 grams) for men.

The recommended amount of natural sugars

Some foods contain natural sugars.

These include dairy (lactose) and fruit (fructose). When looking at the number of natural sugars to consume requires a bigger picture view of your whole diet. Natural sugars are included in that. Added sugars are in addition to that.

Recommended intake of sugar in a 2,000-calorie diet


Carbs help to provide your body with the energy to get through your day. (Unless you’re on a ketogenic diet.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recommends:

  • 300 grams of carbohydrates per day 
  • 45 to 65 percent of your daily calories
  • 900 to 1,300 calories from carbohydrate sources 

Here are some healthy sources of carbohydrates:

  • Raw vegetables
  • Whole-grain cereal
  • Brown rice
  • Granola

The FDA recommends protein consumption of:

  • 65 grams of protein per day
  • 10 to 35 percent of your daily calories 
  • 200 to 700 calories from protein sources

There are many healthy protein sources from beans to lean red meat and fish to nuts. 


The types of fats to avoid are saturated fats and trans fatty acids. Fats are usually higher in calories, so it’s something to keep an eye on. 

  • Approximately 20 to 35 percent of your daily calories 
  • 400 to 700 calories from fat sources

Choose healthy fat sources such as avocados, salmon, almonds, coconut oil, and lower-fat dairy products.

There’s no need to avoid naturally sweet, whole foods, which have water, fiber, and/or protein that slow the sugar’s path into your system.

Ways to cut the recommended intake of sugar

Now that you know how much sugar you should be consuming, let’s dive into some ways you can cut sugar from your diet.

Look for naturally healthy sugars

The old switcheroo. 

You can cut your intake pretty easily just by replacing foods with a lot of added sugar, like donuts or cookies, with ones that are high in natural sugar, like fruits and berries. Natural foods are often calorie-dense which means you’ll get the sweetness that’s lower in calories and rich in nutrients. 

Reward system

mikes pastry cannolis boston

I love cannoli. 

I can use cannoli as a personal incentive. By implementing a reward program for your sweet tooth can help curb the cravings and help with goal setting.

Want some Ben & Jerry’s? Reward yourself by doing something you’ve been putting off, or by doing a healthy activity, like 25 push-ups. This will help cut down impulse eating by delaying gratification. You may also find that completing the task or exercise is enough and you don’t need Sour Patch Kids to celebrate.

Portion control

“When I eat pizza, I just can’t stop.”

-The little fat kid in all of us

When it comes to portions, there’s a big difference between a serving of Double Stuff Oreos and a family-sized package of Double Stuff Oreos. Just taking out 1 serving and putting the rest back in the pantry stops you from just casually eating a month’s worth of calories. 

But “hey, I dunked them in milk,” you rationalize. 

Sorry, that milk just can’t overcome the negative effects of those delicious cookies. Believe me, I’ve tried. 

One study published in Health Psychology found that people who snacked on portioned amounts ate 50% less. Read the labels, you may be surprised about how much or how little a serving size actually is. Keep your treats out of view, so you aren’t tempted to reach for seconds, or thirds, or fourths.

Here’s a hilarious take on food labels and serving sizes:

It’s all about timing

Does it matter when I eat junk food?

Good news chubby runners, you do get 2 small windows of sugar immunity:

  1. During your running workout
  2. Immediately following your running workout 

While you are running or jogging right afterward, the body uses sugar for fuel and replenishes muscle glycogen for recovery. 

What about other times? Sadly, any sugar you consume when you’re not moving is more likely to go to stored fat. And yes, you will get more nutritional value from eating strawberries or chocolate milk, but if donuts are what you love, it may be better to time that type of indulgence within 30 minutes of finishing a workout. It’s all about timing.

Just a taste

I think Mick Jagger said it best, “I can’t get no, satisfaction.”

Studies have found that the first bite of food yields the most pleasure or satisfaction. Additionally, people who consume large portions of indulgent foods actually feel less satisfied than those eating smaller portions. 

Diminishing marginal utility and sugar consumption

In economics, there’s a concept known as “utility,” which is essential, “satisfaction gained.” The utility can be applied to a number of different variables, but for this discussion, it’s used to measure the “satisfaction of sugar consumption.” And economists typically tie concepts back to dollars, because that’s what economists do. 

In this scenario, the idea is that one Krispy Kreme donut is amazing, it offers very high utility for a person, and because its utility has a high value, it should be reflected in dollars. I get x amount of satisfaction from 1 donut, so I am willing and able to pay $5 for it. But the second donut does not give me the same amount of utility, so I am only willing to pay $2 for it. And the utility continues to diminish, as do the dollars I am willing to pay with each subsequent donut.

Depriving yourself of something tends to make you want more of it. So, just give yourself a taste or a small portion of it. By giving yourself the latitude to enjoy one or two bites of your favorite treat, you’ll get maximum utility for minimal damage. 

Bottom line on recommended intake of sugar

Sugar is sugar.

Whether it is natural sugar, like honey, or highly processed sugar, like high fructose corn syrup, too much is just not good for you. Keep it in line.

If you are a chubby runner who needs the sugar buzz to maintain energy on a run, go ahead. Be smart about it, look for better quality energy sources that can sustain you longer and don’t give you a fast crash.

Eat a balanced diet and don’t go overboard with your sugar intake. Moderation in all things is a rule to live by. If you absolutely need a donut after a training run, go ahead. you’ve earned it. But just one, not a whole dozen.