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Is Fruit Bad for You? Is It Causing Fat Gain?

Is Fruit Bad for You? Is It Causing Fat Gain?

If the saying “exercise more and eat less” were true, I know many people who would have a ripped six pack. Fat loss isn’t this simple, though. It’s a big puzzle, and most people are trying to figure out which pieces go together so they can:

  1. look better in a t-shirt or bathing suit
  2. feel better
  3. get stronger
  4. make an ex jealous

(I’m kidding, but not really.)

Beginning with this post, my goal is to compile and share my overall thoughts on how individuals can effectively lose body fat. The plan is to tackle subjects such as macronutrient splits (protein/carbs/fats), reading a nutrition label, training methods, etc. The first topic probably isn’t something you would think of as a major contributor to fat, but you need to think again.

Fruit is Bad?

I’m not going to tell anyone to not eat fruit. However, there’s a time and place for it. Based on a person’s insulin sensitivity, fructose has a high chance of becoming fat. We aren’t just talking about the visible fat. I’m talking about visceral fat. Visceral fat is the stuff that you can’t pinch or grab. It’s layered on the inside of your abdominal wall (aka belly fat). This fat will interfere with your liver function, lead to insulin resistance, high cholesterol, and disrupt hormonal communication between your vital organs.

Let’s Break It Down

For someone who’s overweight and trying to lose fat, you would fit into two categories:

  • A low-carb ketogenic approach of fewer than 50 grams of carbs per day and between 5 to 10% of your calories
  • A low-carb diet of approximately 50 to 130 grams of carbs per day and between 10 to 25% of your calories

Counting grams and calories can be confusing, so we can examine a fruit: the banana. One banana will provide you with only 105 calories (not bad), potassium (looking good), and 3 g of fiber (OK!). On the flip side, that one banana will cost your daily carb total of 27 g, add 14 g of sugar (fructose), and metabolically it won’t do anything for you. It won’t burn fat, and outside of a post-workout window, it will get stored as fat.

How Can You Eat Fruit?

Fruit can be beneficial as a source of fiber, antioxidants, and vitamins. (You can also get the same benefits from vegetables. Just saying.) So, how do you wisely choose the type and when to eat it?

Wellness expert Mike Sheridan does a fantastic job breaking down who should eat fruit and under what circumstance you should do so:

Current Body CompWorkout IntensityOptions
Lots to loseLowBerries
HighBerries
Almost thereLowLow glycemic fruit
HighLow glycemic fruit
Lean but no absLowLow glycemic fruit
HighHigh glycemic fruit or starch
Visible absLowHigh glycemic fruit or starch
High2 x high glycemic or 1 x very high glycemic

Let’s be clear about this: The chart above should be considered post workout. Depending on your exercise intensity and current body composition, your muscles will be accepting of carbs for as long as 1.5 to 3 hours after your workout. The more body fat you have, you won’t have as much time to consume fruit in this post-workout window. In addition, make sure that you consume protein along with the fruit. Protein will help mitigate blood sugar control and speed up the recovery process.

Examples of low-glycemic fruits are berries, apples, oranges, and watermelon. Some high-glycemic fruits would be bananas, grapes, and pineapple. Even though this post is about fruit, if you want to have starch post workout, stick to sweet potatoes, taro, yams, or a white potato.

Fruit Pre-Workout

If you must have fruit prior to a workout, stick to a serving of berries. Our ancestors ate berries as they were trekking for long periods of time hunting for food. They didn’t consume a ton. It was just enough to get them along. (Our ancestors were looking for animal protein and walked an average of six miles per day. By doing so, they were super lean. What does that tell you?)

As far as breakfast, it’s generally better to avoid fruits/carbs. Eating a breakfast high in protein and low/zero carbs will provide better satiety. It will give your body a better chance of storing carbs post workout and at dinner as glycogen, not fat. In addition, when you ingest carbs prior to a workout, you are programming your body to burn carbs, not fat! Unless you’re an elite athlete training 10-15 hours per week, you don’t need carbs before or during your workout.

Conclusion

Let’s recap what we learned:

  1. Eating fruit can lead to body fat.
  2. It’s better to consume fruit 1.5 to 3 hours’ post workout.
  3. Unless you have visible abs, you should probably stick to berries and other low-glycemic fruit.
  4. Carbs before or during your workout only lead to burning those same carbs you just ingested, not fat.

References

Sheridan, M. (2014). Live It NOT Diet! Eat More Not Less. Lose Fat Not Weight. Columbia, SC: Lean Living.