Illustration of a sugar cube

How Much Sugar is Okay While Bulking?

Sugar is often criticized for causing weight gain. It’s technically a calorie surplus that causes the weight gain. But sugar can certainly make it easier to get into a calorie surplus, and so increasing our sugar intake can indeed lead to weight gain.

What if we’re trying to gain weight? For a lot of us hardgainers, the idea of sugar causing accidental weight gain sounds like a potential benefit, and it can be. In fact, when Marco first started helping me bulk up, one of the first things he did was have me add some sugar (dextrose) into my workout shakes. It’s a common trick that strength coaches use with high-level athletes to help them get into a calorie surplus. Marco cut his teeth by helping college, professional, and Olympic athletes build muscle, so it was the first thing he thought of when I told him that I was having trouble gaining weight.

Look at drinks like Gatorade, designed for the Gators from the University of Florida to keep them fueled up while playing sports. It’s full of sugar. Or look at the recovery drinks we see at the supplement stores. Again, full of sugar (or starch). The same is true with weight gainers. Their main ingredient is usually either maltodextrin or dextrose—both of which are quickly broken down into sugar as soon as we drink them. Sugar is the main ingredient in bulking supplements and sports drinks.

In the general public, though, most skinny guys take the opposite approach. They’ve heard that processed sugar will raise our blood sugar levels and can lead to various health issues, including, of course, fat gain. So when they start bulking up, they intentionally try to reduce their intake of processed sugar. Now, there’s certainly no problem with that, and most health experts recommend keeping our sugar intake quite low anyway—often limiting sugar to 25% of our total calories but sometimes as low as 10% of our total calories (study).

However, the idea of limiting our sugar intake to 25% of our calories is based on the idea that eating more processed sugar can lead to nutrient deficiencies. If we eat more candy, that can mean eating fewer fruits and veggies. But that’s not all that relevant to us skinny guys who are intentionally driving ourselves into a calorie surplus to build muscle. It’s especially irrelevant if we’re getting that added sugar from sources that are rich in micronutrients, such as from fruit, fruit juice, honey, and milk. In that case, even though our sugar intake would be increasing, we’d be consuming more micronutrients.

Furthermore, sugar has a different impact on skinny guys who are underweight and exercising than it does on people who are overweight and sedentary. We don’t have the same issues controlling our blood sugar levels, removing most of the downsides to our general health. And, when combined with a good lifting routine, raising our intakes of sugar can lead to leaner muscle gains than increasing our intakes of fat.

So, what effect does sugar have on skinny guys as we bulk up? How much added sugar is helpful. How much is harmful? And how can we make it easier to bulk up quickly and leanly?

Disclaimer: Marco Walker-Ng has a degree in health sciences (BHSc) and is certified through Precision Nutrition to give diet advice (PN). However, our expertise is in building muscle, gaining strength, and improving body composition, not on the effect that our diets have on our general health. We recommend speaking to a medical professional, such as a registered dietitian, before making drastic changes to your diet.

Illustration of a skinny guy becoming muscular from doing biceps curls.

How Sugar Impacts Our Muscles

Sugar is our default source of fuel. When we eat carbs, they break down into a type of sugar called glucose, which is what the cells in our bodies use for energy. Our muscles and liver store this sugar in the form of glycogen, our blood vessels transport it around as blood sugar, and our brain even runs on sugar.

If we stop eating carbs, though—either by fasting, starving, or eating a very-low-carb diet—then we can no longer use sugar as our default fuel source. That would cause us to undergo a process called ketosis, which allows us to use fat as our main source of fuel. This is the foundation of the ketogenic diet. However, so far research is showing that the ketogenic diet isn’t very good for bulking.

Part of the reason that carbohydrates are helpful when bulking is that when we lift weights, our muscles use up the glycogen that’s stored inside of them. The more glycogen we have in our muscles, the longer we can train before our muscles start to get fatigued.

Glycogen levels aren’t an issue with strength training (studystudy). Since the rep ranges are quite low, it doesn’t require much fuel. However, strength training isn’t very good for bulking.

With higher-volume hypertrophy and bodybuilding workouts, though, it can help to have muscles that have more glycogen in them. There are a few reasons for that:

  • The more glycogen we have in our muscles, the more sets and reps we can do before our muscles start to get fatigued (studystudystudy).
  • Having muscles that are full of glycogen seems to improve rates of muscle growth, allowing us to build more muscle (study).
  • Muscles that are full of glycogen look bigger and fuller, which is always nice.

So glycogen is sugar, and glycogen is great. However, our bodies can get glycogen out of most carbohydrates. In fact, we could easily get all the glycogen we need simply by consuming starches, such as rice, potatoes, and pasta. Sugar isn’t required. Furthermore, not all sugar can even be turned into glycogen.

The Common Types of Sugar

Here’s a quick breakdown of the common types of sugar:

  • Glucose: most organisms use glucose as their primary fuel, and they get this fuel from plants. Plants create glucose using energy from the sun through a process called photosynthesis. Muscles use glucose as fuel, too. You’ll see it in many pre-workout supplements, energy drinks, and workout recovery drinks.
  • Fructose: this is the sweetest of sugars. However, despite its sweet disposition, it has a bad reputation. This is because it’s digested differently from other sugars, which can cause problems when it’s consumed in large quantities. For example, Gropper et al found that up to 60% of us struggle to digest large quantities of fructose (study, study). This doesn’t mean that we should necessarily avoid the fructose that’s naturally occurring in fruits, but it’s one of many reasons that we may want to limit our consumption of processed foods.
  • Sucrose (e.g. table sugar): regular table sugar comes from sugarcane or sugar beets, which are processed to enhance their sweetness. This processing removes the fibre and phytonutrients, leaving pure sucrose. Sucrose is a glucose unit and a fructose unit bound together into a disaccharide. It’s quite sweet, but not as sweet as pure fructose.
  • High fructose corn syrup (HFCS): nowadays the cheapest way to get sugar is by processing corn, not sugarcane. When you process corn into a starch (corn starch) it isn’t very sweet. With further processing, though, corn can be processed into corn syrup, which still isn’t very sweet because it’s mostly glucose. By adding digestive enzymes into that corn syrup, though, manufacturers can increase the amount of fructose in it, turning it into high-fructose corn syrup, which is 55% fructose and 45% glucose. Because it’s slightly higher in fructose, it’s also slightly sweeter, which makes it an effective sweetener. However, fructose can also cause digestive issues and visceral fat storage when consumed in large quantities (study). This is one reason why most experts recommend limiting the consumption of added sugars.
  • Lactose: Milk contains a sugar called lactose, which is a complex sugar that digests extremely slowly. In order to digest lactose, we need a digestive enzyme called lactase, and some people have more of it than others. As a result, some people can run into digestive issues when they consume lactose. (Here’s our article about bulking up with milk.)

Is There a Benefit to Simple Sugars While Bulking?

So, keeping in mind that consuming added sugar in excess is a bad idea, there are also some potential benefits to keep in mind. The first benefit is that consuming sugar is a good way to keep your muscles full of glycogen. This is why some bodybuilders like to sip on sugary drinks while working out.

Illustration of a man doing a barbell sumo deadlift.

There’s an extra benefit to using sugar for that purpose, too: simple sugars tend to be quite easy to digest. If you have a pre-workout drink that has carbs in it, better for those carbs to be in the form of easily digested simple sugars (such as glucose) or simple carbs (such as maltodextrin). That way your body can digest the sugars easily, giving you a quick source of energy, and preventing your digestive system from giving you trouble while you’re exercising.

Most of us are trying to be healthy while bulking, and so it’s common for health-conscious bulkers to blend up oats so that they can have unprocessed carbs either before, during, or right after their workouts. The problem is that oats are rich in fibre, which is healthy, yes, but also makes them harder to digest. They aren’t a good quick source of energy, and they won’t leave you feeling light and energetic after eating them.

If you have a banana, though, which is richer in simpler sugars, you’ll get that energy sooner and it’ll be quite a bit easier on your digestive system. The same idea is true with energy drinks, pre-workout drinks, and even fruit juice. You get the carbs without demanding much of your stomach. So long as you keep sugar within 10–25% of your calorie intake, it can be a good strategy with minimal risk of downside.

For us skinny guys, there’s even more benefit: the simpler the carbs are, the quicker they’ll digest, and the sooner we’ll be hungry again. If lifting suppresses your appetite and jams up your digestive system (which seems to be quite common for us), you might still be able to have a protein shake with some simple carbs in it either during or after your workout. That way you don’t fall behind on your calories (or protein) for the day.

So although you don’t need simple sugars while bulking, and while there are plenty of alternatives, there might be a role for a moderate amount of simple sugar in your bulking routine.


So just to wrap up this section:

  • Our bodies break down the carbs we eat into glucose (among other things), which can then be stored in our muscles in the form of glycogen. This glycogen is a tremendous asset while bulking up. The more glycogen we have, the better our workouts will go, the more muscular we’ll look, and the more muscle we’ll build.
  • We don’t need to eat sugar in order to fill our muscles up with glycogen. Starchy carbs are a great source of glucose. However, fruits contain plenty of glucose as well, as do added sugars. All of these sources can be helpful while bulking up.
  • Since we’re bulking up, which necessarily involves eating a ton of calories, we want to be mindful of our digestive system and also take care not to gain much fat. As a result, we should try to get most of our calories from whole foods.
  • Simple sugars (and simple carbs in general) can be a good source of energy and calories while working out, and they’re usually pretty easy on our digestive systems and appetites. You might want to combine them with a protein shake.

Will Eating Sugar Cause Fat Gain?

This one is pretty easy to answer. Calories can make you gain weight, and sugar does contain calories. So yes, increasing your sugar intake could certainly drive you into a calorie surplus, which could result in weight gain. Depending on your lifestyle, a certain proportion of that weight gain will likely be fat.

Illustration showing an overweight man and a lean, muscular man.

There’s another question buried in this question, though.

Is sugar more fattening than other sources of calories? That depends on how much sugar you’re eating and what source that sugar comes from, but in general, so long as you consume added sugars in moderation, it shouldn’t cause you to gain extra fat as you bulk up (study).

When it comes to moderation, many experts—including Amber Bonsall, RD—recommend keeping your intake of added sugars to about 10% of your total calorie intake. However, this doesn’t mean that you need to be overly concerned about your intake of fruits and dairy, just that you may want to limit your intake of added sugars.

On the other hand, many other experts, such as Dr James Krieger and Dr Spencer Nadolsky, are much less concerned about the harms of added sugars in the context of people who are lean, active, and healthy. After all, most research shows no harm from consuming even fairly large amounts of sugar in people who are active and have a good body composition.

If you’re curious, here’s our article about the pros and cons of clean and dirty bulking. Not all foods have the same impact on us while bulking up. It just so happens that sugar (and carbs in general) tend to go along fairly well with lifting weights.

Are Some Sugars More Fattening Than Others?

There are certainly pros and cons to the different types of sugar that you consume, just not necessarily for the reasons you might assume. Cane sugar and HFCS both have their micronutrients processed out, so there’s no real benefit to them beyond their carbohydrate and calorie content.

Also, keep in mind that desserts don’t only contain empty calories. If you look at something like ice cream, there’s dairy in there. With something like a cherry pie, there are probably cherries and eggs in there.

Illustration of a cherry pie

However, even with desserts that are 100% devoid of micronutrients, that still doesn’t mean they’re bad—at least not in an absolute sense. Your body can still break them down and get calories out of them. And as ectomorphs struggling to eat enough to build muscle, calories are exactly what we need more of.

There are also many sources of sugar that are rich in vitamins and minerals, such as fruits, dairy, and honey. For example, the fibre found in fruit can help with digestive health, which can be very helpful while bulking up. To quote The Harvard School of Public Health:

Fruits and vegetables contain indigestible fiber, which absorbs water and expands as it passes through the digestive system. This can calm symptoms of an irritable bowel and, by triggering regular bowel movements, can relieve or prevent constipation (study). The bulking and softening action of insoluble fiber also decreases pressure inside the intestinal tract and may help prevent diverticulosis (study). —Harvard School of Public Health

It’s worth pointing out that frozen fruit counts as fresh fruit too. This can make it easy to blend fruits into smoothies.

Dried fruit is also quite nutritious while being extremely calorically dense, which is great for us skinny guys who are having a hard time eating enough calories to gain weight. (If that’s you, here’s our article about how to eat more calories.)

Why Do Some Bodybuilders Avoid Sugar While Bulking?

If someone is overweight, then anything that’s causing weight gain is unhealthy. Sugar, especially if it’s heavily refined, can thus be a problem. However, when someone is skinny, the situation is reversed, and foods that help us gain weight can actually be quite helpful. As a result, it’s often quite effective to bulk up on a diet that’s rich in fruit, fruit smoothies, and dried fruit. And, as we mentioned above, some processed sugar probably won’t hurt either.

Still, some experts believe that even the sugar found in fruits can be a problem. For example, there’s a famous study conducted by  Robert Lustig that found that adding 150 calories of sugar per day increased the risk of developing diabetes by 1%. Keep in mind that this study had the participants adding in 150 calories, bringing the participants into a slight calorie surplus and causing them to gain body fat. 

To put that into perspective, obesity increases the risk of developing diabetes by 9900%. A meta-analysis of all these studies concluded that it’s a calorie surplus that contributes most to fat gain, and that it’s gaining fat that contributes the most to the risk of developing diabetes. If we’re bulking up by gaining muscle rather than fat, the effect would be quite different.

On a more positive note, another study found that 150 minutes of exercise per week combined with a slight calorie deficit resulted in a 58% reduction in the risk of developing diabetes.

Anyway, for us ectomorphs sometimes these things are backwards. We’re trying to gain weight, we’re lifting weights, we’re eating enough protein, and hopefully, we’re eating diets that are made up mostly of whole foods. We’re in an entirely different situation.

How Much Sugar Can You Have While Bulking?

Up above we mentioned that large quantities of fructose can cause health problems and fat gain, but that it takes fairly obscene amounts of fructose for these problems to arise. Furthermore, it seems that if you’re leaner, more physically active, routinely lift weights, or if you’re doing cardio while bulking, you’ll be burning more calories and have a higher tolerance for sugar.

You could still play it safe by keeping your added sugar intake to under 10% of your calories, but that recommendation is going to vary depending on your lifestyle.

Illustration of a skinny guy running and becoming more muscular.

Then, when it comes to the sugar found in fruit and dairy, how much you eat should depend on your activity levels and goals. If you were trying to lose weight, it might help to get more of your calories from foods that are higher in fibre and lower in calories, such as broccoli, lettuce, spinach, celery, carrots, green beans, and apples. That way you’d get a lot of food volume, fibre, and phytonutrients per calorie. Fibre is quite filling, so this might help you eat fewer calories, causing weight loss.

On the other hand, if you’re a thin guy trying to gain weight, you’ll probably have more success by focusing on higher-calorie foods like bananas, prunes, raisins, milk, yogurts, kefir, and so on. These foods contain some sugar, but it’s not added sugar, and so you probably don’t need to track or limit it.

As for how many calories should be coming from carbohydrates in general, the consensus seems to be that a diet made up of around 50–60% carbohydrates tends to be ideal for building muscle and bulking up. For example, this study recommends a diet made up of 55–60% carbohydrates for bulking up. (More on bulking macronutrients here.)

What About Artificial Sweeteners While Bulking?

When we think of artificial sweeteners we normally think of diet soda, but keep in mind that protein powders are full of that stuff, too. In fact, if you start regularly consuming protein powder while bulking up, your intake of artificial sweeteners might actually rise quite high.

Illustration of a tub of weight gainer supplement powder.

It’s hard to tell if there are any unknown downsides to artificial sweeteners, but so far researchers haven’t uncovered any (studystudy). Jared and I were talking about this over coffee and a stranger chimed in with, “The downside is the taste!”

According to the Mayo Clinic, there are even some benefits, such as helping people to lose weight. Their stance is the following:

There’s no sound scientific evidence that any of the artificial sweeteners approved for use in the United States cause cancer or other serious health problems. Numerous studies confirm that artificial sweeteners are generally safe in limited quantities, even for pregnant women. —Mayo Clinic Staff

However, as with everything, it’s wise to practice moderation. They add:

When choosing sugar substitutes, it pays to be a savvy consumer. Artificial sweeteners and sugar substitutes can help with weight management. But they aren’t a magic bullet and should be used only in moderation. —Mayo Clinic Staff

So although there doesn’t seem to be any harm in consuming some artificial sweeteners, as with sugar, just try to practice moderation.

So, How Much Sugar is Okay While Bulking?

Illustration of a skinny hardgainer eating enough calories to gain weight.

It’s probably okay to consume a moderate amount of sugar while bulking. Most experts, such as the Mayo Clinic, say that it’s fine for our health. And in terms of our body composition, having some sugar in our diets shouldn’t make it any harder to build muscle leanly.

  • Processed sugar can still be digested, stored as muscle glycogen, and used as an energy source while lifting weights, as well as in our general lives. If you want to play it completely safe, you could cap your intake of added sugars at 10% of your calorie intake, but it’s unclear if there’s any harm in going beyond that limit.
  • Fruits, whether fresh, frozen, or dried, are great for helping skinny guys bulk up. Just make sure to get some vegetables and starchy vegetables in there too.
  • Non-caloric sweeteners seem to be okay in moderation.
  • Everyone is different, your results may vary, and it’s wise to consult with a physician or registered dietitian before making drastic changes to your diet.

Shane Duquette is the co-founder and creative lead of Outlift, Bony to Beastly, and Bony to Bombshell, and has a degree in design from York University in Toronto, Canada. He's personally gained sixty pounds at 11% body fat and has nine years of experience helping over ten thousand skinny people bulk up.

Marco Walker-Ng is the co-founder and strength coach of Outlift, Bony to Beastly, and Bony to Bombshell, and is a certified trainer (PTS) with a Bachelor's degree in Health Sciences (BHSc) from the University of Ottawa. His specialty is helping people build muscle to improve their strength and general health, with clients including college, professional, and Olympic athletes.

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  1. Rob on September 6, 2012 at 1:49 pm

    Bravo to you guys. I read a lot about nutrition and lifting and you are always right on the mark.

    I plan on taking a look at the depths of your paid program soon.

    • Shane Duquette on September 6, 2012 at 2:37 pm

      Thanks Rob, glad you enjoyed it. Hope to see you on the other side!

  2. Christian on September 6, 2012 at 2:09 pm

    Amazing. I was always worried my Diet Iced tea would somehow be screwing me. Looks like I get to continue having my mid afternoon can :). Thanks for another great article!

  3. Mathias on September 6, 2012 at 4:12 pm

    Awesome article. Just the information I was looking for(:

  4. Renze on September 6, 2012 at 4:49 pm

    Good job in making a subject that could be mind numbingly boring into something both enjoyable and educational!

    • Shane Duquette on September 6, 2012 at 5:36 pm

      Glad to hear it wasn’t too dry. I tried to keep it short, haha but then there was just so much to say.

  5. Brian on September 8, 2012 at 1:49 pm

    So is it best to workout in the morning (before breakfast) while consuming your training drink? If I understand this article correctly and your previous article about the training drink protocol, we want to have an insulin spike during our workouts.. and it seems like this happens more dramatically after fasting. Is this correct?

    • Shane Duquette on September 9, 2012 at 7:03 pm

      The most important thing about the training drinks is simply the amount of appropriate nutrition that they provide (carbs and protein). This doesn’t mean there aren’t other beneficial factors in play, but that’s where the emphasis should go.

      I would train when it best suits your schedule and your personal preference.

      If your schedule is wide open and you’re game for anything I’d recommend the evening. Maybe 6pm. You’ll get a good mix of a daily testosterone/energy peak and your body will be nice and warmed up from the day, which will make you really resistant to injury 🙂

      Does that help?

  6. Filip on December 14, 2012 at 3:36 pm

    Thanks for the good information!

    “Juice and soda are bad news, so opt for a diet drink if you have a hankering for some sugar-soda at the movie theatre. If a diet drink sound like a sissy drink to you, that’s cool man, you can get a zero drink instead.”

    But what should I drink instead? I’m looking for some great alternatives 😛

    • Shane Duquette on December 15, 2012 at 2:22 am

      Well, a diet drink wouldn’t be a bad idea, so long as they’re occasional. The artificial sweetener is cool, but too much of it and you might damage your teeth I’m thinking?

      I drink a whole ton of tea, since I find water can get a little dull. I buy it in interesting flavours and it does the trick.

      Lately I’ve been really into Yerba Mate, and find it really helps me get in the mood to read and write. It’s certainly an acquired taste though.

  7. Ajitesh on February 23, 2013 at 10:49 am

    I’ve a query regarding sugars. When do you suggest consuming simple carbs on non-workout days to avoid the belly-fat gain? I mean, cutting off on sugars on non-workout days would mean hunting for another source of calories and that’s really difficult for me.

    • Shane Duquette on February 28, 2013 at 1:49 pm

      Ah yeah I know what you mean. The answer: along with your meals. Sort of a “dessert” kind of thing. That way there’s plenty of healthy and nutritious food steadily digesting away as you’re tossing quickly digested sugars on top. With enough healthy food eaten in the same time period, overall the food will digest fairly slowly.

  8. brian on August 21, 2013 at 10:31 pm

    I’ve heard that sugar actually slows the immune system down quite a bit… any truth to this?

    • Shane Duquette on August 23, 2013 at 6:41 pm

      Taken to excess, I’m sure it wouldn’t be too great for you, certainly!

  9. Jay on August 22, 2013 at 7:28 am

    Milk is pastured.. why is milk still really good for you but pastured jam is not?

    • Shane Duquette on August 23, 2013 at 7:06 pm

      That’s a really good question, and I have to admit I don’t have an entirely perfect answer for you … but I can point out a few things.

      a) If you believe the claims, many milk brands are pasteurized slowly at low temperatures to kill bacteria and yet still preserve the nutrients. Is that true? I don’t know.

      b) Milk is often fortified, notably with vitamin D. Things being enriched or fortified is admittedly questionable and the effectiveness of it depends on what you’re eating and what it’s being fortified with, but liquid vitamin D performs really well in the studies, even as a standalone supplement. It’s fat soluble too, so when combined with something like a fuller fat milk it works great!

      c) All the studies we looked into concerning milk were done using pasteurized milk … and still produced really positive results. So at this point we aren’t talking about theory, we’re talking about actually seeing what happens when you drink it. Might be interesting to look at where the funding for the studies comes from though, as, honest intentions or not, a bias will usually influence things at least a little.

      d) Apparently raw milk IS a lot better, and there’s a big movement of people who go to great trouble to obtain safe raw milk that’s fit for consumption. I know a few guys who do it and swear by it. I’ve never tried it.

      Does that help at all?

  10. Nic on January 28, 2014 at 1:09 pm

    Hey guys ive been bulking for awhile i’m 14 years old put on about 20lbs in 4-5 mouths or so my body fat has risen about 2-3% is this normal for a bulk currently im at about 14-15%bf and 136 lbs planning to bulk up a bit more 5-10lbs response would be greatly appreciated thanks!

    • Shane Duquette on January 29, 2014 at 12:45 am

      You’re 14 and you’ve already packed on 20 pounds?! You’ve got a pretty rad head start into this stuff 🙂

      So you’ve gained maybe sixteen pounds of muscle and four pounds of fat? That sounds pretty good. It’s not normal or abnormal – you can bulk at different paces and accept different levels of fat gain.

      Knowing how easily I can lose fat, I’d be waaaay more thrilled about the muscle than perturbed by a little bit of fat. I think it sounds like you did a kickass job, Nic. If you wanted, you could now spend a month doing a bit of a cut and you could drop down a few body fat percentage points and be way more muscular AND leaner than when you started 🙂

      Continuing to bulk is cool too, of course. Just sayin’, you’re very close to having a much radder physique than when you started in every way!

      • Nic on May 22, 2014 at 11:21 am

        So 4 mouths later I’m 150lbs+ I have absolutely no visible abs AT ALL but probably about 16%+, I’m thinking I’ll want to cut in about 3 mouths at about 170lbs that would make it a year long bulk, Just curious how much weight do most people have to lose to get abs at that look I’m 5’8″btw, Will losing 12-15lbs be enough or are we looking at more like 15+, Also when you start cutting at like 1800-2500calories or whatever depending on the cardiovascular I do, How much water weight am I expecting to loose initially?I probably shouldn’t lose too much If I keep eating them carbohydrates right?

        • Nic on May 22, 2014 at 11:24 am

          Alot of people say I could get away with cutting now or in efew mouths, but alot serious lifters think that I should try to hold out to even next summer If I want to see some serious results, But I doubt I’ll even beable to holdout that long…Response would be greatly appreciated thanks.

          • Nic on May 22, 2014 at 11:38 am

            I take it that its my choice and it doesn’t really matter?

        • Shane Duquette on May 22, 2014 at 3:40 pm

          Yep! It’s your choice when you decide to cut. For some people cutting once you get above 15% works well. For others maybe 20%. I wouldn’t go much higher than that, as it might (maybe) not be as good for your health.

          Most people see abs at 10-12%, but that depends on the person. Lots of factors – how big your ab muscles are, what your posture is looking like, where you store fat, etc. So yeah, you’d probably want to lose something like 10-20 pounds.

          I don’t know how much water weight you’d lose initially. I don’t even know if you’d lose any. Sometimes people hold onto MORE water weight when cutting. (More of the hormone cortisol can have that effect, and cutting can raise cortisol levels.)

          I hope that helps. Good luck, Nic!

  11. Nic on January 28, 2014 at 1:20 pm

    Hey man I’m also curious if you ever do any de-loads whatsoever or does that affect on your training frequency and intensity?

    • Shane Duquette on January 29, 2014 at 12:39 am

      How did this end up on a post about sugar ahaha?

      For sure! We use de-load weeks regularly, and that’s definitely a factor when planning out volume and intensity.

      • Nic on January 29, 2014 at 11:57 am

        Ahaha Thanks for the reply though.

  12. harry on February 6, 2014 at 10:36 am

    hey there – loving the stuff on the site and enjoyed the article a lot! – One thing I want to check up on what you is about the artificial sweeteners – more specifically aspartame……….and, yes, I agree that there are many studies that have appeared that show aspartame as being, as the FDA put it “safe”…….however, there are many studies put out by similar corporations that show sugar as beneficial and cigarettes as harmless. There are the studies conducted by the FDA when aspartame was first released and patented showing it’s action as a neurotoxin and also it’s potentially cancer inducing properties…..these of course were pushed under the table and covered up both by the FDA and the original makers and marketers of aspartame……as have been many since…….and the experience of many people I know and have read from and about also tell a very different story to there being nothing wrong with it.

    I appreciate and really enjoy that you name everything as being your personal opinions and thoughts and I enjoy also that you talk of your own skepticism and also encourage people ideally to have none of it at all…………..and at the same time I guess I urge you to look more closely into the studies that preempted it’s first release among others which tell a very different story.

    • Shane Duquette on February 6, 2014 at 11:38 pm

      Hey Harry, glad you enjoyed the article, man! Thank you for the kind words.

      Regarding cigarettes, the larger body of evidence is definitely showing that being a regular smoker is unhealthy. With sugar, on the other hand, it again comes down to dosage and circumstance. If you get 10% of your calories from table sugar I doubt you’ll have a problem so long as you also consume nutritious foods and your calorie intake is on point. Many studies show this to be true. If 90% of your diet is coming from sugar though, or if you’re consuming extra sugar calories in addition to a diet that already meets your caloric needs … then it can be problematic. This is very situational stuff. It’s not like a study could find sugar to either be “bad” or “good” – it always depends on a variety of things.

      There are studies showing Coca Cola, for example, to be a potent performance enhancer. It’s a good source of easily digested carbohydrates + caffeine, so it works well during things like bike races. Those studies aren’t incorrect, it’s just very situational.

      I’m not so much saying that it’s my personal opinion that artificial sweeteners are good or bad, more so that the larger body of evidence indicates that below a certain level of intake they’re seemingly safe for most people. Right now it seems like a diet soda or scoop of artificially sweetened protein powder each day is pretty safe.

      You’re saying that there’s evidence to the contrary? I’d love to see those studies to see what we can learn 🙂

      • harry on February 8, 2014 at 5:56 am

        Hey there Shane – thanks for the reply. Completely agree about cigarettes – I was a smoker for a loooong time and there is no doubt at all in my mind of what they do to the body……guess I was just using them as an example for the fact that so often the information put out is purposely tampered with and purposely covered up – especially information linked to any state funding as far as I’m concerned because we live in a world where money and it’s acquisition is unfortunately more important to companies, corporations and even governments than offering completely unbiased information.

        Yes I agree with you also that many studies are situation based and that the “situation” based study can then be illegitimately used to advertise in other situations – for instance the marketing of sports drinks, coke etc to children. Also I only recently realized that definitely in the drug and medical world and, I’m pretty sure, in the food industry world, any new substance looking for approval from bodies such as the FDA must show something like 10 studies (maybe it was less – I’ll check) in which it performed safely and better than a placebo…… does NOT have to show the 10,30,85,100 studies where it performed unsafely and worse than a placebo…….which is my understanding of what happened with aspartame when it was first discovered……though it’s patents were at first declined……and then money started changing hands….

        Yes I do agree with you as well that ultimately, in our drugs infested, sugar guzzling, processed food marketed world that maybe if you can somehow manage to only eat these things in small amounts then it’s probably generally ok………though aspartame is one thing I won’t touch any more myself – I guess I have too many obese and steadily dull minding friends who drink diet coke!

  13. Micke on July 4, 2014 at 5:20 am

    Hi Dude,
    I am a little bit sceptical about your ”Bony to Beastly” Site, maybe you can answer me, so I am not longer disappointed :S
    I am 19 years old, 178 cm high – 55Kg/121lbs weight.

    First thing:
    You say something like ”Don’t buy this expensive Supplements, we don’t need that kind of Supplements… Guys who are selling that, are just doing a lot of Marketing to sell as many Products as they can to get a lot of Money from Guys like you”

    Then you say something like ”Here are the Supplements we recommend, and you get a nice discount for them, if you buy them on Page xy and Page xy tho… you need that to get much more mucles and energetics”

    In other words… it seems like you just do exactly the same thing like the persons you were telling about, who are just selling things to get money from us… (the guys who have hard times to get muscles and weight)…just with a different, pretty clever marketing…

    just sounds totally paradox… I don’t know how I shoudl think about that…

    Maybe you can answer me via Email
    /nice page btw.

    • Shane Duquette on July 4, 2014 at 12:07 pm

      Hey Micke,

      Did you read the article on supplements? I tried to explain that you really don’t need supplements at the beginning of the article. We have a lot go guys going through our program who don’t use any supplements and they do great. There are advantages to supplements, but they’re small compared to nutrition and weightlifting. The main benefit of the supplements that we recommend is that that they’re cheaper than food, easy on the appetite, quick and convenient. They can make things easier and simpler.

      The muscle-building and fat-loss supplement industries are full of a lot of junk, yeah. There’s a lot of overhyping and many totally bogus supplements. This doesn’t mean that ALL supplements are bad, just that a lot of the popular ones aren’t really all that effective (and sometimes may not be that safe). Nitric oxide / arginine supplements, for example, don’t really produce much of an effect in our bodies, even though in theory they sound amazing. That’s why we try to use supplements that are actually supported by the research. A supplement like creatine monohydrate has several hundred studies all unanimously showing its effectiveness in human test subjects, and after decades of research a health downside has yet to be uncovered. Moreover, they’re starting to find all kind of health benefits to it.

      So you don’t need supplements – they’re relatively small potatoes – but some can indeed be helpful.

      Does that make sense?

  14. Nic on February 23, 2015 at 5:12 pm

    Hey bro me again I thought I would say hi basically I bulked to a solid 180lbs about 5 10 so I gained 2″ in height but I’m now cutting I’m now below 170 I’m thinking of cutting to 150 and hit 8-12%bf(legit) than I’m gonna do a slooooow bulk(2-3lbs/mouth for 1-2 years) i pretty much have everything nailed down now but I was wondering if having a low bf% in your opinion increases positive nutrient particioning to muscle, Would usually macros like 1g/lb of BW of protein for a lean individual 20-30%fats and fill the rest in with carbs would this usually be pretty optimal, Any advice/reply would be greatly appreciated bro!!!

    • Shane Duquette on February 24, 2015 at 5:15 pm

      Congrats on the gains, Nic! That’s awesome 🙂

      Yeah, being lean improves nutrient partitioning. Your hormones will all be nice and optimal—higher testosterone, lower cortisol and estrogen and whatnot—so your body will be more inclined to build muscle and less inclined to store fat.

      Getting a gram of protein per pound bodyweight is a good idea, yeah. Especially when lean. 20-30% fats and filling the rest in with carbs is also perfect.

      Good luck with your plan!!

  15. Seth on June 17, 2015 at 3:19 pm

    I use stevia in the morning in my coffee, since it doesn’t spike insulin.
    It takes a while to get used to….cause it really isn’t all that sweet….compared to sugar.

    But once you get used to it, it does help…..I also use Chobani plain yogurt, mix in some of my whey protein and add a packet of stevia…..comes out tasting pretty good.

  16. […] Eating too much fructose: If you raise your fructose too high while bulking, it can cause you to store proportionally more body-fat than if you were eating other carbs, such as starches or glucose (study). Fructose is mainly found in fruits, and fruits are perfectly fine, but it’s also found in table sugar and high-fructose corn syrup, which you need to be careful about. Make sure not to get more than around 10% of your total calories from added sugars, especially while gaining weight. This is why starchy carbs (pasta, rice, maltodextrin) are popular with bodybuilders, whereas added sugars are not. (More on how sugar affects body composition here.) […]

  17. […] they have less willpower. Our bodies can also grow “addicted” to junk food laced with sugar since it knows it’s a great hit of instant energy. So we’ll actually start to crave sweet […]

  18. jimmy on April 24, 2020 at 4:50 am

    So if im reading this right…article says its recommended to limit added sugars to no more than 10% of our daily calorie intake..well, in MyfitnessPal there is the “sugar” part, and if I eat fruit it will just add to that total sugar intake..are you saying its ok to go over that total amount?

    • Shane Duquette on April 24, 2020 at 9:17 am

      Hey Jimmy, yeah, MyFitnessPal is tracking total sugar intake, which isn’t all that relevant here. The idea isn’t to limit total sugar or carb intake, the idea is to limit added sugar. I wouldn’t think you’d need to track the sugar from fruits, just from sodas and whatnot.

      Also, for someone who’s lean, active, healthy, and lifts weights, there’s no real reason to think that we’d have trouble clearing added sugar from our blood, either. When I asked Dr Spencer Nadolsky about whether there’s any harm to eating even more sugar than that, he told me that it’s “highly unlikely if active and lean.” So the 10% added sugar rule of thumb is already exercising an abundance of caution.

  19. Yasa on July 4, 2020 at 9:39 am

    What about the relationship of testosterone to sugar. I’ve heard that sugar reduces testosterone. In addition, increasing insulin and then lowering it causing fatigue. What about energy drinks? Is my idea clear?

    • Shane Duquette on July 6, 2020 at 11:35 am

      Hey Yasa, yeah, that could be. There’s one study finding that consuming a lot of sugar-sweetened beverages (such as soda) can decrease testosterone production. Another study looked specifically at glucose, finding that consuming 75 grams of glucose caused a 25% drop in testosterone a couple of hours later. In the context of a healthy diet, body-fat percentage, and exercise routine, though, I’m not sure there’s anything to worry about. We’d be able to clear the sugar from our blood without issue. I can keep an eye open for more research on this, though.

      In the meantime, here’s our article on testosterone written by a proper expert.

  20. harry edgar pitcher on July 4, 2020 at 10:19 am

    Actually there are a few overfeeding on pure sugar that show it increases testosterone – makes sense too as the summer time is when more sugar would have been available – plus sugar increases metabolism too

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