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John Fox 04-11-2006 08:00 PM

Hey I'm new to the zone (about a week) and I was wondering what the adverse affects of sugar free products such as diet soda/energy drinks are, if any. I'm not really so concerned with long term health risks and I know supposively it causes cancer I'm more looking for wether or not it affects muscle growth, fat loss, or metabolism. stuff like that. Also are the zone bars a good 2 block snack if you're on the go even though they contain sugar?

Jason Billows 04-12-2006 07:32 AM


You should download and listen to the Crossfit Live episode on nutrition. It was one of the first few episodes I believe.

In it, Rob Wolfe talked about artificial sweeteners. As I recall, artificial sweeteners have similar effects on your body as sugar. While you don't necessarily have the calories, your body reacts in a similar way and can affect hormone levels which will ultimately have a negative effect on your fitness gains. Someone please correct me if I'm wrong. :-)

Rob didn't go into detail, but I expect some of those reactions are due to compensatory changes. Think of compensatory changes this way... let's say that every morning you drink a cup of coffee. The caffine in the coffee raises your heart rate. Every day you drink this coffee and over time your body comes to anticipate the phsyological effect of your heart rate increase and associates it with the smell and taste. Now, one day someone switches your regular coffee for a decaf and you don't notice. When you drink it your heart rate will still rise despite the adsence of caffine. This is beacuse your body associates the taste and smell with the "usual" effect on your heart. It is called compensatory changes. Over time this effect would lessen more and more if you kept drinking decaf, but the effects can be quite strong initially.

Similarly, our body knows how it usually reacts to sugar which it associates to a sweet taste. Artificial sweeteners taste sweet and so our body reacts the same way, in part because of compensatory changes.

Regarding the Zone bars, they are not great. They have the proper ratio of protein/fat/carbs, but they're highly processed. Try to stick with whole foods as much as you can and only use the bars when you're really stuck for time and available food sources.

Charlie Jackson 04-12-2006 07:38 AM

[i]Artificial sweeteners taste sweet and so our body reacts the same way, in part because of compensatory changes. [/i]

If that were true, it wouldn't be possible to establish a glycemic index. People can't figure out a reason not to eat artificial sweetners so they make up stuff.

Greg Battaglia 04-12-2006 08:59 AM

I believe that artificial sweeteners have been shown to cause liver and kidney inflammation in test animals. The fact that artifiical sweeteners can't be found in significant quantities (if any quantity at all) in nature is enough evidence for me to avoid them like the plague.

Marc Moffett 04-12-2006 10:14 AM

As I recall from Cordain's newsletter, all of the artificial sweetners [i]except[/i] aspartame cause an insulin spike similar to sugar. [url=][/url] It is just a brief comment in the "Did you know?" section.

Garrett Smith 04-12-2006 11:20 AM

Artificial sweeteners are bad for the human system. Period. Believe the FDA (they've got quite a great track record, don't they) or the people who have actually experienced the side effects. I personally used to get brief migraine-like headaches from aspartame. I used to think it was one particular brand of supplements until I started noticing it more often--this was as a 16-year-old.

Charlie, I have an accusation (in step with yours) about people who *do* use artificial sweeteners--they tend to be people who want something for nothing. Artificial sweeteners, lowfat diet, and the elliptical trainer. Recipe for failure AND poor health.

I also notice that they are more likely than not overweight and (assuming that artificial sweeteners actually "work" like they're supposed to) heading in the wrong direction bodyfat-wise. Judging by results, artificial sweeteners DON'T WORK.

People will go to any means to justify satisfying their sweet tooth.

Tim Weaver 04-12-2006 01:42 PM

I wholly own and embrace my sweet tooth.

My motto is "Be the Lemon Cake"


Jeremy Jones 04-12-2006 02:52 PM

I sometimes add a half a packet of art. sweetener to my large coffee. Is that going to kill me?

What about the small amount of Splenda (TM) in my protein powder?

Garrett Smith 04-12-2006 05:23 PM

The issue is that no one really knows. People say they do, sure. What happens if you're one of the "sensitive" people like I was?

What if there's some "negative synergy" between Splenda and your other artificial sweetener? Who the heck studies that? I can assure you it's not Monsanto (now there's a company that puts people first :lame:).

We all take risks every day. Personally, I wouldn't want mine to be artificial sweeteners. I've found a great whey for those who do use it that is sweetened with a couple grams of fructose and stevia. People love it and I help them avoid the Splenda. It's called Power Whey Stack.

Mercola's site has links to lots of anti-Splenda group sites. Why in the world would people make this stuff up? I personally don't think they do, especially after my aspartame reactions.

I'd try to answer your question, but then I'd have to ask you my favorite unanswerable question--Could CF workouts kill [some random] person?

Jeff Dale 04-12-2006 07:29 PM


I'm new to Crossfit and slowly limiting my sugar,grain intake. I've gone from 220 to 190 since 12/05 by myself and I'm fine tuning my diet now and ramping up my fitness levels each week.

I've learned a lot reading all of your posts and others. Thank you for all the great info!

I can totaly relate to the headaches! I was allowing myself to drink Diet Mnt Dew at work, convincing myself it had no negative affects. But deep down I felt there had to be more than what showed up on the label for sugar and calories. I would get very painful temple headaches. I now proudly avoid it like the poison it is.

Thanks for all the great info, I'm sure I'll be posing questions soon!

Brad Hirakawa 04-12-2006 10:17 PM

I am a toxicology guy by trade....

Artificial sweeteners……

Eliminate your sugar cravings, and they become a mute point.

They, along with sugar laden foods, are disgusting to me.. and they will be to you too if you stick to a healthy diet for a while.

Coffee.... best drank raw... and wriggling.. my precious. (Damn I miss it).

Marc Moffett 04-12-2006 11:09 PM

Garrett, I'm not sure I understood your point, but of course CF can kill people--all it takes is a little genetic susceptability and Fran will blow your heart out like an old tire.

As far as artificial sweeteners go. If I am going to indulge, it might as well be with the real thing--get some actual bang for my buck. I am highly sceptical of anecdotal evidence--at most it tells you the range of possibilities, but nothing about probabilities. Still, it seems like a good theoretical bet that there will be adverse consequences from the consumption of artificial sweetners and that they should be eschewed. But I think the short answer to John's question is that there isn't any solid, clinical evidence that the regular (but moderate?) consumption of artificial sweetners will have any [i]significant[/i] adverse short term effects on things like muscle building for most people.

I don't know exactly why John is interested in that particular issue, perhaps the discussion could be more helpful if we knew this.

Larry Lindenman 04-13-2006 05:01 AM

I admit, I use splenda and will have about 1 diet Pepsi a week...with no adverse effects! I kind of hope the Crossfit and Zone diet will counter any negative side effects of a 3/4 - 2 packet of splenda a day habit! Brief story: Last week I'm sitting across an interrogation table from a homeless guy, who drowned a dude. This guy is (technical term) loony. Believes it's 1954, told me Abe Lincoln told him to kill the guy, etc. This guy drinks water out of the Chicago river north canal! Let's just say that people who touch the water, decon. My guy eats garbage, drinks contaminated water, is completely crazy and is 58 years old...been like this for 30 years (excepting the time he was the "neutron bomb operator, in Viet Nam, in 1953.") I don't think mister crazy works out, besides killing people who honest Abe tells him to. What's the point...humans could take a lot of crap. Measured intakes of Splenda ain't going to effect your workouts or kill you. If your sensitive don't drink it. And the Mountain Dew's got more stuff in it than Splenda that could give you a headache.

Jason Billows 04-13-2006 06:47 AM

For those trying to avoid artificial sweeteners in their whey protein, look for one with ground cocoa. I use one called... uh... I want to say cytomax but I'm not sure. Anyway, no artificial sweeteners, but still tastes nice and chocolaty.

Here's what turned me off of artificial sweeteners a couple of years back. I was on a "diet" and suddenly got a candy craving. Not wanting to blow my diet I decided to pick up some sugar free candy. Still sweet with no sugar or calories. Good idea, right. WRONG! I ate a bunch of these sugar free jelly beans. Probably more than I should have, but not a ridiculous amount. Well, about an hour later my stomach gurgled a little, then a little more. Before I knew it I was sitting on the john wondering how I was going to get home from work without a diaper. I went to my doctor the next day and he said it was the artificial sweeteners in the candy. Ever since then I avoid it at all costs.

Eat well most of the time and if you do find yourself having a craving for sweets, indulge in the good stuff. After all, I view doing CF and eating well as a way to allow me the pleasure of have the odd piece of cake every once in a while.

Garrett Smith 04-13-2006 08:45 AM

My main issue with artificial sweeteners is that they seem to anecdotally cause a lot more side effects than they are "supposed to"--note the several people chiming in on this thread.

Acute side effects from synthetic compounds are interpreted by me as having the potential to create chronic disease in those not acutely sensitive.

If someone gets older and their brain isn't working as well as they and their close friends think it should be, how then do they go about placing blame on anything, be it artificial sweeteners or their factory job? We are all experiments of one, not probability guinea pigs.

No company is doing really long-term (decades-long) studies on any of this stuff, and rats just don't give the best "intellectual" feedback.

Jeremy Jones 04-13-2006 09:02 AM

Whew! I am glad I am not going to die (today) from my added sweetener -but- I hear what most of you are saying and I am drinking black coffee today (once you go black, somethingsomething. . .)

I will probably try to fill my next whey installment with Power Whey Stack, or the stuff Jason mentioned.

For me, I can totally live without the 'extra flavor'. So why the hell am I eating the stuff? (hypothetical question). Thanks for the info.

David Wood 04-13-2006 09:42 AM

FWIW, I gave up all artificial sweeteners (and 99% of sugar) about a year ago. Prior to that I drank 2 - 3 Diet Coke / day, plus used Splenda in my coffee.

Went cold turkey on all of it as a 50th birthday present to myself . . . expected it to be horrible. Surprisingly, it turned out to be very easy. Have not had a soda since, and haven't missed it. Do the coffee with milk, or black, but always unsweetened.

You risk death suggesting I give up the coffee itself, however . . . one addiction at at time.

Jamila Bey 04-13-2006 09:57 AM

Ditto here. I get headaches, and cramps worse than anything I've had before! Thing is, I never know if I'll be spared (just one diet soda or sugar-free, lactose-free ice cream) or if the experience will make me think I'm dying.

I once knew a guy with a seizure disorder. He would drink aspartame (rarely) and have an episode. His doctors couldn't figure it out and wouldn't confirm his theory, but he went Diet Coke and chewing gum free and last we spoke, he was seizure free two years and counting. Down from one episode every other month.

Ted Williams 04-13-2006 10:21 AM

No science behind this (at least, none that I really care or know about), but I pretty much make it a rule to stay away from unnatural food products. I know it can't be avoided in some things, especially if you eat out for lunch like I usually do.

I would go for real sugar over artificial any day. I can't eat regular "candy" anymore...and I almost puked at my sister's wedding last week, when the wedding cake was SOOOO sugar laden...nasty, and the piece I had made me feel sick for the whole next day.

Brad - what happend to that pic of your with an M1, guarding the coffee? Dang man, gone soft! I gave it up for quite some time, when trying the Perricone diet with my wife...that was before Crossfit, and before I had heard of the I am pretty addicted again. I might need to scale back some, as I get BAD headaches if I miss my morning coffee...

Brad Hirakawa 04-13-2006 03:07 PM



I know.. but coffee was a culprit with a blood pressure problem I had.


Ted Williams 04-13-2006 05:03 PM

DAMN! Sucks man...I'll have an extra cup in your honor (I'm a bastard)...

Marc Moffett 04-14-2006 07:03 AM

"Acute side effects from synthetic compounds are interpreted by me as having the potential to create chronic disease in those not acutely sensitive."

I see the rationale behind this, but is it really right? Plenty of people, for instance, have acute side effects from eating shellfish and nuts. Should we cut them out? I even have a friend who can't eat avocados.

It seems likely that there are multiple physiological mechanisms which give rise to acute effects in particular individuals but only some of them should be generalized.

Jamie Clark 04-14-2006 08:00 AM

I think Garrett was talking about the unknown long-term effects. If there are this many people reporting short term effects, what might the long-term effects be? No one knows.

I personally use Splenda for coffee and I (and the rest of my family) drink sugar free Kool-Aid with Aspartame.

In theory, there shouldn’t be any effects long or short term, because they are not designed to enter the bloodstream. Splenda works because it is an engineered sugar. Basically, sugar with the hydrogen ions removed and chlorine ions added to make it indigestible. That’s why it works. It doesn’t really have zero calories, but the fact that it can’t be absorbed makes it have zero relative calories (and therefore theoretically impossible to cause an insulin spike). Unlike stevia, saccharin, and others that enter the system and cause an insulin response. Could an insulin response still be possible with Splenda? Sure as a psychological response to the taste (like Pavlov's conditioned response).

But once again, no one knows how it will effect every person who takes it, short or long term. We pretty much know the effect sugar has on the body. You can eat sugar and go with the devil you know, use an artificial sweetener and go with the one you don't, or give it all up.

I don’t have the discipline to give up everything sweet. Personally, I'll stick with Splenda and aspartame and take my chances.

Garrett Smith 04-14-2006 08:40 AM

In my statement, I did make a point of noting that I was referring to synthetic compounds, made by man, that the human body has never had any time to develop specific detoxification/metabolism for.

If people have reactions to whole, natural foods, they have two options. (1) Avoid the food. (2) Fix the base problem in the GI system that is allowing excessively large proteins to enter the bloodstream and thus cause an excessive "immune" reaction. Note that the second option is not always possible, it is rarely even attempted or known about in most conventional medical circles. I recently rid a patient of his hay fever (and 5 associated medications) in two weeks by getting him off gluten. Similar mechanisms.

Personally, I'd rather know I was eating something G-d/Nature created and intended me to eat (thus Paleo) than have second thoughts at the end that whatever disease might be taking me was caused by me needing to get a sweet fix from a synthetic chemical.

For all those taking their chances, try not to be too upset if/when the scientific cover-up is exposed. Some would have a quick look around the internet and say it already has been.

No need to worry though, there will be a new artificial sweetener on the market that you can switch to when the time comes.

Do what you like. My job is to fix people who "do what they like". I end up having to tell them that "what you like, is what's making you sick." I will never have any shortage of potential patients.

Jeremy Jones 04-14-2006 09:13 AM

I guess the real question here is:

Is it worse to eat truely sweet foods, or to eat artificial sweeteners?

You know, if you HAD to choose one way or another.

Marc Moffett 04-14-2006 12:19 PM

Garrett, Point taken. You and I differ with respect to how benign we think nature is. In fact, I would go so far as to assert that if evolutionary theory is true, then there is no diet that doesn't come with associated long term chronic downsides in at least some percentage of the population. We agree that I hard core paleo diet is as good as it gets, but disagree over how good it is that it gets.

FWIW, this discussion reminds me a bit of the discussion between hunters and animal rights activits who think that nature will eventually come to equilibrium and so game management is not necessary. Even though I am a hunter, I am all for animal rights (taking into moral consideration the pain and suffering caused by our actions), but think that doing so requires a realistic view of ecological and evolutionary processes--not a romanticized one. In fact, I think the superiority of the paleodiet is one reason why the animal rights arguments don't go through. But again, one needs a realistic picture of what evolution tells us about diet. Remember, evolution seeks to maximize reproductive success. And what maximizes reproductive success may or may not be well correlated with modern health goals. Nor is nature a bountiful Eden of benevolent foods, but an arena that is "red in tooth and claw". Adaptions are rarely optimal, especially at the margins.

That said, I do hope that it is clear that we are in about 99% agreement. :happy:

Jeremy, one thing to consider. Occasional massive insulin spikes were themselves probably part of the evolutionary story. So if you are going to partake occassionally, defintely go for the naturals. If you are going to partake chronically, I would still go for the naturals I think (depending on how much we are talking about).

Garrett Smith 04-14-2006 01:35 PM

We are in great agreement.

If one wishes to get a sweet fix, why not use things like unheated honey (known as a medicinal food in many cultures), raw fresh fruit juice, or similar unprocessed sources of sugars? Same goes with alcohol, why not have some true apple cider or wine? I see no need to bring the slew of synthetic chemicals (or gluten, for that matter) into the mix when what one desires (sweetness or a buzz) can easily be had in a less potentially harmful way.

That's what I do, not very often at that.

Tim Weaver 04-14-2006 03:39 PM


What about all the donuts...? :rofl:

Tom Corrigan 04-14-2006 05:08 PM

Nutrasweet is the Devil's sweetner IMO

Our Fire Dept. buried one of our own who was only 52, non-smoker and no major health problem, but he drank 10-12 cans of Diet Pepsi a day, and he came down with an aggressive brain tumor, which was cut out, then it grew back within 3 months. He died 5 months after diagnosis. After I read about all the brain tumors in the monkeys who were given aspertame, I believe this was the main cause.

I've had people I know with neuro-diseases/problems get "off" aspertame, and they have said they've felt better and had less problems.

Anecdotal I know, but it hits close to home with me.


Garrett Smith 04-14-2006 05:13 PM

Anecdotes are often all we have to combat the propaganda and deep pockets of the multinational chemical corporations. I personally take them seriously enough until I gain reason (or already had reason) to doubt. Some may not like that approach.

Anyway, thanks for sharing.

Jeremy Jones 04-17-2006 11:19 AM

Anecdotes are what the "Black Box" is all about.

Put something in, see what comes out. Figure out why later. Use results to plan your next input.

I think the 'BB' is saying that Artificial Sweeteners are not good (at least in large amounts).

Chris MacFarlane 04-18-2006 02:27 PM

Aspartame was created to help the average human justify his behaviour. Think of the classic McGrease ordering line.

"I'll get the Double Big Mac meal, Super Size the fries, Exrta sauce, cheese and bacon on the burger, and because I need to watch what I eat a super size Diet Coke Please"

The drug to ease the guilty mind, that makes one believe that they don't need to exercise.

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