Wednesday, May 16, 2012

The Chew On Sugarless Gum

by Kris Pitcher

People ask me all the time about sugarless gum. Especially competitors. If you are a competitor, or you are on a diet working toward a very specific goal...chew on this.

In the big picture, sugarless gum (gum) is a great tool in the weight management tool kit. It's a great diversion. It is a wonderful way to keep your mouth busy at a party or other social situation where everyone else is noshing on no-no's.

However, here is my opinion - and I'm always good about telling you when something is my opinion - we underestimate the impact of gum. We could in fact, extend this to other "sugar free" items, but for the sake of conversation let's just talk gum.

Gum is not calorie neutral. By that, I mean sugarless gum is not sugarless. I know! And there is no Santa Clause either. It has typically 5 calories per slice. The calories come from sugar alcohols. Those are the basics. So, let's run this down.

If you are chewing 10 pieces of gum a day, 7 days a week, you are adding 350 calories to your intake per week. Hmm? In 10 weeks you've gained 1 pound from chewing sugarless gum. It has an impact.

Now, there was a time when I had a pack a day habit. Let's look at that. Eighteen sticks, 90 calories a day, or 630 calories in a week. Yeah, that's going to be a problem if I am on a plan where I am really tracking my calories to make a significant body composition change.

So, is it OK to chew gum? Sure. You just need to be aware of the impact of your choices. Don't fool yourself and believe it is sugarless and has zero impact on you. It has an impact and may be derailing your clean eating plan. And if you're chewing a pack a day but neglect to tell your coach and your coach can't figure out why you aren't responding the way he/she thinks you should be...there's a disconnect.

Consider, for the sake of me throwing fuel on the fire, the compounding effect of the crystal light you're drinking. It also has a caloric effect. It is 5 calories per serving, and how many of those are you drinking in a week? Starting to add up isn't it? Five of those packets a day for 7 days is 175 calories...add that to your gum and you've got 525 calories in sugarless nothing.

Depending on your goals, where you need to be as a competitor, and what fits into your plan I would tell each of you something different about these items and how they'll work for you. It's important to be aware however the impact of things we think of as calorie free, when they're not. Chew on that.

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