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Can You Lose Weight by Reducing Sugar? (Explained)

Updated: Aug 15

Sugar is an important element for bodily processes and health. For instance, it is a source of energy for your nervous system and provides energy to your muscles.

However, just like with everything, such a sweet-tasting compound should be taken in moderation to avoid complications and ailments, like diabetes.

Unfortunately, people are not aware that they are taking high amounts of sugar in the form of energy drinks, fizzy, and fruit juices.

And an unstable blood sugar content in the body can leave people experiencing headaches, fatigue, and mood swings. It can likewise contribute to food cravings, which start the cycle of false hunger.

But how true is it that cutting back on sugar can help one lose weight? That’s our focus in today’s article.

Whether you’re trying to cut back a little to improve your nutrition and overall health or want to give up sugar altogether, I’m going to highlight the research on this matter.

How Sugar Affects Weight Loss

Consuming excess sugar over time can lead to weight gain because it contains calories. One teaspoon of sugar alone already contains about 16 calories.

Studies have even shown that soft drinks are the primary source of extra calories that provide no nutritional benefits and contribute to weight gain.

An average can of fruit punch or sugar-sweetened soda already contains 150 calories and is equivalent to 10 teaspoons of table sugar.

So, if you drink one can of sugar-sweetened soft drink daily and do not reduce calories elsewhere, there’s a chance that you’ll gain 15 pounds in three years. (1)

An ideal daily calorie intake varies, depending on metabolism, levels of physical activity, and age, among other things.

The general recommended daily intake is 2,500 calories a day for men and 2,000 calories a day for women. (2)

Moreover, the high blood sugar level in the body and insulin resistance affects leptin, a hormone that plays an important role in energy regulation, including calorie burning, and fat storage. Leptin also helps reduce food intake and decreases hunger. (3)

What’s a Safe Amount of Sugar Daily?

There's really no simple answer to this query as everybody is different. We all have different genetic traits.

Some people should avoid sugar as much as possible, while others can consume sugar without harm.

According to the American Heart Association, the maximum amount of added sugar women can eat in a day is 100 calories (6 teaspoons or 25 grams) and for men, 150 calories per day (9 teaspoons of sugar or 37.5). (4)

But if you are active and healthy, you are likely going to burn off the small amounts of sugar without causing any harm.

wooden spoon with sugar on it

Cutting Sugar to Lose Weight

A study published in the peer-reviewed journal Obesity Reviews detailed that replacing added sugar with complex carbohydrates or low-energy sweaters in a diet may result in reduced body weight.

For long-term effects, it’s possible that cutting sugar can also be beneficial for weight maintenance. (5)

Sugary foods can likewise make you hungrier more quickly because of the changes in your blood glucose.

University of Otago’s professor of human nutrition and medicine Jim Mann, DM, PhD. and his team also analyzed the results of 30 clinical trials plus 38 other studies to determine the link between eating less sugar and weight loss.

They found out that modifying sugar intake can result in a change in body fatness; that reduction of free sugars in the diet was linked with an average of 0.80 kg reduction in weight. (6)

Free sugars refer to any sugar added to a drink or food plus sugars that are naturally present in fruit juices, syrups, and honey.

Over the course of the review that lasted for up to eight months, study subjects’ average weight loss when they lowered their sugar intake was about 1.7 pounds.

Tips to Cut Down on Sugar

Reducing the amount of sugar in your diet not only helps you lose weight but will also reduce your risk of health conditions, such as dental plaque and cavities, chronic inflammation, high cholesterol, type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and metabolic syndrome, and obesity.

Below are some simple tips on how you can cut down on sugar.

1) Read the Product Labels

When you’re looking at the food labels, begin with the list of ingredients. Avoid unhealthy ingredients, like added sugars, excessive salt, hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated oil, and saturated fats.

Sugars may come in different names and forms (like concentrates or syrups).

The most common names of sugar on food labels include: cane sugar, muscovado, turbinado, sucanat, panela or piloncillo, demerara, honey, grapes or apple juice concentrate, agave syrup, rice syrup, maple syrup, barley malt, coconut sugar, beet sugar, invert sugar, and evaporated cane juice.

Keep in mind also that being sugar-free does not mean that it is carbohydrates-free. Why consider carbohydrates as well?

It’s because your goal is to lose weight. But what I mean are unhealthy carbs, which are stripped of nutritional benefits.

2) Take It Slow

Since you are changing your diet, it is best to take it slow. You can begin by cutting out the most obvious sources of sugar, like brownies, cakes, and muffins.

It’s also an excellent place to start to remove sugary beverages or candy. Try reducing the sugar content in your recipes too.

3) Swap Out the Fizzy Drinks

Try substituting fizz drinks like soda for water or sugar-free drinks, green tea, or unsweetened ice tea.

But if you can’t quickly take the plain water route, you can gradually drink beverages with slices of cucumber, lime, or lemon.

The whole idea is to create an environment that supports your goal of losing weight without feeling deprived or relying on willpower because you may not last with your weight loss goal.

4) Cut the Serving Back

Cut the sugar serving in your recipe by one-half or one-third. Usually, you won’t really notice the difference in taste. This can be applied when you’re baking cakes, brownies, or cookies.

5) Plan Meals

Since you are changing your diet, it is best to have a plan. That way, you can’t easily reach for a sugary snack when you feel hungry.

With healthy food at home, you will be less tempted to reach for a soda or a candy bar.

And if protein powder is a part of your healthy pantry and weight loss goal, then I suggest you go for the unsweetened ones or the sugar-free options.

Technically, these are protein powders that are free of added sugar.

Break Up With the Sweet Stuff Today!

So, can you really lose weight by reducing sugar? You may know by now that the answer to this question is yes.

Still, no one can completely avoid sugar in their diet and we don't really have to. After all, it’s not really the big bad wolf when it comes to health as others may perceive it to be.

Sugar can be a part of a balanced diet too. You just have to consume it in a healthy way and pair it with an active lifestyle. Remember, our goal is to reduce sugar intake.

And whenever you feel like giving up with your diet and exercise routine to lose weight, just remind yourself how far you’ve come. Know that this is about being patient with yourself.

Lastly, I encourage you to celebrate every healthy choice you made as a success. Best of luck in your weight loss journey.


This section contains links to research, studies, and sources of information for this article, as well as authors, contributors, etc. All sources, along with the article and facts, are subjected to a series of quality, reliability, and relevance checks.

Real Muscle primarily uses high-quality sources, such as peer-reviewed publications, to back up the information in our articles. To understand more about how we fact-check and keep our information accurate, dependable, and trustworthy, read more about us.

This evidence based analysis on sugar and weight loss features 6 references, listed below.

1. Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. Added sugar in the diet. The Nutrition Source. ✔

2. National Health Service (NHS). What should my daily intake of calories be? (Government Authority) ✔

3. Zhou, Y., Rui, L. Leptin signaling and leptin resistance. Frontiers of Medicine. (2013)

4. Johnson, R. K., Appel, L. J., Brands, M., Howard, B. V., Lefevre, M., Lustig, R. H., Sacks, F., Steffen, L. M., Wylie-Rosett, J., & American Heart Association Nutrition Committee of the Council on Nutrition, Physical Activity, and Metabolism and the Council on Epidemiology and Prevention. Dietary sugars intake and cardiovascular health: a scientific statement from the American Heart Association. Circulation. (2009) ✔

5. Vermunt SH, Pasman WJ, Schaafsma G, Kardinaal AF. Effects of sugar intake on body weight: a review. Obes Rev. (2003, May) (Review)

6. Te Morenga L, Mallard S, Mann J. Dietary sugars and body weight: systematic review and meta-analyses of randomised controlled trials and cohort studies. (2013) ✔

Citations with a tick indicate the information is from a trusted source.


The information provided in this article is not intended to replace professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the guidance of a physician or other competent professional before following advice or taking any supplement. See our terms and conditions.

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