Fruit, and sugar in general have largely been avoided for years in most fitness and bodybuilding diets. The theory that sugar causes fat gain and fruit contains sugar, so therefore fruit can cause fat storage is the basis of this argument. While fruit does contain sugar and all the evil things we have heard about sugar are indeed true in some circumstances, the situation needs to be investigated much more deeply to get a complete picture of the intricacies of fruits and the fitness diet. For one, fruits are healthy, they have tons of positive qualities. Not only that, they are delicious and filling. Most of us don’t want to cut fruits out of our diet. It seems implausible that such a healthy category of foods must be completely eliminated from our diets to look our best, doesn’t it?
Luckily, the answer is yes! Fruit can be used with many benefits in your fitness, or even your contest diet. I must preface this by saying that the addition of fruit, or any calorie containing food for that matter, is dependent on the diet as a whole and the goal in mind. That is to say, the total calorie intake and expenditure will ultimately play an enormous role on the final product. So, if you are following a diet that already has a calorie surplus with the goal of adding muscle then adding fruit (or other foods) may have a deleterious effect in the way of adding even more calories and storing fat. However, in diets where there is a caloric deficit such as a contest diet, or caloric expenditure matches the caloric intake, fruit can be an excellent addition for several reasons:
Very high in fiber and water content: Fruit is stuffed with soluble fiber and is also very water dense. With the high fiber, fruit actually expands in your stomach when you eat it. This means it is extremely satiating. Fruit fills you up and gives you peace of mind. The longer you allow yourself to be hungry in a diet, the less likely you are to succeed. Even if you are able to tough it out, who wants to suffer? A quick piece of fruit can be the answer you have been looking for to keep the progress moving forward.
Very low calorie: Relative to its volume, fruit has a very low calorie content. It is very unlikely you will be able to stuff yourself with enough fruit to get fat. 100g of grapefruit or watermelon only has 8 grams of carbs and about 30 calories, 100g of apple only has 13g and about 50 calories, and a full cup of strawberries only has only 11 carbs and 48 calories. Compare this to 100g of peanut butter at 600 calories or 100g of pasta with 31 cabs and 160 calories. For this reason fruit makes a very good “snack” food to use in a pinch.
Triggers an anabolic state: Fructose, which is largely the sugar found in fruit, can only be metabolized in the liver and therefore can only replenish liver glycogen supplies. Muscles lack the ability to convert fructose to glycogen. Because of this, fruit has the ability to replenish liver glycogen levels without spilling over to the rest of the body. Studies have shown that adequate liver glycogen levels are a positive signal for the body to become more anabolic and thus, grow more muscle and lose more fat. While you can fill your liver glycogen by other means, it would come at the cost of many more calories and filling glycogen levels as a whole. Because fructose, and only fructose, can only be metabolized by the liver, fruit has the unique ability to trigger this response in a very targeted way.
Tons of vitamins and nutrients: Last but not least, fruit is loaded with vitamins, nutrients and antioxidants. While we know these are always important, they are of particular importance for those on restricted diets who may not be getting enough from the rest of their diets. A couple pieces of fruit added to the diet daily may fill a nutritional gap that can make the difference between a medium functioning body and a high functioning body.
A good strategy for the addition of fruit to a contest diet would be to allow yourself three pieces of fruit per day. Allow yourself to eat them whenever you want, be it all at once, spread out throughout the day, or even not at all. This strategy can have a very positive impact on your mental state as well knowing that you have the option to add a little treat to your diet.
Fruit has a number of benefits and can be used with a high level of success in contest diets. Adjusting the base diet very slightly to allow for fruits may not only leave you feeling better physically and mentally, but may even leave you looking better by a positive hormone effect and additional nutrients.