Call Us: 1-619-231-3000


What You Should Know About Artificial Sweeteners And Sugar Substitutes

Sweetener packages

What You Should Know About Artificial Sweeteners And Sugar Substitutes
Written by Calvin Sun

Most people can agree that eating large quantities of refined sugar isn’t great for your health, fitness, or body composition. Sugar provides a large amount of rapidly absorbable carbohydrates, which can lead to issues like excessive caloric intake, weight gain, and metabolic syndrome [1,2,3].

In an effort to reduce intake of sugar and calories, many people turn to artificial sweeteners or other sugar substitutes to satiate their cravings for sweets. While these low-calorie or no-calorie substitutes may seem like innocuous sweeteners, they may carry health consequences worse than the table sugar they are meant to replace.

1. Artificial Sweeteners May Promote Weight Gain

Multiple studies have found that consumption of artificial sweeteners can actually increase weight gain. In animal studies, researchers have found that despite eating the same amount of calories, the addition of artificial sweeteners such as aspartame and saccharin resulted in increased weight gain compared to table sugar [4,5]. Studies on children and adolescents have found that increased diet soda consumption is associated with significantly increased BMI scores [6,7]. Other research has found that substituting diet beverages for sugar-sweetened beverages to be ineffective for reducing weight [8,9].

2. Artificial Sweeteners Have Been Linked To Health Problems

A 2008 study found that consumption of Splenda (sucralose) reduced beneficial gut microflora and caused alterations in pH values [10]. Sucralose has also been found to affect the way the body reacts to glucose resulting in higher blood sugar and elevated insulin response [12]. Another study published earlier this year found that consumption of aspartame can result in irritable mood, depression, and diminished performance on spatial orientation tests [11].

3. Many “Natural” Sweeteners Are High In Fructose

Many natural sweeteners contain high amounts of fructose which can also be problematic. Agave nectar is commonly marketed as a healthy sugar alternative despite the fact that it contains more fructose than high-fructose corn syrup. Fructose can affect your blood lipids [16] and has been directly linked to obesity and weight gain [13,14,15]. Refined honey and fruit juice concentrates are other common sugar alternatives that you might want to use minimally. Read my post, “Liquid Death“, for some more information on agave nectar and fructose consumption.

4. Sugar Alcohols Can Cause GI Problems

Erythritol, Lactitol, Maltitol, Mannitol, Sorbitol, and Xylitol are common sugar alcohols that you’ll find in products ranging from protein bars to chewing gum. These sweeteners are considered a class of polyols, which are part of a class of carbohydrates known as FODMAPs (Fermentable, Oligo-, Di-, Mono-saccharides And Polyols). These carbohydrates and related alcohols are poorly digested and can exacerbate gut symptoms [17]. Sugar alcohols can cause gas, pain, bloating, and diarrhea [18]. If you aren’t convinced, just eat some sugar-free gummy bears and you’ll find out first hand how sugar alcohols can affect your GI tract.

Are There Any Safe Sugar Alternatives? 

If you must use a sugar substitute, consider using stevia. The research thus far on stevia seems very positive. It doesn’t appear to increase appetite and might actually help improve insulin sensitivity [19,20]. Though, it’s probably best to exercise some moderation when it comes to consumption of sugars and artificial sweeteners. If you are trying to improve your health and body composition, consider avoiding using artificial sweeteners in place of sugar and focus on building good nutrition habits that don’t involve a dependency on artificial sweets and drowning your sorrows in diet soda. The Invictus Nutrition Coaching program and Look Good Feel Good Challenges are great ways to start building solid nutrition habits.



1. Popkin BM, Nielsen SJ. The sweetening of the world’s diet. Obes Res. 2003;11:1325–1332.

2. Schulze MB, Manson JE, Ludwig DS, Colditz GA, Stampfer MJ, Willett WC. et al. Sugar-sweetened beverages, weight gain, and incidence of type 2 diabetes in young and middle-aged women. JAMA. 2004;292:927–934.

3. Saris WHM. Sugars, energy metabolism, and body weight control. Am J Clin Nutr. 2003;78:850S–857S.

4. Fernanda de Matos Feijóa et al. Saccharin and aspartame, compared with sucrose, induce greater weight gain in adult Wistar rats, at similar total caloric intake levels. Appetite. Volume 60, 1 January 2013, Pages 203–207.

5. Swithers SE, Davidson TL. A role for sweet taste: calorie predictive relations in energy regulation by rats. Behav Neurosci. 2008 Feb;122(1):161-73. doi: 10.1037/0735-7044.122.1.161.

6. Blum JW, Jacobsen DJ, Donnelly JE. Beverage consumption patterns in elementary school aged children across a two-year period. J Am Coll Nutr. 2005;24:93–98.

7. Forshee RA, Storey ML. Total beverage consumption and beverage choices among children and adolescents. Int J Food Sci Nutr. 2003;54:297–307.

8. Mattes RD, Popkin BM. Nonnutritive sweetener consumption in humans: effects on appetite and food intake and their putative mechanisms. Am J Clin Nutr. 2009;89:1–14.

9. Brown RJ, de Banate MA, Rother KI. Artificial Sweeteners: A systematic review of metabolic effects in youth. [Epub 18 Jan 2010];Int J Pediatr Obes.

10.  Abou-Donia MB, El-Masry EM, Abdel-Rahman AA, McLendon RE, Schiffman SS. Splenda alters gut microflora and increases intestinal p-glycoprotein and cytochrome p-450 in male rats. J Toxicol Environ Health A. 2008;71(21):1415-29. doi: 10.1080/15287390802328630.

11. Glenda N. Lindseth, Sonya E. Coolahan, Thomas V. Petros and Paul D. Lindseth. Neurobehavioral Effects of Aspartame Consumption. Research in Nursing & Health. Volume 37, Issue 3, pages 185–193, June 2014. DOI: 10.1002/nur.21595.

12. M. Y. Pepino, C. D. Tiemann, B. W. Patterson, B. M. Wice, S. Klein. Sucralose Affects Glycemic and Hormonal Responses to an Oral Glucose Load. Diabetes Care, 2013; DOI: 10.2337/dc12-2221.

13. George A Bray, Samara Joy Nielsen, and Barry M Popkin. Consumption of high-fructose corn syrup in beverages may play a role in the epidemic of obesity. Am J Clin Nutr April 2004 vol. 79 no. 4 537-543.

14. Elliott SS, Keim NL, Stern JS, Teff K, Havel PJ. Fructose, weight gain, and the insulin resistance syndrome. Am J Clin Nutr 2002;76:911–22.

15. D.P. Figlewicz, G. Ioannou, J. Bennett Jay, S. Kittleson, C. Savard, C.L. Roth. Effect of moderate intake of sweeteners on metabolic health in the rat. Phys & Behavior, 2009, Vol. 98, 5, 618-624.

16. Bantle JP, Raatz SK, Thomas W, Georgopoulos A. Effects of dietary fructose on plasma lipids in healthy subjects. Am J Clin Nutr 2000;72:1128–34.

17. Gibson PR, Shepherd SJ. Evidence-based dietary management of functional gastrointestinal symptoms: The FODMAP approach. J Gastroenterol Hepatol. 2010 Feb;25(2):252-8.

18. Jacqueline S. Barrett. Fermentable oligosaccharides, disaccharides, monosaccharides and polyols (FODMAPs) and nonallergic food intolerance: FODMAPs or food chemicals?. Therapeutic Advances in Gastroenterology July 2012 vol. 5 no. 4 261-268.

19. Chang JC, Wu MC, Liu IM, Cheng JT. Increase of insulin sensitivity by stevioside in fructose-rich chow-fed rats. Horm Metab Res. 2005 Oct;37(10):610-6.

20. Anton SD, Martin CK, Han H, Coulon S, Cefalu WT, Geiselman P, Williamson DA. Effects of stevia, aspartame, and sucrose on food intake, satiety, and postprandial glucose and insulin levels. Appetite. 2010 Aug;55(1):37-43. doi: 10.1016/j.appet.2010.03.009. Epub 2010 Mar 18.

Published on Monday, September 15, 2014 | 4 Comments

The Proper Mid-Thigh Launch Position

The Proper Mid-Thigh Launch Position

The Proper Mid-Thigh Launch Position Written by Cody Burgener In my previous blog post, we talked about the proper high hang position and the purpose for why we snatch or clean from the high hang. In Part 2 of this 3 Part series, I want to talk about the mid thigh/launch/hang position. This is a crucial position because this is the position where you start turning on the jets to explode into your finish position. The first thing I want to talk about are the points of performance that we look for when getting our athletes into the proper position.

Published on Sunday, September 14, 2014 | 2 Comments
Read the full article »

Double-Unders: Let’s Start With the Rope!

Double-Unders: Let’s Start With the Rope! Written by Lindsey Johnson Oh, those pesky double-unders! How do we get them, how do we get good at them and what in the heck should you use to do it? We’re working on compiling lots of tips and tricks to assist with all of the above, but I thought we would start with the equipment used to get us there. The first important tip is that one size does not fit all in the jump rope world. We encourage you to find a rope that’s suitable for you and bring it with you to

Published on Friday, September 12, 2014 | Post a comment
Read the full article »

Mount Up or Miss!

Mount Up or Miss! Written by Michele Vieux A weak bar mount – your approach and set-up when taking weight off the rack – will lead to missed lifts, especially when the weight starts getting heavy. You must respect the weight and approach the bar like you are serious about moving it. Commit from the beginning or miss the lift. What constitutes a weak mount? Any of these faults will result in your rack position – and therefore your lift – not to be at it’s strongest. 1) Loose shoulders and scaps; i.e. not locking them in tight before removing

Published on Thursday, September 11, 2014 | 1 Comment
Read the full article »

Snacks on the Go for Any Situation!

Snacks on the Go for Any Situation!

Snacks on the Go for Any Situation! Written by Michele Vieux Snack time seems to be the hardest for people to wrap their heads around when it comes to health and convenience all wrapped up into a single, small serving. I beg of thee, stop making it so difficult! Think mini-meal and try to get some protein, healthy carbs, and fats in each snack so you feel more satiated and less likely to snack your way through the day. The amount of time you have to prep your snacks will determine how fancy you can get with them. No Time

Published on Wednesday, September 10, 2014 | 1 Comment
Read the full article »

5 Common Mistakes New Athletes Make

5 Common Mistakes New Athletes Make Written by Calvin Sun 1. Neglecting To Set A Goal and Define A Purpose Make sure you know what you really want and, more importantly, why you really want it. If you are just training for the sake of training, you might find yourself feeling frustrated, lost, and unmotivated. Take some time to clearly define your outcome before you start training aimlessly. Just saying you want to “get fit” or “get better” is too broad of a goal. Narrow your goals down to specific, measurable actions. For some further reading, check out Nuno’s post

Published on Tuesday, September 9, 2014 | 2 Comments
Read the full article »