Sugar Calories: Easy to Eat, Hard to Burn!

Ever notice how children (and adults) LOVE their sweet treats? Sweets can be a fantastic motivator! “Clean your room, and I’ll give you a piece of candy.” Or, “Stop fighting with your sister, and you can have some ice cream.” For us adults, there is a reason every gas station now dispenses as much sugar as gasoline (sodas, candy, chocolate, cookies, cakes, ice cream, and more)! Americans love their sugar!

Sugar motivates us, and the food industry knows it. Sugar is powerful! It can calm the crying child, cheer up those who are sad, liven up a party, give us energy when we are tired and comfort those who are stressed.

Yes, there are reasons Americans, on average, consume 100 lbs of sugar each year! Yet think about this…

Just one can of soda contains 10 times the amount of sugar contained in the entire human blood stream! We are literally poisoning our bodies with an excess of sugar!

The Dark Side of Sugar

Although sugar tastes great and delivers a lot of pleasure, it has a “dark side”. Think about it. Sugar causes:

  • Cancer
  • Heart disease
  • Stroke
  • Alzheimer’s
  • Premature aging
  • Early death
  • Bad gut bacteria
  • Diabetes type 2
  • High blood pressure
  • High cholesterol

There is also the issue of unwanted “weight gain” with sugar. With all that information it’s just not logical that people would keep eating and drinking sugar!

Let’s think sugar calories…

Why is sugar so dangerous?

Calories from sugar must be used as energy by the body (for working, breathing, heart beats, running, etc) or be stored as body fat (and usually it’s stored where we least want it to go, like tummy or backside!). There are no other options for sugar calories, burn them or store them.

What makes sugar so dangerous is that it is so “easy” to consume. Sugar is tasty, available, and addictive, and it is essentially pure calories, with no fiber, vitamins, minerals or other health-promoting qualities. Since sugar is tasty and pleasing to us, we eat it too often and we eat too much.

Sugar puts a lot of unnecessary calories in to our bodies, 16 calories with each teaspoon of sugar.

Since most of us do not want more fat, our goal is to “burn” the sugar as energy. Let’s look at calorie burning facts…

Calorie Scary Facts

  • The 130 calories in a daily can of soda will cause 13 lbs of weight gain in 1 year.
  • You must walk 2,600 steps to burn off one can of soda!
  • The calories in sodas make up 9% of all U.S. calories.
  • Americans would have to walk 4 miles per day further now than adults in 1970 to burn off the extra calories we consume (mostly sugar).
  • The calories in one M&M have enough energy to let you walk the length of a football field.
  • A small package of M&M’s have enough energy to let you walk 1 ½ miles.
  • You must walk 70,000 steps (about 35 miles) to burn off a pound of fat calories.

It’s clear, our capacity for eating sugar calories far exceeds our capacity for burning sugar calories.

A Sugar Calorie Battle Plan

Indeed, sugar is everywhere around us, providing a relentless and deadly temptation. One of the best strategies is simply finding low sugar alternatives that taste great, provide quality nutrients, and leave you feeling satisfied and guilt free.

This strategy requires planning in advance and reading labels. Here is one example. Our most popular protein based meal replacement is our Chocolate Dream Shakes. They are ready to drink, taste great, require no refrigeration, and are far more nutritious than chocolate milk or soda. Review the table below and consider which you want to put in to your body or that of your child…

Dream Shakes
(8 oz)
Chocolate Milk
(8 oz)
(1 can)
Calories 100 calories 158 calories 150 calories
Sugar 1 gram (4 calories) 25 grams (100 calories) 39 grams
Protein 15 grams 8 grams 0 grams
Calcium 300 mg 287 mg 0 mg

With this tasty exchange, a daily Dream Shake not only gives you a filling 15 grams of muscle-building, appetite suppressing, quality protein, it lets you avoid 96 to 146 sugar calories per serving. If you exchange a Dream Shake for a soda as an afternoon snack, you (or your child) will feel better and build a healthy, more muscular body in the process.

Of course, over the course of a year, the cumulative effect of a daily snack is dramatic. Is it any wonder that we (and our children) are experiencing an epidemic of obesity with sugar coming at us from every direction!

This daily beverage exchange above lowers sugar intake by 5 to 9 teaspoons of sugar. If made a daily habit, it would prevent as much as 10 or 15 lbs of unwanted weight gain each and every year!

Other simple meal and snack exchanges are possible by using any of our high quality protein based meal replacements. They make long-term weight control pleasant, convenient, and simple. Instant Maple Brown Sugar Oatmeal, Peanut Butter Cup Bars, Chocolate Comfort Bars, BBQ Chips, and Cinnamon Bars are just a few examples of popular items that can easily replace unhealthy, sugar-based foods.


Sugar is tasty, addictive, and deadly. It must be avoided to remain in good health. Attempting to burn off excess sugar calories is just not practical. We simply are too busy to spend hours a day at the gym. Read labels, make healthy exchanges, and remember…

“Eat and Drink for Health, and not for the High!”

And don’t forget, Optimum Health is ALWAYS worth the effort.

For Optimum Health,

Rick Tague, M.D., M.P.H.

Rick Tague, M.D., M.P.H. & T.M. is a nutrition & weight loss specialist and the Founder & Medical Director of the Center for Nutrition and Preventive Medicine, P.A.

Dr. Tague is an Alpha Omega Alpha honors graduate of Tulane University School of Medicine in New Orleans. He also holds a Masters Degree in Public Health from Tulane. Dr. Tague is board certified by the American Board of Obesity Medicine and the American Board of Family Medicine. His medical practice has focused on optimum health, nutrition, and weight loss since 1996.