Has anyone ever told you that in order to get ripped, you must eliminate fruit?
I know many physique competitors who completely cut fruit from their nutrition plans, even months away from a contest, out of fear that fruit will limit the amount of fat they can lose – or even cause them to gain weight.
Where does this reasoning come from, and most importantly, is it correct?
What Is Fruit?
According to botany (the study of plants) fruit is a seed-bearing structure that develops from the ovary of a flowering plant. It is usually sweet. Vegetables, on the other hand, are all other plant parts, such as roots, leaves and stems.
In the context of food, certain “vegetables,” like eggplant and bell peppers are actually fruits, and some foods, such as tomatoes, have properties of both fruits and vegetables. For this article, I use the term fruit to describe what you probably think of when someone says the word fruit (berries, apples, papaya, etc.), though technically speaking avocados, cucumbers, and olives are all fruit as well.
Where Does The “Fruit Makes You Fat” Idea Come From?
Many people who believe fruit makes you fat adhere to the principles of “bro-science,” which Urban Dictionary accurately defines as “the predominant brand of reasoning in bodybuilding circles where the anecdotal reports of jacked dudes are considered more credible than scientific research.”
In this case, while hearing what others have to say is generally a good thing, it’s important to understand that genetically gifted or “assisted” individuals often look the way they do in spite of their approach, not because of it.
Others believe the fructose (a type of sugar found in fruit) causes fat gain. Some studies suggest that fructose ingestion leads to insulin resistance, elevated blood cholesterol levels and increased fat gain, especially in the abdominal area.1
Does The Fructose In Fruit Make You Gain Fat?
Fructose lowers the amount of insulin released in response to meals. This in turn lowers the circulating levels of the hormone leptin, which is responsible for increasing feelings of fullness and raises the hunger-promoting hormone ghrelin.2 This scenario can lead to excess calorie consumption, which can cause fat gain.
Several studies show an association between beverages containing fructose (or high fructose corn syrup, which is not found in nature) and weight gain.3 4 However, there is good research that suggests it is the calories from the sugar and not the particular type of sugar that is responsible for the weight gain.5 6
Additionally, fruit contains relatively low levels of fructose compared to sweetened beverages. For example, a medium apple contains around 13 grams of fructose7 and 90 calories. A 20-ounce Coke has 65 grams of sugar, about half of which is fructose, and 240 calories. (And, yes, the calories should be 260 , due to 4 calories per gram of sugar. I couldn’t find an explanation for this discrepancy.)
If Fruit Doesn’t Make You Fat, What Does?
Excess calories cause weight gain. If you eat more calories than you burn, you will gain weight no matter where the calories come from. So does fruit make you fat? It can in the sense that if you eat too much of it (or too much of anything) you will gain weight. If you eat higher calorie fruits like bananas you will be more likely to put on weight than if you eat lower calorie fruits like strawberries.
Fruit is packed with nutrients, has a high water content that makes it filling, and contains fiber. In moderation, fruit is an excellent choice as a healthy source of carbohydrates.
- Basciano H, Federico L, Adeli K. Fructose, Insulin Resistance, and Metabolic Dyslipidemia. Nutr Metab. (Lond). 2005; 2:5. ↩
- Teff Kl, Elliott SS, Tschop M, Kieffer TJ, Rader D, Heiman M, Townsend RR, Keim NL, D’Alessio D, Havel PJ. Dietary fructose reduces circulating insulin and leptin, attenuates postprandial suppression of ghrelin, and increases triglycerides in women. J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 2004 Jun; 89(6): 2963-72. ↩
- Malik V, Schulze M, Hu F. Intake of sugar sweetened beverages and weight gain: a systematic review. Am J Clin Nutr. Aug 2006; 84(2); 274-88. ↩
- Schulze M, Manson J, Ludwig D, Colditz G, Stampfer M, Willet W, Hu F. Sugar-sweetened beverages, weight gain, and incidence of type 2 diabetes in young and middle-aged women. JAMA. 2004; 292(8): 927-34. ↩
- Sievenpiper JL, de Souza RJ, Mirrahimi A, Yu ME, Carleton AJ, Beyene J, Chiavaroli L, Di Buono M, Jenkins AL, Leiter LA, Wolever TM, Kendall CW, Jenkins DJ. Effect of fructose on bodyweight in controlled feeding trials: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Ann Intern Med. 2012 Feb 21;156(4): 291-394. ↩
- Forshee R, Storey M, Allison D, Glinsmann W, Hein G, Lineback D, Miller S, Nicklas T, Weaver G, White J. A critical examination of evidence relating high fructose corn syrup and weight gain. Food Sci Nutr. 2007; 47(6). ↩
- High fructose corn syrup is made from fructose bonded to glucose, aka dextrose. The ratios generally come in 42% or 55% fructose. Interestingly, table sugar is made up of equal parts fructose and glucose. ↩
This article is somewhat misleading. Any “study” that “suggests” fructose from natural fruits affects the body in a negative, fat-gaining way, is garbage. When I want to get a true 6-pack, and get obscenely lean (which I do a few times per year), I essentially eat giant amounts of fruit, along with lean meats and fresh vegetables. I don’t limit the amounts of fruit either. I eat piles of it. The water content of the fruit makes you feel full, meanwhile your body burns these clean calories very efficiently. So, NO, fruit does NOT make you fat, regardless of what some so-called “study” says. Let’s be clear.
Thanks for sharing your experience and opinion, Jeff. I respect your opinion, but I do not believe the article is misleading. I think Charlie did a great job of making clear his recommendation of eating fruits and the conclusion that eating fruit does not prevent fat loss.
Those who gain the weight don’t exercise and consume too much fruit. They also don’t eat clean enough for their body to function efficiently.
I am sure you would agree that excess calories are stored as body fat regardless of their source. So if someone eats 300 pieces of fruit in a day (and for simplicity let’s say a piece of fruit has 100 calories in it) and has a daily caloric requirement of 1500, he or she will gain significant weight, and thus I suggest in that case fruit will negatively impact his or her body. I respect your opinion but disagree with you. You are certainly the exception rather than the rule regarding unlimited intake of anything (with the exception of fibrous vegetables and possibly some other foods) and still being able to achieve sub-5% body fat. I am there now and know if I ate to eat unlimited fruit that would be a distant memory pretty quickly.
Go on YT and check out some of those frutarians. They eat anywhere from 10 to 20 pounds of fruit daily and stay lean…
It’s true – there are a number of people who eat large quantities of fruit per day, and are very lean and healthy. The reality is, different people thrive on different diets. Some people do better on a high fat and low carb diet, while others feel and perform the best on a high carb, low fat diet. The key is to find what approach works for you.
-Kristin, BuiltLean Coach & Managing Editor
Yes, anything in excess has disadvantages. In this case eating too much fruit can cause you to gain weight. I like to eat fruit about 90 minutes before I go and workout. It’s a great healthy energy boost. After I workout consuming it as a smoothie is better. My body is prime to absorb it quicker. The liquid form is for faster consumption.
@Keeon – Thanks for sharing your thoughts. If I have a pre-workout snack, it’s usually an apple. Fruit is a great source of carbohydrates.
Really great article and exactly how I feel about fruit and its effect on fat gain – good job Charlie as always
Thank you for this article. I changed my diet to the LCHF lifestyle in February, because I am insulin resistant. I have been “skinnyfat” all my life, yet for the now 117 lbs (I dropped 10 lbs) my body fat % is now around 36.8 – overweight or higher. I had a heart attack in 2009, and only recently have I been REALLY studying about my body. I love all that I can learn. I am following Dr. Stephen Sinatra’s sage advice and started taking the powerful 4 supplements to NEVER get a heart attack again. I am taking my powered 4 supplements that he recommends, and I take the powdered D-ribose with orange juice. I have added strawberries and other fruits to my way of eating, not to exceed 100 carbs (I am usually at the 50 g carb level) and I know my new lifestyle has given me a new “lease” on life. Just wanted to thank you for wonderful advice, Marc. Hugs and Smiles, Deb
Thanks for sharing your experiences Deb and happy to hear you are feeling better.
What a great article …I am a personal trainer as well as group instructor and love eating fruit…every thing should have balance is the key to life …!!
It seems like Jeff didn’t even read the article, he only read the title. Thanks for sharing Marc, I agree excess calories make you fat, not fruits.
Sadly though, even with research, there are people and trainers out there who believe myth!
I have studied this type of article previously and try to tell people that cutting out fruit to ‘cut’ or to lose weight is nonsense.
Thanks for the pre-workout snack tip – I have been curious about that lately!
Love the “broscience” definition. To me, this article also underlines the importance of distinguishing between whole foods and nutrition/nutriceuticals. To reduce fruit to simply fructose, without taking into account the other substances like fiber, vitamin C, etc, is a misunderstanding of how we nourish our bodies. I understand the allure of the simple solution to weight loss/a ripped body, but simple substitution/omission of nutrients is not it.
Talk about “throwing the baby out with the bath water”!!..thats dumb broscience for you! Marc..and all you guys who ENJOY fruit..in abundance, fresh, healthy and clean, THANK YOU for putting the record straight amidst all these nonsense diets that forbid fruit. Ive eaten tons of fruit (not exactly tons..but a considerable amount each day) for 50 years and still keep fully energetic, fit and HEALTHY with a stable 8% body fat…..thanks to FRUIT.
Great article. People who talk about limiting fruit scare me.
Great Article. Thank you Marc for sharing this article! Jeff shared some valuable insight which I wondered about. Thank you Jeff. I love to eat fruit, and lots of it. I just make sure I don’t go over my total calories for the day.
A guy made the experience of eating 5000Kcal/day on high carb low fat diet for 21 days and He gains 9kg.
He made the same experience of 5000Kcal/day with an high fat low carb diet for 21 days and he gains only 1 kg . So does calories matters OR is this the type of calories that matters ?
Do you think 100g of carbs has the same effect as 100g of fat on the body ?
@Christopher – Both the quantity AND quality of calories matter. If you create a calorie deficit, you can eat 1800 calories of chicken, or 1800 calories of donuts and still lose weight. But your satiety (feeling of fullness) levels and how much muscle vs. fat you lose will be different on both diets. We cannot defy the law of thermodynamics. If you can find a scientific research study that shows isocaloric intake with different macronutrient intakes leads to different rates of weight loss in a controlled study (i.e. medical ward), please do share. But I haven’t come across one. I think the idea that calorie quantity doesn’t matter is extremely unhelpful and inaccurate and it’s unfortunate some well-respected experts promote this.
I appreciate that the author put in the time and effort to write this article and I suspect that the positive tone it takes towards fruit consumption. However, I would respectfully say that this article spends a lot of time setting up and then jumps to a conclusion that the important thing is calories in vs. calories out. Seems like the middle of the article is missing.
But thanks for the article.
“…and I suspect that the positive tone it takes towards fruit consumption.”
I meant to say “and I suspect that the positive tone it takes towards fruit consumption is correct.”
Due to a horse riding accident which injured my back. I was given large amounts of steroids by mouth and then later as injections for the pain. I went from 170lbs 32″ waist to 360lbs 58″ waist. I became diabetic, had high blood pressure, high cholesterol, sleep apnea, constant druling form both side of my mouth and had no energy. I struggled with normal everyday tasks and was just plain misurable! I knew at 360lbs I was quickly dying. I was not living well and did not even go out in public. I went on an almost no carb (exp brkfst cereal with nuts & fruit) health diet. I ate only unfried foods of lean unprocessed meat, fresh or steamed vegetables, fresh salads, fresh fruit and 80cal greek yogurt. I supplimented with assorted vitamins daily. It took me 3 yrs but I lost 170lbs without doing much but just walking at the park. I am now down to 190lbs with 20lbs to go! Point is, I ate a lot of fruit and it did not keep me from losing fat!
Well said, that’s what I always taught. Calories calories, burn it off loose/maintain weight, pile on calories = gain weight . Simple
I have been studying about vegetarianism and fruitarianism and I have to tell you that you could eat just fruit and still do amazing things. Check this guy out who has the fruitarian life style and is a marathon runner. Amazing!! thefruitarian.com or this you tube video. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mgEgMuJijd8
I liked this article, particularly the title.
As a comparison, even though most of us wouldn’t eat this meal, a quarter pounder with cheese, a medium fry, a medium coke and an apple pie is 1380 calories.
Eating an equal amount of fruit would be 100 grams each of grapefruit, watermelon, starfruit, strawberries, cantaloupe, papaya, peaches, nectarines, pineapple, plums, apricots, and apple. That’s over 2.6 pounds of food. Do you think you would be full yet? But wait, you haven’t eaten the same as the McDonald’s meal yet. Eat all of those quantities of fruit two more times…..
Don’t need to worry about reduced leptin when you’re splitting a gut!!
Good point! Volume of food makes a big difference for satiety.
Great Article 😀
Thank you for the information, I am using it in my work 🙂
It’s a great article Mark. I completely agree with it. Eating fruits not only provides you with enough fiber and energy to boost your workout, but also provide you with essential vitamins and nutrients which can only be found in nature foods unless you want to pop a multi-vitamin.
Great article. (y) 😀
Great article as always, although i have a question regarding this topic.
A friend of mine is working out quite some time now and he swears that the diet hes on now makes him very lean. He claims that eating fruits (apples, nectarines, banana etc.) has a lot of sugars in it, making him increase body fat. Instead he relies on taking a lot of fats (saturated and unsaturated) by taking a lot of fat containing foods (beef, full-fat yoghurt, whole eggs etc.). I know for a fact that his overall calorie (and carb) intake is relatively low, but taking fats instead of (unprocessed) sugars to get lean seems very contradictory to me. What is your opinion on taking fats versus sugars in that matter?
I am aware that nutrition works differently for every person and that this issue depends on a lot of factors, but i would like to know your take on this.
@Dennis – I recommend checking out the comment I gave to Christopher’s question => https://www.builtlean.com/2014/07/15/fruit-gain-fat/#comment-178998. I personally prefer relatively higher protein, moderate carbs, and moderate fat, around a 40 / 30 / 30 split which is similar to what is advocated on the zone diet, but as you mention, it’s different for every person. So in my opinion, whether you want to go lower carbs, or lower fat depends on which helps you feel more full eating less calories. When I go too low on carbs, I’m constantly hungry even if I’m eating a decent amount of calories.
I am amazed at many of the cogent comments. As a prior chemical engineer I know that the calories in equal the calories out no matter what the source. Thermodynamics is a law not a theory, the 5000 calorie diet will result in a weight gain that will not change in any individual unless his burn of calories changes.
Eating too much fructose and glucose can turn off the gene that regulates the levels of active testosterone and estrogen in the body, shows a new study in mice and human cell cultures that’s published this month in the Journal of Clinical Investigation. This discovery reinforces public health advice to eat complex carbohydrates and avoid sugar.
I will eat fruit one day a week, otherwise I leave it alone…
Thanks for sharing that info, Randy! It’s definitely an interesting perspective on fruit. I’ll check out the research report that you mentioned.
-Kristin, BuiltLean Coach & Managing Editor
The type of fruit consumed is also relevant to this issue. See Muraki, et. al., Fruit consumption and risk of type 2 diabetes: results from three prospective longitudinal cohort studies, (2013) British Medical Journal, 347.
Open access here: http://www.bmj.com/content/347/bmj.f5001
hi guys ! great article for this summer!
i eat as a snack some fruits and orange juice during summer but for the breakfast i uses mixed dried fruits with oats n milk.
-i wondering whats the difference with fresh fruits and some dried fruits? (coconut, papaya, apricots, pineapple, raisins)
– do u think its risky to eat this on a daily basis? is there more sugar in it than fresh ones? should i balance to change my habit? i love them a lot lol.
thanks for the answer !
sorry im from france not super fluent 🙂
@Ro – That’s a great question. In general, dried fruits have a higher amount of sugar than fresh fruit in terms of volume. One of the benefits of fresh fruit is that it’s filled with water and has more volume to help fill you up. I definitely eat dried fruits sometimes, but if and when possible, fresh fruits are ideal.
Enjoying your article ps! It really helps since I’ve changed my eating habits if fast food and drinking alcohol to a more healthy eating and limit my intake of alcohol ! Along with weekly exercise ! I’ve lost over 17 pounds in 8 weeks and yes I eat fruit as well !
That’s awesome, Louis. Congrats on your success and thanks for sharing.