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Weight Loss: What You Drink Impacts Your Diet – Part One

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Your liquid choices can dramatically impact your weight, health, wellness, energy, mood, and more. Unfortunately, what you are drinking can also make you fat! As I take you down this “beverage expedition,” I will briefly focus on nine liquid categories –– water, coffee, tea, milk, soda, other soft drinks, juice, meal replacement drinks, and alcohol. Each category deserves an entire article, but for the purpose of brevity, I will give you the aerial view.

What you will discover during this beverage expedition is that when it comes to liquid consumption, many of you are going the "wrong way" or taking too many detours from a healthy and fit trail. Later in this ten-part series, I will “zoom in” on each category with more specific information and tips on how to make good liquid choices, guiding you off the “fat path" and onto the “fit path.”

#1. Water
Let's start this beverage outing with the most valuable (and neglected) liquid of all — water, which as you know, is essential to life. Water is your body's principal chemical component and makes up about 60 percent of your body weight. While water is critical to overall health, and drinking plenty each day stands alone as the best thing you can do for your body, it also plays a significant role in weight loss. The first thing to consider is that you may be retaining water because you don’t drink enough water. Bloated, yuck. You may also mistake thirst for hunger, so instead of swiggin’ down some H2O, you eat. Not good. Water will also help satisfy your desire to "feel full" so that you will eat less. Good. Lastly, if you are well hydrated you will reap the rewards of health, vitality, energy and so much more.

#2. Coffee and other caffeinated drinks
Coffee itself is not the problem so much as is consuming too much caffeine, which is everywhere –– tea, soda, energy drinks, chocolate, candy, medications, and diet pills. Coffee can give you a boost when starting your day and prior to a workout, however, if you are adding cream and sugar, it will give your caloric intake a boost too, which is not good when you are watching your calories. This is especially true when it comes to that Grande Caffè Mocha you may be addicted to (330 calories with 43 grams of carbs; 33 are sugar, and a whopping 15 grams of fat).

#3. Tea
Next on the liquid list is tea (herbal as well as black, green, white and oolong), which has a tremendous amount of health benefits and can aid in weight loss –– as long as you don’t choose pre-made teas full of sugar, high fructose corn syrup, and other sugar derivatives –– or add your own.

#4. Milk (dairy)
Even though dairy products could be placed in a food category, and some have their place in a healthy diet, it is amazing how many adults still think, "Milk does a body good." Not necessarily, especially when you take into account the saturated fat and cholesterol found in whole milk. Not to mention the lactose, which is a concern for those that are lactose intolerant. Moreover, consider the hormones and antibiotics prevalent in milk today (unless it is labeled "USDA-certified organic"), amongst other issues surrounding our food sources that come from animals, but I won't go there now.

#5. Soda

One of the biggest diet debacles is that instead of drinking water, many are choosing other liquids like soda and other soft drinks. This is where it gets "real sticky" –– as in way too much sugar. Most are aware of the negative effects of drinking carbonated soda –– it contributes to four major health issues: obesity, tooth decay, weakened bones, and caffeine dependence –– even so-called “diet” soda. Enough said.

#6. Other soft drinks (sports drinks, powdered soft drinks, juice boxes, and others)
There are an array of high calorie drinks labeled as "healthful," but in fact are high in sugar, high-fructose corn syrup, and other sweeteners. They are adding empty calories to your diet and fat on your body; putting many on the fast track to obesity. This includes sports drinks like Gatorade, powdered soft drinks like Kool Aid, as well as those cute little juice boxes and flavored waters. Crystal Light and other “no calorie, sugar-free” powered drinks use aspartame, saccharin, or Splenda for sweetening –– another red flag when consumed in excess.

#7. Juice (fruit and vegetable)
Most commercial juices contain sugar and very little of the fruit or vegetable they are supposedly derived from, which means that their nutritional value is suspect. They are high in calories and low in fiber — the opposite of most fruits and vegetables in their natural complete states. Even with no sugar added, 100 percent juice is loaded with sugar (fructose; a more natural source) and calories. So-called veggie drinks are a little more complicated and there are some decent choices on the market. Better yet, "juice it" yourself –– a safe and effective way to add wholesome, healthy calories to your diet.

#8. Meal replacement drinks (protein shakes, smoothies, and green drinks)
The billion-dollar fitness industry makes money off quick-fix scams and false promises and drinks are high on their list of schemes. Just like meal replacement bars, they can have a positive "force" toward weight loss and nutrition on the go; still, it is all about "what's in them." Next time you pick up a so-called “diet or protein shake," smoothies as well as those trendy green drinks, take a look at the ingredients. Most of these pre-made drinks contain a lot of sugar, fat, additives and preservatives. On the other hand, there are some good meal replacement and green drinks out there, as well as great products and ways to make your own.

#9. Alcohol
I hate to be a party pooper, but if you are serious about losing weight (fat), alcohol should be off limits, though a few drinks here and there won’t hurt. The “dark side” of alcohol is well known, yet some studies show possible health benefits (moderation of course), however, “balancing risks and benefits” is very complex.

As far as the fitness aspects, you should be aware that alcohol has short-term effects on health and body fat; its nutritional value is nil, as in empty calories, and those mixed drinks pack on more calories than you think. Drinking a lot of booze can also cause dehydration, create electrolyte imbalances and alcohol can indirectly make you fat –– "while your body uses up all the alcohol circulating in the blood, the oxidation of fats, carbohydrates and protein becomes suppressed." Translation: these macronutrients are not used for their intended purpose and are "forced into storage."

Bottom line: what you are drinking can make or break your diet when it comes to weight loss and health. An occasional detour will not harm your efforts, but staying on the wrong path for a long period of time will. Dehydration has its dire consequences; alcohol may give you that occasional "fun buzz" and not so fun hangover, yet it has the potential of making you fat and unhealthy. Furthermore, your beverage choices may have you on a pathway of consuming excessive amounts of caffeine, calories, empty calories, sugar, sugar derivatives and artificial sweeteners, as well as fats and the possibility of countless other food additives.

Knowing the impact that liquid consumption has on your “fitness trail” is the first step in making better choices; ones that will move you faster toward your weight-loss goals as well as further down the road to health and wellness.

Stay tuned, this beverage expedition will continue…

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About Christine Lakatos

  • jon rognerud

    Thanks for great read.

    My brother first introduced me to the notion that water is a great diet tool. I researched further, and found the cold water diet to work pretty good. I backed out of diet cokes (My favorite), and never any coffee either. I found myself to eat less, flushed the system often, and – even though I felt head aches in the beginning, the results were very good. I lost 19 pounds, and felt really much better overall.

    I think the biggest benefit is that I didn’t crave the diet drinks, chocolate (my vice) – and friends noticed as well. I agree with your thoughts in the article, and to stay away from the soft drinks, for sure. (although, I have added a little back since then).

    Thanks again for posting, Christine – Best, Jon

  • Mary Fitz

    Soft drinks in particular are responsible for much of the childhood obesity we face in the US. I find that the artificial rush from the sugar and the inevitable crash set children up to try to sustain this feeling and leaves them lethargic. Taking soda out of our schools would be an excellent start.

  • Brian aka Guppusmaximus

    Nice article…

    But, I’m concerned with a few things. For starters, the title is very misleading. People shouldn’t be looking to necessarily lose “weight” because if you are doing any kind of strength training (in fact, you should be. Cardio alone will not suffice)or even cycling then you’ll find out real quickly that muscle weighs more than fat. So, maybe the title should be Bad Fat-Loss.

    Second: So, with that in mind, if you are including a progressive strength training session into your daily exercise regiment(which you should) then Milk shouldn’t be considered a bad choice. Milk has been found to be the best way to increase lean body mass after any type of resistance exercise,but, the study was done with fat free milk and I agree that fat-free or low fat(1%) is the best way to go.

    When it comes to juice, the one thing that people have to remember is that sugar, whether it be natural or processed, will be turned into fat just the same. So, it is wise to do some research on just how much vitamins, fiber & minerals you’ll get from a freshly squeezed juice as opposed to how much sugar you’ll be digesting.

    But, yes,I agree that this topic is very in depth and I would suggest to everyone to do a lot of research because this a lifestyle not a hobby!

  • http://blogcritics.org/writers/christine-lakatos/ Christine

    Brian:hmmmm on the title. I was trying focus it around weight loss and ways “the effort” is sabotaged by what we drink or don’t drink. And can actually gain weight. Guess I confused you. Thanks for the additional info. Strength training rocks! Will do an article about that in the near future.

    As far as milk, I didn’t say it was bad; just over rated in my opinion; and there are some bad points to it; that I pointed out. Will get to more detail when I break down each category. But what is really GOOD when it comes to dairy is yogurt and cottage cheese, but these are not liquids.

    To the rest of you, thanks for all the comments and tips. More on each category to come.

  • http://blogcritics.org/writers/christine-lakatos/ Christine

    OK, Brian, you got me thinking as usual. Maybe a better title would be…Weight Loss vs. Weight Gain: What You Drink Impacts Your Diet

  • Brian aka Guppusmaximus

    Kristine-I understand the premise but “weight loss” in any context is a bit of a misnomer. Focusing on the numbers on a scale can lead to way too many problems for someone really concerned about their health. Just like using the BMI chart is a fairly inaccurate way for a doctor to make any conclusions on someone’s health risk.
    I think that covering the beverage choices that we make is an important topic but focusing on the bad fat & bad cholesterol and what time of day those beverages are consumed is also very important – Not just how much “weight” can be lost.

    And for the record,while I’m all for ingesting safe foods, the “hormones & antibiotics” in milk haven’t been scientifically linked to any diseases or other health issues.

  • ghayth

    I’ve always known about the benefits of drinking enough water and avoiding alcohol. (What alcohol does to your body is absolutely creepy!) But I did not realize just how widespread the use of sugar is in drinks!

    It seems to me that we need to remember that sugar (AND dairy, if I may say so) are addictive substances, and if we do not find a healthy substitute for these addictions, we may never be successful at our weight loss/health goals.

    Exercise seems to help me keep away from these food addictions, but we suffer on.

    Thank you for a great article. Very much looking forward to the rest of the series!

  • Jonas Kruger

    I weight about 80 kilograms and I am proud of it, from young days I loved bodybuilding, and my father allways insisted me to drink a lot of water.
    BDW: Commenter #ghayh show use honey insted of sugar, but it is only my opinion.

  • http://whatwouldmargochanningdo.blogspot.com/ Kate

    Ok, so writing a column on cocktails hardly makes me a disinterested party, but I was wondering what you thought of the recent studies that indicate that some wine drinking can actually help prevent weight gain? Not the same as weight loss, granted, but fascinating.

  • Live

    Thank you so much for this post, Christine! Drinks are definitely one of those things people forget to consider when losing weight. Just as a random tip to people, if you have a Bloom grocery store near you, they have 0-calorie drink additive things (like Crystal Light) that taste fantastic. They definitely help me get my daily recommended allotment of water — especially when I’m burned out on water.

  • http://blogcritics.org/writers/christine-lakatos/ Christine

    Love all the tips and comments! Stay tuned for part two: WATER.

  • Brian aka Guppusmaximus

    “…things (like Crystal Light) that taste fantastic. They definitely help me get my daily recommended allotment of water…”

    Actually, adding artificial sweeteners to water turns the beverage into a diuretic thus not counting towards the daily recommended serving of water.

  • Sasha

    I all the times i tried now to loss weight i try to drink the most time water, or Sodawater, directly fresh from our groundwater. We are living here on a small island and we have our own spring with fresh water. Using a Sodastream or how they are all called makes it in my opinion to a very good choice.

    But at least, most of my diets don’t work, cuz after 4-6 month i give up, cuz of a very delicious food i cook by myself of eat in a restaurant. After that i mostly can’t stop myself. Lets see how it will be next time.

    At least, nice article and very helpful. I’m one of them who sometimes also dring “sugar-free” things in mind they don’t harm my diet.

  • Paul

    I work with computers 10+ hours a day, this is not good regarding intake of coffee. I drink in excess of 10cups a day and after a day i certainly wont say no to a beer or two. I have cut down in the last year, but dont seem to be able to give coffee up at all.

    It has a negative effect when trying to lose weight as it also makes me tired, thus not wanting to do any sort of exercise. In recent months I have taken to cycling to give me some exercise. It helps a bit. Its the beer that keeps me looking ever so slighly over weight, if you are planning a diet I recommend cutting down slowly, and plan treats for your self once you have lost a couple of pounds maybe 6 or so is a good start. The real struggle to weight lose is keeping weight off, and one real way is cuting down on Alcohol and sweet drinks.

  • Isabell

    Great article! Changes in beverage intake alone can have such a huge effect on weight management success and failures. I drink lots of water and ‘virgin’ teas to curb appetite cravings without added calories, and of course small healthy snack between meals, but the benefits of adding ‘clean’ fluids in high quantities to your diet are endless.