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.”
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).
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.
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.
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…