Have you heard the adage don’t drink your calories? Good advice actually. If you want to lose weight or maintain a healthy weight looking at what you drink is a good starting point. Maintaining a healthy weight for most people is really just tweaking a few things in their diet, and eliminating a drink here or there will be hardly noticeable after a few weeks of practice.
Let’s look at some examples of drinks and their calorie contributions over a year:
Beer – Do you enjoy a 6 pack over the week? 135 calories (avg) X 6 X 52 weeks = 42,120 calories or 12 lbs per year.
Wine – Do you savor an 8 ounce class of wine 5 days per week? 200 calories X 5 days X 52 Weeks or 52,000 calories or 14.85 lbs per year.
Soda – 1 can per day? 140 calories X 365 days = 51,110 calories or 14.6 lbs per year
Juice – Pour an 8 ounce glass of unsweetened O.J. every morning? 105 calories X 365 days = 38,325 calories or 10.95 lbs per year
Coffee – Are you like all those other bleary eyed customers waiting in line for your daily morning Tim Horton’s medium double/double Coffee fix? 210 calories X 365 days = 76,650 calories or 21.9 lbs. Much better off having a can of Soda at 6:30 am at least you only gained 14 lbs.
Now, do you get why looking at what you drink can make all the difference in the world to whether or not you are successful in weight maintenance! It really is that simple. People suffer by going on these crazy starvation diets. They lose the weight but eventually find themselves back at the same weight and not wanting to go back to the drudgery and pain of the diet again. Who would? If it’s as easy as cutting out one drink per day why wouldn’t you consider it? Let’s say you have been putting on 8 lbs per year for the last 5 years and have gained 40 lbs. This might seem like you have become the biggest glutton in the world right? Not really. It means you consumed only an extra 77 calories over your daily limit per day. A half a beer, 3 ounces of wine, a half can of soda per day. Not much. Take the can of soda as an example. If you are putting on 8 lbs per year and you now eliminate that can of soda per day you will lose 6.6 lbs in one year by doing nothing else but that. Yes it sounds simplistic I know, but you can’t really argue with the math.
As a trainer I see how not drinking your calories works all the time. We had a 12 week weight loss contest at our studio a couple of years ago. We would publish the results each week as to the percentage weight loss. Four weeks into the contest one of our clients was lagging at the bottom of contest. She really hadn’t bought into our pep talk about weight loss strategies but she decided to do just one thing; stop drinking beer for the duration of the contest. At the end of the 12 weeks she had gone from second last out of 25 participants to a 2nd place finish leapfrogging 22 people! Most people that I train who drink alcohol have amazing weight loss results if they can cut it out for a specific period or at least cut back over the long term.
Let’s switch gears and get onto diet soda. If you are a soda drinker and don’t mind the taste of diet soda you are probably thinking I will just make the switch. But here’s where it starts to get complicated. Most of us are aware that sugar substitutes aren’t too healthy. After all didn’t they prove that if a mouse drinks the equivalent of 100 diet pops a day they will develop cancer in 40 years or something absurd like that? I used to tell my clients if they wanted something sweet after dinner to eat those 5 calorie Jellos sweetened with sucralose. I would eat them too. If one wasn’t enough to satisfy my sweet tooth, I would eat a second or a third one. Why not, it would only be 15 calories. Probably more calories burned getting up to go the fridge right! After a while I stopped eating them though, because after two or three I would start to get dizzy. I didn’t know why but that was enough to tell me maybe eating something that made me dizzy wasn’t such a great idea. As you will see later in the article there was a lot happening in my body after consuming those little jello packs.
With new research out it seems not only is diet soda or artificially sweetened products not healthy but they can give you a pretty big belly too. A new study just released found people who drink diet soda put on three times as much belly fat as those who don’t. Three times!! And I thought I was doing my self a favor at the movie theater just drinking a diet soda all these years. Should have had a Snapple with an extra large popcorn with butter. I would have been better off! The San Antonio Longitudinal Study of Aging ( http://professional.diabetes.org/Abstracts_Display.aspx?CID=864889 ) spanned a period of nearly 10 years and tracked 750 people.
Another 14 year study of 66,118 women published in the American Journal of clinical Nutrition ( http://ajcn.nutrition.org/content/early/2013/01/30/ajcn.112.050997 ) found the following:
1. Diet sodas raised the risk of diabetes more than sugar-sweetened sodas!
2. Women who drank one 12-ounce diet soda had a 33 percent increased risk of Type 2 diabetes, and women who drank one 20-ounce soda had a 66 percent increased risk.
3. Women who drank diet sodas drank twice as much as those who drank sugar-sweetened sodas because artificial sweeteners are more addictive and are hundreds to thousands of times sweeter than regular sugar.
4. The average diet soda drinker consumes three diet drinks a day.
The theory is that the sweetness of diet drinks tricks the body into thinking its ingesting sugar, causing a release of insulin (fat store hormone) that just loves to store that fat in your belly. In a related article by Dr. Mark Hyman he also states “It (artificial sweeteners) also confuses and slows your metabolism down, so you burn fewer calories every day”. And if that’s not bad enough, he says “It makes you hungrier and crave even more sugar and starchy carbs like bread and pasta”.
What’s that question I hear you asking? “What can I drink then?” “How about water? Just kidding”!!! Although if you are cutting out other drinks you have to make sure you are getting enough liquid in your day. If you like averages, men should drink about 13 – 8 ounce cups, and women 9 cups per day.
Let’s go back to the types of drinks from above and give you some new strategies.
• Cutting consumption in half to three beers per week would save you 6 lbs per year.
• If it’s more of a social thing consider light beers (apologize for non-Canadians) like Molson Canadian 67. You guessed it – 67 calories per beer. If you are still drinking your 6 pack per week it saves you 6 lbs per year
• There is really not a low calorie substitute that I know of. Skinny Girl products get some press but they only save you 10 calories per 5 ounce glass of wine. Best we can do with wine is cut back on consumption.
• If you cut back or eliminate your alcohol prepare to start looking around the kitchen for sweets. Alcohol loads a lot of sugar in our bodies and when it’s not being delivered any more the body is going to start asking you to replace it. It will take about two weeks of will power to get over this initial sugar urge.
• If you like the fizz you can go with an unsweetened sparkling water that you can get at any grocery store
• Whole Foods have a lot of sugar free and artificial sweetener free sodas.
• If you are like me and you can’t stomach water in the middle of the night or first thing in the morning. I mix 8 ounces of water with two ounces of non-sweetened cranberry juice which is only 26 calories. It gives me a little of the sugar my body wants in the morning with a fraction of the calories. I could never go back to drinking full strength juice now. I find it overwhelmingly sweet. Try diluting your favorite juice a little bit at a time over the coming weeks until you get used to it. Eventually like me I bet you will prefer it that way.
First off let me say I have not found a good sugar substitute for your coffee. And cream is just too calorie dense. The double cream in a Tim Horton’s medium double double coffee accounts for 150 of the 210 calories. Go with a medium double milk for 40 calories and you have saved yourself 90 calories or 9.38 lbs over the year if you have one everyday.
• At home you can go with almond milk. 2 ounces of unsweetened almond milk is only 8.6 calories. My wife loves this in her coffee or tea. I on the other hand find it disgusting. Give it a try and see for your self.
• If you like the creaminess of cream then you may want to go with unsweetened coconut milk. 2 ounces will give you only about 10 calories.
So let’s have a toast to not drinking our calories! Toasting with that water bottle though just doesn’t have the same ring as a nice crystal wine glass. Oh well.