You may have heard the saying “don’t drink your calories,” but do you know why? I will inform you of the importance of what you drink, and how it affects more than just your calorie intake but also how your body functions. After reading, you will be able to choose better options for your lifestyle.
Duh, you know I am going to tell you to drink more water. Most people don’t get enough water daily. In fact, feeling thirsty is the first sign of dehydration, which means you are already dehydrated! Drinking enough water helps to lubricate joints, helps our blood deliver oxygen and vitamins throughout our body, keeps skin hydrated (and prevents wrinkles), supports brain function, regulates body temperature, helps the digestive system, keeps your airways functioning normally, and helps boost exercise performance. With all these good reasons, you can see why water is the best choice when choosing something to drink. This week, I have challenged my Get Your Fit Together Participants to drink only water for an entire week. A great tip is to take a water bottle with you wherever you go, drink a glass of water as soon as you wake up or keep a pack of waters in your car. The general recommendation, although no one knows the perfect amount to consume, is to drink half your body weight in ounces. For instance, if you weigh 150 pounds, you should drink 75 ounces of water daily. And this is just a starting point, so if you are sweating a lot during workouts, you may need even more!
I’m from the north, so I call it Pop, but it doesn’t matter what you call it. Pop (or soda or coke) is one of the worst things you can consumer. First off, one can of the drink contains 38g of sugar, where the average adult male should only consume 38g of sugar daily or women 25g of sugar daily. This means one little can of Coca Cola puts you OVER your sugar limit for the entire day…no dessert, no cookies, not even any fruit for that day since you have already maxed out your sugar intake. With all that sugar also comes calories. There are about 150 calories in the average soft drink, which is the equivalent to 4 Twizzlers, 15 potato chips, 2 Double Stuff Oreos, or 1/4 cup trail mix. When you are trying to lose weight, it is best not to “waste” your calories on a drink that does nothing for your body. So what about diet sodas? Don’t waste yourself there either. Even though they have 0 calories, they contain aspartame which is known to cause cancer. This sweetener is also sold at Nutrasweet or Equal. Both regular and diet sodas contain caramel coloring (which also causes cancer) and caffeine (more on that below).
Americans obsession with and dependence on coffee is not going away anytime soon. However, our consumption of caffeine is something that needs to be addressed. While I am not asking you to completely eliminate coffee from your busy day, it may do your body good to cut back. That being said, caffeine is also found in sodas, teas, ice creams, chocolate and even decaf coffee. Because it stimulates the nervous system, coffee can increase your blood pressure. Similarly, it stimulates the body so much it can cause anxiety in an individual. Four cups of coffee, or 400mg of caffeine daily, seems to be the upper limit for most adults. Also, pay attention to how you drink your coffee. Are you ordering from Starbucks with whipped cream on top? Whipped cream adds a whopping 9g of fat to your drink on top of all the sugar that is already in the mix (most coffee drinks from Starbucks have the same amount of sugar as pop). If you are drinking at home, are you adding sugar, heavy cream or even a zero calorie sweetener that causes cancer? Drinking coffee black is the best way, if you can stomach it.
While Gatorade can have its place in a diet, generally I do not recommend this for my clients because it contains just as much sugar as pop. Also, it has “natural” flavors and artificial colors which are all not optimal for your body. Gatorade was specifically designed as a sports drink. The combination of sugar giving the athlete a quick boost of energy with the water for hydration and salt to help absorb that water make this the perfect drink when you are intensely exercising. However, if you are just sipping on this throughout the day, you are not doing your body any favors.
We all know that heavy consumption of alcohol can be dangerous because of both its physical and mental effects and its tendency towards addiction. However, just drinking a little bit every day can also have detrimental side effects. Drinking alcohol every day can lead to fatty buildups in your liver, causing decreased liver function. Just one drink a day has been linked to a 20% increase in certain cancers. Alcohols tend to be high in calories as well, leading to unwanted weight gain. One glass of beer usually has the same amount of calories as soda, and red wine might have twice as many calories! While vodka can be low in calories, fancy bar drinks tend to add sodas, coloring, or other sugary filled ingredients to make the drinks palatable. When it comes to alcohol, drink in moderation, not daily, and be conscious of the calories you can consume with a drink that offers your body no others benefits or nutrients besides a “buzz.”
I have been on a tea kick lately because I realized this relatively low (or no) calorie drink can actually have benefits for your body. Beware of the caffeine content in certain teas like black, green or chai and don’t drink those in the afternoon or before bed. However, most herbal teas should be caffeine free and can have many benefits for the body. For instance, in pregnancy, a woman is recommended to drink Red Raspberry Leaf Tea because it helps to strengthen and tone the uterus in preparation for labor and contractions. Peppermint tea can help with digestive issues. Chamomile can rest your brain and ready you for sleep. Ginger tea fights inflammation and boosts your immune system. The list goes on and on, and with no caffeine and endless herbs and flowers, you will never get bored trying new flavors!