“Don’t drink your calories.”
When considering changing your diet for fat loss, you have to let go of the fallacy that all that matters is calories in and calories out. How your diet affects your hormones, especially insulin, has a tremendous effect on your health and body composition. It’s pretty hard to argue that a 2,000 calorie per day diet made up of soda, fries, chips, pastries and other processed foods is no different than a 2,000 calorie per day diet made up of fruits, vegetables, beans, legumes, dairy products, fish, game and a moderate amount of truly whole grains.
Any beverage that contains calories, with the exception of whole milk, is a processed food. Sodas are an obvious example of empty calories that are easily absorbed and cause a sudden spike in your blood sugar level. This of course leads to fat storage, and in the long run, decreased insulin sensitivity and type II diabetes.
While everyone recognizes that sodas are unhealthy, what most people don’t realize is that our bodies respond exactly the same way to fruit juice. This is true regardless if is “100% fruit juice.” Most commercially available juices are so processed that they have only trace amounts of the nutrients that were in the original fruit and none of the fiber. Even in the case of better quality juices, however, the amount of nutrients supplied are not beneficial enough to offset the negatives effects of drinking so much sugar.
Sports drinks like Vitamin Water are really nothing more than sugar water. If you want to supplement your nutrition, take a vitamin pill. The trace amounts of nutrients in these drinks don’t warrant drinking sugar in a watery solution. The only acceptable time to use a sports drink or other beverage with any type of sugar is immediately after a strenuous workout when circulating enzymes help store the sugar as glycogen in the muscles.
Alcohol is another common source of empty calories that many of us drink. When I’m presenting a seminar on nutrition and discussing the reasons not to drink your calories, I am often asked about alcohol. Only somewhat facetiously, I respond that if I’m going to drink something with empty calories in it, I’m going to get a buzz from it.
I am not a teetotaler, but I’m also not at all convinced that there is any health benefit to drinking alcohol in moderation. When I decide that I need to get a little leaner, alcohol is definitely one of the things that I cut down on. Besides being empty calories, alcohol, like high fructose corn syrup - and even too much fructose, causes fat to be stored predominantly on the abdomen. This is of course unsightly, but more importantly is a risk factor for cardiovascular disease. If you choose to drink alcohol, it’s important to drink in moderation enough that the pleasure you derive from it outweighs the negative effects.
As I’ve written so many times before, a diet for fat loss is no different than a diet for health. We need to eat more whole foods and consume less processed foods and we need to make changes that we can keep up permanently. Eliminating, or drastically curtailing, beverages that contain calories is one easy change that can reap immediate benefit. For many people wishing to lose fat or otherwise improve their health, this simple step is all that is necessary.