An area of our diets that we often sorely overlook is what we drink. Drinks can be a sneaky source of excess calories and affect you in so many ways. This includes your health, energy levels, performance, and mood. Putting more consideration into what you drink is wise because they go down so much easier than food. Plus, you can drink way more than you can eat! Let’s take a quick look at different drinks and how they affect you:
It goes without saying that the best drink you can consume is water. Your body is 2/3 water, so it makes sense to drink a lot of it. In fact, being even mildly dehydrated has a negative effect on your concentration and muscle strength. But get this: you become dehydrated before you feel thirsty! As thirst isn’t even a great indicator of how hydrated you are, keep a bottle or glass of water handy at all times.
Conversely, staying hydrated improves your mental and physical performance, helps your body detoxify, and is great for your skin.
After water, the best drink for your health is tea. You’re most familiar with black tea, but there are greater benefits to be gained from other varieties such as white, green, and oolong, as well as herbal teas like rooibos and peppermint. Their health benefits include antioxidants, which reduce inflammation throughout your body, and flavonoids, which help prevent cancer and heart disease.
Some varieties, like chamomile, valerian, and lemon balm tea even help you sleep better.
‘What about my coffee?!’ I hear you cry.
Although coffee often gets a bad rap, a cup or two isn’t that bad for you. As I’ve said in a previous post, I’m partial to a morning cup myself. In fact, coffee has been shown to play a role in preventing type 2 diabetes and liver and heart disease. It’s drinking too much coffee that causes problems.
Firstly, it’s a diuretic, so it dehydrates you. It also increases your levels of cortisol, your stress hormone, so drinking too much can cause stress and anxiety. Lastly, drinking it in the afternoon can disrupt your sleep that night.
Frappes and ice lattes, on the other hand, are basically milkshakes and are packed with sugar and fat. Like milkshakes, save them as a treat.
A lot has been said about milk in recent years, with many nutritionists and scientists stating it’s not as healthy as we’d always been lead to believe. If we were to delve into the debate of whether milk is good for you or not – we’d be here all day. What I will say is, if it adversely affects you, causing stomach cramps, gas, or breakouts on your skin – stop drinking it.
These days, however, milk is a broad term and doesn’t necessarily mean the stuff that comes out of a cow. There are tons of alternatives out there, including those made from soy, oat, rice, and almonds. They all provide the protein that cow’s milk is known for and many are a greater source of vitamins and minerals
Fruit juice is another topic that’s caused a lot of controversy in recent years. They contain a lot of fructose, a type of sugar that has to be processed by the liver before it can be utilised by your body. Consuming too much fructose overworks the liver which converts excess amounts into fat. It’s worth mentioning that table sugar, sucrose, is 50% fructose and 50% glucose, so we consume too much as it is.
Some people believe that you should avoid fruit all together to limit your consumption of fructose. But fruit contains fibre, which slows down its absorption. Juice, on the other hand, has considerably less fibre, if at all. What you’re getting is the sugar from several fruits all at once. For instance, eating several apples is a bit of a task right? But drinking a glass of apple juice, which contains said apples, is easy.
My advice is to limit your consumption of fruit juice. When you do drink it, go for actual juice. Avoid the stuff from concentrate which contains more sugar and other additives. It also doesn’t hurt to water it down a little: filling a glass with ¾ juice and ¼ water. For kids, I’d suggest going 50/50.
Smoothies, on the other hand, are better for you than juice, as they still contain the fibre from the fruit. However, if you can, make your own, because some of the varieties you find in stores, etc have had sugar added.
Fizzy drinks contain tons of sugar and should be only be drank as a treat. A typical can of fizzy drink contains around 40g of sugar. That’s 8 teaspoons of sugar. That much sugar will definitely play absolute havoc with your blood sugar levels. Energy drinks, like Red Bull and Monster, are even worse and contain up to 12 teaspoons of sugar, as well as caffeine and taurine.
Diet varieties aren’t any better and contain sweeteners like acesulfame potassium and sucralose; aspartame. Some studies have linked these ingredients to cancer and other health issues, while some have proven inconclusive. My view is that if the jury is out on what these substances do, you shouldn’t be so quick to put them in your body. At least sugar comes out of the ground right? Treat diet sodas as you would full-fat varieties and drink them sparingly.
Lastly, we come to alcohol. It would be so easy for me to tell you not to drink alcohol because in the quantities we drink it in, it’s just bad for you. When they say, ‘pick your poison’ they’re not kidding: alcohol is literally a poison.
However, there’s a lot of pleasure to be derived from drinking. It’s refreshing, helps us unwind, and is a social lubricant. Life is too short not to enjoy yourself from time to time!
But it would be remiss of me not to advise that you drink it in moderation. Especially if you’re looking to lose weight. Alcohol contains loads of empty calories; your body can do nothing with them. At 7 calories per liquid gram, alcohol is one of the most calorie dense substances we consume, just behind fat at 9 calories a gram (protein and carbs contain 4 calories a gram). What’s more, your body then slows down the metabolism of food as it diverts its efforts to flush alcohol from your system.
Then, there are the other things we tend to do when we drink a lot. After a night out, If you’re anything like me, you head straight for a Maccas, grab a kebab, or clumsily unearth a pizza from the freezer when you get home. The next day isn’t much better either. If you’re hungover, you’re likely to be unproductive and chow down on comfort food.
In short, if you drink, do it sparingly, drink plenty of water before you go to sleep, and try and eat well the following day. Smoothies are great ideas on days like this as they’ll rehydrate you and provide you with lots of nutrients.
Drinks can unknowingly play a huge factor in our inability to lose weight and stay healthy. If you’re struggling to meet your weight loss goals, or constantly feel sluggish, take a look at what you’re drinking each day and see if making a few changes doesn’t help considerably.