Just as I was about to look for a few studies that show why calorie-containing beverages are a no no in regards to weight loss and health, I got an email from the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition with my monthly issue. It had a good study that showed how caloric beverages are associated with higher waist circumferences, low HDL levels, high LDL levels, high triglycerides, and hypertension (signs of metabolic syndrome) [ref]Kiyah J Duffey, Penny Gordon-Larsen, Lyn M Steffen, David R Jacobs, Jr., and Barry M Popkin
Drinking caloric beverages increases the risk of adverse cardiometabolic outcomes in the Coronary Artery Risk Development in Young Adults (CARDIA) Study
Am J Clin Nutr 2010 92: 954-959. First published online August 11, 2010; doi:10.3945/ajcn.2010.29478[/ref] . There are plenty of other studies that show similar results as well and it is really not any big news [ref]Matthias B. Schulze; JoAnn E. Manson; David S. Ludwig; Graham A. Colditz; Meir J. Stampfer; Walter C. Willett; Frank B. Hu
Sugar-Sweetened Beverages, Weight Gain, and Incidence of Type 2 Diabetes in Young and Middle-Aged Women
JAMA. 2004;292(8):927-934. [/ref]. For these reasons we have included this in our Lean Habits and make this the first thing our patients adhere to when starting our program. Let’s look at the logic behind this absolutely necessary Lean Habit – All Beverages should be Calorie-Free. If you already understand why calorie-containing beverages are bad for your health / fat loss / leanness, or if you just want to know how to kick the habit of drinking said beverages – then skip this!
Regarding basic physiology, ingesting calorie-containing beverages (more specifically sugar-sweetened beverages) is the easiest way to increase one’s caloric intake. Let me explain – We like to describe foods in regards to nutrient density / calorie density. Nutrient dense foods have a high ratio of nutrients (vitamins, minerals, phytochemicals) to calories. The best examples are green leafy vegetables since you can eat a whole bowl full without taking in many calories and only taking in loads of nutrients. Calorie dense foods on the other hand have a high ratio of calories to nutrients (or really high calories per unit of food). Our favorite example of a calorie dense food is soda, which obviously has a large amount of calories and hardly any nutrients in a small amount of food. So how does this lead to weight gain? Let’s compare our previous food examples in terms of calories and amount (aka calorie density / nutrient density ). One can of soda is around 160 calories. The calorie equivalent of spinach (green leafy vegetable) is roughly 23 cups! Now you can imagine your appetite after ingesting the soda vs. the spinach. It doesn’t take a nutritional scientist to figure out the logic behind this concept. (Eating the 23 cups of spinach would make you fuller than drinking a can of soda). Studies even show that drinking a caloric beverage (e.g. regular cola, orange juice, etc) will have the same impact on fullness during a meal as non-caloric beverages (e.g water). If this is the case, and you don’t want to gain weight/fat, then drinking a beverage with empty sugary calories has no benefit at all! [ref]The Effect of Increased Beverage Portion Size on Energy Intake at a Meal
Julie E. Flood, Liane S. Roe, Barbara J. Rolls
Journal of the American Dietetic Association – December 2006 (Vol. 106, Issue 12, Pages 1984-1990, DOI: 10.1016/j.jada.2006.09.005)[/ref]
It’s easy to tell patients to stop drinking soda, but it really doesn’t tell the whole story because soda is only one out of many drinks that should be avoided. Two of the big offenders are also sweet tea and juice. Juice may sound healthy since it is mostly made from fruit, but in the process of making the juice, the calorie density increases around 300% (1 medium orange 40 calories / 3 grams fiber vs. 8 oz orange juice 110 calories / 0 grams fiber). From purely a calorie / nutrient density point of view, the juice can’t hold a candle to the real thing! The same principle applies to other fruit juices such as apples, grapes, etc. The take home point is that unless you are purposely trying to add extra calories to your diet (aka needed/desired weight gain… mostly fat gain) then you should stick to the whole fruit instead of the juice. We won’t dive into the subject of glycemic index / load because we feel that nutrient / calorie density explains it best, but needless to say, those subjects would also support this Lean Habit. We also won’t get into the discussion of what is better, sucrose or high-fructose corn syrup, because we don’t recommend ANY of them anyway.
There is one caveat to this Lean Habit. You might be thinking why we include this in our program, when we actually make and sell our own calorie-containing drink. Well when we describe caloric-beverages, we are actually describing sugar-sweetened beverages. So really, caloric-beverages is a misnomer. The difference between good protein shakes like ours, and sugar-sweetened beverages is the content of nutrients, fiber, healthy fats, and satiating proteins. When these are included in a meal replacement shake (such as ours), it will not function like soda, orange juice, or sweet tea. It will keep you fuller and satisfied for much longer periods of time, while also bringing extra health properties to the table. [ref]Eur J Nutr. 2009 Jun;48(4):251-8. Epub 2009 Mar 21.
Fibre in beverages can enhance perceived satiety.
Lyly M, Liukkonen KH, Salmenkallio-Marttila M, Karhunen L, Poutanen K, Lähteenmäki L.[/ref] [ref]Physiol Behav. 2008 Feb 27;93(3):427-36. Epub 2007 Sep 29.
Satiating effects of protein but not carbohydrate consumed in a between-meal beverage context.
Bertenshaw EJ, Lluch A, Yeomans MR.[/ref] We are always honest though, and will tell you that you should shoot for eating whole foods first, and if it is not convenient, then a Lean ‘n Complete or Lean Latte can be a close second choice.