Liquids with Calories
By Nancy Clark MS, RD, CSSD
If you are among the many sweaty athletes who wonders what to drink to quench your thirst, you may feel confused by the abundant choices of fluids. There's plain ol' water, sports drinks, soft drinks (sugar-sweetened or diet), 100% fruit juices, juice drinks, milk (skim, lowfat, or whole), beer, wine….and the list goes on. As a sports dietitian, I get lots of questions about what's best (or worst) to drink. Here are my answers to just a few commonly asked questions about liquids with calories.
Q. Should I stop drinking orange juice because it is loaded with (fattening) carbs and sugar?
Q. After a hard workout, I really like having a Coke or Pepsi. How bad is this - for recovery and for my health?
Q. Are soft drinks causing the obesity epidemic?
Indepenent studies (not funded by the beverage industry) suggest people who drink sugary beverages tend to be heavier than those who do not. This might be because fluid calories fail to "register" (that is, they may not satiate one's appetite), so soda drinkers consume more calories per day. Other studies report soda might trigger the desire to eat more food. Hence, if soda drinking culminates in consuming more calories than you burn off, the result is indeed weight gain.
You, as an athlete, can likely enjoy a daily soda without fat gain if you keep the soda-calories within your daily calorie budget. (And please, choose wholesome foods for the rest of your sports diet!)
Q. Soft drinks are sweetened with high fructose corn syrup (HFCS). Is this really bad for our health?
Q. Which is the healthier choice: regular soft drinks (sweetened with HFCS) or diet soft drinks?
Q. Is green tea health protective?
I have clients who have started drinking Starbucks green tea latte. This is a questionable way to invest in good health. Starbucks 16-ounce Tazo Green Tea Latte offers 230 calories, of which 60 are from fat and 140 from sugar. This likely wipes out the possible health benefits of the green tea...
Q. What about Enviga and other green tea beverages that claim to burn calories...?
Celsius, another "calorie-burning soda", saw more than $1.5 million in revenue in 2006 and expects to blow past that figure this year. Do you really want to fatten them up with your efforts to slim down? I hope not….
Nancy Clark, MS, RD, CSSD (Board Certified Specialist in Sports Dietetics) counsels both casual and competitive athletes in her private practice at Healthworks, the premier fitness center in Chestnut Hill MA (617-383-6100). Her Sports Nutrition Guidebook, Food Guide for Marathoners, and Cyclist's Food Guide are available via www.nancyclarkrd.com. See also sportsnutritionworkshop.com.
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Drewnowski A, Bellisle F. Liquid calories, sugar, and body weight. Am J Clin Nutr 2007; 85:651-61.
Gallus S, Scotti L, Negri E et al. Artificial sweeteners and cancer risk in a network of case-control studies. Ann Oncol 2007; 18(1):40-44.
Lim U, Subar AF, Mouw T et al. Consumption of aspartame-containing beverages and incidence of hematopoietic and brain malignancies. Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Prev 2006; 15(9): 1654-9.
Vertanian L, Schwartz M, Brownell K. Effects of soft drink consumption on nutrition and health: A systematic review and meta-analysis. Am J Public Health. 2007; 97:667-675.
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