When starting a weight loss diet or regime, for most of us, the focus tends to be on the food we are eating and the calories we are burning. However, it is quite common to forget the calories we are consuming in the form of drinks. As they are not technically ‘food’, can be knocked back quickly and generally don’t contribute much to helping us feel full, it is easy to forget the energy they are providing that may be inhibiting weight loss. But beware, the average American gets a fifth of their daily calories from drinks, and many popular choices can have as many calories and as much fat as the foods you avoid like the plague when trying to lose weight.
The worst offenders are the usual suspects: Those that contribute a large amount of calories, but provide little to no nutritional benefit. These include soft drinks, energy drinks and many sports drinks (you only really need these if you are doing some fairly intense exercise, so if you’re not running a marathon give them a miss). Other culprits that are not so obvious are large fancy coffees, a large full cream latte with a vanilla shot will weigh in at 380 calories and 17.9 grams of fat, or the equivalent of 10 rashers of bacon! Alcohol can also contribute to weight gain, providing a substantial amount of calories and very little nutritional benefit, and we all know how easy it is for one glass of wine to turn into a bottle.
There are also many high calorie drinks that are masquerading as healthy choices. Juice, particularly with added sugar can have the equivalent calories to the same amount of coke, whilst smoothies and milkshakes are often high in sugar and fat from syrups, ice cream and flavours.
Best drinks for weight loss
Definitely the best drink for weight loss, water is calorie free but can still fill you up. Studies have found that drinking water before eating cause people to eat less during the meal. It has also been found that water in particular iced water in fact stimulates the metabolism, increasing the number of calories you burn. It is thought that increasing your water intake by two glasses a day can lead to a 30% increase in metabolic rate. It is also important to drink plenty of water for many other reasons. Even slight dehydration can lead to lack of energy, poor skin, constipation and lack of concentration. It´s also just about the only drink that´s free, so there´s no excuses not to drink up!
2. Green Tea
While both black and green tea are calorie free and therefore suitable for weight loss, green tea extract containing polyphenols and caffeine have been found to cause thermogenesis and increase fat oxidation, which in turn may increase metabolic rate slightly. Although it is unlikely to boost the rate enough to cause significant weight loss. Green tea also boasts a host of other benefits such as high levels of flavonoids, which are antioxidants that help fight cancer. Studies have also suggested that heart attack risk is reduced with regular intake of green tea.
3. Black coffee
In moderation (maximum 3 to 4 cups per day), black coffee has been shown to have beneficial effects for the health. It contains antioxidants which may help fight some forms of cancer, and has also been associated with reduced risk of diseases such as heart disease and Type 2 Diabetes. Caffeine is also thought to stimulate the metabolism and increase calorie burning. On top of all this it is calorie free making it the perfect weight loss pick. Just remember to keep it black or add only a small amount of low fat milk and don’t add too much sugar or a coffee can quickly become a high calorie beverage.
4. Vegetable juice
Vegetable juice provides all the nutritional benefits of fruit juice but with less calories. As vegetables are generally naturally lower in sugar than fruit, their juices are also much lower in sugar. A cup of natural vegetable juice such as V8 provides only 50 calories, whilst the equivalent in fresh orange juice provides 129, over twice as many calories. Look for completely natural juices with pulp for added fiber that will keep you full for longer. Alternatively squeeze your own, that way you know exactly what is going into it.
5. Low Fat smoothies
Smoothies can be a healthy choice appropriate for weight loss if you know what is going into them. These drinks do provide valuable calcium from the milk and vitamins and fiber from fruit, however, many commercial smoothies are packed full of calories from sugar syrups, honey, frozen yogurt and ice cream. Often real fruit is not even used, but instead a sugar fruit syrup. The best option is to make your own smoothie at home using fruit, skim milk or low fat yoghurt and ice, this way you know exactly what is in your drink.
It is also important to remember that a smoothie is not a drink to quench your thirst, and is really a meal in itself. When paired with a couple of slices of whole grain toast, a low fat smoothie makes an ideal breakfast option, which is perfect for those mornings you are in a hurry as it can be easily transported. Add a tablespoon of bran flakes or oats for extra fiber and B vitamins to provide even more nutrition.
A note on diet soft drinks
Whilst swapping sugary varieties for diet versions may save on calories, there is some debate as to whether this is beneficial for weight loss in the long term. Some studies have found that when the body consumes something sweet tasting, it expects a hit of sugar. This means when you don’t receive the sugar in your blood, as is the case with diet sodas and other products with artificial sweeteners; you may start to crave more sweet foods. This can lead to overconsumption of other sweet foods and overall weight gain. If you are drinking large amounts of soft drinks in a day however, it is probably beneficial to switch to low calorie versions if you are unable to cut back significantly.