A healthy weight loss diet is about more than the food you eat; it’s also important to consider the beverages you put in your body every day. While sticking to plain old water is always your best bet for staying healthy and hydrated, you may be tempted to indulge in some sweet drinks throughout the day. However, experts warn that consuming excess sugar (even when it comes in an unassuming beverage) can lead to serious health consequences, including weight gain. For this reason, cutting certain sugary drinks out of your diet is your best option if you’re trying to slim down.
To discover some of the worst high-sugar drinks that could be slowing your weight loss, we spoke to health experts Beth Hawkes, MSN, RN-BC of Nurse Code and Dana Ellis Hunnes PhD, MPH, RD and author of Recipe for Survival. They pointed out two major culprits: store-bought fruit juice and energy drinks.
Sugary fruit juice
Although juice may seem like a healthy beverage, especially considering the fact that it's made from notoriously healthy fruit, Hawkes says that it's actually quite the opposite. While making your own green juice at home may be another story, buying fruit juice at the store is an absolute no-go for anyone looking to lose weight. That's because these varieties are typically highly processed and packed with sugar. In fact, a single serving of store-bought fruit juice can even be worse for you than a can of soda in certain instances. "For example, there are about 31 grams of sugar in a 12-ounce serving of orange juice, which is more than the 22 grams found in the same amount of cola," Hawkes tells us. Yikes!
It shouldn't come as a surprise to hear that all of that sugar can do some serious damage to your body and even result in weight gain over time. Hawkes explains how this happens: "When you consume such a quantity of the sweet stuff, your levels of blood glucose soar into the stratosphere. This tells our metabolism to slow down and thus burn fewer calories which leads us towards gaining weight instead." For this reason, cutting juice (especially store-bought varieties) out of your diet is highly recommended if you're trying to shed some pounds.
Although you may love the caffeine boost and sweet flavor you get from energy drinks, Hunnes tells us they can come with a serious cost: inflammation and weight gain. Similar to the dangers of sugary fruit juice, energy drinks can take a toll on your health due to harmful, sweet ingredients. "Energy drinks have added ingredients like alternative sweeteners and sugar," she explains, noting that "the average sugar content of an energy drink is 54 grams, an alarming rate that can cause weight gain and poor digestive health." Yikes!
But be careful—sugar isn't the only ingredient in energy drinks that can cause you to gain belly fat. As it turns out, sugar-free varieties that taste equally sweet can also be just as bad for you. As it turns out, that sweet flavor will still lead to an insulin response, triggering inflammation and weight gain. "Digestion begins all the way in the mouth, and sweet flavors do release some insulin whether there's actual sugar or not," Hunnes explains. "There might still be some response, even if it is a lower or lesser inflammatory response." Say it ain't so! Guess we'll skip the Red Bull and opt for some black coffee next time we're feeling sleepy...
The bottom line
Of course, at the end of the day, treating yourself to some sweet beverages every now and then won't kill you. However, it's important to be aware of the risks at hand when you indulge in sugar-packed drinks like fruit juice and energy drinks. Remember that moderation is always key, and if you want to avoid belly fat, it's best to limit your overall sugar intake as much as possible.