You exercise and recover, but still can’t lose that pesky fat. Why??? You overall eat a good diet, but why then are you not improving your physique? The secret may be in your glass right now.
Pop goes your diet
I am an east coaster, tried and true. I now live in the Midwest, where a pervasive oddly named enemy is rampant. “Doc I love pop.” Me too, I love popcorn so…oh pop = soda.
Since its’ inception in the middle ages to the mass marketing of the 1800s this previously category of beverages has been breaking down our health for over a century.
During my path to wellness, the first thing that I did was eliminate soda. I looked at the back of a soda can and saw the amount of added sugar per can which is 65 grams or 5.2 Tablespoons. I then thought about what 5 Tablespoons of sugar looks like without the beverage to dilute it..yuck. I mean you really should not have more than 20-50 grams in a day of sugar, so you have more than maxed your sugar intake in one drink…worth it??? Nope!
Soda and your body
As discussed in our Macro-Carbs post the basic building blocks of carbs include fructose, glucose, and galactose. In the case of soda, glucose and primarily fructose (high fructose corn syrup)are the main building blocks. Your body does not expend much energy to break high fructose corn syrup down because it is a basic building block. Your body also does not conceive itself as full of energy or satiated with fructose as an energy source by blunting a hormone called leptin (tells you that you should stop eating). The obvious effect of this is that you eat MORE!
Ingesting large amounts of easily digestible sugars can also lead to spikes in the hormone insulin. Insulin drives your blood glucose downward. With repeated spikes over time, your body becomes numb to the effects of insulin, termed insulin resistance. Insulin resistance leads to the storage of your energy into fat droplets in the liver and your tummy. Insulin resistance can also cause metabolic syndrome and likely diabetes.
High fructose corn syrup also signals preferential storage of fat around your abdominal organs. Fat around your organs or visceral fat is linked to the risk of heart disease and cancer. In the case of soda, the risk of pancreatic cancer, in particular, is 87% more likely in people who drink soda.
Soda doesn’t make you smile
Not convinced to drop that pop? Well, what if your vanity was at stake? We have already talked about the effects on your midline, but what about your smile?
Have you ever watched what happens to a coin if you leave it in soda for a day? How about a nail in 4 days? The main reason is that soda is an acidic food and the acid in soda will eat away at your teeth! Not to mention the effects of sugar on tooth decay. Sugar will also shift your mouth microbiome (bacteria that live in your mouth) to the bad bacteria. See microbiome for more on this. So, if you are worried about those pearly whites, stop drinking soda.
But juice is healthy?
As a kid of the 80s, I remember countless advertisements to drink my orange juice. Milk did a body good, but OJ was loaded with vitamins.
This kind of true. Juices from fruit are loaded with vitamins and can be healthy, but then we Frankenstein it by adding garbage and sugar.
Most juices come from concentrate, then water is added along with sugar so people can consume it easier. The average serving of juice contains 20+ grams of sugar. Again, if your sugar budget is 20-50 grams/day you have spent your sugar dollars in one glass.
This amount is sugar is a common event for the best of juices. Excess sugar will be converted to energy. Again, if you aren’t spending it, you save it in the liver and your love handles.
Listen, I love coffee. I drink it every morning and get SO much enjoyment from my am cup. Coffee itself is a low-calorie drink (BASICALLY FREE calorically speaking). The problem arises when again you add stuff to it that is not good for your body.
Adding sugar? One packet of sugar is 1 teaspoon. One teaspoon of sugar is 4 grams. 5 sugars and you are encroaching on your sugar limit for the day in just a few cups of coffee. I don’t drink coffee with sugar in it for a few reasons. I want to obtain my sugar from fruit sources like apples. Adding sugar to your am coffee will also switch your metabolic pathways from breakdown to your stores (fat) used during sleep to carbs (sugar). Essentially you will stop your body’s natural ability to breakdown fat.
What about sweetener or aspartame? These artificial sweeteners have many potential health impacts on your body.
The number one use of these fake sweeteners is a diet with an increase in body weight and waist circumference. This is likely in part due to the surplus carbohydrate concept (above) and the impact on satiety (feeling full). Artificial sweeteners are not identified by the body’s satiety hormones (leptin is the main one) as nutritional and thus you do NOT GET FULL. Therefore, you eat more.
Additionally, artificial sweeteners alter your intestinal microbiome by lowering diversity and therefore the health benefits of having a diverse microbiome. More on the microbiome HERE.
What about the fat content in coffee? If you add dairy, it is considered a fat. As in our post on FAT, it is not the enemy like we were told for years. However, any substance in excess will be stored as belly fat. If you stick to your MACROS (macro calculator) and have some fat in your morning coffee, it will help with your nutritional timing, allowing you to continue your nocturnal ability to burn fat. Also, if you have an acid-peptic disease like GERD, the fat will help with lessening the impact that acidic coffees have on these conditions.
Acceptable alternatives to dairy containing fat (half and half, full-fat milk) would be soy, almond or coconut-containing milk. Employ these if you have lactose intolerance otherwise your day will certainly be a gassy one. You can use butter, ghee or coconut oils as well. An ideal fat-additive is real food that has been grass-fed or pasture-raised. This will improve the quality of the fat.
Things to avoid include non-dairy coffee additives. As a general rule, eating real food that is well taken care of is better for your body than fake chemicals. Most of these contain 3-7 grams of sugar, or if no sugar, then artificial sweeteners (see above). Yes, they taste great, but if you want pumpkin spice or peppermint, just add pumpkin spices or peppermint oil to your coffee, which is free of truly any caloric impact.
The discussion about coffee goes on from here as your drinks get fancier and the less control you have over the components. Ordering Frappuccino’s (50 grams of SUGAR!!! = over your whole days budget) and coffees with 8 sugars in them (8 x 4 grams = 32 grams!!!), I would ask the question…do you like coffee or is it just the sweetness you desire. If fraps are your jam, try a protein shake instead. You can control the ingredients and make something way better for your body.
Plain White (or any color) Tea’s
Tea is an excellent substitute beverage. It, like coffee, is virtually free in terms of your caloric budget. People get into trouble here when they add sugar (above), sweetener (above) or other forms of sugar. Agave and honey are other natural sugars that can be added to teas. If you are going to pick a sugar to have, I think honey is the one to go with. This article by Paleomagazine.com discusses at length the health benefits of honey and some of the downsides.
Yes, honey is primarily fructose and glucose, the difference is the other compounds within it. Honey does contain trace elements of protein, vitamins, and minerals. Honey has less of a negative impact on your gut microbiome, as it is a natural substance.
Just beware of true raw unpasteurized honey. One of the first lessons I learned in medical school was about Botulism. Botulism is Clostridium botulinum is a bacterium that releases a toxin and rarely can be found in honey. Given to babies and adults, this can cause paralysis and neuromuscular diseases that are life-threatening and virtually irreversible.
If you are trying to improve your physique and health, look first at what you are drinking. You may see a noticeable benefit from just getting rid of the POP (soda for most) in your life. If you just drink water, good for you, however for the rest of us that love drinks like coffee, you may be sabotaging your healthy lifestyle one latte at a time. Stick to water, tea, and coffee. Try not to add sugar to them and stick with healthy fats, especially in the am. If you have to use something sweet, honey may be your best bet, but try to limit your sugar intake.