Find out what drinking diet soda does to your blood sugar and get ideas for healthier drinks for summer.
By Lisa Zeigel:
Everyone who wants to lose weight knows that drinking enough water is essential. It makes sense when you consider that the average adult body is made of 50-60% water (with women having a slightly lower amount due to less muscle mass). Water transports nutrients into the cells, and is necessary for organ and brain functioning and digestion.
Being dehydrated can affect your appearance by contributing to dry skin and making you age prematurely. Even a small deficit of 1% of bodyweight of water can decrease athletic performance, slow down mental function, and slow metabolism. Yes, not drinking enough water can slow down your weight loss efforts!
When you are eating a healthier diet containing more protein, fiber and healthy fats, you will need to drink enough water to process these nutrients. When you add in more physical activity, you will be perspiring and breathing more deeply. Unless you replace the amount of water you lose, you might find that the numbers on the scale will not easily budge.
But, I Don’t Like Water – It’s Too Plain
Besides quenching thirst, most people drink for refreshment and satisfaction, particularly during the summer. The recommended amount of water for the average person is between 8 and 10 cups per day. That sounds like a lot of boring, plain water. It seems reasonable that when watching calorie intake, an alternative to high-calorie colas or juices would be artificially sweetened sodas – after all, they provide that sweet taste you crave and you don’t have to worry about all that sugar, right? Unfortunately, these are still not a healthy choice.
I once had a client who was working very hard at eating better and getting more activity. But the weight was not coming off. She sat down with me and we went over a typical day. After going over all of her food intake, she finally confided that she was consuming up to 10 diet sodas per day! Not only that, but she complained of feeling lethargic and of suffering from constant headaches. So, what was diet soda doing to her body?
This is What Happens in Your Body When You Consume Diet Drinks
When you drink a so-called diet drink, your body produces toxic byproducts as it tries to digest the artificial sweetener. Your pancreas doesn’t recognize that the artificial sweetener is not actual sugar containing glucose and begins to secret insulin. With no real calories coming in, your blood sugar drops and you only get hungrier because your brain signals you to eat more to replace the glucose it needs to survive. Thus, a vicious cycle begins and you end up consuming more calories in the long run.
Your brain needs a certain amount of glucose to function and survive, but too much becomes toxic. When you continue the diet soda cycle in the long term, you can develop insulin resistance which means that the extra insulin floating around in your blood is no longer effective. When you eat, the insulin no longer sweeps excess glucose from your blood and your body has to figure out other ways to get rid of it. That is when your body stores its extra glucose in fat cells and you start to put on weight. Keep the cycle up even longer, and you start to suffer from symptoms of diabetes. Artificially sweetened drinks can not only thwart your attempts at losing weight but can make you sick!
So, Is Regular Soda a Better Choice?
You may be thinking that if the artificial sweetener in diet soda is so bad that you should stick to regular soda, and especially the ones that advertise “real” sugar as being a healthy benefit over high fructose corn syrup. But regular soda, even ones containing buzz-word ingredients such as “natural” or “real” sugar are poor choices. Sugar may be more natural, but let’s take a look at what it does to your brain. Sugar, especially white, processed sugar which is used in soda, triggers the same areas of the brain that heroin and other opiates does, leading you to not only want sugar, but to need it. As you consume more and more sugar to satisfy your craving, you trigger the same insulin secretion that drinking diet soda does. It creates the same cycle of insulin release, resistance and glucose storage in the fat cells.
4 Ideas to Jazz up Your Recommended 8 to 10 Cups
There is a healthier way to get the hydration you need and still get flavor. Here are ways you can add refreshing, low-calorie flavor, with nutrition, to water:
- Try Zone SeaHealth Plus – a combination of nutrients from sea vegetables, super fruits and more. A one ounce serving contains only 10 calories and can be added to your water bottle. Sip all day at work or during your commute.
- Frozen watermelon chunks – add them to water like ice cubes. Watermelon is flavorful and naturally sweet, plus it contains anti-oxidants and anti-cancer lycopene. It is also a source of l-citrulline, an amino acid that may help in muscle recovery.
- Add unsweetened juice to sparkling water and make your own low-calorie, healthy “soda.”
- Keep a pitcher of filtered water in your fridge and make your own “spa water” with lemon, orange, cucumber slices – use your creativity and try different fruits or herbs like mint or rosemary.
Once you start drinking natural thirst quenching liquids, your body will adjust and you will begin to crave fresh, real ingredients. Stick with these ideas for refreshing drinks and your body will benefit – inside and out.