Originally published on HVMN by Ryan Rodal. Lightly edited for this site.
You’re about to embark on a weight loss journey. You’ve been through your kitchen and thrown all the junk food into the trash. You’ve got a diet plan and you’ve taken those awkward “before” selfies. What is the one thing you might have missed?
Have you made the common mistake of underestimating the caloric content of your favorite drinks?
The majority of beverages consumed by the American public are packed with hidden calories. The drinks you might gulp down could be responsible for weight loss plateaus or lack of progress toward your weight loss goals.
The “healthy” smoothie from the organic store? It contains more calories than a double cheeseburger (a large Strawberry Surf Rider from Jamba Juice has 640 calories, a McDonald’s Double Cheeseburger has 440 calories). The coffee on your morning commute? It has the same amount of calories as two glazed donuts (a Venti Starbucks White Chocolate Mocha Frappuccino has 550 calories, while two Dunkin Donuts Glazed Donut have 520 calories). Having a beer with dinner? That’s more calories than a candy bar (a Lagunita’s IPA has 220 calories, while a Hershey bar has 214 calories).
The calories consumed from beverages may be adding hundreds of calories to your daily intake.
Whether it’s juices, flavored coffees, sodas, beers, or even those popular “healthy” smoothies, they all contain high amounts of calories.
Instead of changing your diet, try rethinking your lifestyle. Don’t count calories, make calories count. The importance of getting the best nutrition out of every calorie will help you reach your goals. Here are a few of the best weight loss drinks to help you get there.
Drinking Your Weight
Most diets place emphasis solely on food—neglected is the significant nutritional value of what you drink. It’s vital to be aware of liquid calories and large quantities of sugar in drinks you’re consuming.
Beverages do not trigger the same satiation responses compared to their solid food counterparts. Studies have shown that meals with solid foods provide better sensations of fullness compared to liquid meal replacements alone.1 When dietary calories are drastically reduced to kick-start weight loss, it becomes crucial that satiation is maximized. Every calorie counts when sticking to a healthy diet.
A typical 16oz bottle of soda has around 200 calories; that’s approximately equal to six ounces of chicken breast. An average juice smoothie from a national chain has around 300 calories; that’s the equivalent to four whole eggs. Most beer has at least 150 calories, equivalent to five pieces of turkey bacon. As you can see, choosing the non-beverage option in each of these scenarios will not only provide more nutritional value, but will also help you feel satiated.
There are several drinks that also tout themselves as diet or zero-calorie options. These drinks have a similar taste but are sugarless. Once sugar is removed, artificial sweeteners are often incorporated into the new drink for taste purposes. These added ingredients mimic the taste of sugar without the added calories.
There is controversy surrounding these sweeteners due to their potential side effects.
Studies have shown body weight, fat mass, and blood pressure may all be negatively affected by the consumption of sweeteners. Two of the most commonly added artificial sweeteners are aspartame and saccharin.2 Some research has indicated that with sweeteners such as aspartame, sucralose, and saccharin, there’s a potential risk of adverse metabolic effects and type 2 diabetes.3 Monitor your intake of artificial sweeteners as they are often used in zero-calorie drinks.
Try to pick natural, non-processed drink choices that contain minimal artificial sweeteners to be safe.
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Losing weight doesn’t have to mean sacrificing all beverage-based enjoyment. There are plenty of lower calorie, healthy options that can satisfy your taste buds and battle the bulge.
Green tea contains valuable antioxidants that supercharge weight loss benefits—extract from green tea is one of the most common ingredients added to fat burning supplements. Tea leaves contain many antioxidants such as catechins, which may help decrease body weight.4 In research on people drinking green tea along with caffeine, they lost an average of 0.2kg – 3.5kg compared to the control group.5
Matcha is a Japanese green tea with higher concentrations of catechins.6 It contains up to 137x the amount of catechins compared to standard green tea; this higher dose has the potential to further enhance fat oxidation.Caffeine, also in many green teas, may also help support weight loss.7 In one study, people who were able to maintain weight loss consumed more caffeine.8
So, if you’re feeling “hangry,” brew yourself a healthy green tea to help you stay on track.
Another type of tea, black tea, may help reduce body weight. Black tea contains polyphenols, which are micronutrients from plant-based foods. Mounting evidence suggests these antioxidants may help prevent obesity.9
The polyphenols in black tea promote weight loss through calorie reduction, increased fat breakdown, and increasing friendly gut bacteria.9 Who would have thought the humble cup of tea could be a health drink?
Coffee is synonymous with caffeine. Caffeine is the most widely-used nootropic in the world, with millions using coffee as a way to increase energy and potentially increase productivity. At one point people believed coffee was linked to heart disease and high blood pressure, but in fact recent studies have suggested coffee may actually help prevent chronic diseases such as type 2 diabetes and liver disease.10
Coffee may also have positive metabolic effects for both obese individuals and people of healthy weight.
Coffee can boost metabolism. A study found metabolic rate increased significantly three hours after drinking coffee. Furthermore, fat oxidation improved after consumption compared to a control group.11
Not only does coffee help with weight loss, it also may help with weight maintenance. Studies have shown caffeine users are able to better maintain weight loss.8
Coffee can also reduce energy intake as an appetite suppressant.12 One study suggests overweight adults who drank coffee were more likely to consume fewer calories. As a result energy expenditure is reduced.
Water—the Earth is made up of it, your body is made up of it, you need it to survive. Puzzlingly, most people do not get the recommended daily amount. Drinking adequate amounts of water will improve overall health.
Besides the health benefits of proper hydration, water can also help with weight loss. Many people mistake thirst for hunger. There’s a chance you may be overeating if not properly hydrated.
A study performed on overweight adults found those drinking seventeen ounces of water before a meal lost 44% more weight compared to a control group.13 Having a glass of water before each meal can help control appetite resulting in fewer consumed calories.
Drinking water can also increase resting energy expenditure (REE).14 REE is the amount of calories consumed at rest over the course of a day. In a study performed on overweight children, REE was increased up to 25% for around 40 minutes after the drink. Consuming the daily recommended amount of water may result in weight loss due to increased expenditure. The results may be true in adults as well.
Some people think drinking regular old water is boring. If you need to spice it up a bit, try adding mint leaves or citrus to hot water or cold water to give it a flavor boost.
Out of the Box Options
Outside of those everyday drinks, there’s a group of less common beverage options for potential weight loss.
Apple Cider Vinegar
Apple cider vinegar probably hides out in your condiments cupboard, but you maybe should bring it out more often. Emerging science suggests that it could be a great extra addition to your weight loss regime. It contains acetic acid, a compound linked to decreased belly fat and reduced accumulation of fat in the liver. In a study performed on rats, apple cider vinegar helped prevent obesity in those with type 2 diabetes.15 In another animal study, it also reduced body weight in obese mice.16
The research on apple cider vinegar performed in humans is limited, but some research suggests it may improve metabolic health in humans.17,18 Consuming two tablespoons of ACV per day resulted in decreased body weight, waist circumference, and body fat compared to a control group.19
Drinking apple cider vinegar on an empty stomach may help improve digestion; consuming it after meals may improve insulin sensitivity and help lower blood sugar levels.20
The versatility of apple cider vinegar makes it a valuable tool for overall wellness.
You may think athletes are the only ones who need to supplement with electrolytes, but everyone needs them to function properly. Drinking enough electrolytes is important to maintain proper fluid balance throughout the body. Sports drinks often have added electrolytes to counteract their loss in sweat as you workout. Unfortunately, many of these products contain high sugar contents, making them calorically dense. Every calorie counts on a diet. Luckily today, there are low-calorie electrolyte drink options available to provide proper electrolyte balance.
Staying properly hydrated is essential for overall health, and is important for weight loss.
While it seems counterintuitive, the body may retain extra water if not properly hydrated. This water weight can add extra pounds on the scale.
No secret here: consuming whole vegetables maximizes nutrient intake. But preparing vegetables takes time—something on which many of us are short.
If you are on the move, vegetable juice is a convenient shortcut to make sure you eat those greens and get plenty of micronutrients. Unless you are a rabbit, eating several cups of spinach, broccoli, carrots, and kale in one sitting is hard. Instead, simply grab a blender and combine the ingredients into one beverage. Easy.
People tend to overcomplicate juicing by adding obscure ingredients together. Make things simple with this easy to follow recipe:
- 2 cups of spinach
- 4 stalks of celery
- Handful of kale
- 1 cup of blueberries
- Lemon juice to taste
An easy-to-follow. go-to recipe will help meet daily dietary needs, while still being low in calories.
Low Calorie Pre-Workout Drinks
Combining weight loss, dieting and working out may be a difficult balance for many people. They ask: don’t I have to increase my calorie intake to fuel my workouts?
Actually, it’s not essential to eat before working out, and doing some exercise while fasted or in a carb-depleted state can actually increase endurance adaptations.21 When carbohydrate stores are depleted, the body turns to fat as fuel, especially for lower intensity, aerobic exercise. That said, carbs are usually needed to fuel more intense workouts with a high anaerobic component; it can take a while for the body to fat adapt and become efficient at using fat rather than carbs.
Most people are not fat-adapted and tend to workout at a relatively high intensity. In these situations, carbs are generally the body’s workout fuel; having a small amount of carbs pre-workout can protect the quality of your workout, which is important even for individuals on a set diet plan. Just make sure you take into account the amount of energy you need for the workout before you choose your pre-session drink.
Many pre-workout drinks contain a high amount of sugar and carbs to get people pumped and feeling energetic.
For the calorie conscious gym-goer there are several pre-workout drink options containing little to no calories. The bad news is many contain other active ingredients such as beta alanine, tyrosine, and taurine, which supposedly boost your workout, but in reality the evidence for their impact is largely lacking.
What’s more, these extra ingredients often come as part of a proprietary blend, meaning the manufacturer provides little information as to the exact amount of each ingredient included. People should be concerned about putting unknown chemicals into their body in random quantities. It’s nice to know what you are putting in your body.
Instead of consuming pre-workout beverages with a laundry list of ingredients, choose one with fewer additives. Caffeine can be useful during workouts as it provides an extra boost of energy, especially on diet-days where you feel like you lack energy. Sprint, HVMN’s nootropic for energy and focus, has caffeine to help fuel your hardest workouts. And you won’t be spilling coffee and burning yourself as you dash between work and the gym.
For most people 100mg – 200mg of caffeine is sufficient to power through a workout.
Low Calorie Post-Workout Drinks
When sticking to a diet plan, it’s important to properly refuel after intense training sessions. Without proper post-workout fuel, recovery time will be prolonged and strength / endurance adaptations may not be fully realized.
Consuming protein post-workout is one way to maximize your gains. It’s often not possible to rustle up a protein rich meal in the few hours after your gym session; in this case, supplementation is a convenient alternative.
Taking a drink that is rich in protein not only enhances muscle protein synthesis, but also can be satiating as well.
Increasing evidence has shown that whey protein may increase fullness through a satiety-inducing hormone release.22 Casein and pea proteins in particular have also been shown to have a promising effect on reducing short term food intake.23 Having a protein shake prior to a meal can help prevent overeating leading to better weight loss results.24 Just make sure you account for the extra calories from the shake!
There is evidence that having a protein shake prior to sleep may improve protein synthesis, morning metabolism, and overall satiety.24
Working out should go hand-in-hand with a proper diet plan to maximize weight loss and improve body composition. Consuming adequate protein will not only maximize your workouts, but may prevent overeating as well.
If you are searching for the extra boost to your performance or simply want to maximize your workout, try HVMN Ketone, the world’s first ketone ester drink. Taken 30 minutes prior to workout, it can elevate levels of the ketone fuel source, beta-hydroxybutyrate (BHB). Having the extra ketone fuel can help improve cognitive and endurance performance.25What’s more, it only contains 120 calories (all from ketones).
In tests performed on elite cyclists, those who used HVMN Ketone performed 2% – 3% better, cycling 400m further in a 30-minute time trial.25 Whether you are striving to be among the most elite athletes on earth or are simply looking for an edge in the gym, HVMN Ketone will be there to push you across the finish line.
For recovery, drinking HVMN Ketone plus a post-workout drink activates pathways that trigger muscle protein regeneration, 2.5x more than a normal carb and protein post-workout drink.26,27 This could help athletes to maintain and build lean muscle mass after exercise. If you are on a calorie restricted diet, this may help maintain muscle mass while in a catabolic state.
Not only will HVMN Ketone power you through a workout, it may help curb appetite, lowering levels of hormones associated with hunger.28
HVMN Ketone is an exogenous ketone source that can impact on endurance performance and recovery.
Liquid Meal Replacements
Liquid meal replacements have been popular in America for decades. The idea of meal replacements is simple: take out the hassle of cooking and drink your breakfast, lunch, or dinner. The good news—these products tend to be lower in calories than a normal meal and generally have a well-rounded macronutrient profile. They also are often fortified with extra vitamins and minerals.
While these meal replacements may help you stick to daily caloric goals, they tend to lack the satiating properties associated with whole foods. A normal meal replacement shake has approximately 200 calories and 20 grams of protein. Instead of drinking a shake, you could have a small chicken breast with a side of veggies.
In a study performed on liquid versus solid meal replacements, those on liquid meal replacements had greater weight gain over a six month period.29 These studies suggest liquid meal replacements should not be substitutes for solid meals, but rather should complement an existing whole food diet.
Liquid Cleanses or Detoxes
Detox diets have become popular over the years due to promises of fast weight loss results.
The reasons these type of drinks work in the short term are two fold. One, if you are on a strict liquid cleanse, you’re consuming far fewer calories daily than recommended. This can be considered the most extreme form of crash dieting.
The other reason cleanses work is their laxative powers. They are designed to make people lose water weight and gut fiber weight as opposed to true fat loss. For someone looking for long term results, we do not recommend these types of cleanses.
Drinks to Avoid
Many drinks will contain far more calories than you may realize. These drinks should be avoided as they are high in calories, carbs, and added sugar.
- Soda: one 12-ounce soda will contain a minimum of 140 calories
- Energy drinks: popular brands of energy drinks contain high amounts of added sugars along with controversial ingredients such as taurine, tyrosine, and beta alanine
- Fruit juice: once considered a health food staple, most fruit juices today contain high amounts of added sugars. These processed drinks lack the fiber and nutrition associated with real fruit. They also can trigger more of a blood sugar spike compared to the real thing.
- Alcohol: generally alcohol is not diet-friendly. A full-flavored beer or modest size glass of wine will contain 140 – 200 calories. Spirits are slightly less in caloric value, but become more calorically dense when combined with mixers. If you do choose to drink spirits, mix them with a zero-calorie seltzer water to minimize calories.
- Coffee flavorings: adding sweet creamers, syrups and sugar to coffee drinks can rack up calories in a hurry. To avoid this drink, black coffee or only add heavy cream. Or you can add HVMN’s MCT Oil Powder for healthy, filling fats that provide all-day energy.
Drinking these beverages can increase caloric intake in a hurry. In order to avoid this, simply stick to the low or no calorie beverages we have suggested.
Drinking Your Way to Success
Dieting is hard enough already. Don’t make it even more difficult by sabotaging yourself with highly-caloric drinks.
Stick to the basics. And remember to always check nutrition labels to see if your favorite drinks are laden with added sugars (hint: they probably are). Remember not to count calories, make every calorie count.
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