Liquid calories are just what their name implies, calories consumed through drinking them. Clients frequently ask me if liquid calories are bad, and I tell them what I often say, “It depends”.
If you’re drinking homemade protein shakes how I make them, filled with real vegetables and fruits, in addition to protein powder, than these drinks can be very healthy and filling, even if they’re 200 – 300 calories per shake. As long as you’re treating them like they’re a meal.
On the other hand, if you’re drinking processed fluids filled with sugars, unhealthy fats or those that have a large ingredient list, than they are probably very bad for you. These types of drinks should be limited.
It is important to understand that liquid calories are not processed in the body the same why that food calories are. They can often be more dangerous; here’s why.
Differences Between Liquid Versus Food Calories
- Liquid calories can sneak up on you because you often don’t think of them as calories. They can add up quickly to hundreds of extra calories being mindlessly consumed throughout the day. Considering an average meal is between 500 to 700 calories, and a Starbucks Frappuccino equates to over 500 calories, the scope of the problem is obvious!
- These calories don’t fill you up the same way. These calories are often nutrient poor, containing little or no fiber, protein, vitamins, or minerals. “Fluid calories do not hold strong satiety properties, don’t suppress hunger and don’t elicit compensatory dietary responses,” said Richard Mattes, M.P.H, R.D., a foods and nutrition professor at Purdue University. “When drinking fluid calories, people often end up eating more calories overall.”
- Liquid sugars can spike blood sugar more. Sugars consumed in liquid form are absorbed by our bodies quicker, which can lead to higher spikes in blood sugar and insulin. These constant spikes wreak havoc on our bodily systems and hault our ability to burn fat.
If you’d like some guidance about how you can best get started with cutting back on liquid calories, click here for a free consultation.
What Are Some Examples of Bad Liquid Calories?
Pop and Energy Drinks
One can of regular pop contains 10 teaspoons of sugar – the maximum amount of sugar we’re supposed to eat in a whole day! And don’t trick yourself into thinking that liquid energy drinks are any better. One bottle of Gatorade contains 8 teaspoons of sugar.
Many people are surprised to discover that diet pop isn’t any better for them. This pop is filled with sweeteners that often cause just as much damage, or even more than regular pops.
Pop in particular, offers no nutritional value, it just rots your teeth and gut!
Commercials tell us that freshly squeezed orange juice contains nothing but oranges, so it must be healthy for us right? WRONG! One cup of orange juice often contains more than 20 grams of sugar versus one orange that contains less than 9 grams of sugar.
The real issue I have with juice is that it provides you with all of the sugars and carbs of the natural fruit, but none of the fibre. Fibre is the thing that helps fill us up and feed our healthy gut bacteria. We can drink a ton of juice without ever feeling full.
Alcohol is made by fermenting & distilling natural starch and sugar. Calories from alcohol are ’empty calories’, they contain no nutritional value.
A standard 1.5oz drink (40% alcohol) is approximately 120 calories before even considering the mix that often adds 150 or more calories. A 5-ounce glass of wine (this is smaller than most glasses I see), is roughly 125 calories and a 12-ounce bottle of beer is over 150 calories. Drinking regularly adds up to too many calories, way too quickly!
And don’t forget the high-calorie snacks many of us eat when we’re drinking alcohol, attributing to the infamous “beer belly”. Pretty much the only time I ever contemplate eating poutine, is during a night of drinking out downtown.
When drinking alcohol, consuming one glass of water in between each alcoholic beverage is the way to go. This will not only slow your consumption down, but it will also keep you hydrated throughout the evening.
There are studies coming out all of the time about the health benefits of coffee. I’m a believer that coffee itself, isn’t all bad – it’s the stuff we add into it that makes it unhealthy.
A plain black coffee contains less than 10 calories, but did you know that a medium ‘Double Double’ contains 230 calories! All of those specialty flavoured lattes and cappuccinos are much worse.
Many types of beverages are packed with calories, sugars and fats – watch out!
3 Ways to Limit Liquid Calories
1. Track your daily beverage consumption.
Beverages can pack on the pounds without you even realizing it. A way to bring awareness to what you’re consuming in a day and help you understand more about why your weight loss may be stalled is tracking your food and drink consumption.
One of my clients, let’s call her Bobby, was working hard to get more active and eat more veggies. She should’ve been on track to meet her goals but the scale and her measurements weren’t moving. It didn’t make sense to either of us.
It wasn’t until she began tracking everything she put in her mouth, that we realized her challenge was with liquid calories. In Bobby’s case, as is the case with many of us, that extra glass of wine, or orange juice here and there added up in ways that impacted her progress negatively. Once we realized this was the problem, we took action to reduce these calories and Bobby successfully lost 2 inches around her waistline within weeks!
2. Drink More Water.
The one liquid we need to keep drinking is water. Our bodies are made up of over 50% water, so this fluid is critical to our health. It assists with digestion by breaking down food, aiding with nutrient absorption and helping eliminate waste from our bodies. This beneficial beverage helps us control our calorie intake by filling us up in a healthy way.
For optimal health, an average sized North American should consume approximately 2 litres of water daily. If you find it challenging to consumer this much, try one of these tips:
- Start your day with a glass. Consume a full glass of water before you even touch your coffee. Believe me when I say that water gives you more energy than coffee!
- Add natural flavours like lemon, lime, orange, cucumber or herbs to your water a couple of days a week to give you some variety in taste.
- Always have a fun looking plastic water bottle on your desk, and keep it full. Carry it around with you to all of your meetings. Make a game of trying to consume half the bottle during each meeting.
- Track it! Tracking your water intake may show you how far off you are from the 2 litres a day most of us should be getting. I track my water intake in my FitBit app.
3. Indulge once in a while.
I don’t believe in dieting. In fact, to stick with your healthy eating habits, I think it’s important to indulge in the calorie laden foods and beverages you love, once in a while.
The next time you’re about to treat yourself to a sugar and calorie-filled beverage, just ask yourself 2 questions:
- Is this drink worth the calories and sacrificing my goals for? You’ll be surprised that when you really think about it, some beverages just won’t be worth it to you. And if one is, maybe you’ll look to alter another habit to balance things out.
- How much of this beverage do I need to consume, to be happy? Maybe a 5-ounce glass of wine versus your usual 9-ounce glass will kick your craving. Or enjoying a cup of flavoured fruit tea versus adding honey will suffice.
The key here, is you should only feel the need to indulge occasionally, not daily. I like following the 80/20 rule when it comes to food and beverage consumption. Not indulging occasionally will lead you to eventual failure.
To Sum it up…Limit Unhealthy Liquid Calories
In summary, limit the processed liquid calories you consume to quickly and effectively reduce your caloric intake. Not only do these calories add up quickly without filling you up, but they can also wreak havoc on your health. Pop, energy drinks, juice, alcohol and specialty coffees are some of the worst liquid calories out there.
To limit your consumption, try tracking your daily beverage intake. Drink more water to satisfy your thirst and fill you up in a healthy way. Don’t avoid sugar filled drinks completely, purposefully indulge in them only once in a while.
If you’re having trouble getting started with this healthy habit, please connect with me for a free consultation. When you manage to cut back on liquid calories, I know you’ll notice a difference!