It depends on your goal.

If you’re looking to gain weight, drinking calories is a great way to consume additional calories with meals which will help you to put on more scale pounds.  Combine it with some heavy lifting and it will help you to build more muscle faster.

If you’re looking to lose weight, drinking calories is a definite no for you and drinking anything, but water or it’s derivatives is pretty much a not worth it.

For (1), most caloric containing beverages lack fiber.  Fiber slows digestion.

(2), Most caloric containing beverages (alcohol, soda, juice, smoothees, energy drinks and shakes) contain high amounts of maltose, sucrose (sugar), fructose (fruit) and lactose (dairy). 1

Sugar makes you feel good in the moment, cures your short term lethargy and satisfies your hunger, but it also causes your pancreas to release insulin because of your high blood glucose (sugar in the blood), which causes you to crash and crave more food.  This is a lose-lose cycle of snacking & overeating.  Eliminate this cycle and you’re on your way to breaking the habit

(3) Eating WHOLE food is a process.

You have to chew it & mix it with saliva to break it down, just so you can swallow it.  It then mixes in your stomach, with your digestive acids / enzymes to break it down even further from a whole food and turn it into a liquid.  Then and only then can it start to be absorbed.  If there is fiber and / or fat in the food, it will take even longer to digest.  This slow digestion causes a slow and prolonged release of glucose into your blood stream.  This slow & steady release of blood glucose reduces your chances of insulin being released and storing your blood glucose and causing you to feel hungry later. 1

(4) Drinking calories is easier to over consume because it takes longer for you to gain a feeling of fullness. 1,2

Put a bunch of rocks in a bucket and you’ll see a lot of spaces.  The bucket is full though.  The rocks represent your whole foods.  Take the same bucket and fill it with a liquid.  The bucket is also full, but there are no spaces.  If it’s a calorie containing beverage, this is bad because you’ll have over consumed before you even felt content; it will digest rapidly compared to whole foods, which leads to the vicious cycle of spiked blood sugar, insulin release, crashing, hunger and eating again. 1,2

Of course you can use this knowledge to your advantage.  If you want to fill up your stomach so you don’t overeat, drink a lot of water before your meal.  This will create fullness. 1

If you want to take it a step further, add some fiber to the water.  Dr. Arthur Agatston, the author of The South Beach Diet suggested taking Pysllium Husk, more commonly known as Metamucil.1

And if you really want to kick butt, Dr. Halton & Dr. Berardi, both suggest consuming a protein, fat & carb in there books, The Weight Loss Triad and Precision Nutrition.

For the skinny, hard gaining ectomorphs out there.  Drinking calories and lifting heavy weights may be a good way for you to pack on some extra pounds.  Adding starches to every meal is another.3

Either way, if you’re serious about changing your body, improving your performance and reducing your disease risk (or improving your health profile), take some action.  Read a book, watch a dvd, go to a conference, join a group and use what you learn.  Hire a coach, personal trainer, nutritionist and get expert guidance, individualization and accountability.

Yours living the active life,

Mike Alves

1.  Agatson, Dr. Arthur.  2003.  The South Beach Diet.  Rodale.  pgs 55-58 and pg 64.

2.  Halton, Dr. Thomas.  2008.  The Weight Loss Triad.  Boston, MA.  Fitness Plus. Pgs 13-15.

3.  Berardi, Dr. John.  2006.  “Diet Guide”.  Precision Nutrition.  2nd ed.  Anthony Malan York.  Science Link, Inc.  pgs 7-19.

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