Getting down to your ideal racing weight may mean watching what you drink.
Recently I made a late night run to a fast food drive-through with my wife and a friend. (Hey, I’m human.) Our friend ordered some kind of burger and a medium drink. When the girl working behind the window handed me the drink I thought she had made a mistake. It was enormous.
“Is that a medium?” I asked. She just looked at me like I was stupid.
What’s really stupid is the fact that 20 percent of the calories in the average American’s diet now come from beverages. That’s one in five calories. Of all the supersizing that our diet has undergone over the past 30 years, our drinks appear to have been supersized the most.
That’s the bad news. The good news is that cutting calories out of our drinks is one of the easiest ways to cut calories from your overall diet. Drink calories do little to satisfy our appetites, so they are easier to do away with than extra calories we get from favorite foods. A recent study found that kids were more willing to give up sodas than to give up snacks or start exercising.
The first drinks you’ll want to give up are those that contain lots of sugar: sodas, energy drinks and the like. A 12-ounce can of cola contains 140 useless calories. Replace these with water or, if you must have sweetness, with diet soft drinks. I am no advocate of diet soft drinks, but compared to regular soft drinks they are the lesser of two evils.
Another common source of wasteful calories in drinks is caffeinated beverages such as lattes, café mochas and so forth. A venti (large) caffé latté from Starbucks contains a whopping 340 calories. These should be replaced with lightly or unsweetened coffee, non-fat lattes or tea. Remember, caffeine has no calories, so if it’s the caffeine that you’re really after, avoid getting it along with a whole bunch of calories from fat and sugar.
And then, of course, there are alcoholic beverages. In moderate amounts, alcoholic beverages, and wine in particular, are healthy. And in fact, in moderate amounts, alcoholic beverages might even prevent weight gain. A 13-year epidemiological study published in the Archives of Internal Medicine reported that women who drank moderately were less likely to become overweight than non-drinkers. However, the reason is not clear.
The calories in alcoholic beverages add up quickly, though, so keep your tippling habit to one or two drinks a day.
What about fruit juice? So-called fruit juices with added sugar should be lumped together with other sweetened beverages and eliminated accordingly. One hundred percent fruit juices are OK. Research has shown no link between fruit juice consumption and obesity or diabetes.
Your efforts to reduce beverage calories need not be all or nothing. If you have a heavy soda habit, you can promote weight loss by cutting down from, say, four cans a day to one. If black coffee is an acquired taste you will never acquire, you can still reduce your caloric intake by 180 calories per day by replacing that Starbucks venti caffé latté with a grande (medium) made with nonfat milk.
And if you limit your alcohol consumption to one or two drinks a day, you can treat yourself to the occasional exception, like when you’re celebrating a great race performance that you achieved in part because you cut the wasteful drinks calories from your diet and got leaner.
Matt Fitzgerald is the author of “Racing Weight: How to Get Lean for Peak Performance.”