PART 1: Stop Drinking Calories!
THE BIG PICTURE
When we say “body weight” and “weight loss”, we are usually talking about fat mass and decreasing it. Muscle and other tissues make up a lot of our weight also, but few people are trying to “lose muscle mass”! Bodyfat is generally stored when we eat more food than we need, storing extra calories in our fat tissue for the next famine. The problem, of course, is that in modern, Westernized countries, there is no famine. Instead we have near-constant opportunities to feast. In this article series I’ll be laying out some no-nonsense approaches to reducing calories and increasing nutrients in the food we eat. This strategy, along with appropriate exercise habits and other healthy habits, is the key to maintaining a healthy amount of fat in our bodies.
Stop drinking calories! Liquid calories tend to increase your total calories (consumed energy) per day, but, because they are mostly nutrient-poor, they decrease your daily nutrient intake. This means a tendency toward fat-gain and decreased health.
Examples of Liquid Calories:
-Juice, even fresh
-Milk, dairy or nondairy
-Energy Drinks and soda pop, even sugar-free
-Tea, especially green/white/black
-Vegetable Juice, especially that made from green vegetables (carrot juice is still very high in sugar and lower in nutrients than green vegetable juice)
-Whole Food Smoothies, especially those containing both fruits and vegetables
Juice, usually made from fruit or carrots, is essentially sugar water with a small amount of some vitamins. So many nutrients, including fiber, are lost when juicing fruits, that the end product can hardly be considered healthy, even when fresh-squeezed. Eat fruit instead!
Milk is also a low-nutrient food. While most milks (nondairy included) are high in calcium and Vitamin D, these are only two nutrients, and there are thousands of nutrients that we should be getting in our food. Also, milks are somewhat high in sugar, and non-skim dairy milk (along with coconut milk) is high in saturated fat and further increases your calories per day without significantly increasing your nutrients per day.
Alcohol is a low-nutrient food. Some benefits are conferred from moderate alcohol consumption (1-2 drinks per day), but these benefits might be outweighed by simply eating another small salad per day instead of drinking alcohol. If you are physically quite active, 1 alcoholic drink per day is probably fine.
Energy Drinks are not healthy. They are generally made out of carbonated water and sugar with a handful of vitamins and stimulants thrown in. Caffeinating oneself frequently as a lifestyle choice is a questionable practice on its own. But regularly consuming energy drinks is like regularly drinking soda pop, also called liquid candy.
What about sodas and energy drinks that are sugar-free?
Artificial sweeteners are linked to a slight increase in body weight. Why? The prevailing theory is that consuming fake sugar confuses your body’s ability to sense when real sugar is being eaten. That means that when you do eat real sugar, like from some orange slices, your body is less-well equipped to deal with these sugars since it believes they are fake sugars. Personally, I consume drinks with real sugar those few times per year when I splurge on super sweet beverages.
HEALTHY REPLACEMENT DRINKS
Tea, from the tea tree (different than the “tea tree” plant from which “tea tree oil” is obtained), is green, white, or black, depending on how much the leaves are processed after harvest. All three are full of nutrients, free of calories, and will benefit your health. Black has the most caffeine, green the least.
Water and carbonated water is healthy stuff. Drink in abundance! Actually, a sign that you are well-hydrated (but not over-hydrated) is having urine that is slightly yellow, but mostly clear.
Vegetable Juice, especially that made from green vegetables, is very good for your health. Low in sugar but very high in nutrients, green vegetable juice is a great addition for anyone. Watch out for vegetable juice that is based on celery or cucumber, since this is lower in nutrients than juice made primarily from vegetables like romaine, kale, broccoli, and spinach.
Whole Food Smoothies contain all the stuff that the whole food has, it’s just mixed and “pre-chewed” for your enjoyment. As long as you drink them somewhat close to when they are made (try 10-20 minutes), drinking whole food smoothies can be a super healthy way to go. Try mixing fruits and green leaves. You’d be surprised how many leaves (like spinach or romaine) you can add before you taste them. It’s like a fruit salad meets a green salad, and super convenient. You can also add other flavors by throwing in some cinnamon, unprocessed cocoa powder, ginger, etc.
What About Athletes?
Athletes have higher–sometimes much higher–calorie needs, and liquid calories can be a good way to get those additional calories. It’s still smart to get calories from nutrient-dense foods though, since the body needs more nutrients to repair from increased physical activity. I recommend that athletes consume 1 or 2 calorie-dense smoothies per day that include lots of fruits, green leaves, and nut butter, like the one below:
2 bananas, 3 cups mixed greens, 1 cup blueberries, lots of cinnamon, whole food hemp protein powder, 3 TBSP peanut butter, water. Blend until smooth. Makes about 4 cups.
DISCLAIMER: The author is neither a nutritionist nor registered dietician. Information contained herein was gathered from many sources and can be found in the literature of such organizations as the World Health Organization, the American Dietetics Association, the American Council on Exercise, National Institutes of Health, and others. Consult with a physician before making changes to your diet or exercise programs.
For more about the Author, Sebastian Grubb visit: SebastianGrubb.com