Watch what you drink

Are you exercising, watching what you eat and still packing on fat? Well, the problem might not be what you are eating, but what you are drinking. Beverages have all sorts of hidden calories you may not be aware of. Hopefully this will shed light on the subject.

To begin with, let’s talk about juices. We all grew up drinking apple, orange and grape juice. You can find juice for just about any fruit out there. We have always heard that they are a great source of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. It’s made from fruit; it’s got to be healthy! It is healthy, but does it help us lose fat? No! While juices have lots of good things in them, they also have a ton of sugar. Yes, it may be “natural” sugar, but your body still treats it as sugar. It basically turns straight into fat. So if our goal is to lose body fat, starting your day off with an 8-ounce glass of O.J. (which has more calories and sugar than a Coke) is probably not the best idea.

I think it is pretty safe to assume nobody would make the argument that soda is “good” for you, but a lot of people don’t think it is really that bad. The trouble with soda is that it is nothing but sugar. You don’t get any vitamins, minerals or anything that would be considered healthful. Sodas are a perfect example of empty calories. To put things in perspective, it is estimated that if the average American stopped drinking sugared sodas, they would lose 10 pounds in one year — without doing any exercise!

While it may seem like common sense that sugared sodas can add pounds, you may be surprised to learn that sports drinks can do the same. Sports drinks can serve a very good role in recovery from exercise, but they too contain a lot of sugar. If you drink these while you work out, you should know that they are not necessary unless you are working out for at least a full hour. Sports drinks should be used only when you are doing very long, intense workouts. If you are just doing 30 minutes on the treadmill, stick to water.

Everybody knows that excessive alcohol is bad for your health. Research indicates that a small amount may help prevent heart attacks, but so does lowering your body-fat level. Considering the latter, alcohol is metabolized very quickly by your body and stored as fat. These drinks can be packed with calories and quickly add inches. Here are a few examples:

6 ounces red wine = 130 calories 12 ounces beer = 146 calories 1.5 ounces (a shot) of any 80-proof liquor = 100 calories Gin and tonic = 178 calories Margarita = 246 calories

So how do juices, soda and alcohol really do damage to the waistline? The biggest problem is that they are liquids. When you drink something, it does not fill you up like a meal does. You may also still be thirsty, so you keep on drinking and, before you know it, you may have added 300 calories to your meal! My philosophy is, whenever possible, I would rather eat my calories than drink them.

How can you use this information to help reduce your waistline? Simple: Just make better choices. If you normally have juice in the morning, look for an alternative or dilute it with club soda. If you enjoy an after-dinner drink, limit them to two nights per week or just have one. Remember, losing fat is not about total deprivation: It comes down to making better choices than you were before!

Jared Carter, CSCS, is the owner of Move Forward Fitness Personal Training Studio, 1616 Walnut St. Visit www.moveforwardfitness.com or reach him at (215) 399-3541 or [email protected]