What is Wrong with Drinking Your Calories?

Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen
Frothing milk for a latte.
Frothing milk for a latte.

Imagine taking your favorite candy bar, sticking it in a blender and then drinking the contents. Now picture doing that maybe three to four times a day, or possibly more often. Most standard size candy bars actually have only slightly more calories than do your favorite can of soda, and they usually have fewer calories than do your drinks from your preferred coffee retailer. A large mocha for instance, can contain about 100-200 calories more than a single candy bar.

Much of the corn grown in the United States goes toward making high fructose corn syrup.
Much of the corn grown in the United States goes toward making high fructose corn syrup.

The above example should give you some sense of why drinking your calories as in the consumption of sodas, smoothies, sweetened coffees and most alcoholic beverages may not be such a terrific idea. Most of us wouldn’t consider drinking three to four candy bars a day, but we may be getting the caloric equivalent when we choose sweetened beverages, especially when we consume them often. Moreover, while a candy bar might provide some short-term satisfaction, drinking your calories seldom provides much in the way of a feeling of fullness. People may think nothing of downing several sodas or a vente mocha at a single sitting, but they also often combine this with eating, adding a caloric punch to a meal that will easily add inches to your waistline.

Alcohol has a high calorie count.
Alcohol has a high calorie count.

Part of the problem with drinking your calories is that it’s much harder to keep track of the calories you consume on a daily basis. If you do tabulate the consumption of three to four sodas a day, you’ve added approximately 450 to 600 calories to your diet. Two large mochas a day can cost you an extra 400-800 calories, even if you order them with nonfat milk.

Unsweetened green tea does not contain any calories and is considered a healthy beverage.
Unsweetened green tea does not contain any calories and is considered a healthy beverage.

Another issue with drinking your calories is the sweeteners used in many sodas, especially high fructose corn syrup. High fructose corn syrup is processed by the body in a slightly different way than white sugar, and may cause greater fat storage. It may also actually make you feel less full, since it may not fully stimulate the body’s insulin production. So people who consume this sweetener may be more prone to overeat when they pair soda and other foods together. Many believe that the rising levels of obesity in numerous Western countries is directly tied to the use of high fructose corn syrup in a number of products, though there are clearly other factors at work too.

Drinking water with lemon or lemon juice adds taste without calories.
Drinking water with lemon or lemon juice adds taste without calories.

So how can you avoid drinking your calories? Start by consuming enough water a day to truly address your body’s hydration needs. Most adults need between eight to ten glasses of water a day, and if you don’t drink this much, consider aiming for this as a goal. Often, people are amazed that their desire for other drinks diminishes significantly when they actually consume enough water. You also may find that consumption of enough water per day makes you less hungry.

Mixed alcoholic drinks are especially high in calories.
Mixed alcoholic drinks are especially high in calories.

Love those coffee drinks? Consider downgrading from mochas to cappuccinos or non-fat lattes. A nonfat latte will offer you some calories in the form of milk and some protein, without the fat and sugar that your body doesn’t really need. Even if you add a teaspoon of sugar (approximately 16 calories) you’ll still be consuming far less in calories than you would by ordering a sweetened drink.

Unsweetened cocoa powder, which is low in calories, can be used as a substitute for higher calorie options like chocolate syrup.
Unsweetened cocoa powder, which is low in calories, can be used as a substitute for higher calorie options like chocolate syrup.

If you’re drinking your calories in the form of smoothies, consider making your own smoothies at home. Stick to nonfat unsweetened yogurt rather than the frozen sugary stuff, and add a banana for plenty of sweet taste. A little protein powder can also make these drinks much higher in nutritional value, making them more like a meal than a beverage.

Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen

Tricia has a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and has been a frequent contributor for many years. She is especially passionate about reading and writing, although her other interests include medicine, art, film, history, politics, ethics, and religion. Tricia lives in Northern California and is currently working on her first novel.

Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen

Tricia has a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and has been a frequent contributor for many years. She is especially passionate about reading and writing, although her other interests include medicine, art, film, history, politics, ethics, and religion. Tricia lives in Northern California and is currently working on her first novel.

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Discussion Comments

irontoenail

@umbra21 - Calories are the same whether they come from drinks or from food. People should make sure they have enough nutrition and attempt to stay within a certain limit for calories (if they want to) and aside from that it doesn't really matter.

There are low calorie alcohol drinks if someone is really attached to drinking and wants to watch their calories.

umbra21

@Fa5t3r - I only really drink soda on special occasions these days. I have noticed that when I do drink it I end up feeling bad later on in the day and I'm sure it's because of the artificial sugar (or the sugar rush if I try drinking normal soda).

I do like having a beer occasionally, but I've seen all my uncles grow beer bellies over the years and I do not want to go that way. When you think about the fact that many people think nothing of drinking four or five beers a night (a quarter of the calories they would usually have per day) then you can see where the weight might come from.

I'd much rather eat something delicious like bacon or cheese and earn my calories that way, than get them all at once in a drinking session I'm hardly going to remember.

Fa5t3r

I don't think there's anything wrong with occasionally having a soda, as long as you don't overdo it. I think the problem is that a lot of people think of it as the same as drinking water and that there aren't that many calories in drinks, particularly drinks like soda and coffee.

But a huge soda or a fancy coffee with lots of sugar and cream can have massive amounts of calories and, what is worse, they don't really fill you up as much as eating solid food, so you end up eating more on top of that.

Low calorie drinks can help, but ideally people would drink more water.

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    • Frothing milk for a latte.
      Frothing milk for a latte.
    • Much of the corn grown in the United States goes toward making high fructose corn syrup.
      Much of the corn grown in the United States goes toward making high fructose corn syrup.
    • Alcohol has a high calorie count.
      Alcohol has a high calorie count.
    • Unsweetened green tea does not contain any calories and is considered a healthy beverage.
      Unsweetened green tea does not contain any calories and is considered a healthy beverage.
    • Drinking water with lemon or lemon juice adds taste without calories.
      Drinking water with lemon or lemon juice adds taste without calories.
    • Mixed alcoholic drinks are especially high in calories.
      Mixed alcoholic drinks are especially high in calories.
    • Unsweetened cocoa powder, which is low in calories, can be used as a substitute for higher calorie options like chocolate syrup.
      Unsweetened cocoa powder, which is low in calories, can be used as a substitute for higher calorie options like chocolate syrup.
    • Those who drink coffee outside the home should consider switching from mochas to cappuccinos or non-fat lattes.
      Those who drink coffee outside the home should consider switching from mochas to cappuccinos or non-fat lattes.
    • Protein powder can improve the nutritional value of a drink.
      Protein powder can improve the nutritional value of a drink.
    • Calories from social drinking can quickly add up when people drink with their friends over the course of several hours.
      Calories from social drinking can quickly add up when people drink with their friends over the course of several hours.
    • A green smoothie may feature avocado, kale, or other nutrient-packed green vegetables.
      A green smoothie may feature avocado, kale, or other nutrient-packed green vegetables.
    • Smoothies made from an ice cream shop may be high in calories.
      Smoothies made from an ice cream shop may be high in calories.
    • Lattes, popular during the winter, are high in calories.
      Lattes, popular during the winter, are high in calories.
    • Tap water is low in calories.
      Tap water is low in calories.