Yes, they taste good. And diet sodas are zero calorie, so what’s the problem? Unfortunately, these seemingly harmless treats act in many other ways to actually increase your stomach fat. And who wants that?
But how exactly do diet sodas make you fat? What should I be drinking instead? Read on to get the answers to these questions and more!
THEY SLOW YOUR METABOLISM
The first way that diet sodas cause weight gain is by slowing down your metabolism. A speedy metabolism is highly effective at not only losing weight, but keeping it off as it allows your body to burn more calories naturally. Slow it down, and you’ll start storing fat.
How does it do that? Diet sodas are highly processed foods, as are most foods that are zero calorie. This means that they’re essentially already digested for your body, so the normal “firing up” of your body’s fat burning engines doesn’t happen with these types of foods.
That means your body for lack of a better description stays in sleep mode, and the metabolism boost your body normally gets from breaking down the foods (and drinks) you eat never happens. That’s when you start packing on the fat, or never burning it in the first place — scary!
THEY TURN ON YOUR “FAT GENES”
Diet sodas won’t just slow your metabolism, they also turn on your “fat genes” by causing inflammation. Well, okay, but what’s so bad about that exactly? Weight gain, that’s what!
The chemicals found in diet sodas act as irritants to your body. This makes it harder for you to absorb the nutrients in your food, and your body seeks to compensate for that by calling in its natural defenses, which in turn creates inflammation.
THEY INCREASE YOUR STOMACH FAT
The horrible end result of this inflammation is that your fat genes are turned on, which leads to increases in new belly fat, and makes it much tougher for you to lose any existing fat around your belly.
One study followed people for 9 years and found that those who drank diet soda daily on average increased their waist size by 4 times the amount of those who didn’t drink it at all (occasional drinkers fell in the middle).
And perhaps the most worrying thing about these increases in belly fat (aka visceral fat) is that it’s linked to higher levels of cardiovascular disease and Type 2 diabetes.
THEY TRIGGER YOUR SWEET TOOTH
Hold on, we’re not done yet — drinking diet soda will also make it harder for you to avoid sweets! Experts believe that artificial sweeteners like aspartame (commonly found in zero calorie sodas) trigger the sweetness receptors in your brain.
This causes your body to prepare itself for a flood of calories that never comes. Despite these calories never actually arriving, your body still craves them, which will make it extremely hard for you to say no to sweet treats that are packed with diet-killing calories.
SO WHAT SHOULD I DRINK?
There are many options! First, let me quickly cover two of our favorite options on this site, water and green tea, before getting into some new ones.
Weight loss is just one of the many benefits of drinking water. Studies have shown that those who drank two glasses of water before each of their daily meals lost an average of 9.48 pounds over just 12 weeks. Simply put, it fills you up and won’t cause other cravings.
Green tea is also amazing for weight loss. Drink a cup before each meal and you’ll see your resting metabolism rise by 4%, meaning your body burns around 100 calories more each day naturally. Even better, the rate at which your body burns fat will increase by 17%!
Coffee is an okay option, but only if you drink it black and only in small amounts (1 to 2 cups a day). The caffeine will have a small positive effect on your metabolism. Drinking too much, however, can increase stress and insomnia — both of which are linked to weight gain.
But there are great options that will satisfy your sweet tooth without any negative consequences! Let’s get into those…
HEALTHY ALTERNATIVES TO DIET SODA
If you’re looking for something to drink during or after exercise:
Coconut Water: Rich in electrolytes, potassium, and other nutrients, coconut water has gotten a lot of attention lately as a sports drink alternative. It’s fairly low calorie (45 cals/cup), but will raise your blood sugar levels, so be sure you’re getting plenty of protein in your diet to fight off hunger.
Nuun Tablets: This is a terrific option if you want the electrolyte benefits of coconut water without the possible increased hunger. Nuun will give you all the salt you need to replace that which is lost while exercising without any calories, carbs, or sweeteners.
If you’re looking for a healthy alternative to diet soda to drink throughout the day:
Lemon Water: It’s virtually zero calorie and easy to make yourself. The juice from 1 wedge of lemon is just 1 calorie, so sweeten to your heart’s content. You’ll also get an immune system boost and a nice dose of Vitamin C for your skin.
Mio: These seem to have blown up in popularity lately and with good reason. Easily transportable in your bag, these little flavored water enhancers let you choose your favorite fruit flavor without adding in sugar, carbs, sodium, or aspartame. There’s also a Mio Energy version that contains caffeine.
I hope this has given you more than a few options to keep your diet on track while still enjoying what you drink!