What You Should—And Should Not—Drink
Matt Fitzgerald / June 25, 2014
You know what to drink during your workouts. But how about the rest of the day?
There’s plenty of information available to runners about what to drink during and immediately after workouts. A lot less attention is paid to setting guidelines for what to drink during the rest of the day. So, what should you drink — and not drink?
I don’t believe in creating dietary taboos — lists of foods you should never consume. And I see no more reason to ban specific beverages than particular foods. However, some drinks are clearly better choices than others. The healthiest and most exercise-supportive options may be consumed liberally while the least healthy should have a very small place in your diet, if any.
Here are 10 popular drink choices, appearing in descending order of how much you should consume.
While there are no prohibited beverages there is one must-have beverage, and that is, of course, water. While you can get the water you need from other beverages and from fruits and vegetables, the best source is plain water. Photo: www.shutterstock.com
Tea provides water for hydration plus healthy antioxidants and caffeine, which has proven benefits ranging from improved mood state to enhanced exercise performance. Regular tea drinkers have a significantly lower risk of heart disease than the general population, thanks to the polyphenols in tea. Photo: www.shutterstock.com
Fruit juice is controversial. Some argue that even 100 percent fruit juices are bad because they are high in sugar. Others argue that fruit juices are good because they are natural and full of vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients. I lean toward siding with the defenders of fruit juice. There is no evidence that 100 percent fruit juice is associated with weight gain. But because fruit juice provides a lot of calories without a lot of satiety, it’s best to drink it in moderation — say, two glasses a day or less. Photo: www.shutterstock.com
Google the phrase “coffee study” and you will be presented with many links to stories about studies demonstrating health benefits of drinking coffee, from lower risk of type 2 diabetes to increased longevity. Coffee is good for you. Still, those who drink it in very large amounts often become dependent and cannot maintain alertness and productivity without it, so “moderation” is the watchword. Consider three cups a day an upper limit. Photo: www.shutterstock.com
Diet Soft Drinks
Sugar-free or “diet” soft drinks are better than regular soft drinks because they have no sugar and no calories. However, they are worse than the previous beverages in this list because they contain artificial ingredients whose potential long-term health effects are unknown and because diet soft drink consumers are just as likely to be overweight as regular soft drink consumers. Photo: www.shutterstock.com
Wine, Beer, Etc.
Wine is often praised for the healthfulness of its antioxidants, but its alcohol is also good for you. That’s why studies have shown that regular moderate alcohol consumption provides health benefits such as reduced heart disease risk, regardless of the type of alcohol consumed. All those positives turn into negatives, though, when alcohol is consumed in excess, even occasionally, so keep it to a drink or two (wine, beer, whatever) a day. Photo: www.shutterstock.com
Milk consumption has declined drastically in the past 30 years as soft drink consumption has increased. The rise in obesity has paralleled this shift. The fact that as a nation we were leanest when we drank the most milk is pretty good evidence that milk need not make you fat. And it’s a good source of protein, calcium and other good stuff. Milk is very calorically dense, so I wouldn’t recommend having it with every meal, but almost no one even wants to anymore. As long as you limit your milk consumption to one or two cups a day and limit the amount of saturated fat in the rest of your diet, it doesn’t matter much whether you drink skim, low fat, reduced fat, or whole milk (which is high in saturated fat). Photo: www.shutterstock.com
Energy drinks are just soft drinks by another name and should be eschewed for the same reasons. Photo: www.shutterstock.com
Soft drinks are high in sugar that, as mentioned earlier, is readily converted to body fat when consumed at times of inactivity. Carbonated sports drinks also contain phosphates that leech calcium from bones. For these reasons they should have a very small place in your diet. Photo: www.shutterstock.com
About The Author:
Matt Fitzgerald is the author of numerous books, including Racing Weight: How To Get Lean For Peak Performance (VeloPress, 2012). He is also a Training Intelligence Specialist for PEAR Sports. To learn more about Matt visit www.mattfitzgerald.org.