Beverages Can Add Hundreds of Extra Calories a Day

Drinks filled with sugar and fat offer less satiety than solid foods

Jonhson HSWEST CHESTER, Ohio (December 10, 2015) – Individuals who are finding it hard to lose weight may want to shift their focus from their dinner plate to the drinks they consume each day.

According to the American Society for Clinical Nutrition (ASCN), regular consumption of sugar calories in liquid form is said to be responsible for body weight gain. Research points to a direct correlation between the consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages – such as sodas, juices and specialty coffee drinks – and the rise of obesity in America.

Aleda Johnson, MD, a family physician with Liberty Family Medicine in West Chester, said most people think of food, not drinks, when they are counting calories. As a result, they don’t think twice about consuming a drink that may be filled with hundreds of calories.

“I have patients who come into the office who want to lose weight and they say, ‘I don’t eat much and when I do eat it is really healthy. I don’t understand why I am not losing weight,’” says Dr. Johnson, who practices with Premier HealthNet. “So, the first thing I do is ask them what they are drinking, and if it is a couple of cans of soda a day then that might be causing the problem. Most people don’t understand that what they are drinking is not healthy and that they can lose weight by changing what they drink.”

Liquid calories are often referred to as empty calories because they do not provide nutritional value. One exception is milk, which provides protein and calcium. However, most drinks provide extra sugar and fat in a form that can be deceiving – going down easily, but not leaving someone full, Dr. Johnson says.

Liquid calories may seem invisible until their impact shows up on a scale. Here’s a look at how many calories typical drinks deliver. A 12-ounce can of Coke provides 140 calories. That PowerAde sports drink used to refuel after working out adds 130 calories. Alcoholic beverages – such as a can of beer or glass of wine – can add an average of 123 to 154 calories. And that favorite Frappuccino or mocha coffee drink can be close to 600 calories.

Such numbers may not be a reason to pause at first if someone is only consuming one per day. But the reality is that many Americans are drinking a combination of several calorie-filled drinks each day – filling up their recommended calorie count before they even take a bite to eat, Dr. Johnson says.

“It is not uncommon for someone to consume anywhere from 600 to 1,000 calories a day in liquids, and that is in addition to what they eat,” Dr. Johnson says.

Knowing how many calories a person is supposed to consume each day can offer perspective. According to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), a moderately active 25-year-old male should consume about 2,800 calories a day whereas a moderately active 25-year-old female should consume about 2,200 calories. That amount can go up or down slightly depending on a person’s age, activity level and sex.

Dr. Johnson offers these tips for those who want to cut down on their consumption of liquid calories:

Evaluate your diet – Step back and look at what you are consuming each day both in liquid and solid form. Keep a food diary that shows the source of your daily calories. Also take careful note as to whether drinks are caffeinated. Some caffeinated drinks can add extra sugar to a diet and also cause dehydration.

Rediscover water – Water is the best choice for liquid consumption because it has zero calories and provides the hydration our bodies need. It is recommended that men drink three liters and women drink a little more than two liters of water each day. This amount can vary depending on a person’s overall health and activity level so check with your doctor, Dr. Johnson says.

Wean off calories – Do not go cold turkey when cutting liquid calories from your diet. This could cause a shock to your system, especially if some of these drinks are caffeinated, Dr. Johnson says. Instead, make it a gradual change by substituting one drink a day with a glass of water until you have dropped down to the desired amount.

For more information on liquid calories or to find a Premier HealthNet physician near you, visit

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