When you need to slim down, it can feel tempting to exclusively focus on planning out meals and designing the perfect workout routine. While these factors can lead to weight loss success, anyone who really wants to shed some pounds also has to take a closer look at their drinking habits. Even if you eat right and constantly hit the gym, too many sodas or cocktails can spell disaster for your weight loss journey.
On paper, figuring out what drinking habits help you lose weight seems simple. But upon closer inspection, some patterns that seem harmless can have more of an impact than you think. In order to create healthier drinking habits for weight loss, we created a comprehensive list you can follow with help from a handful of nutrition experts.
While these drinking habits can help anyone reach their weight loss goals, you can always fine-tune your liquid intake with some help from the 11 Healthiest Drinks for Weight Loss for maximum results.
Drink lots of water.
Everyone has heard that you need to drink enough water throughout the day, but in the right quantities, this beverage can also help promote weight loss.
“Water is the first choice when looking for something to drink and lose weight,” says Brenda Peralta, RD and writer for FeastGood. “We are [around] 60% water—no wonder why we need that much to function properly. By drinking plenty of water, you make sure that everything runs smoothly. You have good bowel movements, and it helps your stomach feel full. Thus it makes you less hungry, which means you end up eating less. Clients that manage to drink half their body weight (in pounds) of water end up having better results.”
“Staying adequately hydrated is essential in regulating your appetite,” says Claudia Hleap MS, RD, LDN.
One study from the European Journal of Nutrition shows that people who drank an adequate amount of water before a meal reduced their energy (i.e. calorie) intake for non-obese males. Another study from Annals of Family Medicine also stated that those with inadequate hydration typically have an elevated BMI or even are marked as obese.
The best way to make sure you’re eating because you’re actually hungry is to preemptively make sure you’re staying hydrated throughout the day. Stick to non-caloric drinks to make sure you’re getting enough fluid without contributing to caloric intake.
Add some tea to your day.
“Another drink I typically recommend for weight loss is tea,” says Peralta. “It really doesn’t matter which one since they all have antioxidant properties, and they help you flavor the water without any calories. There is one I try my clients to drink more, and it’s green tea. Several studies have shown that it increases your metabolism slightly, which means you burn more calories.”
Lower your alcohol intake.
Alcohol is known to contain empty calories (i.e. calories that do not provide nutritional value for the body), and these drinks can sneakily add up without you even realizing it.
“Research has shown that drinking too much alcohol is a bad idea when you want to lose weight,” says Jay Cowin, NNCP, RNT, RNC, CHN, CSNA, and the ASYSTEM registered nutritionist and director of formulations. “Alcoholic drinks and liquors, in particular, can be very high in calories and often contain sugar, which we all know we should keep away from if we’re trying to lose weight.”
Limit yourself to one alcoholic drink a day.
If you love unwinding with an occasional adult beverage, don’t immediately assume you have to ditch this drink from your lifestyle.
“Drinking too much can damage your health so if you do choose to drink alcohol, try limiting yourself to only one glass per day,” Cowin continues. “In fact, drinking less is probably the single most important thing to do for your health! It will reduce your risk of liver problems, heart disease, and certain cancers.”
Make sure you choose the best alcohol for the occasion and drink within the limits. To know exactly how much alcohol to enjoy, here’s The Exact Amount of Alcohol That Derails Weight Loss, New Study Says.
Avoid alcohol on an empty stomach.
If you feel like having a drink, make sure you have some food in your system.
“It’s usually a bad idea to drink on an empty stomach because it can exaggerate the effects of alcohol,” says Cowin. “It can also lead you to eat more. If you’re going out for dinner, have your first drink at least half an hour after your meal begins so that the food will absorb some of the alcohol and make you feel less intoxicated. For best results, try drinking sparkling water with lime instead.”
Avoid sugary mixers.
“Alcoholic drinks mixed with soft drinks or fruit juice can be very high in sugar (and calories), so if possible stay away from these,” says Cowin. “It’s usually best to stick with soda water.”
However, that doesn’t mean you need to give up on cocktails or mixed drinks entirely. Feel free to use one of 11 Healthy, Low-Calorie Mixers for Every Kind of Cocktail that can keep your diet on track.
Monitor how much alcohol you pour.
“For many reasons, those one [or] two glasses of wine pours up to around 120 to 125 calories a serving,” says Dr. Joan Salge Blake, EdD, RDN, LDN, FAND and the host of Spot On!. “However, if your wine glass resembles the size of a stemmed water goblet, and you pour it half full of wine, you may be serving yourself a hefty glass of seven or more ounces or the equivalent to about 1.5 servings of vino. Now we are talking about 175 calories a glass. If you pour a second glass, you will be consuming about the same amount of calories of a mini meal.”
Dr. Blake points out that a “750-milliliter bottle of wine is supposed to provide five 5-ounce servings. If you are getting only four servings after popping the cork, or less servings, it’s time to get new wine glasses.”
“To make matters worse, after drinking this much wine, your ability to keep to more manageable portion sizes at dinner and in the evening, may become anesthetized,” he continues. “This will cause you to over-munch, adding even more excess calories to your day.”
Dr. Blake recommends investing in smaller wine glasses or even swapping out your wine with a low-calorie beverage or seltzer. To make it interesting, you could add an ounce of juice and a mint leaf to your seltzer and make a low-calorie mocktail.
“You will be drinking less booze and less likely to over-munch in the evening,” he says.
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