Do you like to drink? And unless you’re like a few of my college buddies I’m talking about during the day, while at work or at school.
I guess it’s not so much a question of ‘do you drink?’ but rather ‘what’ do you drink? But you have to admit asking the question the other way got a number of you checking the calendar to see how many more days until the weekend.
But seriously though when it comes to our nutrition it seems as though more emphasis is put on what to eat rather than what to drink. And this will trip up many people.
How does it trip them up? By drinking things that don’t support whatever their goal is. And in this case the goal could be weight loss, weight gain and or performance. So let’s take a quick look at each of these to see what you should be drinking.
Goal #1 – Weight Loss
If you’re like most people that go to the gym then your goal is weight loss. And as soon as we can agree that six packs are made in the kitchen and not the gym we’ll be way further ahead than if we think we can go for extra walk after dinner to make up for the cherry strudel you had for a mid-afternoon snack.
But even if we realize that our nutrition plays the most important role in our quest for the leanest physique we need to be aware that our choice of beverage can severely impact our goal.
So what should be drinking? The best choice are water and green tea. There are no calories and the polyphenols and caffeine in the tea may help with your weight loss goal. Just be careful to monitor your caffeine intake and the potential for stained teeth.
Another tip regarding green tea is that it doesn’t have to be consumed hot to have these health benefits. Use chilled green tea as the base for your morning smoothie or post-workout shake.
More recently coconut oil has gotten a lot of buzz as it is a great source of medium chain triglycerides (MCTs) which help with fat oxidation. But beware of the imposters on the market that include the word coconut but when you check the label on the back there is no fat but a good dose of sugar.
While there are other things you can drink which won’t necessarily sabotage your fat loss efforts they all don’t add much benefit. These include coffee, low fat milk and homemade vegetable juice. Pretty much every commercial beverage product has no place in a weight loss nutritional program. Stick with water and green tea as much as you can to achieve the best weight loss.
Goal #2 – Weight Gain
The quick answer as to what to drink in order to gain lean mass is the opposite of what to drink to lose weight. But there should be a distinction depending on who is asking.
If a 40 year male client is looking to add 5-10 pounds of muscle mass it may not be a bad idea for him to have some dairy and maybe drink carbohydrates while working out. On the other hand a young teenage boy might be able to handle more calories and can therefore drink more of his calories than his dad could.
In both scenarios if body mass has maintained for a while then a good strategy would be to increase the caloric intake during the post-workout shake. This shake could be made with milk, for the extra fat, calories and protein. Along with a scoop of protein powder and some berries this shake can get an extra dose of calories by adding a tablespoon or two of coconut oil or peanut butter.
Goal #3 – Performance
If you are an athlete or you want to train like one than you need to properly fuel and hydrate during training. If training sessions are longer than one hour and or if the athlete sweats profusely than a carbohydrate drink with electrolytes may be beneficial. These drinks should be no greater than 6-8% carbohydrate or in other words they should gave 6-8 grams of carbs per 100 ml.
Don’t make the mistake of thinking more is better. For example, buying your own tin of electrolyte crystals can be a good cost saving strategy but you need to know how much you are adding to your water. If you add to much crystal to your water you produce a drink solution than is too strong which then slows gastric emptying. Think of gastric emptying as the time it takes carbs to move from your stomach and get to working muscles. A longer time is less beneficial.
Some athletes may prefer to drink plain water. This will quench thirst but will not rehydrate the athlete leading to decrements in performance. I’m not saying you always need to drink a carb solution but if the training is long in duration, is intense, if the athlete sweats a lot or is training in hot-humid conditions than it may be preferred.
A final note for those seeking weight loss they probably can pass on the carb drinks and opt for water. Performance is not the primary goal and the additional sugar in these drinks may work against weight loss. If they would to drink something other than water they could try a sugar free branch chain amino acid powder and add a scoop to their water bottle.