This is the third blog in Porsche Human Performance's ‘7 Habits of Good Nutrition’ series.
Habit #3 is drinking mainly non-calorie drinks.
The importance of our drinking habits as part of our overall nutrition strategy cannot be understated. As a Precision Fuel & Hydration blog reader, you’ll already know that staying well hydrated is essential for the optimal functioning of the human body, both when we’re exercising and when we’re not.
In addition, improper drinking habits can majorly hamper our health, body composition and performance, as well as undermine many of the benefits gained from eating well.
This blog focuses on everyday drinking habits rather than what to drink around/during exercise (where obviously we'd recommend Precision Fuel & Hydration!). When we’re not exercising, we feel it’s often better to consume calories from solid foods rather than from drinks.
Calories in drinks
Aside from the potential for unwanted ingredients like added sugars, the calories in drinks have little impact on satiety (i.e. how full we feel). Thus, we advise people to stick largely to solid rather than liquid calories to maximise the satiety value of their diet and minimise the likelihood of over-consuming calories.
During exercise added sugars like those in Precision Fuel & Hydration electroylte drinks mixes are actually beneficial for both absorption and energy, so are ok in those circumstances.
At Porsche Human Performance, we typically encourage people to obtain the majority of their everyday fluid intake from plain water. Whilst there is no perfect ‘one-size-fits-all’ amount, drinking around 2 litres per day in combination with our recommended daily amounts of water-rich vegetables and fruits is a good starting point for most folk. Clearly, when we exercise this amount is going to be higher (not to mention the need for added electrolytes). Intensity and duration of exercise, environmental conditions and individual sweat rates all influence our individual requirements. (More on how much to drink from the Precision Fuel & Hydration range can be found in your Personalised Hydration Plan by taking a free online Sweat Test).
What should we drink during the day?
We’re not saying you should only drink non-calorie drinks. Aside from water, other drinks we allow our athletes to base their fluid intake around include...
- Green and herbal teas
- Homemade smoothies
- Precision Fuel & Hydration electrolytes (PH 250’s on an everyday basis as required, personal strengths when training/competing)
- Carbohydrate replacement drinks (during/around prolonged exercise only)
*adding milk is fine, but skip the sugar!
As a side note on the caffeinated drinks listed above, we'd always recommend people reduce their habitual caffeine intake to an absolute minimum. If you’re someone who constantly feels tired and lethargic, rather than immediately seeking your caffeine fix, take the time to consider your lifestyle and try addressing the root cause. Caffeine shouldn’t be used to mask things like poor sleep quality, improper nutrition and overtraining. In addition, caffeine has the potential to greatly improve sporting performance, however, this effect is diminished in habitual users. Therefore, minimising your daily intake will help maximise caffeine’s impact when you really need it.
Which drinks should we avoid?
You’ll see when we get to Habit #7 that no food or drink is entirely off limits to our athletes, provided it’s consumed in appropriate amounts and under the right circumstances. Moderation is the key here. With that in mind, the drinks we advise our athletes to moderate include...
- Soft drinks
- Energy drinks
- Fruit juice
- Shop-bought smoothies
- Milk/cream-based coffees
- Alcoholic drinks
Most people are aware that these drinks should be limited to select occasions. That said, fruit juice often raises eyebrows since that OJ carton said it’s one of your 5-a-day and fruit is healthy right? This is a good illustration of the points raised in Habit #1 where the act of food processing can undermine the nutritional value of a food. Whilst fruit juicing retains some of the beneficial compounds (vitamins and minerals etc.), you lose the fibre which helps our body manage fruit’s sugar content. Again, we’re not saying you should never drink fruit juice, but just think twice before you finish the entire carton in one sitting.
Lastly, you might be wondering about zero-calorie soft drinks. This is a controversial topic and there is a lot of conflicting information regarding the impact of these drinks (specifically the artificial sweeteners they contain) on our health.
Our view is that when used in place of full-sugar alternatives, diet/zero-calorie soft drinks can aid weight loss by helping people consume less calories. This is supported by a recent systematic review of the existing research. However, it’s worth pointing out that weight is only one piece of the puzzle. In our opinion, more research is needed before definitive conclusions can be made on the long term effects of such drinks on our health in a wider sense. Thus, we see artificially-sweetened, diet/zero-calorie soft drinks as a transition from full sugar versions, eventually progressing to the ideal options listed earlier (sparkling water being a good alternative).
By sticking mainly to drinks with no calories you'll be well placed to maintain a healthy body composition and achieve your goals as an athlete.