drink, how much and how to maintain a reasonable intake of fluids — ones
that will supply your body with much-needed water without adding to
your fat stores.
Chances are the summer heat will tempt you to grab whatever cold liquid
might be handy, and many of today’s most popular choices are loaded with
sweet calories that actually increase the body’s
need for water. Chances are, too, that no matter what the season, you
probably don’t drink enough fluid to fulfill your body’s requirements.
It’s not wise to rely solely on thirst to guide your water intake. Nor
should quenching your thirst be a measure of whether you’ve drunk
enough. To calculate how much water you need each day, multiply your
weight in pounds by 0.08; the result is your requirement in eight-ounce
Before those who weigh 200 pounds panic about having to drink 16 cups of
liquid a day, keep in mind that about half the fluid people need comes
from fruits, vegetables and other solid foods.
information on Barbara J. Rolls"">Barbara J. Rolls, a nutrition researcher at Penn State and the author of “Volumetrics” (HarperCollins, 2000),
and her colleagues have demonstrated in many studies that people consume
fewer calories when their meals and snacks have a high liquid content.
Drinks consumed with and between meals do not have the same satiating
effect, their research has shown.
People who drink lots of high-calorie beverages rarely compensate by
eating less, and they can end up with a caloric overload. And if people
who try to limit calories fill their daily quota with high-calorie
drinks, they can easily shortchange themselves on foods that supply
essential, health-promoting nutrients: fruits and vegetables (which,
incidentally, are an important source of liquids in a well-balanced diet), protein-rich foods and
Dehydration Is Dangerous
The effects of Medicine and the National Institutes of Health"">dehydration can be
subtle, with an array of confusing symptoms that can leave people
feeling fatigued, irritable and unproductive, often with side orders of headache and muscle cramps.
Athletes, whether amateur, recreational or professional, often fail to
drink enough to compensate for the fluid they lose through sweat and
respiration, and as a result they may not perform up to par. Even the
totally sedentary are at risk when high heat, dry air (air-conditioning
in the summer, heating in the winter) or high altitudes increase their
bodies’ water needs.
For the elderly, who often restrict their liquid intake for fear of
having to get to a bathroom quickly, dehydration is commonplace and can
be downright dangerous. It landed my nearly 90-year-old aunt in the
hospital and, in fact, is one of the most common causes of
hospitalization for people over 65.
Despite their caffeine, which is a mild diuretic, coffee, tea and other
caffeinated beverages can count toward your daily liquid intake, though
not as completely as the equivalent amount of water. But beware the
calories in the souped-up coffees now on many chain restaurant menus,
like the 450 calories and 56 grams of sugar in the small (12-ounce)
order of a McDonald’s Mocha Frappé
or the 330 calories and 33 grams of sugar in a 16-ounce
The calorie and sugar content of these and scores of other popular
drinks can be found in an enlightening new book, “Drink This, Not That!” (Rodale, Inc.,
2010), by David Zinczenko, written with Matt Goulding.
The authors obtained their data on calories and sugar content from
information published by companies or required by local laws, as well as
from independent laboratory analysis. They noted that popular
supermarket products that supply that caffeine buzz include an 8.4-ounce
can of Red Bull with 110 calories and 27 grams of sugar and a 20-ounce
bottle of Coca-Cola Classic (233 calories and 65 grams of sugar) or
Mountain Dew (290 calories and 77 grams of sugar).
Alcohol, however, definitely increases the body’s water need and cannot
be included in your liquid intake unless the drinks are prepared with
plenty of unsweetened nonalcoholic mixers.
Flavored bottled waters — like Snapple’s Tropical Mango Antioxidant
Water — may carry an aura of healthfulness. But the 150 calories of
sugar, when consumed in place of plain water, can increase your weight
by 15 pounds in a year, Mr. Zinczenko points out. Better to get your
antioxidants from fruits and vegetables, which come packaged with
Americans now pay a significant portion of their income on a drink they
used to get free: bottled waters (nearly 30 gallons per capita a year),
including gimmicky waters fortified with vitamins (and sugar) and “relaxing” herbs
like chamomile and hibiscus. By sticking with plain, old water from the
tap (filtered at home if need be), you can reduce the dependence on oil
(plastic water bottles are petroleum-based) and the pressure on
landfills and let foods remain your best source of needed nutrients.
Don’t Get Fat on Drinks
The most recent national nutrition survey found that sugar-sweetened
sodas are the single largest source of calories in the American diet:
7.1 percent. Yet they supply nothing but water that is of value to the
body. And their sugar content actually increases the body’s water needs.
The average American now consumes about a gallon of soda a week, and
most of it is not the sugar-free diet variety.
When I was growing up in the 1940s and ’50s, soda (8 ounces, not 32) was
a drink for special occasions. Seltzer, water, milk and orange juice —
not ersatz sugary juices — were the beverages served at meals and
My brother and I drank a fair amount of chocolate milk, but a shake was a
rare treat and far more modest than the 1,160 calories and 168 grams of
sugars in McDonald’s 32-ounce Triple Thick Chocolate Shake, as
described in Mr. Zinczenko’s book.
I don’t recall any smoothies, certainly not like the 40-ounce Smoothie
King Peanut Power Plus Grape with 1,498 calories and 214 grams of sugar,
which Mr. Zinczenko noted has the sugar equivalent of 20 Reese’s Peanut
In my youth, adults drank coffee and tea, but there were no lattes like
Starbucks’s 20-ounce Venti Caramel Latte (320 calories, 8 grams of fat,
43 grams of sugar) or the 16-ounce Grande Tazo Vanilla Rooibos Tea Latte
(200 calories, 5 grams of fat, 31 grams of sugar).
Even the modestly sized 9.5-ounce Frappuccino supplies 200 calories, 3
grams of fat and 32 grams of sugar.
Think green tea is good for you? The scientific evidence certainly
suggests that, with antioxidants and about 40 milligrams of caffeine in
each cup, it can boost metabolism, among other health benefits. But
those research findings were based on plain green tea, with perhaps a
teaspoon (16 calories) of sugar, not on Snapple’s 17.5-ounce Mango Green
Tea Metabolism with 140 calories and 33 grams of sugar or Lipton’s
20-ounce Green Tea with Citrus, at 200 calories and 53 grams of sugar.