Over the past decade, zero calorie and diet drinks have been growing in popularity for their seemingly “healthier” offerings. However, are these sugar-free alternatives really healthy?
Simply googling ‘are diet drinks unhealthy?’ gives you over six million results with articles written by health gurus, scientists, journalists, and nutritionists alike. With that in mind, sugar-free energy drinks are a pretty controversial topic. Some say real sugar is the enemy and should be avoided at all costs, while others believe artificial sweeteners are far worse.
Neither real or artificial sugar is ideal when consumed in large quantities by any means, but in terms of weight loss - which energy drink is best: regular or sugar-free?
If you’ve ever wondered if sugar-free energy drinks cause weight gain, you came to the right place! In this article, we'll dive into these energy beverage options to uncover the truth about their relationship with weight gain. So get comfortable and keep reading - let’s dive in.
Why Do You Gain Weight From Energy Drinks?
Losing or gaining weight can be simplified to the calories 'in' vs. calories 'out' equation: if you consume more calories than what you burn, you eventually gain weight and vice versa.
Energy beverages are also typically devoid of nutrition and high in empty calories. However, many people believe that skipping a meal or two and consuming an energy drink instead can help create that deficit. But, consuming two or more energy drinks a day can unknowingly push you right over the recommended caloric daily intake, inadvertently leading to weight gain.
Energy Drink Nutritional Facts
If you knew just how many calories are in some of your favorite energy drinks, chances are you might think twice before drinking them again.
Although they may pack a powerful punch, traditional energy drinks have a surprisingly high calorie count per serving. And since many of the worst offenders contain more than one serving in a single can, you often end up consuming more calories than you think. For example, a generic 24 fl.oz energy beverage can have around 450 calories. Even smaller 16 fl.oz drinks can pack a whopping 220 calories.
Most of these empty calories come from sugar. Some contain up to 78 grams of sugar per serving. To put that into perspective, 78 grams is equivalent to 20 whopping teaspoons of sugar.. That is a lot of sugar when you really think about it! In fact, that’s more sugar than six Krispy Kreme donuts have!
A diet that is rich in sugar is extremely unhealthy and can put you at risk for some serious health complications. Studies report that too much sugar can significantly increase your risk of heart disease, as well as your risk for Type 2 diabetes. If more than 25 percent of your calories come from sugar, it can also potentially double your risk of cardiovascular disease.
Okay, so what about sugar-free energy drinks?
You might be thinking, “I’ll just skip the regular energy drinks loaded with sugar and pick up the sugar-free version!”
Whatever you do, don’t do this. Nothing is worse for your weight loss efforts than sucking down a chemical maelstrom - and that’s exactly what sugar-free energy beverages are.
Although these popular drinks have, on average, less than twelve calories per 8-ounce can, they are chocked full of artificial sweeteners like aspartame. Artificial sweeteners can be dangerous and have been linked to gut microbiome disruptions, obesity, type 2 diabetes, and have even been found to hinder the metabolism - not exactly what you would want if you were looking to support healthy weight loss efforts!
Here are a few reasons why artificial sugar found in sugar-free energy drinks can cause weight gain:
#1: It will make your body produce more insulin.
Secreted by the pancreas, insulin is how the human body stores sugar. When the taste of artificial sweeteners found in sugar-free energy drinks hits your tongue, your brain automatically sends a message to your pancreas to begin producing insulin. Insulin is what tells your cells to either use sugar as food or store it as fat - without it, your body can’t process sugar properly.
When your pancreas produces insulin to deal with anticipated sugar, but no sugar arrives, it confuses your body and disrupts its metabolic process. This may explain why many studies have shown a link between regularly drinking sugar-free beverages and metabolic syndrome: a collection of symptoms that includes higher blood pressure and blood sugar, and results in a larger waist circumference.
#2: It conditions the taste buds for sweetness.
You’ve probably noticed that the more regularly you taste something - whether that is sweetness, saltiness, etc. - the more accustomed to it you become. This is why individuals who stop eating sugar or salt suddenly find many commercially available foods extremely sweet or overly salty.
Artificial sweeteners found in sugar-free energy drinks are dramatically sweeter than real sugar. Although it may not register that way on your tongue, these popular “diet” drinks are, in fact, much sweeter than the regular versions.
All that sweetness, accompanied by empty calories, confuses your brain as well as your metabolic processes and tends to leave you craving much more sugar than before. This can lead to late-night cravings and unhealthy food choices that can most certainly contribute to weight gain.
#3: It makes you feel entitled to eat more.
Counting calories is still the most common method people use to lose a little bit of weight. Drinking one 16 fl.oz can of an energy drink containing 230 calories means you have to eat 230 calories less of something else that day, or burn an extra 230 calories off in the gym.
Drinking a sugar-free energy drink means you’ve consumed zero calories, so you get a free pass to eat more, right? Wrong!
Consuming sugar-free beverages tricks your body into expecting sugar, changing the way you metabolize other calories. This means that your body may store more calories as fat and use fewer calories as energy - which could leave you feeling hungry and wanting even more food - leading to overeating.
Are There "Healthier" Energy Drinks?
Yes! Although many popular energy drinks on the market are not ideal for weight loss efforts, it’s important to understand that not all products are created equal.
When searching for a healthier energy drink that will support your weight loss efforts rather than hinder them, look for a product made with clean, plant-based ingredients and low calories like the energy shots found at Proper Wild.
Proper Wild’s 100% plant-based energy shots use organic Caffeine from Green Tea to create a super-powerful (yet, healthier) energy shot. You can expect long-lasting energy without the jitters or crash, because the shots use 15 times more L-Theanine than a cup of green tea to help support your focus and mood. And the best part? These shots use absolutely 0g of added sugar, no preservatives, and no artificial sweeteners - just clean and natural ingredients for long-lasting energy!
So, do sugar-free energy drinks cause weight gain? The answer is: Yes!
Avoid sugar-free energy drinks loaded with harmful artificial sweeteners and stick with clean, plant-based energy drinks like Proper Wild. Once you give them a try, we’re sure you will never want to go back to sugar-free energy drinks again!