The Role of Drinks in the Diet

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The term “drinks” encompasses any liquid that is ingested. In general, beverages are divided into two large groups: those that contain alcohol and those that do not. Among the non-alcoholic drinks the most important and recommended is water. The rest (juices, soft drinks, moisturizing drinks, etc.), will influence the weight according to their sugar content. Alcoholic beverages contribute to weight gain due to the high caloric content of ethanol and its effect on the liver, favoring the deposition of fats.

Then we will review the different types of drinks mentioned to know what benefits and what disadvantages may have for the functioning of our body. In addition, we inform you of which ones you should not separate if you want to follow a balanced diet and which ones will help you lose fat .

Let’s talk first about the most frequent, non-alcoholic drinks. Some of them are those that always accompany any good diet plan. From water to infusions, through juices, isotonic drinks and energy drinks.

Water

Among the non-alcoholic beverages, the most important is water, and also the main component of the rest of the liquids, as well as many foods. Water is essential for life, represents 70% of body weight and is involved in all the biochemical and physiological processes that occur in our body. It does not imply any caloric or nutritional contribution. Water recommendations are calculated  around 2 liters a day, taking into account that almost all foods contribute water  in a greater or lesser proportion (fruits and vegetables, for example, have a  significant water content), and we must also add infusions, coffee, etc. The water needs may be higher in children, the elderly and athletes, and may also increase in any condition that causes fluid loss, such as sweating, diuretic intake, intestinal diseases that cause diarrhea, etc.

The best indicator of how much water we need is thirst, although many consider that the appearance of this symptom already indicates the beginning of the dehydration process, and that we should not wait to suffer it. On the other hand, although it is quite rare to occur in healthy people, excess water or over-hydration can also be dangerous. If the amount of water that is ingested is greater than that which the kidneys can handle for their elimination, an electrolyte imbalance (imbalance between the sodium and potassium proportions of the blood) can be produced with severe repercussions. Of course, to reach these extremes the water consumption must be notoriously excessive.

The most careful people should have about the volumes of water they ingest are those who suffer from a disease in which it is necessary to restrict their consumption (renal failure, for example), for which it is best to follow the instructions that the treating doctor do about it.

On the other hand, there are health problems that can cause a need to drink liquids in an exaggerated way (polydipsia). Usually, this symptom is related to diseases, such as diabetes. It can also have a psychological origin (potomania), when it is a compulsive desire to continuously drink a large amount of water, without demonstrable organic causes. The potomania may be associated with eating disorders like anorexia. Regardless of its origin, the imperative need to consume excess liquids can be an alarm signal that deserves to be attended by the corresponding doctor.

Fruit juice

On the other hand, sufficient water consumption is necessary in a balanced diet. However, because it is an insipid liquid, it is not strange that the water is replaced by other drinks more attractive to the palate. The problem is that almost always sugar is an added present in these drinks, and this can alter the balance achieved with a well-balanced diet. This is what usually happens with fruit juices, which although they are prepared without sugar, the crushing process facilitates the absorption of the glucose contained in them, increasing their glycemic index. This does not mean that we should eliminate them completely, but it does avoid taking them too often, and take into account their high glycemic index when consuming them.

Soft drinks with or without gas

Soft drinks or carbonated beverages are also the usual drink, with a high proportion of sugar and corn syrup (very high in fructose), with a very high glycemic index. They also contain carbon dioxide gas, and phosphoric acid. Phosphoric acid promotes the elimination of calcium in the urine, inducing osteoporosis and facilitating the formation of kidney stones. Many people concerned about their weight choose to substitute soft drinks for its “light” variant, but it has been shown that regular consumption of light soft drinks increases the abdominal circumference. So that does not seem like a good idea.

Isotonic Drinks

These, basically are formulated for athletes. They contain water, electrolytes, sugars in small quantities, and flavorings. These drinks are useful especially when water and sodium have been lost through sweating, but they are often consumed as a substitute for water. In this case, the amount of glucose is low, but you have to be careful about the electrolytes they contain. During exercise, and in situations where the body is subject to dehydration, these electrolytes are replenished by those who are losing and they are beneficial, and even necessary. However, if these drinks are used frequently and for a long time in conditions in which there has been no loss of electrolytes, it is possible to exceed the supply of salts to the body, which may affect the kidneys and cause fluid retention. This precaution is very important in people suffering from hypertension.

Energy Drinks

We should not confuse isotonic drinks with energizers. These are non-alcoholic stimulant drinks that differ from isotonic drinks in that they contain a higher concentration of carbohydrates, in addition to certain amino acids (taurine, carnitine), caffeine and some stimulating herbs such as ginseng or guarana. Its objective is to increase physical and mental performance for a short time, but they are not recommended for rehydration, due to its high caffeine content, which has a diuretic effect.

On the other hand, they should never be mixed with alcohol, because this can increase its negative effects (tachycardia, hypertension, nervousness, insomnia, etc.). Nor is it recommended for children, pregnant women, or people with cardiovascular or neurological problems. And of course, they do not help if your intention is to lose weight.

Infusions

Finally, among the non-alcoholic beverages of frequent consumption we have the infusions. The infusions are obtained by introducing herbs or aromatic fruits in hot water. The most common are coffee and tea. With respect to them, their effects will depend on the grass used to make them, and their caloric and nutritional content of the accompanying aggregates (milk, sugar, etc.).

In conclusion, with regard to non-alcoholic beverages, the most convenient for  regular consumption is water , although sometimes other options can be taken,  always ensuring that their sugar content is not excessive, and that they are not  harmful to health. The infusions, and in the right conditions the isotonic drinks, can help to make the intake of liquids less monotonous.

Alcoholic Drinks

Let’s now talk about alcoholic beverages. The component that characterizes them is ethyl alcohol or ethanol, which is obtained from the fermentation of sugars or starches, and may or may not be distilled later. It is a psychoactive substance, whose effects depend on the amount that is ingested. In a first stage it induces a feeling of euphoria and disinhibition. If continued consumption will cause poisoning, moment from which it will affect the nervous system, with incoordination, and loss of balance, then confusion, nausea, vomiting, loss of consciousness, and in extreme cases can be reached cardiorespiratory arrest and death.

Ethanol is absorbed directly in the stomach, without being digested. This process is faster if the stomach is empty. It has a high caloric content (7 kcal / gr), and the glycemic index depends on the type of beverage, being higher in sweet liqueurs, and secondly in fermented ones (beer and wine). These contain carbohydrates, proteins, mineral salts, and in the case of wine, tannins. Distilled liquors provide caloric but not nutritional content.

Ethyl alcohol consumed in high amounts and for a long time has negative effects on many tissues, especially in the cells of the liver, and can cause permanent damage to the brain (neurons). It also affects organs such as the heart, the digestive system (stomach, esophagus, liver, and pancreas), the immune system, etc., but this is not the issue we are dealing with.

What is relevant with regard to alcohol consumption and weight gain, in addition to its high caloric content, has to do with the rapid increase in the use of glycogen stored in the liver, which is why the production of triglycerides is stimulated, and also of low density (LDL) cholesterol, that is, the “bad.”

It also reduces tryptophan, affecting the production of serotonin, which can affect the appetite, alter the rhythm of sleep and produce depression. To make matters worse, if consumption is high and for a long time favors the onset of insulin resistance and type II diabetes.

Despite all its harmful effects, alcohol is ubiquitous in most social events, and avoiding it altogether is not always easy. However, a moderate consumption (without reaching the phase of intoxication), and occasional, does not have to end in damage of any organ. With regard to weight, it helps to reduce the amount and accompany it with low-fat foods, because its effect on the liver, if accompanied by a high-fat meal, will favor its deposit and contribute to overweight.

From here we hope these tips have been useful and that you can include in your diet the most beneficial drinks for your body and that will surely help you to lose weight.

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