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You May Be Drinking Excess Calories

When you are trying to lose weight, you should be aware not only of the calories you eat, but also of the calories that you drink.

This is a common weight loss mistake that many people make because liquid calories just aren't as obvious as food calories.

There are as many calories in a big tumbler of iced tea (made from a commercial mix) as there are in four cookies.

Someone trying to lose weight would have enough sense to avoid the cookies but may think nothing of guzzling down the iced tea. The average cookie is about 50 calories (so four of them are equivalent to 200 calories) and a 16-ounce tumbler of iced tea is equivalent to 180 calories.

As you can see, knowing the basics about liquid calories can spell the difference between weight loss success and failure.

Ignorance is not the only reason liquid calories can sabotage your weight loss efforts. A study done at Purdue University found that people would usually eat less when they knew they had eaten too many calories but they wouldn't make any adjustments even if they had drunk the same amount of calories.

The study involved 15 healthy people who were divided into two groups. One group was told to eat 450 calories worth of jellybeans a day. The other group was instructed to drink the same amount of calories in the form of soft drinks (the equivalent of one liter of cola). After two weeks, the two groups switched.

Whenever each group ate the extra calories, they made adjustments in their diet so they did not gain any weight. But when they drank soda, they made no such adjustment and thus, gained weight. The researchers speculated that liquids did not make us feel full the same way that solid food does.

So if you are wondering why you are not losing weight despite watching your food intake carefully, the source of your frustration might be the "hidden" calories in your drinks.

Here are some guidelines about popular drinks to help you make the right fluid choices. To ensure we share the same perspective, four ounces are equal to the contents of a regular coffee cup, a drinking glass is equivalent to eight ounces and a tumbler has 16 ounces.

Iced tea
Iced tea made from scratch (tea bag, water, ice cubes) has zero calories. Add a teaspoon of sugar and you have a grand total of 15 calories. Commercial iced tea mix is a different story because of added sweeteners.

Like I said earlier, an eight-ounce glass has 90 calories. Do you still remember "Butterfly Iced Tea," which used to be popular in the '70s? It was made from a highly sweetened concentrate. It was so sweet that I am sure it had more than just 90 calories a glass.

Many restaurants offer "bottomless" iced tea after you order your first glass, and the new foreign gym chains are offering free iced tea to their clients.

Consumers think they are getting a good deal. They are from a financial point of view, and if the iced tea is "naked" or made from scratch. But if the tea is made from a sweetened commercial mix, then it is not such a great bargain because many people do not realize how many calories they are needlessly drinking.

Specialty coffee
There was a time when ordering a cappuccino or espresso was as sophisticated as you could get.

Not anymore. Since the advent of specialty coffee houses around the world, we have had fancy concoctions like a Starbucks Chocolate Brownie Frappuccino. Unfortunately, a 16-ounce cup of this concoction contains 490 calories. That's like eating two small slices of chocolate cake.

If you want to save your calories for "real" dessert, ask for non-fat milk instead of whole milk or cream and lay off the whipped cream and heavy chocolate or flavored syrups. A tall cappuccino, latte or mocha with non-fat milk will have 60, 110 and 140 calories respectively.

Smoothies
A smoothie is the modern version of an old-fashioned milkshake. Fruit-based smoothies are healthier because they contain antioxidants from the fruit, and protein and calcium from the yogurt or milk, while a milkshake has too much saturated fat because it is made with ice cream.

But healthy or not, you can still end up drinking more calories than you would like.

The average fruit-based smoothie has about 180 calories. But once you start adding on high-calorie ingredients like honey, cream, peanut butter, chocolate, syrup, fruit nectar, whole milk, coconut cream and protein powders, the count can be anywhere from 400 to 950 calories. You may as well have eaten a Quarter Pounder with fries at your nearest McDonald's.

Pearl shakes
I have a friend who called her Arizona cafè, "The Boba Cafè." At first, I thought she was trying to be cute by using the feminine version of bobo (dumb), but then I found out that in some parts of the United States, pearl shakes were known as boba tea (would you believe it was because the tapioca balls reminded some smart aleck of a woman's boobs?).

Here in the Philippines, Zagu will probably end up the generic name since it is the first brand. A 12-ounce cup of Zagu Cafè Latte has 280 calories, while the same size cup of Zagu Mango has 220 calories.

Sports drinks
Sports drinks are useful if you exercise for more than 90 minutes, especially if you are doing it outdoors in hot and humid conditions.

I use sports drinks when I have to do a series of aerobic presentations in sweltering heat or I have to do several hours of instructor training. They are a conveniently bottled source of fluid, electrolytes and carbohydrates.

However, if you are only exercising moderately and you are trying to lose weight, you are better off drinking water, since a sports drink like Gatorade has 96 calories.

By the way, if you look at the label, you might think Gatorade only has 24 calories. Read the label a bit more carefully and you will realize that the label actually says 24 calories per 100 ml (each bottle contains 400 ml).

Fruit juices
Real 100-percent fruit juice has an edge over a cola drink because it contains natural vitamins and minerals. However, in terms of calories, there isn't much difference. A 12-ounce cola contains 160 calories while the same amount of orange juice has 180 calories.

When it comes to weight loss, it's always better to eat the whole fruit rather than drink the juice. A medium sized orange has 50 calories while an eight-ounce glass of OJ has double that amount. The fiber in the orange will keep you feeling full while the orange juice won't.

While we are on the topic of fruit juice, a consumer with nutrition savvy knows that "fruit drink" means the product is mostly water, flavoring and sugar with just a little real fruit juice. So while a fruit drink and fruit juice may have similar amounts of calories, you get more nutrition for your calories with real fruit juice.

If you are trying to lose weight, watch out for the bottomless lemonades that are offered to you. A 16-ounce tumbler of a commercial lemonade mix can easily contain 200 calories.

Diet soft drinks
Most soft drinks (whether colas or un-colas) contain approximately 150 calories for every 12 ounces. Diet or light soft drinks contain zero calories because of the artificial sweeteners used. So they can be a good substitute if you get a craving for a soft drink.

Just be aware that research suggests that some people tend to eat more when they have a diet soft drink. This could be because they subconsciously believe they can eat more since they are already saving calories, or because the body reacts to the artificial sweetener like it was real sugar so it feels hungrier.

Alcoholic drinks
Alcoholic drinks are a triple whammy when you are trying to lose weight. Aside from the calories they contain, the alcohol makes you lose your inhibitions.

You usually eat more than you realize and, of course, it's hard for a lot of people to have only one drink.

Hard drinks like gin, whisky, rum, brandy, tequila and vodka contain about 115 to 125 calories per jigger, while mixed drinks have between 150 to 250 calories depending on the mixers used.

Wine, whether white or red, contains between 85 to 100 calories per four-ounce glass. A 12-ounce bottle of beer has about 150 calories.

Water
Plain old water contains zero calories. Some people think that drinking hot water or "silver tea" after a meal can somehow melt the fat they've just eaten. No such luck but drinking hot water instead of having dessert can definitely help you lose weight.

Having your latte and eating it, too

A cookie has 50 calories. A small brownie has 100 calories. A slice of cake has 250 calories. Now visualize: Iced tea is the same as four cookies. A smoothie is two brownies. A frapuccino is a slice of cake.

If you don't want to drown in excess liquid calories, think of a drink as dessert or a snack. Something to have occasionally, not every day.

Now, if you are trying to gain weight, liquid calories are just what you need to pack in some pounds.

Smoothies, fruit juices, and iced tea are healthy ways to drink your calories without doing much damage to your appetite, so you still have room in your stomach for real food.

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