While proper hydration and consuming water is essential to healthy living and dieting, there are many reasons why weight loss drinks beat bottled water, especially in the presence of a regular workout regimen.
Although it depends on the composition of the beverage, weight-loss drinks generally provide the body with more than just hydration—they replenish electrolytes, prevent muscle tissue breakdown and fatigue, and improve energy levels and focus.
Benefits of Weight Loss Drinks
First of all, it’s important to note that water is a component of all beverages, so weight loss drinks are like Water 2.0. In addition to hydrating, weight loss drinks accomplish the following things:
- Replenish electrolytes, carbohydrates, and vitamins lost through exercise/sweating
- Contribute to a feeling of satiety, reducing the need to eat large meals
- Contain proven fat-fighters like green tea extract
- Contribute to a feeling of energy, usually with caffeine or a B-vitamin boost
- Enable longer workouts with less soreness (both protein and taurine have this effect)
- Shuttle protein to muscles with quick carbs, shifting the post-workout state from catabolic to anabolic
There are many different ingredient combinations marketed as weight-loss drinks–let’s take a look at the types of weight loss beverages that are available and how they beat bottled water.
Protein-based drinks are usually soy or whey protein based, and either carb-free (for non-workout use) or sweetened with fast acting carbs that shuttle the protein into hungry muscle cells after working out. Numerous studies show that protein-based drinks improve recovery and reduce exercise induced catabolism. (In fact, the combination of sugars and protein in lowfat chocolate milk was shown to be nearly as effective as a protein drink for replenishing muscles after working out).
Many weight loss drinks are essentially meal-replacement beverages. This includes everything from Slim Fast to Atkins and SouthBeach drinks, Muscle Milk, and others. Where protein-based drinks are mostly formulated to address the effects of exercise, meal replacement drinks are designed to provide all the nutrients contained in a typical meal, with a much lower calorie impact. Typical ingredient profiles include lots of protein, a “clean” carb source, a generous amount of vitamins and minerals, and possibly some extra fat burners like green tea extract, tyrosine, CLA or a cortisol-blocker. They may also include fiber to slow digestion.
Carbohydrate drinks were pioneered by Gatorade, and they hydrate as well as provide carbohydrates to fuel continued athletic performance and electrolytes to replace what is lost though sweat. Since regular exercise is crucial to any weight-loss plan, there are many weight-loss drinks in this category. They generally include caffeine as well, which has proven positive effects on dieters in moderation.
There are many versions of the vitamin/mineral drink, the most recognizable being VitaminWater. In fact, there is a new weight-loss “shot” that looks like a coffee creamer; inspection of the ingredient profile reveals it’s just a vitamin/mineral drink. These beverages promise to refuel the body with essential health-promoting vitamins, minerals and herbal extracts. While many of these ingredients do have significant advantages of water alone, be sure to look at the amount of each ingredient included—many times manufacturers use a kitchen sink approach to market a drink, and the amount of active ingredients is beneath the effective threshold.
All fluids (except alcohol and heavy cream!) have the potential to positively affect weight loss. A recent study found that those who drank 2 cups of fluid before eating lost weight 30% faster than those who did not. Weight loss drinks take it a step further and include ingredients that have been proven to have additional positive effects. Also, if you don’t mind mixing a drink at home; many weight-loss drinks are available in bulk powder or single-serve packages, pushing their cost below that of a bottle of water.