When you get thirsty, your body is asking to be hydrated, not fed an emulsified rum ham.
Most commercial beverages are emulsified “somethings” that don’t hydrate better than water. And, to make matters worse, they bully your satiety.
Green Warrior Smoothie
Here’s a list of ingredients for a “Green Warrior Smoothie” (compliments of ohsheglows.com).
- 1/2 cup (125 mL) fresh red grapefruit juice
- 1 cup (25 g) destemmed dinosaur/lacinato kale or baby spinach
- 1 large sweet apple (200 g), cored and roughly chopped
- 1 cup (130 g) chopped cucumber
- 1 medium/large stalk celery (85 g), chopped (about 3/4 cup)
- 3 to 4 tablespoons (30 to 40 g) hemp hearts, to taste
- 1/3 cup (55 g) frozen mango
- 2 tablespoons (4 g) packed fresh mint leaves
- 1 1/2 teaspoons virgin coconut oil (optional)
- 4 ice cubes, or as needed
The fact that one ingredient is of the “dinosaur” variety makes me shit my pants. But that’s neither here nor there.
You blend all of these “Green Warrior Smoothie” ingredients together, you drink the resultant paste, and then you become a warrior. Yum! You can feel the vigor throttling through your arteries! Becoming a warrior never tasted so delicious! Sparta really dropped the ball!
But let’s play a game.
Eating a smoothie
Rewind time. Don’t blend the ingredients. Spread them out on a table in front of you. Look at them. Appreciate them. There’s a lot of food there, right? Right. Now imagine eating all of these ingredients as they are. Raw. Quite a different experience than slurping them down in smoothie form, no?
Despite having the same amount of food in your belly, drinking emulsified ingredients is different than eating solid ingredients because liquids bypass most of our satiety circuitry.
- There’s chewing.
- There’s ingestion time.
- There’s volume.
- There’s visual presentation.
All of these things influence how we feel about what we eat. (You wanna know what doesn’t influence how we feel about what we eat? Calories.)
If you’re trying to keep your energy intake under control, you have to feel satiated. Drinking liquid energy is like taking a painkiller exactly when you want to feel pain. Please take this Vicodin before you enter our BDSM room.
If it doesn’t make sense, that’s because it doesn’t.
Water has no energy, so the fact that it bypasses your satiety circuitry doesn’t matter. This means water is two for two.
- It hydrates.
- It has no energy.
It also keeps your skin smooth, flushes waste, and helps your body absorb vitamins. It does everything need a liquid to do with no downside.
Questions are afoot, no doubt. I’m going to write about other acceptable beverages and address some things bound to be crashing through your cranial walls. But I’m going to swing to the opposite extreme first.
Drink whatever you want
Regardless of what’s better or worse, you can drink whatever you want to drink, just like you can jump off a bridge (if you wanted to). But every choice has consequences.
If you drink something beyond water, you have to reverse engineer it into a solid. This isn’t easy to do. If an ice cube melts into a puddle, and you only see the puddle, you can’t know the shape of the ice cube.
The ingredients inside of a “Green Warrior Smoothie” spread across an entire table before they are blended. But, once blended, they fit into a small container.
Reverse engineer liquids
In order to reverse engineer a liquid into a solid, you have to find the ingredients. Just about anything you buy should have a nutrition label. You’re looking for two things:
- Does this have ingredients?
- If so, what are they?
- Does this food have macronutrients?
- If so, what are they?
A 12 ounce can of Mountain Dew contains 46 grams of sugar. A no fat Starbucks venti latte, around 25 grams of sugar. Great. But, guess what? Food companies know we don’t know what the fuck this means, which is why you have to take these nebulous metrics and turn them into something with a heart beat.
A common spoonful of sugar holds around five grams of sugar, which turns a no fat Starbucks latte into (water + 5 spoonfuls of sugar). A small Mountain Dew becomes (water + 14 spoonfuls of sugar).
Think about what this means.
What drinking energy actually is
If you drink a small bottle of Mountain Dew with dinner, you’re shoveling fourteen spoonfuls of sugar down your throat alongside your meal. You can go further: what the heck does fourteen spoons of sugar look like as a different food? It’s like eating two potatoes!
When solid foods become liquid foods, you shove things into your body that you otherwise wouldn’t. This is why liquids, for my money, are the at the heart of the obesity epidemic.
It’s hard to chow down 10,000+ calories of solid food day in and day out. But if you liquefy most of those calories…
There’s still a lot I want to cover, but I don’t know how to do it in a sexy way, so I’m doing it in a question and an(t)swer format. YOLO.
Q: How much water should I drink?
I never understood the question: “How much water should I drink?” It’s simple, really. When you’re thirsty, drink water.
I suppose people ask this question because their default beverage is something not water. They want to know much water to drink as a side quest, as a supplement to their normal beverage intake.
Water is the main quest. Water is your normal beverage intake. Anyone trying to lose fat that’s drinking mostly non-water should be locked inside of a torture chamber.
The old standard is eight cups of water per day. Why? I don’t know. I don’t care to know why, either, because this is very low recommendation. You won’t find many muscular or lean people that only drink eight cups of water per day. Try drinking at least a gallon of water every day.
If you’re peeing neon yellow, you’re not drinking enough water. Your pee should be clear(er). More white than yellow.
You can drink too much water, but drinking too much water is a unicorn. You have to be forcing a lot of liquid down in a short period of time and resisting urination. Liquids are about hydration. Don’t drink until you feel bloated or full. Drink to quench your thirst.
Q: What can I drink besides water?
Like I wrote earlier, you can drink whatever you want. But if you want to stick to my recommendations, the two most sensible beverages options besides water are black coffee and plain tea. Not for any particular reason beyond the fact that they contain next to no energy.
Note the black and plain recommendation. Cream and sugar aren’t deadly. They simply add calories, which isn’t terribly desirable. Budget for them or pay the price.
And then you should drink more water. Always. Both coffee and tea are diuretics. (They make you go pee pee.) If you have a cup of coffee or tea, have a cup of water before going for your second cup.
Also, if you’re drinking coffee, tea, or any caffeinated beverage, be aware of how much you consume past 12PM. Caffeine can interrupt sleep. Sleep is important.
Q: What about milk?
Milk isn’t a superfood. Everything milk provides can be had through other means. Strength training will build strong resilient bones better than milk will.
But you can drink milk. You just have to reverse engineer it into a solid food. Milk is a combination of protein, sugar, and fat. There’s energetic baggage.
Some people, usually the thinner crowd, can benefit from drinking milk when they’re trying to gain muscle. This crowd typically has a small appetite, so they struggle eating enough calories. Because milk is a liquid, it goes down easy. They can accumulate solid food energy without having to shove mounds of food down their throat.
In other words, these skinny “hardgainer” types drink milk for the exact opposite reason why most people need to be conscious of their liquid intake.
Q: What about sugar free drinks?
The ten thousand food rule: don’t drink calories. And this brings us to the land of sugar free sodas and artificial sweeteners, which is a sticky place.
Most people that use artificial sweeteners are obese. This is a fact. The question is whether (a) obese people are using artificial sweeteners because they are obese, or (b) obese people are obese because they are using artificial sweeteners.
I’m not going to comment too hard on artificial sweeteners because, as far as I’m concerned, the jury is still out on them. Are they harmful? Most studies say no. Are they helpful? Ehh. Maybe?
Here’s something to think about. (What I’m about to write is totally speculation, so keep that in mind.) Your body might build an association between zero energy yield and sweet tastes. In other words, your body will begin to think sweet tasting things have no energy.
This doesn’t mean that drinking no calorie beverages will make you fat. But, but, it might create a bottomless sweet tooth. Just a thought. And why, in my eyes, the jury is out on artificial sweeteners. But that’s not the worst news in the world. Because the jury isn’t out on water.
Q: What about Gatorade and sports drinks?
The amount of people drinking Gatorade makes me want to kill a cat. And that’s saying something because I love cats. The ocelot is my spirit animal.
If you aren’t sweating (from exercise) and you are drinking Gatorade, you deserve to have wood splinters driven into the skin underneath your fingernails. Even if you are sweating, there’s a good chance you don’t need Gatorade.
Gatorade and sports drinks take root in this idea: when you’re exercising, you’re (a) using energy and (b) losing water. Therefore, to maintain performance, you need to replenish both.
Water hydrates, but it doesn’t energize. Gatorade hydrates (with the help of water and electrolytes) and energizes (with the help of sugar).
Contrary to popular wisdom, replenishing energy isn’t a huge deal during casual exercise. The much more important need is hydration, which can be kept under control with water. (For perspective, your body can survive around three weeks without food, but only one week without water.)
Chances are, you won’t notice much of a performance difference between drinking 1L of Gatorade or 1L of water unless you are an edge case HARDCORE athlete training and sweating for hours upon hours doing lots of huffing and puffing, under constant duress. Like one of those nut-job marathon runners. Perhaps then it’d be a good idea drink one of ‘dem ‘dere emulsified potato smoothies.
If you are doing some kind of hardcore exercise and losing a lot of fluids, an energy drink is preferred because they’re easy to digest.
Blood gets shunted to the intestines to help digest food. Blood to the intestines means less blood to the muscles, which means bad performance. Chucking back a plate of pasta as you cruise past mile twenty is a recipe for chucking up a plate of pasta as you cruise past mile twenty-one.
Q: What about peri-workout drinks?
Similar to sports drinks, a lot of people recommend sugary pre post-workout drinks for strength training sessions in order to spike insulin, maximize muscle growth, and blah blah blah.
You don’t need sugary post-workout drinks, nor do you need sugary pre-workout drinks. Much more important than sugary peri-training shakes is the rest of what you put into your body across the entire day.
The post-workout window of opportunity is an overblown marketing concept, designed to get you to buy supplements. Alas, supplements supplement your base food intake. Before you have to solidify the base before you supplement. And, even then, there are only a few supplements worth your money.
Q: What about alcohol?
I like alcohol. I like beer. But getting smashed hammered faced isn’t exactly symbiotic with looking good naked. Alcohol is an energy nutrient. There are calories alcohol. There are calories in the shit that gets mixed with alcohol (namely sugar).
You want to limit your alcohol consumption for reasons already explained: drinking energy isn’t ideal.
If you insist on drinking…
Any non-sweetened hard liquor (vodka, whiskey) on the rocks or mixed with club soda is ideal. Diet soda works, too. Dry red wines are good. Pinot noir, cabernet, merlot. Tequila will also do the job. (Kah, my friends. Kah.)
Beer is the worst. But I love me some beer. I drink it often. More often than I should. But I treat it as solid food. I budget for it. You should, too.
The non-Hyrule blue potion
Ever wonder why the blue potion in Zelda was a rock star that filled both hearts and magic? Blue. Water is blue. I rest my case.
If you wanna check out the first important (but boring) nutrition principle every skinny-fat noob should know, click here.