Diet Soda and Exercise

diet soda, soft drink, coca cola
According to the CDC, about half of the population
drinks at least one sugared beverage per day

Every human being on this planet needs water to survive.  The adult human body is approximately 60 percent water (newborns and infants are upwards of 75 percent water). Although water would be the obvious choice for optimal hydration, soft drinks (including diet soda) are the number one beverage of choice for Americans.

According to the Centers for Disease Prevention and Control (CDC), about half of the population drinks at least one sugared beverage (including diet soda) each day.  Sugared beverages refer to any beverage with added sugar or other sweetener (i.e. soda, fruit punch, sweetened powdered drinks, and sports and energy drinks).

Hydration and Exercise

According to the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM):

Water is the most essential component of the human body as it provides an important role in the function of cells. Important functions of water include transportation of nutrients, elimination of waste products, regulation and maintenance of body temperature through sweating, maintenance of blood circulation and pressure, lubrication of joints and body tissues, and facilitation of digestion.

Exercise produces an increase (elevation) of body temperature.  In order to regulate the body’s temperature it releases sweat through sweat glands, which evaporates and cools off the body.  Sweat is made up of water and electrolytes.  Exercise can lead to significant water and electrolyte loss that can lead to dehydration.

Dehydration is the loss of fluids and salts essential to maintain normal body function.  This often occurs Dehydration occurs when the body loses more fluids than it takes in.  Dehydration can lead to:

  • Muscle fatigue
  • Loss of coordination
  • Inability to regulate body temperature
  • Heat illness (e.g., cramps, heat exhaustion, heat stroke)
  • Decreased energy and athletic performance

Diet Soda and Exercise

diet soda, diet coke, diet beverage
Adults drink 25 percent more diet soda
than a decade ago

Water is the best choice for hydration. Unfortunately, the majority of Americans are looking for something that tastes good, has electrolytes or caffeine and is ultimately more satisfying.  For the calorie-conscious fitness enthusiast, diet sodas and diet energy drinks are more common before, during and after workouts. According to the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition adults drink 25 percent more diet soda than ten years ago (children and youth drink more than double the rate).

Although diet sodas are seen as a “zero calorie solution” to higher calorie sweetened drinks, several research studies have shown they are associated with several negative side effects.

Kidney Problems

In an eleven year Harvard Medical School study of more than 3,000 women, researchers found that diet cola is associated with a 200% increase in kidney function decline.  They found that this occurred when women drank more than two cans of diet soda per day. Kidney decline was not associated with consuming sugar-sweetened sodas.

Change in Metabolism

According to a study conducted by the University of Minnesota (2008) that included nearly 10,000 adults, as little as one soda per day was associated with a 34% higher risk of metabolic syndrome (a group of symptoms including abdominal fat and high cholesterol that puts a person at risk for heart disease).

Higher Risk of Obesity

Against popular belief, diet soda doesn’t help with weight loss.  A University of Texas Health Science Center study found that the more diet sodas a person drank, the greater the risk of becoming overweight.  In fact, drinking two or more cans of diet soda per day resulted in increased in waistline size by 500 percent.

Increased Risk of Type 2 Diabetes

According to a 14-year study of over 66,000 women, published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, diet sodas raised the risk of diabetes more than sugar-sweetened sodas.  Women who drank one 12-ounce diet soda had a 33 percent increased risk of type 2 diabetes.  Women who drank one 20-ounce diet soda had a 66 percent increased risk.  For more information on this study, click here.

Cell Damage

Diet sodas contain sodium benzoate or potassium benzoate that are used as mold inhibitors.  Researchers at the University of Sheffield report, “These chemicals have the ability to cause severe damage to DNA in the mitochondria to the point that they totally inactivate it.”

Rotting Teeth

Diet soda has a pH of 3.2 and is very acidic.  According to the University of Michigan, adults who drink three or more sodas a day (regular or diet) have worse dental health than those who don’t.  Soda drinkers have far greater decay, more missing teeth and more fillings.

Making Water Taste Better

water, lime, mint, refreshing water
Add lime or mint to your water to
make it more refreshing

Water is the best way to rehydrate your body.  To make water more appealing try the following:

  • Add a squeeze of fresh lemon and/or lime juice.
  • Infuse it with fruit (citrus, berry or melon).
  • Pour in a small amount of unsweetened cranberry juice.
  • Make ice cubes out of no-sugar-added juice and add a few to your water.
  • Tear up some fresh mint leaves and let it steep in the water before drinking it.
  • Add sliced cucumber.
  • Freeze mandarin/clementine orange slices and use as ice cubes.

Exercising depletes your body of valuable hydration.  It’s important to replenish the water its lost to ensure it can perform optimally before, during and after exercise and recover quickly from a hectic workout.