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May 3, 2011 –

Anyone reading this who works for a beverage company, you are not going to like what I have to say. If you look in every single Beachbody nutritional guide, what is a common rule? No soda! And everyone gasps and says “No Soda!? But…but…but diet is 0 calories!” This is such an ingrained habit, it is like taking milk from a hungry baby. I do believe in moderation and there are worse things to put in your body than a soda a day. But if you want great results in your transformation, save yourself some money and hydrate with nature’s best.

Here are a few interesting facts about soda.

– It is the #1 source of calories in America.

– We drink 46 gallons per year.

– We spend $300 per year on it. Yup, it’s big business!

Growing up I never had regular soda in the house. It was always diet and I never liked the taste of diet. When I went to college, I started enjoying regular soda and it was a favorite of mine when I got fast food, which was alot. I loved fast food! McDonalds, Burger King, Wendys, Taco Bell, and my all time favorite, Portillos, which is a Chicago-based chain. (2) Chicago Jumbo Dogs with a Large Cheese Fry and a Large Coke. And why not top it all off with a Large Chocolate Shake. I would get that all the time!

Even before I started P90x, I noticed I was up to a soda and maybe even two a day. Cherry Coke and Vanilla Coke were my favorites. Then, Coke Zero came out. I thought I would give it a try because even back then I knew 140 calories of refined sugar was not healthy. And while I couldn’t stand the taste of Diet Soda, Coke Zero was pretty good…well…Cherry Coke Zero to be exact. Zero calories and I like the taste. Then about 2 months before I started P90x, I told myself I was going to stop soda. Honestly, part of my soda habit was just the convenience of grabbing something cold out of the fridge instead of going to the cabinet, getting a glass, putting ice in the glass, filling it up, etc. Pathetic, I know.

I know some people who drink soda as their sole source of hydration. 6-7 cans a day. WOW! I have had emails from people who are struggling with their nutrition and when we start dissecting what they are consuming, soda always seems to be in there. I will talk about the downfalls of soda in a second, but for now, just humor me and agree soda is not good for you. So, what do you drink? Personally, I love water, but there are alot people who want flavor. I have a few things with flavor everyday.

1) My post-workout P90x Results & Recovery Drink , which has a great tasting Orange flavor.

2) My favorite drink of the day, Shakeology that tastes like a Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup!

3) Protein Shake. I have tried a bunch of flavors, but always come back to chocolate.

4) Almond Milk. I have started to make this a regular addition. It has great calcium and in all honesty, I really really like the taste. And its only 60 calories per cup.

5) If I am dying for some other flavors, I do enjoy a Vitamin Water Zero every now and then. It uses Truvia, which is a natural sweetening agent. I used to buy alot of the flavor packets, but they are just full of artificial sweeteners.

Now lets get back to diet soda. “But Mike, I love my diet soda! I dont think I could give it up!” I have pasted an article below entitled ‘Can you get hooked on diet soda!‘. I feel my role as your coach is to educate you. So much of the habits I formed because of ignorance. So, here are some other things to note about America’s favorite beverage:

1) Soda is 100% nutrition free. There is no…I repeat… absolutely no redeeming qualities in a can of soda.

2) Artificial Sweeteners. Maybe I have become completely insane about what I eat and drink, but I dont like the word “artificial” in anything I am putting in my body, at least if I can avoid it.

3) Don’t be fooled by zero calories. Emerging research suggests that consuming sugary-tasting beverages, even if they’re artificially sweetened, may lead to a high preference for sweetness overall. So essentially, you have a provided a catalyst for bad habits to come into your diet. And remember aspartame is 180 times sweeter than sugar.

4) What else is in there? Typically caffeine, sodium,and God only knows what else.

5) And here is one last element of soda that is not highlighted as much as it should be. It’s full of acid which ends up throwing our body’s pH off. Consequently, our body compensates by using calcium, magnesium, iodine,  and other stored minerals to re-balance. Wow!  Here is a clip with 200K+ hits that discusses how soda can throw off our pH! This was a huge lesson for me. It is worth 9 minutes of your time to watch it. Trust me!

Now if after all of this, you still want to drink soda, Coke and Pepsi thank you for that. But do not say you are walking around in ignorance anymore.

Can you get hooked on diet soda?

CNN Source article – Click HERE

First thing every morning, Ellen Talles starts her day by draining a supersize Styrofoam cup filled with Diet Coke and crushed ice. The 61-year-old from Boca Raton, Fla., drinks another Diet Coke in the car on the way to work and keeps a glass nearby “at all times” at her job as a salesclerk. By the end of the day she has put away about 2 liters.

“I just love it,” she says. “I crave it, need it. My food tastes better with it.”

Talles sounds a lot like an addict. Replace her ever-present glass of Diet Coke with a cigarette, and she’d make a convincing two-pack-a-day smoker. In fact, she says, she buys her 2-liter bottles 10 at a time — more if a hurricane is in the offing — because if she notices she’s down to her last one, she panics “like somebody who doesn’t have their pack of cigarettes.”

Most diet-soda drinkers aren’t as gung ho as Talles, but people who down several diet sodas per day are hardly rare. Government surveys have found that people who drink diet beverages average more than 26 ounces per day (some drink far more) and that 3% of diet-soda drinkers have at least four daily.

Are these diet-soda fiends true addicts? And if so, what are they addicted to? The most obvious answer is caffeine — but that doesn’t explain the many die-hard diet drinkers who prefer caffeine-free varieties.

Factors besides caffeine are likely at work. Although diet soda clearly isn’t as addictive as a drug like nicotine, experts say the rituals that surround diet soda and the artificial sweeteners it contains can make some people psychologically — and even physically — dependent on it in ways that mimic more serious addictions. And unlike sugared soda, which will make you gain weight if you drink too much of it, zero-calorie soda doesn’t seem to have an immediate downside that prevents people from overindulging.

“You think, ‘Oh, I can drink another one because I’m not getting more calories,'” says Harold C. Urschel, MD, an addiction psychiatrist in Dallas and the author of Healing the Addicted Brain. “Psychologically you’re giving yourself permission.”

How diet soda trains your brain

The simplest explanation for a serious diet-soda habit is caffeine. Many people who chain-drink diet soda may be caffeine addicts who simply prefer soda to coffee or energy drinks, though diet soda doesn’t provide much of a kick by comparison. (A can of Diet Coke contains four to five times less caffeine than a small Starbucks coffee.)

Caffeine can’t account for Steve Bagi’s habit, however. The 44-year-old graphic designer from Chester Springs, Pa., gets his morning buzz from an enormous cup of coffee, yet he still buys caffeine-free Diet Pepsi by the case and downs six cans a day, “easy.”

His Diet Pepsi cravings stem from a prior addiction to nicotine, not caffeine. “It’s all tied to smoking,” says Bagi, who smoked a pack a day for 20 years and started drinking diet soda to mask the aftertaste of cigarettes. He eventually kicked the smoking habit — but the Diet Pepsi one stuck.

Trading one addiction or compulsive behavior for another — a phenomenon known as addiction swapping — is a well-known concept in addiction medicine, one that may explain Bagi’s experience and that of other heavy diet-soda drinkers. Many people who drink diet soda are trying to lose (or keep off) weight by eating healthier, and they may turn to the sweetness of diet soda for comfort as they scale back on sugar, carbohydrates, and other satisfying foods — much like a heroin addict who steps down to Oxycontin, Dr. Urschel says.

Similarly, people may get hooked on diet soda because they associate it with a certain activity or behavior, as Bagi did with smoking. “You can get into a situation where you crave a diet soda by conditioning yourself,” Dr. Urschel says. “[If] you stop for gas and always get a diet soda, the craving will start to come first, before you even pull into the station.”

The psychological components of diet-soda cravings are powerful, but they aren’t the whole story. Research suggests that the artificial sweeteners in diet soda (such as aspartame) may prompt people to keep refilling their glass because these fake sugars don’t satisfy like the real thing.

In a 2008 study, for instance, women who drank water that was alternately sweetened with sugar and Splenda couldn’t tell the difference — but their brains could. Functional MRI (fMRI) brain scans revealed that even though both drinks lit up the brain’s reward system, the sugar did so more completely.

“Your senses tell you there’s something sweet that you’re tasting, but your brain tells you, ‘Actually, it’s not as much of a reward as I expected,'” says Martin P. Paulus, MD, a professor of psychiatry at the University of California San Diego, and one of the authors of the study. “The consequence might be that the brain says, ‘Well, I’ll have more of this.'”

In other words, artificial sweeteners may spur drinkers — or their brains — to keep chasing a “high” that diet soda keeps forever just out of reach. It’s not clear that this teasing effect can lead to dependence, but it’s a possibility, Dr. Paulus says. “Artificial sweeteners have positive reinforcing effects — meaning humans will work for it, like for other foods, alcohol, and even drugs of abuse,” he says. “Whenever you have that, there is a potential that a subgroup of people … will have a chance of getting addicted.”

Timothy S. Harlan, MD, a nutrition specialist and assistant professor of internal medicine at the Tulane University School of Medicine in New Orleans, says that while diet-soda dependence appears to be a real phenomenon, it is probably caused by a complex mix of behavioral factors, not necessarily artificial sweeteners. “I don’t think there is clear-cut evidence of biochemical dependence on diet soda, but my sense is that certainly people do become habituated to diet soda and dependent upon it,” he says.

Are you hooked?

According to the American Psychiatric Association, a key sign of substance dependence is when a person continues to use a substance even when he or she knows it’s causing physical or mental health problems.

Talles fits this description. She was diagnosed with brittle bones about six years ago, and her internist urged her to quit Diet Coke because the phosphoric acid in soda — both diet and regular — leaches calcium from bones, which can make osteoporosis worse.

She’s not having it, though. “It’s not like I smoke or have any other bad habits,” she says. “This is my thing.” All the same, Talles acknowledges that drinking so much diet soda is probably not good for her, so in the last couple of months, she’s started substituting one of her daily Diet Cokes for a caffeinated Crystal Light.

Another distinguishing feature of substance dependence — whether it’s to caffeine, nicotine, or hard drugs like heroin — is the painful withdrawal symptoms that occur if a person tries to quit cold turkey. Although it’s difficult to pinpoint whether aspartame, caffeine, or some combination of ingredients is responsible, people who cut back on diet soda report symptoms such as headaches, nausea, and irritability — a feeling that Talles knows well.

She still remembers with horror a European vacation in 1982 during which she couldn’t find diet soda for weeks. (This was still the infancy of diet soda; Diet Coke had just been released.) “I felt terribly lethargic and I had a headache,” Talles recalls. “I tried to drink tea, but it didn’t work the same way. … I was having terrible withdrawal.” When she finally found a vendor who sold Tab, four weeks into the trip, she bought every can he had.

Catharina Hedberg, the owner of the Ashram, a wellness retreat nestled in California’s Santa Monica Mountains, has seen what she believes is aspartame withdrawal firsthand. She claims that as many as 20% of the people who visit the Ashram are “totally addicted” to aspartame, mainly from diet drinks. “Withdrawals are horrendous,” Hedberg says, even among those who drink caffeine-free diet soda.

Before guests arrive at the retreat, Hedberg sends them a packet of literature that, among other things, encourages them to stop consuming diet soda and other products that contain aspartame. Although her observations are admittedly unscientific, Hedberg says that people who drink a lot of diet soda tend to experience nausea (and sometimes even vomiting) one to two days after arriving at the retreat, whereas coffee drinkers typically just get headaches.

The dangers of too much diet soda

Whether you feel dependent or not, drinking too much diet soda might be risky in the long run. In recent years, habitual diet-soda consumption has been linked to an increased risk of low bone mineral density in women, type 2 diabetes, and stroke. What’s more, a growing body of research suggests that excessive diet soda intake may actually encourage weight gain.

Researchers are still trying to sort out the counterintuitive link between zero-calorie soda and weight gain. One explanation may be that as your body gets used to experiencing the sweet flavor of diet soda without absorbing any calories, it begins to forget that foods containing real sugar and other carbohydrates do deliver calories.

“The next time you go for a piece of fruit, your history says, ‘I don’t know if this has calories or not,’ so you track those calories less well, and you may eat more of them,” says Susan Swithers, PhD, a professor of psychological sciences at Purdue University in West Lafayette, Ind.

It’s also possible that people who gravitate toward diet soda are more likely to gain weight because they have less healthy diets overall than people who choose water or other unsweetened beverages. (They may use diet soda to wash down fast food, for instance.)

If a relationship between diet soda and unhealthy food choices does exist, it may not be a total coincidence. There is some speculation — largely unconfirmed, as of yet — that diet sodas have subtle effects on insulin and blood-sugar levels that trigger hunger and food cravings and influence how (and what) you eat.

None of this, however, is enough to persuade Talles or Bagi to swear off their habit. They simply have a hard time imagining life without diet soda.

“I’d like to quit, and I know my wife would like me to,” Bagi says. “I would like it to happen within the next year, but I’m not counting on it.”

Additional reporting by Carina Storrs.

Copyright Health Magazine 2010

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