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The #1 Worst Drinking Habit If You Want to Lose Weight Fast

Don't overlook what you're drinking when you want to drop pounds.
FACT CHECKED BY Olivia Tarantino

With a whopping 42% of Americans having obesity, it is understandable that many people want to take proactive steps to lose weight. While it may seem daunting to change up your diet and lifestyle to shed some pounds, the good news is that simple modifications in your habits—and drinking habits, in particular—can have a profound impact on your health.

When people are on a mission to lose weight, oftentimes, the first thing people look at is the foods they are eating to determine which choices should be limited (or eliminated). But what we drink can impact our weight just as much as what we eat, and in some cases, may have a greater impact.

Sugary drinks, in particular, can put a monkey wrench in a person's quest to lose weight fast, thanks to their lack of ability to promote satiety, potentially leading people to eat more calories in the long run.

The #1 worst drinking habit if you want to lose weight fast is drinking regular soda.

woman drinking soda
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From cola to grape to a refreshing lemon-lime, there is nothing quite like the effervescent sweetness that regular soda offers. But unfortunately, drinking the sweet stuff won't do you any favors in the weight loss department, thanks to their high added sugar content, low satiety, and incomplete compensation for total energy.

The theory that drinking regular soda contributes to weight gain and doesn't support weight loss isn't simply theoretical. According to results of a systematic review published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition evaluating 30 studies, the authors made it clear that including sugar-sweetened beverages like soda in a diet is linked to weight gain.

Recent data shows that even for physically active people, one serving per day of soft drink was associated with a 0.10 kilogram (almost a quarter of a pound) increase in weight per year. Based on this data, people who down three servings of regular soda per day can expect to gain even more weight, even if they exercise regularly.

One can of soda contains around 150 calories, with all of the calories coming from added sugars. Supersizing your soda? Expect to take in even more empty and non-satiating calories when you are guzzling your drink. And since soda is free from fiber, protein, or healthy fats that can help slow digestion, drinking soda won't help people feel satisfied or full.

What about other sugary drinks?

The good news is that not all sugar-containing drinks are created equal, and some options are better choices than others regarding weight loss support.

Take 100% fruit juice as an example. Sure, juices contain natural sugars and lack satiating fiber and protein. But they are far from being an empty-calorie drink, as they do contain natural vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants that can help support a person's overall health and fill nutritional gaps if they are otherwise not big fruit eaters.

When it comes to the beloved breakfast drink that is orange juice, observational data shows that adults who include this beverage in their diet tend to have a lower body mass index (BMI) and a reduced risk for obesity when compared with non-OJ drinkers.

RELATEDSecret Side Effects of Drinking Orange Juice, Says Science

But unlike 100% fruit juice, soda is typically void of any ingredients that offer a nutritional benefit while being loaded with added sugar and calories. That is why the #1 worst drinking habit if you want to lose weight fast is drinking regular soda.

Best soda replacements

woman holding water bottle
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If you are trying to lose weight quickly, your best bet is to stick to good old-fashioned H2O. And if you need a caffeine boost, a cup of hot or cold green tea can give you an energizing zing with the additional benefit of expediting weight loss thanks to the EGCG catechin that this tea contains.

Can't live without your bubbles? Waterloo Sparkling Water, OLIPOP lower-sugar soda, and Drink Simple Sparkling Maple Water can all be satisfying alternatives to give you some flavor, fizz, and fun if plain water is simply not your jam.

If you think that swapping your regular soda with a diet alternative is a good option, you may want to reconsider. While some data show that making this switch is linked to a healthier weight, other data show that diet soda can have a similar negative effect on weight loss as regular soda options.

READ MORE25 Healthy, Low-Sugar Soda Alternatives

Tips to cut back on sugary soda

Ditching soda may be a tough habit to break, but cutting your pop can help reduce your intake of a significant amount of empty calories and added sugars—two factors that contribute to weight gain.

Start small—drink only half of a can at a time instead of a whole can, or don't supersize your beverage when filling up at the gas station.

Over time, you can wean yourself off of the sweet stuff and enjoy the fruits of your labor by hopefully seeing the weight melt off of your body naturally.

Lauren Manaker MS, RDN, LD, CLEC
Lauren Manaker is an award-winning registered dietitian, book author, and recipe developer who has been in practice for almost 20 years. Read more