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4 Worst Drinking Habits for a Lean Body, Say Nutritionists

Sip on these facts of fat storage and you may end up drinking more water.
FACT CHECKED BY Olivia Tarantino

The worst drinks for a lean body are those that are easy to make habitual to the point where you consume them nearly every day, maybe even multiple times a day, and don't even realize you're doing it. They are the drinks that don't feel heavy in your hand or thick and creamy in your mouth nor are they filling when they finally reach your stomach.

We asked our nutritionist friends to name their picks for worst drinks for habitual drinking. Read on to discover what they are, and for more on how to eat healthy, don't miss 15 Underrated Weight Loss Tips That Actually Work.


glass of soda

Many dietitians point to sugar-sweetened beverages, especially soda, as the worst possible drink to make a habit of because it's basically just sugar and water. "Soda is very high in sugar and calories; a 24-ounce soda can have 60 grams of sugar, the same as 12 teaspoons of sugar," says Brenda Peralta, RD, a writer for FeastGood.

Soda and other sugary drinks are so hard to avoid because we have been programmed to order soda whenever we place an order for fast food. And sugary drinks are available everywhere you turn, especially in the grocery stores.

A new pilot study by the Center for Science in the Public Interest investigated the placement and promotion of sugary drinks, the top source of added sugars in the United States, across 16 grocery stores in one metropolitan area. On average, sugar-sweetened beverages appear in about 30 locations, including endcaps and checkout areas, within each grocery store and were featured in nine price promotions per location.

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Diet Drinks

diet coke can

Even though they don't have any calories, beverages that contain artificial sweeteners can be harmful to you if you want a lean body. "Studies show that artificial sweeteners may negatively impact your microbiome and cause glucose intolerance, which may make it harder to lose weight," says USA Rx's Heather Hanks, MS, who holds a degree in complementary and alternative medicine and specializes in holistic nutrition, gut health, and chronic disease management.

"Even when used in small amounts, you may still find that you crave more calories than you did before you drank that artificially-sweetened beverage," says Hanks. A 2021 study published in JAMA Network Open adds to the evidence that drinks made with a specific artificial sweetener, sucralose, may stimulate the appetite by priming the brains of people with obesity to crave high-calorie foods.

Hanks' recommendation: water is by far the best thing you can drink if you want a lean body.

RELATED: This Is What Happens to Your Body When You Drink Water

Specialty Coffees

iced coffee with whipped cream

Morning coffee is arguably the most common drinking habit among Americans, which makes coffee potentially the worst drink for a lean belly.

"Coffee alone won't cause weight gain, and, in some cases, it can improve your weight-loss efforts (by boosting metabolism and helping control appetite)," says Trista Best, RD, a registered dietitian at Balance Once.

But it's those high-calorie sweeteners and high-fat creamers you add in that turn a coffee habit into an opportunity for serious weight gain, she says. The worst culprits are those specialty coffees made at coffee shops like Starbucks. That chain's White Chocolate Mocha, made with whole milk and whipped cream, packs up to 620 calories and 67 grams of sugar, more than you'll consume by eating five chocolate croissants!

RELATED: The #1 Worst Coffee Habit for Weight Loss, Says Dietitian


alcoholic drinks

It's easy to forget the number of calories in beer, wine, and cocktails when you're enjoying yourself with friends at happy hour. So, here's your refresher: There are two main reasons drinking alcohol regularly is the worst type of drinking habit for a lean body, according to Daniel Boyer, MD, a medical researcher with the Farr Institute. First, alcohol (ethanol) has calories, about 12 calories per ounce. While a regular beer may have about 150 calories per 12 ounces can, and a glass of red wine about 125 calories, some blended cocktails made with sugary mixers can top 600 calories.

Secondly, "taking too much alcohol makes your body prefer the excess alcohol to fat as an energy source," says Dr. Boyer. So, you end up burning off the alcohol while your fat stores continue to build up in your body. One study demonstrated that when subjects were given four different meals, including one meal with alcohol, the booze-rich meal suppressed the oxidation of fat more than any of the no-alcohol meals.

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Jeff Csatari
Jeff Csatari, a contributing writer for Eat This, Not That!, is responsible for editing Galvanized Media books and magazines and for advising journalism students through the Zinczenko New Media Center at Moravian University in Bethlehem, PA. Read more about Jeff