Aiming to shed belly fat is an excellent health goal to work toward every day. Especially since visceral fat (belly fat deep in your abdomen) is linked to several poor health outcomes. For example, according to Harvard Medical School, visceral belly fat is associated with poor metabolic health and a higher chronic disease risk, including heart disease and diabetes. Furthermore, this type of belly fat is linked to an increased risk of breast cancer in women. The good news is that making smart beverage choices can help you blast away that stubborn belly fat once and for all.
But just as much as knowing what drinks are good for weight loss is critical, it's also essential to know which ones to be wary of. We chatted with Destini Moody, RDN, CSSD, LD, a registered dietitian and sports dietitian with Garage Gym Reviews, who shares 10 popular drinks to avoid if you're trying to lose belly fat.
If you're ready to tighten that waistline and say goodbye to unhealthy beverages, read on to learn which drinks are sabotaging your weight loss goals. And when you're done, check out What Happens To Your Body When You Drink Green Tea.
Blended Coffee Drinks
Indulging in delicious blended coffee drinks may seem harmless, but the hidden sugars and empty calories contribute to belly fat accumulation. "Frappuccinos and sugary lattes are great ways to treat yourself after a hard day once in a while, but many people make the mistake of believing these drinks can replace a regular cup of coffee," Moody explains. "While black coffee averages about five calories per serving, a 16-ounce frappuccino packs about 380 calories. This is more than a medium order of fries at McDonald's. That much sugar and saturated fat won't do your waistline any favors."
Soft drinks are another indulgent beverage loaded with added sugar and empty calories, making them common culprits of belly fat. Their high sugar content can also cause insulin spikes, which leads to fat storage around the abdomen. "Though sodas come in various flavors, they're essentially carbonated, high-fructose corn syrup," says Moody. "The problem with sugary sodas is that they raise your blood sugar, thus prompting the body to pull water from its cells to dilute it. This makes you even thirstier, which can prompt you to drink more soda, and before you know it, you've consumed hundreds of calories that have no nutritional value and can quickly lead to weight gain."
While fruit juice may appear healthy, it often concentrates the sugars without the beneficial fiber in whole fruits. This can rapidly increase blood sugar levels and sabotage your efforts to lose belly fat. "It's misleading to believe that fruit juice helps you lose weight and stay healthy because it still contains sugar," explains Moody. "The fiber that's present in whole fruits that helps keep you full and control calorie intake is not present in fruit juice and can cause you to consume a large amount of sugar and calories in a short amount of time. This can make it harder to lose belly fat."
The excess calories from alcohol can contribute to fat accumulation, particularly around the midsection. Plus, alcohol contains seven calories per gram, making it a no-go if you're trying to lose weight. Moody tells us, "Beer contains wheat, which makes it high in calories. Alcohol, in general, alters the metabolism in a way that prompts the body to store its calories as fat in the midsection, thus where the term "beer belly" comes from. Alcohol is also inflammatory, and chronic inflammation is a primary driver of the accumulation of visceral fat."
These calorie-dense concoctions are high in added sugars that can sneakily increase your overall calorie intake, causing belly fat storage. "Cocktails contain alcohol, which is a huge nemesis of weight loss. However, the real culprit when it comes to cocktails is the mixers. Cocktails often have sodas, fruit juice, and syrups added to make the spirits more enjoyable. However, combining these caloric ingredients high in refined, inflammatory sugars and alcohol makes a cocktail of its own: a cocktail for visceral fat gain," says Moody.
Smoothies may be a surprising item on this list, but store-bought or overly sweetened smoothies often contain way more calories than you'd expect. Loaded with sugars and often lacking in fiber, these drinks can lead to energy crashes and weight gain. "Smoothies, while they can be full of healthy ingredients like fruit and leafy greens, can also be loaded with sugar and lack protein unless it's intentionally added," says Moody. "This can trigger your hunger sooner than it should and cause overeating later on, which can cause belly fat gain to creep up on you."
Despite their association with athleticism, sports drinks are often high in sugar and calories. Unless you regularly engage in intense physical activity, these beverages may lead to excess calorie intake and prevent you from melting belly fat. "Sports drinks are formulated specifically to deliver athletes sugar and electrolytes quickly to fuel their intense exercise," Moody explains. "However, many people mistakenly believe drinking them during their leisure time is harmless. Sports dietitians don't even recommend that athletes have sports drinks unless they exercise for more than an hour because of the sugar content. Even though the fruity, hydrating flavors taste great, an average sports drink contains about 220 calories without any nutrients, but plenty of added sugar."
The combination of high sugar content and saturated fats in milkshakes is a primary culprit behind belly fat accumulation. Moody says, "Milkshakes are typically made with full-fat ice cream, which is loaded with saturated fat. Not only can the combination of sugar and saturated fat increase the risk of heart disease, but both inflammatory compounds can quickly increase visceral fat storage in the body."
While slushies might be a refreshing treat, they're often loaded with added sugars that cause insulin spikes, leading to belly fat storage. "Slushies are essentially finely crushed ice with added sugar and artificial colors added," says Moody. "If you've ever let one last long enough to see it melt completely, it tends to look like syrup in a styrofoam cup. Avoid the excess calories (and the brain freeze) by passing on these drinks."
With their high caffeine and sugar content, energy drinks can provide a temporary energy boost but at the cost of increasing your belly fat. "Some energy drinks contain added sugar and excess calories, but many contain artificial sweeteners. Artificial sweeteners may have the potential to trick the body into thinking it's receiving sugar when it isn't. In turn, this can trigger your brain to seek out the sugar it was expecting, thus causing you to overeat and making losing belly fat more difficult," says Moody.