Do Low-Cal or No-Cal Drinks REALLY Help You Lose Weight?

When you're trying to slim down, it makes sense to give up sugary soda and go with the diet kind, saving yourself 140 calories per can, on average. But weirdly, drinking low- or no-calorie beverages may not actually change the number of calories you rack up per day overall…leaving your scale stuck at the same maddening number.

That's the takeaway from a new study published in the American Journal of Public Health, which found that overweight and obese dieters who sucked down diet drinks actually had the same average caloric intake as did people who guzzled sugary beverages. The study authors theorize that diet beverage drinkers compensate for the subtracted liquid calories by eating more solid food—taking in up to 194 more food calories per day.

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Why would your Diet Pepsi habit affect your menu choices? Some dieters might subconsciously add back the unused drink calories as a way to reward themselves for giving up high-cal lattes and sweetened sodas. Or it could have to do with the fact that previous studies suggest that diet drinks may increase appetite, perhaps by boosting cravings, says Janet Brill, Ph.D., R.D., a nutritionist based in Philadelphia.

Still, this doesn't mean you should swap your Coke Zero for Coca-Cola; drinking your calories is never a good idea if you're trying to drop pounds because liquid calories go down quickly without satiating your appetite the same way solid calories do. It's best to hydrate with water, unsweetened tea, or coffee (if you're looking for a caffeine fix). And make sure to choose smart foods even though you're skipping soda—these healthy-eating ideas should help.


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