An ice-cold cola sure hits the spot sometimes, but that blast of sugar does a number on your body. Here’s why you might want to stick with water or seltzer next time you need to rehydrate. By the way, this is why bottled and canned sodas taste different.
Crack, fizz, gulp: Within the first few minutes of drinking a soda, your intestines add that sugar to your blood, spiking levels of glucose—blood sugar. That’s a lot of quick energy, and to manage it, multiple organs in your body pitch in to process that sugar.
Your pancreas releases insulin to help transport the sugar (which is a carbohydrate) to your muscles for energy. But that soda contains more sugar than your muscles need at one time. “When an individual drinks a 20-ounce soda, they are getting an entire meal’s worth of carbohydrates through liquid,” explains Meltem Zeytinoglu, MD, MBA, an endocrinologist and assistant professor of medicine at the University of Chicago Medicine. “In most cases, this soda is consumed in addition to a meal, so the additional carbohydrates will need to be processed. This extra sugar, instead of being stored in muscle tissue, gets converted to fat in the liver.”
Your kidney also comes into play by getting rid of excess sugar through your urine. That means your body loses water, which, along with the diuretic effect of the caffeine in the soda, increases your risk of dehydration. Be sure to check out these 23 infused water ideas that’ll make you forget about soda.
The good news is you don’t have to banish sodas completely. “The most important thing to remember is that portion control matters,” says Cordialis Msora-Kasago, MA, RDN, a registered dietitian nutritionist in Los Angeles, CA, and spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. “An occasional soda is not going to have a significant impact on your health. It’s when it becomes a regular habit that [it’s] a problem. Look for other non-caloric beverages you enjoy, like iced tea, water and infused waters.” Next, read about some more reasons to cut back on all soda (including diet).