This must be addressed because there is quite a large group of people that have an issue with this topic and are trying to ignore just how much damage to their health and athletic performance they are doing with this one little itty bitty habit they have. So, here goes:
QUIT DRINKING SODA POP... especially the diet versions! Soda pop is bad for you! DIET soda is probably even worse for you! Are your toes twitching and your head starting to ache just thinking about not having your soda fix? I know that Diet Coke, Dr. Pepper, Mountain Dew, Monster, Pepsi (or whatever else you get your fix from) is like your life-blood. Some of you may be wishing there was an option to just get an IV and carry around a bag of your favorite drink and have it jack you up straight up clean through the veins. Of course, most of you love the feel of it in your mouth before it heads on down into your system and does its work, and even the comfort of holding that big ol' cup or can is part of the addiction. It's a habit that touches on more than just the drink. It's a part of your daily ritual and lifestyle. So, if it makes you so happy, why should you quit? What's so bad about this fizzy, sweet, caffeinated liquid bliss? To begin with, it is addicting! Do you really want to have your behaviors and daily existence ruled by an addiction to a drink? If you are drinking a DIET version of soda, you probably think you are doing yourself a favor because, well, there aren't any calories, right? Drano doesn't have any calories either. I'll bet you wouldn't want to drink that! But really, it's not just about the calories. It's about what it is doing to your body's internal environment and your long term health.
Anecdotal evidence shows that diet soda contains artificial sweeteners that can stimulate your appetite. It can increase your carbohydrate craving and it could stimulate fat storage and weight gain. It is also acidic and creates an extremely unhealthy environment in your body; which means your body is in a breaking down (catabolic) state instead of a building up (anabolic) state, which means disease and disrepair!
Sucralose is used in many of these drinks and a study found that it could decrease red blood cells, cause enlargement or calcification in the kidneys and studies have shown it can kill about half of the good bacteria in your stomach. In a study of rabbits given this stuff, it caused a 23% death rate in the soda group compared to a 6% death rate in the control group with no soda. A few more good reasons to quit the soda habit:
A 2009 Nurses' Health Study of 3,256 women found a 30% drop in level of kidney function for participants who drank 2 or more servings of diet pop daily. This means that those who drank at least 2 cans, bottles or glasses of diet drinks daily had 30% less kidney blood filtering ability than those who drank regular sodas or other drinks, like water! You do not want to damage your kidneys. They are pretty useful in keeping your body healthy by doing things such as: removing wastes and extra fluid from your blood, controlling your body's chemical balance, making urine, helping to control your blood pressure, helping to keep your bones healthy and helping you make red blood cells (read: oxygen for all you athletes)
Perhaps surprising, but true: studies have tied diet soda consumption to an increased risk of obesity. In fact, a 2005 University of Texas Health Science Center study found a 57.1% risk of obesity for those drinking more than two daily servings of diet pop. Another 8 year long study looked at 600 normal weight patients between the ages of 25 and 64. They discovered that people who were drinking one diet soda a day were 65% more likely to be overweight and that two of these zero calorie diet soft-drinks per raised the odds of becoming overweight or obese. Do you really want to sabotage all your hard work and training by drinking something that is going to put your body at risk for weight gain?
Drinking diet soda can also lead to bone loss. This is because the phosphoric acid in the soda causes calcium in your bloodstream to be excreted more quickly than normal through urine. Your bones then give up some of their calcium in order to keep the bloodstream calcium level constant. Anyone looking for athletic excellence would probably do themselves a little itty bitty favor if they can keep their bones strong and healthy and able to support their body as they swim, bike, run, lift weights or do any other activity that makes their life even more awesome and enjoyable!
TOOTH ENAMEL DAMAGE
Our teeth don't necessarily affect our athletic performance but, it sure can affect your health in the long run if your teeth are decaying! Soda is hard on tooth enamel, with the sugar and acid being the most problematic ingredients. Diet soda eliminates the sugar, but not the acid content of pop. Most of us are familiar enough with acid that we can imagine its impact on our tooth enamel (and our INTERNAL environment!), which is the main barrier our teeth have against decay. Phosphoric acid is found in many diet sodas, and its purpose is to promote carbonation. But it also erodes tooth enamel. Generally, darker colas are more likely to contain it than lighter diet drinks. Citric acid is another ingredient added to many diet sodas in order to preserve carbonation. Like phosphoric acid, it eats away at your tooth enamel.
In results from a study published online in the Journal of General Internal Medicine: University of Miami and Columbia University researchers followed roughly 2,500 New Yorkers for 10 years. All of the study volunteers were over age 40 and had never had a stroke. At the start of the study, each participant indicated her or his diet soda intake as “none” (less than 1 per month), “light” (1 diet soda a month to 6 diet sodas a week), or “daily” (1 or more a day). Each year, researchers contacted participants by phone to ask them about changes in risk factors and medications, as well as any health problems and hospitalizations that may have occurred. At the end of 10 years, the daily diet soda drinkers were more likely to have had a stroke or heart attack, or to have died from vascular disease. The increased risk remained even after study investigators accounted for smoking, exercise, weight, sodium intake, high cholesterol, and other factors that could have contributed to the difference.
Both regular and diet soft drinks were linked with certain, but separate, cardiovascular disease risk factors. In this study, frequent diet soda drinkers were more likely to be former smokers and have higher blood sugar, high blood pressure, and ironically, larger waistlines. They were also more likely to have metabolic syndrome. That’s the name for a cluster of risk factors— high blood pressure, high blood sugar, excess body fat around the waist, and abnormal cholesterol levels— that occur together and increase the risk for heart disease, stroke, and type 2 diabetes. Folks who drank regular soda were more likely to smoke and eat more carbohydrates, but were less likely to have diabetes or high cholesterol.
A report from the Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis, published in the journal "Diabetes Care", found that people who drank diet soda every day had a 36% greater risk of developing metabolic syndrome and a 67% greater risk of developing diabetes. Both of these conditions greatly raise the odds of having a stroke or heart attack. So, there you have it! It's not a pretty picture for the soda demographic. I know it is hard, but I am confident that you can break your addiction to soda and improve your health! Change your habits and you can break your addiction. Drink water; if you hate the flavor of plain water, squeeze lemons or limes into it. Chew gum in place of drinking a soda. Every time you crave that habit, go for a walk or drink some flavored water (preferably non-sugary, non-caffeinated). Remember just how devastating drinking soda is to your health and then focus on what you really want: kidneys that do all their awesome good deeds, athletic goals, good teeth, great health! And, don't get discouraged if you aren't perfect and mess up every once in awhile, it's about the journey to good health. The key is to keep trying, always!
Coach Keena is a regular contributor at TriEdge and has 15 years experience coaching and training hundreds of individuals. She is a USA Triathlon Certified Coach and holds additional certifications from the National association of Sports Medicine (NASM) and the American Council of Exercise (ACE) as a certified personal trainer. If you would like to contact Coach Keena go to: www.coachkeena.com.