Sugar free drinks…Monster Ultra. Diet Coke. Diet Pepsi. Diet Irn Bru. Diet Dr Pepper. Diet Irn Bru (my personal favourite.)
Are they okay to drink?
Short answer: yay.
Long answer: mostly yay, with some considerations.
Consideration #1: Quantity
Don’t go drinking 4-5 cans a day. Over-consumption may have laxative effects or rather, they’ll make you shit like a waterfall. Limit it to 1-2 every other day or less. There might also be health implications from consistently consuming a lot of artificial sweeteners, see below.
Consideration #2: Caffeine content
Most of them, if not all of them, contain caffeine. Whilst caffeine is a useful tool during fasting for fat loss, relief of tiredness and an edge in the gym, over-doing it might make you feel awful and, you’ll crank your caffeine tolerance up meaning you’ll need to keep taking more for the same or similar effects.
Don’t go downing one with your night-time meal either unless you want to be awake and buzzing until 5am.
Consideration #3: Possible Insulin Spike
Drinks containing the artificial sweetener Acesulfame Potassium aka Acesulfame K MIGHT cause an insulin spike because of the sweet taste (sweetness ranges from 200-12,000 times sweeter than table sugar!) Drinks containing sucralose or aspartame should NOT cause an insulin response. However, research suggests that the response, if any, may depend on your own gut bacteria.
Another point of note is that some studies demonstrate a higher blood-sugar level following artificial sweetener ingestion. Again, this probably depends on your own gut bacteria. In any case, a high blood-sugar level is not something you want to consistently maintain as it is an early indicator of type 2 diabetes.
That said, these results are not conclusive and a lot of the studies on these sweeteners were conducted in mice and rats so the correlation and relevance to humans remains unclear.
Don’t overly stress about this possible insulin spike though, especially when you’re fasting or cutting, in the grand scheme of things it won’t make much of a difference, if any at all. So keep your focus on the big picture.
Consideration #4: Calories and Sodium content
A very very minor point to consider is the sodium a lot of these drinks contain. If you need to watch your sodium for any reason then bear this in mind. You won’t need to worry about sodium unless you’re competing, have a heart condition or some other medical complication which requires sodium regulation.
The other point to note is they do contain calories. Most of them are around 10 calories but I have found some which have upwards of 50 or more per can, so pay attention to the label and don’t just be lulled by the flashy logos. The one that comes to mind is Monster’s Recovery Tea, this was marketed on Amazon as calorie free but in fact, it packs around 50 or so calories per can. I did email the seller to apprise them of this as it’s technically false advertising. Although, some countries allow manufacturers to advertise their product as calorie-free when in fact it’s not. There is an upward limit of somewhere around 10-50 calories, depending on food type and country I assume.
Consideration #5: Tooth Decay
Some of the common artificial sweeteners might cause tooth decay, but the research on this is not clear. As it stands, it’s another maybe (common theme here, right?) Sugar, of course, will cause tooth decay through bacteria converting sugar into acid which erodes your teeth’s enamel, but whether or not sweeteners do this is not clear. In fact, one sweetener called xlylitol might actually prevent tooth decay. In any case, don’t forget to brush your teeth as normal.
Overall then there are no demonstrably alarming concerns with the common artificial sweeteners found in most calorie free drinks and from a biological stand-point, the commonly used sweeteners appear to be safe, as long as they are used sensibly much like anything else. The possibility of tooth decay resulting from their use can be eliminated simply by brushing your teeth, which you should be doing regularly anyway.
Some say these drinks are not good for you, these claims have weak to no basis in current research and are more-so an opinion – and that’s fine. My opinion, given the (limited) evidence is that they are OK to consume. I mean, a sugar version of one of these drinks could be anything from 150 – 300 calories or more whereas the sugar-free version could be something like 10 calories, that alone is an attractive reason to include them.
So if these drinks make things easier and more enjoyable for you, by-all-means include them – worry free!
Don’t forget to drink water too. It’s the elixir of life. No, seriously, DRINK LOTS OF WATER REGARDLESS. Was the caps enough emphasis? WATER!!