Zero Calorie, Zero Sugar Beverages

As a nutrition coach, one of the hardest things to do is answer the question regarding zero calorie, zero sugar beverages. I mean, how can you argue with zero calories and zero sugars. I see sports drinks in the gym that boast the zero calorie and zero sugar, I see sodas on client nutrition logs that look like freebees, zero calorie and zero sugar… Just as good as water, right?!!

Well, there are two big problems with zero calorie and zero sugar and they both come down to non-nutritive sweeteners. Non-nutritive sweeteners are chemically derived such as saccharin and aspartame. They don’t provide any nutritional value and have no calories. In fact, these sweeteners are not actually digested or absorbed in our system. We drink them and they come out directly in our urine. This leads us to the two big problems:

  1. Since these sweeteners aren’t absorbed they go right through our gut and they take with them much of the healthy biom we have in our gut. If you are on a probiotic to increase your gut biome and at the same time you are drinking anything sweetened with something artificially sweetened, you are cancelling out any benefit from that probiotic, which means you are promoting an unhealthy gut, which leads to all kinds of metabolic issues and other health issues as well as weight gain.

  2. Secondly, as if the above isn’t enough, non-nutritive sweeteners can cause us to crave more calories. Since there is no nutritional value (zero calories) associated with sweeteners like saccharin and aspartame, yet they are sweet, the brain gets very confused. Since we are tasting something sweet, our bodies are used to having calories associated with that sweetness. Since there are no calories, we end up craving more and more calories to make up for the lost link.  

Now, if none of this speaks to you and you are still ok with your zero calorie and zero sugar drinks you may want to look into some of the more recent studies that show a very strong link between zero calorie and zero sugar beverages and weight gain. Read more here.

My recommendation… Drink water. Specifically, drink ½ ounce of water per pound of body weight.

If you feel like you need some flavor in your beverage, maybe try a squeeze of lemon or lime or a few drops of honey.

What do you drink?

See you in the gym,


NutritionAaron Leventhal