If you already are knowledgeable about fitness or conscious of what it takes to be healthy, chances are you also understand enough about basic physiology to know that consuming more calories than your body needs, would make you gain weight, and if you consume less you would lose weight. Under the condition that all of your body’s systems are operating properly, the rule above should apply.
But this doesn’t always work for some people. Some people would often do the best they can when it comes to measuring their food portions, how much calories they consume and would stay disciplined in their choice of clean foods. They would choose the stairs over the elevator, they would join a gym and take walks instead of driving. And yet, nothing will change.
The lack of results could be due to various different reasons, however, one reason that is harder to notice and neglected by the majority of people, that prevents them from achieving their ideal physique is consuming too many “liquid calories”.
These calories are a lot harder to notice and measure and can be found in any beverages that are usually consumed and aren’t water like coffee, tea or juice.
If you consume large quantities of these beverages, that’s likely to be the problem. Even beverages advertised as healthy like orange juice contain approximately 100 calories and around 20 grams of sugar and do nothing to lessen your hunger.
All liquids that have calories in them can be classified in the category of “liquid calories”. How much they contain varies a lot, some will contain a lot more calories than others. The only exception is water. However, the same as with solid foods they all have different macronutrient ratios which make some of them preferential to others as to their benefits.
For example, sodas or beverages that contain a lot of sugar should be avoided and protein shakes should be included. They will also have a very different effect on the body’s systems.
Liquid calories and their correlation to satiety and obesity
Research has shown that calories that have been consumed via solid food are registered and acknowledged by the brain, which in turn restricts the food cravings. If a person eats solid, whole food products, then the release of ghrelin is suppressed. This is one of the hormones in charge of regulating hunger. The way it functions is that once the stomach is emptied, ghrelin is released. When the stomach walls are stretched, its release stops.
Calories consumed from liquid do not trigger the same response. This means that people will continue drinking beverages and other types of drinks as long as they are unaware of this fact. The solution is to find out how much each of these drinks adds to your caloric intake and make the necessary adjustments.
The majority of people won’t decrease their solid food intake even though they are already consuming a lot of liquid calories. This will lead to a big caloric surplus in the long-term which will invariably lead to unwanted weight gain.
Research has shown that the frequent consumption of liquid calories will lead to weight gain and that it is becoming a vital factor in the increasing obesity rates. For the majority of people, liquid calories will not satiate you and will only increase your food consumption. Various studies done on animals have shown that the high levels of fructose found in many beverages prevent the release of insulin and leptin, another hunger hormone, and will result in weight gain.
What happens is that by regularly drinking anything that is not water, like herbal tea or black coffee, you will most definitely be consuming more unaccounted calories that you don’t need or want. This could very likely be the most important reason why you fail to lose weight.
The macronutrient ratio of any liquid will, for the most part, determine how the calories in it will be digested. The majority of beverages get their calories from carbs(sugars).
Some of the sugar is natural and some of it processed, but without fiber content, both will be digested very fast which will increase the blood sugar while at the same time do nothing to decrease your hunger.
Whole solid foods typically contain fiber which makes them more satiating and will greatly slow down the digestion which will not cause insulin spikes and fluctuating energy levels.
Benefits to muscle hypertrophy
There are certainly benefits to consuming liquid calories. In order to achieve muscle hypertrophy, a high-calorie diet is an absolute imperative. Beginners who are just starting out with fitness or bodybuilding usually have no clue as to how much calories they need to consume and often have difficulty consuming the recommended amount of food.
Liquid calories are very helpful in this situation because it helps them meet the caloric requirements without becoming full which would save them the discomfort in their stomach if they ate a large meal. Some of the best sources of liquid calories for achieving optimal muscle hypertrophy are liquid meal supplements, yogurt and of course, protein shakes.
The post-workout shake is very important and convenient as it is easily ingested, absorbed and transported in comparison to eating whole foods after your workout. It is very efficient at increasing protein synthesis and counteracting the effects of muscle catabolism.
One study had participants go through an MRI scan that would measure their right thigh muscle volume after consuming a beverage rich in protein. The participants were resistance training for five consecutive days, and biopsies were taken every one, three and six hours post exercise. The biopsies have shown increased myofibrillar protein synthesis in the time interval between the first and sixth hour. Not to mention that the muscle size has increased.
It’s very simple and straightforward. It all depends on your goals. Liquid calories can be either your best friend or your worst enemy. If you are very diligent about your diet and still cannot make progress when it comes to improving your body composition, the first thing you should do is eliminate any drink or beverage that is not water, tea, black coffee or a whey protein shake.
On the other hand, if you are struggling to gain muscle and you find it incredibly hard to ingest all the calories that you need on a daily basis, then liquid calories will most definitely help you gain lean muscle mass and sculpt an attractive body.