Fizzy drink fix? Only after 90 minutes of intense exercise

The Lazy Guide to Fitness looks at what you can gain from having fewer sugary drinks

Only the most abstemious subject themselves to a life without treats. For the rest of us, giving in to indulgence is part of the fun. You can even make out your vice is a virtue if you choose a glass of red wine or some flavonoid-laden dark chocolate. What if your poison of choice is a sweet fizzy drink? Is it so bad?

There are a number of issues with sugar-sweetened drinks, according to the Irish Heart Foundation, the first being that they make it too easy to load up on empty calories.

"When you take in food, there is time for your brain to get the signal as you become full, but not with sugary drinks," says Janis Morrissey, a registered dietician and health promotion manager with the Irish Heart Foundation. "They don't give any feeling of satiety or fullness. So you can end up taking in a very high amount of calories and sugar, but no goodness. Then you eat on top of that."

Empty calories

The extra empty calories come mainly in the form of sugar so avoiding them can help you not to gain extra weight. A study published in Diabetologia, the journal of the European Association for the Study of Diabetes, in 2013 found that drinking one extra sugar-sweetened soft drink a day can increase a person's risk of developing type 2 diabetes by 22 per cent.

It concludes: "This study corroborates the previously reported increased type 2 diabetes risk associated with sugar-sweetened soft drink consumption that seems independent of BMI... Given the increase in sweet beverage consumption in Europe, clear messages on its deleterious effect on health should be given to the population."

A 2015 study of 42,000 men in Sweden published in Heart, the official publication of the British Cardiac Society, found that "sweetened beverage consumption is associated with higher risk of heart failure".

Men who had at least two servings a day had a 23 per cent higher risk of heart failure compared to non-consumers also.

Bone loss

In addition, the caffeine and phosphorous commonly found in fizzy colas may contribute to bone loss, according to the National Osteoporosis Foundation in the US.

“If drinking large quantities, it can leach minerals out of bones so are storing up problems for the future,” says Morrissey. This is particularly a problem for children. “There is displacement too,” says Morrissey. “Children are drinking these instead of milk or water so they are not getting the nutrition they need.”

For adults, it’s not worth downing energy drinks after taking part in sport either. “Unless you are a professional athlete doing at least 90 minutes of continuous activity, you don’t need these drinks,” says Morrissey. “It can be counterproductive too as you can end up taking in more calories than have used up in exercise.”

Cutting out sugary drinks is a simple way to avoid taking in too much sugar and other useless “ingredients”. I don’t touch them as I rather get my treats elsewhere, but not everyone thinks that is necessary.

Sarah Keogh, a dietician with the Albany Clinic in Dublin, says these drinks simply need to be seen for what they are: sugary treats. "A little of what you fancy is fine, but it should be a little," she says. "This is not a drink for every day or to savour. You can have your cola, but don't spend time slowly sipping it or drinking it all day long. That is when it damages your teeth."