So it won’t kill you, and it won’t give you cancer, but is too much Coke Zero the reason why you’re still not a Size 0? Does diet soda make you fat?
A lot of people will tell you that the answer is a straight-up no.
Diet soda is made with artificial sweeteners, rather than sugar or corn syrup. The taste comes from flavoring agents, which are without any nutritional value. There’s a whole load of ingredients on the label, but nothing that your body can break down into a source of energy… aka zero calories.
Simple enough. No calories, no problem.
But – like almost everything else weight-loss related – when the brain meets the body the answer can get a bit more complicated.
Does Diet Soda Make You Fat Because Of… Chemicals?
Diet soda does not contain secret, sinister fat-generating chemicals.
If there really were such a thing as secret, sinister fat-creating chemicals then the Red Cross very much like to know about them. Secret, sinister fat generating chemicals would be pretty handy for sprinkling around during your average humanitarian crisis.
But as with everything in this life, you can’t get something from nothing.
If diet soda is having a negative effect on your weight loss, it’s because of how is may be effecting the rest of your dietary intake.
Does Diet Soda Make You Fat Because It Increases Your Appetite?
A well-publicized study from the University of Sydney in 2016 found that subjects who were fed on artificial sweeteners long-term, found it more difficult to regulate their hunger signals and overate when other food became available.
According to the study’s lead researcher Associate Professor Greg Neely sweet sensation is integrated with energy content in the brain’s reward centres. So when sweetness and energy are out of balance the brain ‘re-calibrates’ and increases the total calories consumed.
Sensing the sweetness, the brain anticipates the energy from a high-calorie food source. When it doesn’t get the energy it had anticipated, it may have stimulated overeating to make up for the ‘missing’ calories.
It’s probably important to mention here that the study’s subjects were mostly fruit flies.
The rest were mice.
Nonetheless, the findings are interesting. And studies like this may well start to explain why some people feel hungrier after drinking diet sodas.
But it’s still an emerging area of research. For now it’s just something to bear in mind if you’re fining that a bottle of fizzy is leaving you famished.
Does Diet Soda Make You Fat Because You Really Wanted A Real Soda?
The other reason why diet sodas might be undermining your diet is purely psychological.
If you feel that you are denying yourself something by opting for the diet soda, you might be more likely to indulge your next craving because you feel you’ve ‘earned it’.
So a instead of a 200 kcal bottle of coke, you have a 600 kcal chocolate chip muffin later in the day. And since it was the coke you were really craving, you still end up feeling dissatisfied.
We all are all prone to falling into these sorts of diet traps. People who are trying to lose weight alternate between being too harsh on themselves and too soft. Ultimately weight management – both losing weight and keeping the weight off – is about finding balance.
So Should You Drink Diet Soda For Weight Loss?
It depends how much you like soda and how much soda you drink.
If you are a regular soda drinker, then switching to a diet version is one of the simplest ways to reduce your intake of sugar. This is good for weight loss and for your health more generally.
However, even if we’re all weightless in space, nothing occurs in a vacuum.
If you are serious about reducing sugar consumption, either as part of a weight-loss plan or for other reasons, then you have to look at your diet as a whole.
It’s no good cutting out the Double Mocha Frappuccinos, just to start scarfing down whole sleeves of cookies with your black coffee.
Swapping to diet soda will only help with weight loss if you keep track of what else you’re consuming.
Can I Still Drink Soda And Lose Weight?
It’s also essential to remember that sometimes when we talk about ‘calories-in, calories-out’ we make it sound like it’s as simple as programming a machine. But we are not robots and food isn’t just fuel.
For all our good intentions, it only takes one moment of madness and a family-sized bag of peanut m&ms, to overdo the ‘calories in’ after a whole day of carefully eating under maintenance.
We are only capable of so much self-control, before we rebel against our better intentions.
When this happens we may binge and undo a lot of the progress our self-control won for us.
If this is something you’ve been struggling with, then you may need to look at how you can manage the balance between your calorie budget and the occasional indulgence.
It isn’t weakness to plan for some treats during weight loss. It’s strategy.
And by tracking calories, you can budget in the occasional indulgence. So if you are craving a non-diet coke and nothing else will do, then make space in your diet plan for the 200 kcal.
Soda of whatever type doesn’t make you fat, only over-consumption can do that. Your job is to figure out, what’s driving you to over consume. The real question isn’t ‘does diet soda make you fat?’, but what’s causing you to take in more calories than your body can use.
Once you can come up with the honest, true answer for that, you can figure out how to get your ‘calories in’, back into balance with your ‘calories out’.
And since you’re brainier than the average fly, you’ll figure it out eventually.