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Pepsi’s New “Skinny Can” is a Joke: You Still Get Fat Drinking Soda

by Dr. Stephen Gangemi on February 13, 2011

The new Diet Pepsi “Skinny Can” will be in stores next month, and even though the can is leaner, it won’t equate to the consumer looking the same. Pepsi says the can is a “celebration of beautiful, confident women,” while critics comment that it supports common marketing ploys enforcing the “skinny is better” rationale.

Regardless of what you make of the can, diet soda sweetened with aspartame (Nutrasweet), sucralose (Splenda), or even the regular types containing high fructose corn syrup or regular sugar, are far from healthy. Just last week a study noted an increased risk of stroke among those who drank diet soda daily and not regular soda, though the link between the two is yet unknown. Some cite the increased salt intake, while others note that those who typically drink diet soda often don’t have a healthy diet to begin with and therefore have an increased risk of stroke and cardiovascular disease anyway. But whatever the reason for the link between aspartame and stroke, it’s safe to say that consuming any aspartame is not healthy at all. As I wrote in this article on excitotoxins, aspartame and MSG have ties to many daily, nagging, and common symptoms such as headaches, low energy, sleep problems, and PMS in women. They’re also linked to degenerative brain diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s. And regardless of the zero calories, consuming anything “sugar-free” or “calorie-free” will not benefit the fat burning capabilities of the human body, leading to fat loss and improved health, because calories in does not equal calories out, as discussed here. Splenda? Same idea, but Splenda will ruin your digestive track, (also known as the second brain, due to the gut’s influence on neurotransmitter synthesis), faster than it will ruin your brain.

So if you’ve got the craving, what do you do? Well first, a regular sugar-sweetened or high fructose corn syrup soda is ALWAYS going to be better (or should I say less harmful) than a diet soda containing Nutrasweet or Splenda. Second, if you’ve got the craving, then that definitely means your body is craving either the caffeine in the drink to give you a boost in energy or your body is running off sugar, rather than fat, so you’ve got an urge to consume more of what you’re using for energy. In other words, if you’re eating well, under a manageable amount of stress, and exercising aerobically, then you’re using more fat as energy throughout the day rather than sugar (glucose), and your body will not crave sugar. A stressed out body craves sugar because that is the fuel of choice in an anaerobic lifestyle.

So when should you drink a regular soda? I can think of two times, one which I have experience with. One is during high intensity exercise, (often during a race), lasting at least a couple hours. Consuming a soda in the latter part of a race, say in the last one-third of the event, can provide some benefit. By then, your body is most likely at least starting to use more sugar than fat for energy, even if the majority of the race has [hopefully] been aerobic. Even after just a few hours of aerobic exercise, your body will use more protein to convert into glucose (sugar) for energy, so providing it with some added sugar may be useful. Additionally, the caffeine can give a boost, as can the phosphoric acid, as the mineral phosphorus is used up quickly when the body is under a lot of stress.

For example, if you’re racing a marathon and it’s taking you approximately four hours, perhaps sipping on some soda during the last hour or so may benefit you. In an Ironman race, I’ve typically used it during the marathon portion of the race. So for me, that was at around seven hours into a ten to eleven hour race (sometimes longer!). A couple pointers: 1) Don’t drink it straight; it’s too concentrated. Often during a race the cups they give out are half-full. So I take a cup of soda and a cup of water and dump the two into one. Try to dilute it by 50%. 2) Don’t start too early. In an endurance event you want to be using your fat stores as much as possible. Even if you are staying in your aerobic fat-burning zone and then consume sugar, you are going to immediately shift your body chemistry to burning more sugar than you previously were, regardless of your heart rate. Easy on the sugar. If you’re craving sugar early into the race, then you’re too anaerobic and it’s too late to change that. You didn’t train properly and/or you’re racing harder than you should be. You want to use the soda as an ergogenic aid to do one thing and only one thing – race faster. (And after the race within the first hour you can use a little soda to get some sugar in you quickly for faster recovery.)

The other time you should use soda? If you ever get tear gassed. Don’t we all know that? Hopefully not. Supposedly using Coca-Cola or Pepsi in your eyes or soaking a bandana in the soda will help neutralize the effects of the tear gas, which really isn’t a gas at all, but a cloud of suspended particles that don’t dissolve easily in water. It’s the acidity of soda that is beneficial here, as Coke and Pepsi are right around a pH of 2.5. (The pH of pure water is 7.0). Therefore, I suppose, and I DO NOT have experience with this, that Diet Coke and Diet Pepsi would work just as well as the regular stuff. So in retrospect, I guess I have to admit that this would be the one time I would recommend a diet soda, perhaps while traveling to Egypt. Just keep your mouth closed.

This guy has it wrong. Use Pepsi or Coke!!

I'm a board certified chiropractic physician and clinical nutritionist with a passion for true natural health care. I implement dietary & nutritional therapies, exercise & movement practices, and lifestyle changes along with manual therapy techniques to help the body heal and prevent illness and injuries.


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  1. Bob permalink

    Now I know what to do when i am tear gassed!

  2. bill permalink

    hey, what about mountain dew for post tear-gassing?

  3. Mt Dew will work too, but just not as good as Coke or Pepsi. The benefit is all due to the acidity of the product, and Mt. Dew clocks in closer to a pH of 4.0. If you really want to be soda-prepared for a good ol’ fashioned tear gassing, go with Diet Rite – the pH of that has been clocked in around 1.75.

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