Weight-loss drinks – what are they, how do they work, are they safe? These are just a few questions we’ve heard on the topic. There is a long list of drinks that claim to help with weight loss. Some are calorie-free and some come as meal replacements, but all say you’ll lose weight.
We’ll start off with the tried and true star of weight-loss drinks. Water
Water and Weight Loss
Water makes up about 60% of humans. We are literally made of water. Even our organs are made mostly of water with the kidneys 79% water and the lungs 83% water.
When associating water with weight loss, all it takes is a look into some medical journals. Research in the journal Physiology and Behavior, shares that hunger and thirst are often misunderstood. There is a fine line in the feelings both create. Many people are thirsty, but eat because they perceive it as hunger.
So, when you feel like it’s time for a snack, you can first turn to the top of the line weight-loss drink: water. Drink a tall glass of water and wait about 20 minutes. You may find you’re not “hungry” anymore.
Water, Weight Loss, and Science
Many men and women trying to lose weight fall within the age from middle to older adult. Research shows that drinking 500ml of water before each meal improves weight loss compared to eating the same low-calorie meals without water. After 12 weeks, the water group lost about four pounds more than the no water group. (Obesity Silver Spring)
Another study, this time with only women, spanned 12 months (one year). The results were the same. In overweight women, drinking water increased weight loss. (Obesity Silver Spring)
A review of current research published in 2016 shared that studies show water promotes weight loss and fat loss via eating less and increased lipolysis, respectively. (Frontiers in Nutrition)
Water from nature is just fine as a weight-loss drink, but the market wouldn’t be the same if there weren’t trendy products attempting to hitch a ride on some current trend. Two popular weight-loss drinks are pH/alkaline water and fruit-infused water
pH/Alkaline: We searched high and low for some proven benefit of drinking pH water and we did locate a couple studies. The study showed that, after strenuous exercise, when the participant rehydrated with high-pH water blood viscosity reduced. In essence, blood flow increased as it does when in the act of exercise. (Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition)
A second study showed that when participants drank pH water after an anaerobic workout (strength training or resistance training, most often), hydration status, based on parameters like body composition and urine output, improved. (Biology of Sport)
Fruit-Infused: Fruit-infused water is exactly what you’d expect it to be – water infused with cuts of fruit. The idea is to make water more palatable so you drink more and as we just covered, drinking more water can help with weight loss.
There are some rules to making fruit-infused water that you should follow. Fruits have bacteria on the skin and, even after scrubbing the outside well, the bacteria will still swim in your fruit-infused water. Any water left out at room temperature for four hours should be thrown away due to possible bacterial growth.
The big water is out of the way, so what about other weight-loss drinks? This next section is one you’re likely familiar with – detox and cleanse teas.
Drink lots of water and track your water intake to see just how well you’re doing on an app like Noom. Noom is different. The app was created by doctors who understood that weight-loss was about more than food. Get your free trial offer today!
Green Tea: At the top of the list of weight-loss drinks Tea Edition, is green tea. Now green tea isn’t necessarily a detox or cleanse tea on its own, but it is one of the most common ingredients found in weight-loss teas.
Green tea has quite the history, in terms of research. The gently processed tea leaves have been studied for effect on a range of health conditions including fatigue, high BP, sugar issues, and weight loss.
There are tons of green tea weight-loss supplements on the market, but what about drinking green tea? Can drinking green tea help you lose weight? Some research suggests, yes.
According to the European Journal of Nutrition, participants in a nutrition study who consumed hot tea tended to have smaller waist and lower body mass index (a measure of body fat) than did people who drank iced tea regularly. The difference was found after all other factors like age, activity levels, and calorie intake were taken into consideration.
Another piece of research shows that green tea, specifically, can help reduce weight and BP, as well. This time the research was found in the Journal of Research in Medical Sciences. According to the research, drinking just four cups of green tea daily was enough to show the above mentioned effects on weight and BP.
Now we come to one of the big names in weight-loss drinks – detox and cleanse teas. These teas often claim to help with weight loss, but do they really work and, if so, how do they work?
Burdock Root: Burdock root is a plant found in Europe and parts of Asia. The root is most often included in detox teas because it works as a diuretic. Diuretics increase urination so you expel more fluid, or water. This can cause the scale to drop some, but as soon as you rehydrate, the weight will come back.
Uva Ursi Extract: Uva ursi is another diuretic. It works similarly to burdock root in that it encourages water loss through urination. In history, uva ursi was used for bladder conditions.
Dandelion Root: In food form, the dandelion root is packed with nutritional goodness, but what about the root as a weight-loss drink? Dandelion root has been used as a natural medicine for centuries. In terms of weight loss, the two most common uses are as a diuretic and a laxative. The root is known to help combat constipation, which could be associated with increased water loss.
Milk Thistle Extract: Though milk thistle extract is commonly added to weight-loss and detox drinks as a liver cleanse, there are other health benefits that some may consider. For instance, the antioxidant silymarin is found in milk thistle. Antioxidants help fight everything from cellular damage to aging and fatigue.
Senna: Now we get into the big three laxatives in many weight-loss drinks and detox cleanses. Senna is a natural, stimulant laxative. The laxative works by causing the muscles of the intestine to contract and relax. These contractions force waste through the intestine, faster than it would otherwise move. Along the way the waste picks up moisture and, as such, may come out as a loose stool (or diarrhea) rather than a formed stool.
Cascara Sagrada: Cascara sagrada is nearly the same as senna. It too works as a stimulant laxative.
Aloe Vera: The final common ingredient found in weight-loss drinks is aloe vera. This is not the aloe vera you’ll find in juice shops or other holistic stores. The extract of the aloe vera plant is often used as a natural laxative. Aloe vera doesn’t stimulate bowel movements the same way senna and cascara do, but increased bowel movements are typical, nonetheless.
Side Effects of Detox Teas and Cleanses
Unlike water as a weight-loss drink, detoxes and cleanses come with the risk of some uncomfortable side effects. When using a detox tea, cleanse, or other herbal weight-loss drink with any of these ingredients, you may notice:
- Increased urination
- Increased bowel movements
- Loose bowel movements
- Electrolyte imbalance
You don’t have to worry about side effects of detoxes, cleanses, or weight-loss drinks when you take the time to make lifestyle changes. Weight loss is a process that requires eating right, adopting healthier lifestyle habits, and working toward a stress-free existence. When you have help from people like the coaches at Noom, you are more apt to stick with the program. Learn more with your free trial offer now!
Apple Cider Vinegar (ACV)
Apple cider vinegar is a fermented acid that comes from apples. The vinegar is first fermented in the absence of oxygen. This is how alcohol is produced. After the first stage of fermentation, oxygen is allowed to come into play and the acid is born. Apple cider vinegar is typically no more than 10% acid. Any more than that and consuming it would be harsh, and possibly, rife with side effects like tooth decay and erosion.
The ACV diet, and the associated weight-loss drink, is not clinically proven to work as proponents claim. However, there is some research into vinegar that shows promise.
According to one study published in Bioscience, Biotechnology and Biochemistry, “body weight, [body mass index] BMI, visceral fat area, waist circumference, and serum triglyceride levels were significantly lower in both vinegar intake groups.”
Additional research, this time around in the International Journal of Obesity, showed that consumption of vinegar reduced appetite, or left the user feeling fuller, so they ate less. The trouble with the research is that the vinegar causes nausea, which is likely where the appetite suppression was rooted – not in a benefit from the vinegar.
The standard recipe for the apple cider vinegar weight-loss drink is to mix one to two tablespoons of apple cider vinegar with water. You should drink the mix throughout the day breaking it up into two to three doses.
Another weight-loss drink that we can’t forget is the Master Cleanse. This one has been around for ages and every time it pops back up again it seems to be associated with some celebrity who lost tons of weight.
There’s no way of finding out who was really the creator of the diet, but suffice it to say that the original form has likely been modified several times over the years.
As it stands, to create the Master Cleanse drink, sometimes called the lemonade detox, you mix lemon juice, maple syrup, and cayenne pepper in water. Drink the mixture throughout the day. In extreme cases, people have chosen to use the Master Cleanse drink as a fasting detox, so no food is consumed during the cleanse.
Is there any research that shows us how the Master Cleanse actually works in the body? A May 2015 study reported that the lemon detox diet, as described here, promoted weight loss and reduced body fat through calorie restriction. Just like the ACV weight-loss drink, it appears the cleanse drink may cause nausea and reduce calorie intake via that means. (Nutrition Research)
The trouble with all the fuss about the Master Cleanse, and other detox, weight-loss drinks, is that science just doesn’t have the facts on how they work and if they work. According to the Journal of Human Nutrition and Dietetics, “no randomized controlled trials have been conducted to assess the effectiveness of commercial detox diets in humans.”
If you’re addressing trends, you can’t make a list without including the salt water flush. Salt causes the body to retain water and, this retained water ends up flushing out of the body in urination and bowel movements. So, salt water works similarly to a laxative-based weight-loss drink.
Dangers of a Saltwater Flush
The big problem with a saltwater flush is the salt. Heavy intake of salt can cause water retention and an increase in blood pressure. Over time, increased blood pressure can lead to serious side effects.
There’s also a problem with nausea and vomiting. It appears that some people who choose to drink saltwater never gain the claimed benefits because they can’t keep the water down.
Anyone with a medical condition of any kind should seek advice from their healthcare professional before starting a saltwater flush. Heavy salt intake can exacerbate some medical conditions and may affect how medications work.
It is especially important for people with high BP and issues with the urinary system to avoid drinking saltwater.
Likely one of the most popular weight-loss drinks on the market are meal replacements. Meal replacement drinks are designed to be consumed in place of a traditional meal of food. Sometimes you’re allowed to consume vegetables or pre-established foods with the meal replacement, but most often not.
All meal replacements contain at least two ingredients – protein and a vitamin/mineral blend. The protein source can be milk or vegetable based and the vitamin/mineral blend is added to change the protein shake into an adequate meal.
Other ingredients commonly used in meal replacement weight-loss drinks include:
- Artificial Sweeteners
- Natural Sweeteners
- Artificial Coloring
- Artificial Sweeteners
Let’s take a closer look at some of the types of protein used in meal replacement shakes.
Whey Protein: The big guy in meal replacement shakes, and these types of weight-loss drinks, is whey protein. There are various forms of whey including concentrate and isolate. These terms relate to how the protein was processed or which part of the protein is included in the supplement.
As for weight-loss – whey protein has been shown directly to help with weight loss. Protein, as a whole, can slow the digestive process, but in many cases, this only refers to whole proteins, not protein shakes or supplements.
We found two studies that shared the current look at weight loss, weight maintenance, and whey protein.
The first from 2017 showed that “protein supplements after weight loss do not improve weight maintenance.” What’s interesting is that even though the study authors admit that protein via dietary means suppresses appetite – it was just the whey supplement that didn’t work. (American Journal of Clinical Nutrition)
The second study, this time completed in 2018, showed that “whey protein supplementation during diet-induced weight loss does not have clinically important therapeutic effects…” (Obesity Silver Spring)
Soy Protein: The most popular in vegetarian proteins is soy – though alternatives like pea and hemp protein are growing in popularity. Soy protein is made from soybeans that have had the hull and fat removed. The resulting soy product is split into three products, including flour and isolates. The isolates are called soy protein.
About 10 years ago, research showed a possible connection between soy and estrogen levels in women. A recent update of research showed that studies into the effects of soy on the body have been mostly completed on animals. These results cannot be adequately applied to humans. (Nutrients)
Weight Loss Drinks: Supplements
The real stars of the show are supplements. Where once most supplements were available only in pill form, today there are plenty of powdered supplements you can use to create a weight-loss drink. You simply mix with water and drink. Some of the more common weight-loss supplements, in drink form, include fat burners, pre-workouts, and energy drinks.
Fat Burners: At the heart of most popular fat burners is caffeine, and other stimulants. Giving the body more energy means you move more and have the focus needed to make better decisions with food – or so the idea generally goes. There’s also a connection between caffeine and an increase in metabolism, or the number of calories your body burns. But, there are other ingredients in powdered fat burners that come along for the ride. Some of the most common ingredients in fat-burning weight-loss drinks include:
- Green Tea Extract
- Acetyl L-Carnitine
- Cayenne Pepper Fruit
- Black Pepper Extract
- Dandelion Root
- Juniper Extract
- Cascara Sagrada
Now, moving on to pre-workouts – we have some of the same ingredients. Pre-workouts are designed to improve energy, performance, and focus during exercise or activity. Just like the powdered fat burners, there are some common ingredients you find across the board in many pre-workouts and these include:
- Branched-Chain Amino Acids
Energy Drinks: The final weight-loss drink on the list really isn’t a weight-loss drink at all – but many people use it as such. The energy drink is one of the most popular supplements consumed today. Most are packed with caffeine and other stimulants so your energy and focus increases. If you’ll notice, these three weight-loss drinks are all based on the same main ingredient – caffeine. Caffeine is the most used drug in the world.
Final Take on Weight-Loss Drinks
After all is said and done, there is one weight-loss drink that stands out above the rest. It is safe and effective and research into the health benefits abounds. That weight-loss drink is water. Not only is the human body made up mostly of water, but it is present and necessary in every organ and every body process. Most other weight-loss drinks rely on mostly anecdotal reports of how this one worked for this person and how that one worked for another.
When trying to adopt new lifestyle changes, like drinking more water or losing weight, it can be difficult to stay on track. With Noom you have all the support you need, and then some. The psychology-based weight-loss program assigns a human coach to each user – so there’s always someone in your corner. Don’t miss out on the free trial offer today!