What (not) to drink with your meal

We hear more and more about the potential effects of too much sugar in our diets. But what happens when sugar and protein mix?

Do you enjoy a Coke with your curry? A Fanta with your fajitas? A Pepsi with your pulled pork? Well, you might want to think again…

We can’t all be experts at finding the right wine to complement a meal. However, maybe we should all know a bit more about the drinks we definitely shouldn’t be drinking. It’s well known that lean protein with plenty of vegetables makes for a healthy meal, but you might want to switch to sparkling water to provide your future fizz fix. New research suggests sugary drinks consumed with a protein-rich meal make for a surprising combination.

A new study has reported a significant link between consuming sugar-sweetened drinks with a meal, and the way the body uses fat and produces heat. It gets even more interesting when the meal in question is higher in protein1.

How did the study work?

Dr. Casperson’s study documents the calories burned in fat, carbohydrates and protein, every minute. Volunteers were asked to spend 24 hours in a metabolic chamber, which is a small, hermetically controlled (completely sealed) room. This allowed the team to measure the following:

  • oxygen consumption
  • carbon dioxide production
  • nitrogen excreted through urine

These measurements allowed the team to give accurate estimates of the different forms of energy the volunteers were using whilst in the room. Nitrogen is a key component of protein, so measuring the amount excreted in urine allows for an estimate of the protein broken down by the body. Once the team calculated this, they could then work out the amount of carbohydrate and fat each person metabolised, based on the oxygen consumed and the carbon dioxide produced.

Volunteers ate the same foods throughout the day in the chamber, and each spent two days in the chamber in total: once with a diet of 15% protein, and once with 30% protein. For each meal they were given either a sugar-sweetened drink, or an artificially sweetened one1.

What were the results?

drinking soda

The study revealed several interesting findings. Firstly, having a sugar-sweetened drink with a  ‘normal’ meal, made up of 15% protein, led to a decrease in the body’s use of fat to burn energy. There was also reduced activity in the body’s heat production from food, or diet-induced thermogenesis.

But what’s even more interesting is what happened when volunteers drank the sugary drink with a protein-packed meal: fat usage and the body heat produced from food went down more than a further 40%.

The findings also show that only 80 of the 120 calories in the drink were burned, regardless of which kind of meal was consumed. That’s 40 extra calories, left completely unburnt, from just one soft drink!1

What does this mean?


Sugar has come under increased scrutiny in recent times, and many more of us are trying to cut down. After every new study of the sweet stuff, it’s commonplace to add the phrase “more research is still needed”. That said, these findings make for interesting results, adding further weight to the current thinking on the role sugar plays in our overall health.

Dr. Casperson believes that the results imply sugary drinks may reduce the body’s metabolic efficiency, and therefore lead to producing and storing more fat. She is hopeful that the research her team has done may provide further clues to our understanding of the link between sugary drinks and health problems such as obesity.

You can read more about the potential effects of sugar consumption here. If you’re interested in a dietary consultation to find out how to make your diet healthier, you can book one here.

To find out more call us on 0808 101 0337
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