Sorry, you need to enable JavaScript to visit this website.
As a public service, public health stories are free to Central Texans during the coronavirus crisis. Please support our local journalists by subscribing today. Call 512-392-2458.

Drinking less soda can help with limiting weight gain

Running and Fitness
Saturday, March 16, 2019

When the weather begins to get warmer the tradition of spring cleaning soon arrives. I was digging around some containers and plastic storage bins a few weeks early and found some long lost papers. There were several race measurement papers that I had sent in 2010 for certification. Some old handouts and a copy of one of my newspaper columns from about the year 2000. I read the article and thought that it might still be appropriate.  

When I first started teaching, a professor at Tufts University by the name of Dr. Jean Mayer first came up with the relationship between eating, exercise, and weight control. He studied children from Boston schools and noticed the difference between children that were overweight and average-weight children. He observed them in the lunch room and at recess. What his research showed at the time was that the overweight children ate less than the average weight children. At recess he noticed that the overweight children moved much less than the average weight children. His conclusion was that even though the overweight children ate less, they also moved less. By moving less at recess, the calories eaten at lunch were still more than what they were able to use by moving. More calories, less movement, and you gain weight.  

The other term he created was called “creeping overweight.” After graduation, for example, individuals would say that, “I have only gained 5 pounds this last year.” This went on year after year until five years later the gain was now 25 pounds since the start. In ten years the weight gain was 50 pounds. The weight just seemed to “creep up on you.”

The article I wrote years ago had to do with the problem of eating and exercise. The article I referred to came from “Nutrition Action” and mentioned that people eat, on average, 152 pounds of sugar for every man, woman, and child, in the United States and a third of that came from soda. The article also mentioned that we average about 50 gallons of soda a year. Being curious about how this might affect my running and weight, I looked at an exercise physiology text book to calculate various forms of exercise and calorie expenditure. A can of Coke is 12 ounces. A gallon is 128 ounces. Fifty gallons equals 6400 ounces. The 12-ounce can of Coke divided into the 6400 ounces comes out to 533.33 cans of sodaeach of us drinks each year.  A Coke is 154 calories. That totals out to 82,133.33 calories from that 50 gallons we drink. 

Using calculations from a nutrition book and the exercise physiology text I found that a runner moving at an eight-minute pace burns .09 calories per minute. Using the formula (calories/minutes/pounds) I took an average 150 pound runner and determined that the total was 13.5 calories per minute for that runner. Dividing 13.5 calories into that 50 gallons, and 82,133.33 calories, the runner needs to run for a total of 6,083.95 minutes.  For an eight-minute average pace the runner needs to run 760.49 miles to burn up the calories from the coke they drank in a year.  

For walkers the energy expenditure is .04 calories per minute. Using the same formula from the runner has a walker, at a 15-minute-per-mile pace (a brisk walk), moving 912.59 miles to get rid of the calories from the coke that year.  

Now, the 760.49 miles and the 912.59 miles accounts for only one-third of the calories from sugar. When you add food items like hamburgers, carrots, candy bars, potatoes, and cheese we eat, those miles start to add up. If you add the other two-thirds calories from sugar you get 2,281.47 miles for a runner and 2,737.77 miles for a walker. I ran over 2,000 miles for a couple of years and that requires a lot of hours on the road. If you are not into putting that many miles in each year, either running or walking, you can change that by cutting back to just 25 gallons of Coke a year. The question of energy drinks, vegetable juices, or other drinks that contain calories all come out to be nearly the same. For instance, children like to drink chocolate milk more than regular milk, and chocolate milk has more calories than soda. And whole milk has more calories than skim milk.

When you read articles that mention that 67 percent of the population is overweight or obese, the numbers mentioned above start to make sense. And the fact that the obese people make up over 34 percent of that group (more obese than overweight), it makes you start to think about the relationship between eating and exercise. When you bring in the adverse effects of obesity, such as diabetes, heart disease, and cancer, the value of starting a program of moving more begins to take on new meaning. The question that needs to be asked is, “Whatever happened to drinking water to quench your thirst?” At zero calories you can really cut down on the miles you have to run in a year.

San Marcos Record

(512) 392-2458
P.O. Box 1109, San Marcos, TX 78666