This Is Why Pro Bodybuilders Drink Diet Soda, But Is It Bad?

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You’ve seen bodybuilders drinking diet soda to satisfy their sweet cravings, especially during contest prep. But is diet soda actually good for muscle gain, or is it something to limit? Let’s break it down.

Key Takeaways

  • Diet soda lacks calories, which can benefit bodybuilding because it provides something sweet without increasing calorie or sugar intake.
  • Diet soda doesn’t have nutritional value and cannot improve your gym performance or muscle gain. 
  • Avoiding diet soda before training is also best because the carbonation can lead to stomach discomfort.

Important: There are more drawbacks than positives to drinking diet soda for bodybuilding (which I’ll discuss below)

Diet Soda: Overview

The following table provides an overview of the nutritional information on common diet sodas:

Diet SodaCaloriesCarbs
Protein (g)Fats
Sodium (mg)
Diet CokeDiet Coke000040
Diet PepsiDiet Pepsi000035
7 Up Zero Sugar7 Up Zero Sugar000045
Sprite Zero SugarSprite Zero Sugar000035
Diet Mountain DewDiet Mountain Dew000050


As you can see, diet sodas don’t have any calories.

As noted by dietitian Elise Mandl:

“Diet soda is essentially a mixture of carbonated water, artificial or natural sweetener, colors, flavors, and other food additives.”

This can benefit bodybuilders in a cutting phase, as diet soda can provide some sweetness without increasing calorie intake.

It can also be good for bodybuilders during a bulk, as it allows them to ‘save’ on calories they would otherwise get from sugary sodas. They can instead use these ‘free’ calories for actual food (like bread, oatmeal, or fruit).


Since diet sodas lack calories, they also don’t provide any of the three macronutrients. 

The sweetness in diet sodas comes from non-caloric sweeteners––typically including Stevia, sucralose (Splenda), acesulfame K, and aspartame.

So, why are they sweet without providing nutrients, such as sugar?

You experience sweetness when a molecule binds to a sweet taste receptor on your tongue. All the molecules above bind to sweet taste receptors, creating a pleasant and familiar sensation.

However, these are molecules the body cannot metabolize or break down to provide energy. Thus, when you drink diet soda, these sweeteners pass intact through the body, and you end up excreting them.


Diet sodas don’t typically offer vitamins or minerals. The only mineral found in these beverages is sodium.

A high-sodium diet is a known contributor to high blood pressure. The American Hearts Association recommends not having more than 2,300 mg of sodium daily.

That said, it’s worth noting that diet soda provides negligible amounts of sodium—typically around 35-40 mg per can. This is less than 2% of the recommended intake.

You’d have to drink serious amounts of diet soda to increase your sodium intake significantly.

Some fizzy drinks or sparkling waters add vitamins and minerals to their formula. For example, Sparkling Ice (Classic) is a popular carbonated beverage with vitamins A, B3 (niacin), B5 (pantothenic acid), B6, B7 (biotin), B12, and D.

However, this article is not about sparkling waters. The key takeaway is that diet sodas from popular brands like Pepsi and Coke do not offer nutrients. 

Pros Of Drinking Diet Soda For Bodybuilding

pros vs cons of drinking diet soda for bodybuilding

Sugar Beverage Replacement

Diet soda is the best solution if you are craving something sweet but don’t want to include a high-sugar beverage.

On average, a can of soda (355 mL) has 38 grams of sugar or 152 calories, the same as having two slices of white bread. 

Having that many calories that don’t provide any satiety can get in the way of your bodybuilding goals, especially when cutting.

Plus, 38 grams of sugar represents more than the recommended 25 grams per day, according to the American Heart Association

By replacing your regular drinks with diet soda, you can reduce your sugar and calorie intake, which can help with fat loss or leave you with more calories for food.

Caffeine Boost

Some people drink diet soda, in part, for the caffeine boost, which can be beneficial for workout performance, according to research.

For example, diet soda can be a good alternative to a cup of coffee for a caffeine boost.

However, remember that not all diet sodas have caffeine. On average, a regular can of Coke provides 35 mg of caffeine, the same as almost half a cup of coffee.

3 Cons of Drinking Diet Soda For Bodybuilding

Gastric Problems

Due to the gas (carbon dioxide) that is added to diet soda, it can produce gastric problems in some people. 

If you suffer from IBS, having a diet soda can produce a flare-up with symptoms like bloating, stomach cramps, or acid reflux.

This can impair your gym performance, and affect your gains.

Also, here is some insight from registered dietitian Rachael Ajmera:

“Some research suggests that the artificial sweeteners found in diet soda might negatively affect your gut microbiome, which is the community of beneficial bacteria in your digestive tract. The gut microbiome plays a key role in many aspects of health, including immune function, nutrient absorption, heart health, and more.”

Increased Desire For Sugary Treats

Diet soda may help people reduce their sugar and calorie intake, but it can also increase cravings for sweets in certain people. 

Since diet sodas don’t have calories, they can mess with people’s hunger and satiety signals, making them overeat on the next meal

In one study, people were asked to completely cut out artificial sweeteners and sugar for two weeks (including diet sodas).

After two weeks, 95% of the participants said that foods and drinks tasted sweeter than before, and 86% stopped having sugar cravings after only six days. 

This implies that even though you’re reducing your calories by drinking diet soda, you might end up craving and consuming more sugar in the long run.

Increased Sweet Threshold 

Artificial sweeteners are 180 to 18,000 times sweeter than regular sugar, and regular consumption can potentially increase people’s sugar threshold. 

By consuming something very sweet, your taste receptors change or develop a tolerance, if you will. 

This means that when you are used to drinks with artificial sweeteners, desserts or sugary drinks may not feel as sweet, and you could consume larger amounts, increasing your calorie intake and risk of unwanted weight gain.

Can You Drink Diet Soda Before Workouts?

Drinking diet soda before a workout is not the best option because the carbonation can lead to bloating and stomach distress. 

Plus, diet soda lacks macronutrients, so it can’t provide the energy you need for training.

So, if you want to have diet soda before training, do so at least a couple of hours earlier to ensure it doesn’t impair your performance.

If you want to improve your hydration shortly before training, opt for a non-carbonated beverage to avoid stomach discomfort.

The main goal of a pre-workout snack or drink is to provide energy for optimal performance. Research recommends aiming for up to one gram of carbs per kilogram of body weight.

Fruits, oatmeal, toast, and rice cakes are rich in carbs and digest fairly well, making them a far better option for a pre-workout snack. 

Can You Drink Diet Soda After Workouts?

If you are going to drink diet soda around your workout, it’s better to do so after training than before. Since you’ve done the work, any potential bloating won’t affect your performance.

However, remember that it doesn’t have any macros to help with muscle recovery.

After training, you need carbs to replenish the energy (glycogen) lost during your workout. Doing so helps you recover and supports protein synthesis, which is crucial for muscle repair and growth.

Good carb sources include quinoa, pasta, fruits (preferably ripe ones with less fiber and more fast-digesting carbs), and oatmeal.

You also need protein (0.3-0.5 grams per kilogram) to provide your muscles with the building blocks for optimal recovery. 

Options include low-fat cottage cheese, protein powder (e.g., a shake or smoothie), Greek yogurt, meat, and fish.

The 2 Best Diet Sodas For Bodybuilders

Zevia Zero Calorie Soda – Sodium-Free

sodium free - zevia zero calorie soda

Zevia Zero Calorie Soda is one of my top brands. It has no additives and no artificial sweeteners. It uses stevia to provide sweetness. 

Additionally, it has 0 mg of sodium, which helps keep your sodium intake in check.

Sparkling Ice – Nutrient Boost

nutrient boost - sparkling ice soda

Sparkling Ice is my all-time favorite drink (I often use it myself when I want something sweet to drink). It provides that fizzy drink sensation with no added calories.

Also, it contains vitamins (Vitamins A, B3, D3, B12, and B6), which is a nice nutritional boost and provides some health value.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is Diet Soda Good For Muscle Growth?

Diet soda won’t impair your gains but will also not improve them. It is a neutral beverage with zero nutritional value for muscle growth. 

You need calories and protein for your muscles to grow, which diet sodas don’t provide.

Does Diet Soda Lead To Unwanted Fat Gain?

Research has found that individuals drinking diet soda are more likely also to be overweight or obese.

In one paper, researchers found that individuals drinking two or more cans of diet soda daily were 57% more likely to be overweight or obese.

However, this is a correlation and doesn’t suggest that diet soda itself is the problem.

Is Diet Soda Good For Cutting?

Since diet soda lacks calories and can satisfy sweet cravings, bodybuilders often use it while cutting.

It can be a helpful tool, so long as it doesn’t increase your sugar cravings or cause you to consume more calories from food.

Other Beverages For Bodybuilders


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About The Author

Brenda Peralta

Brenda Peralta is a Registered Dietitian and certified sports nutritionist.  In addition to being an author for, she fact checks the hundreds of articles published across the website to ensure accuracy and consistency of information.

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