Is Diet Soda Good or Bad For Bodybuilding? (Pros & Cons)

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One of the most common questions I get as a dietitian regarding bodybuilding is: what can I drink that is low in sugar? Often, bodybuilders seek diet soda to satisfy their sweet cravings without any calories. 

However, is diet soda good or bad for bodybuilding? Diet soda offers no calories, which is an advantage for a bodybuilder since it avoids adding too much sugar that can lead to weight gain. However, diet soda provides no nutritional benefits since it has no vitamins or minerals. It can also lead to increased cravings and stomach distress. Thus, consume it in moderation.

If you are going to include diet soda in your bodybuilding diet, you need to consider a couple of things.

In this article, you will learn everything about diet soda and bodybuilding, including:

  • The calories and macros of diet soda
  • The pros and cons of drinking diet soda
  • When the best time to drink diet soda is
  • Whether diet soda affects your gains
  • Best diet soda brands for bodybuilding
  • Tips on reducing your diet soda intake

Diet Soda For Bodybuilding: Overview

Types Of Diet Soda: Nutritional Content

There are different types of diet sodas available on the market. In the following table, you can find the nutritional information of the top brands.

Diet SodaCaloriesCarbs
(g)
Protein (g)Fats
(g)
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

Calories

As you can see, when it comes to diet sodas, they have the same nutritional value. They offer no calories.

For bodybuilding in a cutting phase, this helps keep the calorie intake low and still have something sweet during the day.

For a bodybuilder in a bulking phase, it also helps “save” those calories you would have from a sugary drink and have them in something else (like bread, oatmeal, or fruits).

Macronutrients

Since diet sodas don’t offer any calories, they don’t provide macronutrients either. The sweetness you get from diet sodas is due to non-caloric sweeteners. Typically, it includes stevia, sucralose (Splenda), acesulfame K, and aspartame.

So, why do these offer no macronutrients or calories?

We get a sweet taste when a molecule binds to a sweet receptor on our tongue. All the molecules above can bind easily to a sweet receptor, creating that sweet feeling you get. However, these are molecules that the body cannot metabolize (breaking them down to provide energy). Thus, when you drink them, they pass intact through the body, and you end up excreting them.

Micronutrients

In general, diet sodas offer no vitamins and minerals. The only mineral that they provide is sodium.

A high sodium diet can often lead to high blood pressure. The American Hearts Association recommends not having more than 2,300 mg of sodium per day to avoid heart problems. Although diet soda typically has no more than 50 mg per serving size, if you are a frequent user (more than 12 oz per day), you need to consider the amount of sodium.

Note: if you’re concerned about your sodium intake, check out our low sodium food articles. 

Other “fizzy drinks” or sparkling waters add vitamins and minerals to their formula. For example, Sparkling Ice is a popular fizzy beverage with vitamin A, vitamin D, niacin, vitamin B6, vitamin B12, biotin, and pantothenic acid.

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

Are you eating the right foods for your bodybuilding goals?

2 Pros Of Drinking Diet Soda For Bodybuilding

pros vs cons of drinking diet soda for bodybuilding

Here are the top two pros of drinking diet soda if you are a bodybuilder.

Sugar Beverage Replacement

If you are craving something sweet but don’t want to include a high sugar beverage, diet soda is the best solution.

On average, a regular can of soda (355 mL), can typically have 38 g of sugar. This is almost the same as having 2 slices of white bread. For a bodybuilder, these calories could break your goals, especially if you’re cutting. 

Additionally, 38 grams of sugar represents more than the recommended sugar intake. The American Hearts Association recommends having no more than 25 grams of sugar per day.

By replacing your regular drinks with the diet soda version, you can reduce your sugar intake which can help you achieve weight loss.

Related Article: Can You Eat Sugar While Bulking? (Complete Guide)

Caffeine Boost

People often seek a diet soda drink due to its caffeine boost. Studies have shown that people who consume caffeine before a workout have better mental clarity and improved performance.

Those people that don’t like a cup of coffee or a pre-workout, often go to a diet soda drink to provide that needed caffeine.

However, keep in mind that not all diet soda drinks have caffeine in them. A regular can of Coke provides on average 35 mg of caffeine which is the same as almost ½ a cup of coffee.

3 Cons of Drinking Diet Soda For Bodybuilding

Although there are some benefits of adding diet soda, there are three cons to consider.

Gastric Problems

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

If you suffer from IBS then having a diet soda can produce a flare-up. This means that you might end up having bloating, stomach cramps, or acid reflux.

This can lead to impaired performance in the gym that can affect your gains.

Increased Desire For Sugary Treats

Although drinking diet soda might help people significantly reduce their sugar and calorie intake compared with drinking regular sodas, it seems that it can also increase cravings for certain people. 

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

As well, in a study done, people were asked to cut out artificial sweeteners and sugars completely for 2 weeks (this would include diet sodas). After the 2 weeks, they found that things tasted 70-95% sweeter than before. Also, 86% of participants stopped having sugar cravings after only 6 days. 

What this means is that even though you’re reducing your calories by drinking diet soda, you end up craving more sugar in the long run.

Increased Sweet Threshold 

Artificial sweeteners are 300 to 18,000 sweeter than regular sugar. It seems that consuming them can potentially make people’s sugar threshold higher. 

By consuming something that is very sweet, our taste receptors might change. 

This means that when you are used to consuming drinks that are made with artificial flavor when you have a dessert or another sugary drink, you are going to increase the sugar content to make it as sweet as you are used to. This often leads to consuming more calories and weight gain. 

Can You Drink Diet Soda Before Workouts?

Drinking diet soda before a workout is not the best option. Due to the carbonation, it can create bloating and stomach distress. If you include it, make sure you have it 1-2 hours before training to avoid reducing your performance.

The main goal of a pre-workout snack is to give you sufficient energy to have an arduous training session. Since diet soda doesn’t offer any macronutrients, it won’t provide you with the energy you need before training. If you are looking for a pre-workout snack, it is better to include a carb-based option like fruits, oatmeal, or toast.

If you want to improve your hydration before training, opt for a drink without gas to avoid any stomach problems.

Can You Drink Diet Soda After Workouts?

It is better to include diet soda after training than before. Since you no longer need to work out, having a little bit of bloating after training won’t affect your performance. However, keep in mind that it doesn’t contain any macros that will help with your recovery.

After training, you need carbs to replenish the energy (glycogen) lost during your workout. By replenishing it, you help your muscles recover and allow protein for muscle growth.

Since diet soda doesn’t contain any macronutrients, you can include it, but you still need to add other food to optimize post-workout recovery. 

After training, add a carb-based source like quinoa, pasta, fruits, or oatmeal. Additionally, have a protein source like cottage cheese, protein shake, or Greek yogurt.

Is Diet Soda Good For Muscle Growth?

Diet soda won’t affect your gains, but it will also not improve them. It is a neutral food when it comes to muscle growth. You need calories and protein for your muscles to grow, which diet sodas don’t provide. Include a protein source (like shakes) and energy-dense foods (like chia seeds) to help your muscle growth.

Additionally, diet sodas lack micronutrients needed to help the body process the food that we eat and help in recovery. Add nutrient-dense foods like non-starchy veggies (mushrooms, leafy greens, zucchini) to give your body essential nutrients.

Best Diet Soda Brands For Bodybuilders

There are a couple of diet sodas that I typically recommend to my clients when they want to include a fizzy drink. Here are my favorite brands:

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 prevents you from consuming more sodium during the day.

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 with no added calories. Also, it contains nutrients which is a nice boost to have. That way, you are drinking something more nutritional.

La Croix – Alcohol Mix

alcohol mix - la croix soda

When you want to pair your alcohol with something else but don’t want to add more calories than the alcohol itself provides, La Croix is often my recommendation. It is low in sugar, has no sweeteners, and has 0 mg of sodium.

How To Reduce Diet Soda Intake For Bodybuilders (4 Tips)

Although having a diet soda occasionally is not a bad choice, too many times I’ve heard my patients say that they are addicted to diet soda. They are often consuming more than 1-2 L per day. 

There is still more research to be done regarding artificial sweeteners and long-term use, but having a massive amount of them can increase your chance of getting diabetes by 18%. Additionally, it doesn’t provide any nutrients to your diet and is high in additives, which can result in increased cravings. 

Remember that moderation is essential when it comes to healthy eating. Thus, if you are looking to reduce your diet soda intake, here are some tips I give my clients when they are looking to reduce their diet soda intake. 

1. Start Slowly

In most cases, people have the approach of all or nothing. While this can work for some time, it doesn’t create long-lasting habits. Thus, it is better to start slowly and make it a habit.

For example, if you are used to having one can of diet soda per day, try having it every other day. Try having it two times per week when this is manageable until you realize that you don’t need to include it anymore.

2. Replace It with Flavored Water

Another option is replacing your diet soda with flavored water. You can cut some slices of lemon or cucumber and add them to your water.

During my consultations, the most common reason I hear that they drink diet soda is that they don’t like to drink water.

By flavoring the water with something natural, you can add some natural essence.

Another thing that you can include to provide your water with flavor is by adding tea bags. Add 2-3 tea bags to a liter of water and let them soak overnight. The next day you can have any natural tea of your choice.

3. Avoid Having it At Home

You can have a glass of diet soda whenever you go out to eat. 

That way, it is considered a special treat and not a regular beverage option. If you don’t see it or have it at home, it is less likely that you are going to consume it regularly.

4. Have Other Sweet Treats

The main reason people often go to diet soda is to provide something sweet. Keep in your house other naturally sweet things like fruits that can help you reduce those cravings.

For example, you can create protein shake smoothies that are a replacement for a milkshake or even make a protein ice cream at home. If you don’t know how to do it, here is one of my favorite recipes for an ice cream protein shake.

Have a FeastGood Nutrition Coach help you get results faster than trying to stick it out alone

The Bottom Line

Drinking diet soda can be an aid when you are in a cutting phase and want to include something sweet without adding too many calories. However, since they are highly processed food, make sure to consume them in moderation (2-3 times maximum per week).

Since it doesn’t offer any nutritional value, add foods high in protein (like cheese, chicken, or eggs) and foods with nutrients (like veggies).

Try not to depend on diet soda to drink your daily water intake since having regular consumption can produce bloating and stomach problems.

Other Liquids For Bodybuilders


About The Author

Brenda Peralta

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