Those “healthy” post-workout beverages might not be as nutritious as you think.

Sipping Secrets

Most active women are generally aware of their calorie intake from food. Understanding that pastries have more calories than oatmeal and fried chicken has more than grilled isn’t rocket science. However, with the marketing rage of all-natural juices, post-workout smoothies and antioxidant recovery drinks, many women forget to tally these in their daily calorie box. After all, they’re good for you, right?

The Skinny On Beverages

The truth is that while many of these beverages can have health benefits, lots of them are loaded with calories and sugar. If you’re not careful, they might derail your fitness and body composition goals more than they help them. Here’s a breakdown of some of your favorites.

Store-bought smoothies
While lots of people think smoothie-shop drinks are loaded with protein, many are actually full of sugar and have less than ideal amounts of protein. Yes, some of the sugar comes from fruit, but most shops add “turbinado,” a fancy name for sugar. Additionally, lots of recipes have juice as a base, which can increase the calorie count.
Homemade smoothies
Amazingly, just because something is good for you doesn’t mean you can or should eat as much as you want. It’s true that fruit, peanut butter, chia seeds, coconut, honey, oats, etc. are all nutrient-rich foods that have positive health benefits, but they can quickly add up to a 600-700-calorie smoothie if you aren’t careful.
All-natural juices
Full of antioxidants and nutrients, many bottles of juice can contain 50–75 grams of sugar and more than 300 calories if you drink the whole thing. Even if the sugar comes from fruit, you still have to count it. Most women don’t need that much sugar in one sitting, except maybe after a hard workout.
Recovery beverages
Post-workout drinks need to be included in your total calorie intake. A little simple sugar after a run can help you replenish your carbohydrate stores, but it’s all about the quantity. Some women drink in more than they burn off.
Warm fall favorites
When it’s cold outside, a cup of hot cocoa, apple cider or your favorite fancy coffee drink can warm you up, but it might also tack on the pounds if not accounted for. An average medium-sized coffee shop hot cocoa with whipped cream can hit 400 calories and more than 50 grams of sugar. A caramel apple cider will tip the sugar scale even farther.

The Calorie Reality

It’s not to say you can’t ever have any of these beverages, but it is important to include them in your total daily caloric allotment. If you don’t, they could start slowing you down. Not to mention, beverages often don’t make you feel as full as food, thus what should be a meal replacement becomes a beverage with a meal. Without noticing it, you could add 500-plus calories to your day.

A good rule of thumb is to look up the beverage nutrition facts before you order them. Or, if you are making them at home, be sure to measure and calculate what you are scooping and squirting into the blender.

Drink Swaps

Sipping smart can help you enjoy your favorites without derailing a goal. Here are a few swaps to practice:

Store-bought smoothies
Order a “skinny” to cut the added sugar. Also, be sure your smoothie has 15-25 grams of protein to stabilize your blood sugar and help you feel more satisfied.
Homemade smoothies
Be careful not to go overboard with healthy additives. (Even honey and agave are forms of sugar.) Measuring your ingredients can help you stay on track.
All-natural juices
Choose juices with lots of veggies and some fruit, as lots of fruit servings can increase the calorie count. Also, remember to look at the servings per container so that you know how many calories and grams of sugar you are consuming in one bottle.
Recovery beverages
Calculate how many calories you need for this meal or snack, and choose a beverage that fits. Ideally opt for a beverage with 20 grams of protein.
Warm fall favorites
Choose low-fat milk, cut the whipped cream and limit the added syrups. These small swaps will help cut down on sugar and calories.

Amy Goodson, M.S., R.D., C.S.S.D., is a registered dietitian and consultant in the Dallas-Fort Worth area.