8 Things That Might Happen If You Stop Drinking Soda

You and Diet Dr Pepper go together like peanut butter and jelly. You can’t get through your 4 p.m. meeting without a Mountain Dew. Watching a movie in the theater is unbearable without an ice-cold Cherry Coke.

But it’s time to face the facts: Soda is really terrible for you. And guys, we hate to break it to you, but even diet soda isn’t as great as you think.

Need some help kicking your habit to the curb? We spoke to a doctor and nutritionist to find out what might happen when you stop drinking soda and, well, let's just say that our fridge feels a whole lot roomier these days.

Meet the experts:

  • Alaina Ross, Registered Nurse, Nutritionist and Co-founder of Sleep Family
  • Dr. Gabriela Rodriguez Ruiz, MD PhD FACS and board-certified bariatric surgeon at VIDA Wellness and Beauty

7 Things That Might Happen If You Stop Drinking Coffee

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1. You'll Probably Get a Headache At First

Sorry, this first part is gonna hurt. If you’ve been a habitual drinker of regular or diet soda for years, you probably can’t quit cold turkey without a headache for a day or two…or fourteen, if you’re really unlucky. The reason for this is that most sodas, with the exception of Sprite and Ginger Ale, contain a significant amount of caffeine; and, according to this NIH summary of the existing research, headaches occur in up to 50 percent of folks who abruptly cut out caffeinated beverages. (Yep, caffeine withdrawal is very much a thing.)

You can, of course, sidestep this problem by sipping on coffee or black tea instead of your usual Coke—but if you’re hoping to kick caffeine and soda in one fell swoop, we suggest stocking up on enough ibuprofen to get you through the next two weeks, at which point your symptoms will have resolved.

2. You Might Not Need to Pee As Much

Another fun fact about caffeine: it’s a diuretic (i.e., a drug that promotes the production of urine in your body), which means any beverage that contains it is a diuretic, too. In other words, there’s a good chance that the Diet Coke you’re drinking is making you need to pee more often than an equal amount of water would. Like in the middle of a conference call. Or sitting on the highway in the middle of traffic. Or at that really amazing part in Where the Crawdads Sing. Plus, unless you’re compensating with tons of water, the science says your diuretic Diet Coke is probably throwing off your fluid balance and dehydrating you, too.

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3. You'll Definitely Lose Weight

Unless you’re swapping out sugary soda for booze or milkshakes, it’s just science. A 12-ounce can of regular Coke packs in 120 calories, so if you cut out three a day, you’re eliminating 360 calories from your diet (or saving them for dessert, whatever).

That’s obvious enough but get this: It’s not just the calorie content of soda that can tip the scales, so don’t think you can offset the damage with a rigorous workout. Dr. Ruiz explains that sugar-sweetened beverages like sodas are a major modifiable risk factor for obesity because they promote increased levels of the hormone ghrelin, which has been shown to increase overall hunger and lead to overeating.

Diet soda drinkers aren’t off the hook, either. According to a study conducted at Purdue University, even diet soda could contribute to weight gain—artificial sweeteners confuse the body’s natural ability to manage calories. Doh.

4. You'll Preserve Your Smile

Both diet and regular sodas stain your teeth, cause tooth decay and wear away your enamel. (If you don’t want to take our word for it, this 2019 study published in the Journal of Clinical Pediatric Dentistry will scare you straight.) Bottom line: Quit now and you’ll thank us in 20 years when you can still eat corn on the cob.

5. You Could Get Fewer Colds

Ever wonder why you’re always the one who catches the bug going around the office? If you drink two cans of non-diet soda a day, the 200 grams of sugar you’re consuming will reduce your white blood cells’ ability to kill germs by 40 percent. Damn.

6. Your Risk of Developing Chronic Diseases Will Go Down

Some folks are lucky enough not to see the effects of their soda habit when they step on the scale, but that doesn’t mean they’re exempt from the detrimental health effects these beverages can cause in the long term. Dr. Ruiz tells us that the added sugars found in soda significantly increase the risk of chronic diseases by a) raising triglyceride levels by up to 50 percent, which is very bad news for your cardiovascular health, and b) increasing insulin levels, which in turn contributes to insulin resistance—a nasty combination that’s associated with the development of type II diabetes.

7. Your Sleep Will Improve

Caffeine isn’t the most harmful ingredient in soda since its sugar content is hard to compete with. That said, the caffeine boost you get from the stuff does have a considerable downside, including the nasty habit of interfering with natural sleep rhythms. In other words, the caffeinated soda you’re gulping down on the daily keeps doing its thing long after your need for an afternoon pick-me-up has expired.

Per Ross, “Caffeine is a stimulant that takes several hours to work its way out of your system, thus delaying the timing of your body clock and reducing the overall amount of sleep time. Caffeine can also cause disturbances throughout the night, which affects the quality of your sleep making you groggy in the morning.”

Needless to say, there’s potential for a vicious cycle to develop here, with poor sleep making you fiend all the more for a soda fix. The silver lining? Bite the bullet and remove soda from your diet, and you’ll be catching up on some much-needed beauty sleep in no time.

What Might Happen If You Stop Drinking Soda - An older couple does stretches in a wooded area.
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8. And You Might Even Live Four Years Longer (Seriously)

The American Journal of Public Health studied the length of telomeres in the white blood cells of people who drink sugar-sweetened soda and people who don’t. Soda drinkers tend to have shorter telomeres, meaning their average lifespan is four years shorter than non-soda drinkers. (Diet drinkers, you’re safe this time.)

If the promise of a longer, healthier life isn’t enough to encourage you to quit, perhaps let vanity be your guide; according to Ross, the shrinkage of telomeres contributes not just to internal aging, but visible aging of the skin as well. And that’s the last straw—we’re quitting for good this time.