"Pop" goes the tab on a can of Coke. Maybe you sip it and it's gone in 20 minutes, or maybe you were thirsty and downed it in just a few glugs.
Either way, 39 grams of sugar and 45 milligrams of sodium — in addition to some phosphoric acid, caffeine and other ingredients — from a 12-ounce serving are now in your system. And while you might not be actively thinking about it at the time, your body is hard at work processing the beverage.
Here's a nice visual by former U.K. pharmacist Niraj Naik, also known as the Renegade Pharmacist, showing what happens in the hour after you drink a can of Coke (Note: Naik's text comes from a post by Wade Meredith at Blisstree):
Image credit: The Renegade Pharmacist; text credit: Wade Meredith
Knowing full well that I would be destined for a sugar crash and that I would probably be guilted into foregoing my nightly scoop of ice cream to compensate for it, I decided to drink a can of Coke and record how I felt physically while also contemplating the process going on inside my body for an hour afterward.
Here's how it went:
12:12 p.m. ET: Begin drinking can of Coke. I should point out, just so these observations are made in context, that I did not drink the Coke on an empty stomach, which could impact how I feel the effects of it. I am not a frequent soda drinker. I'd rate my level of soda consumption to about as often as I go to the movies, which because I have an 8-month-old baby is very few and far between. I am a morning coffee drinker, so the caffeine jolt shouldn't be a shock to my system outside of it being an extra hit for the day.
12:14 p.m. ET: Finished can of Coke. I'm pleased and surprised at how quickly I could drink the carbonated beverage, and despite a few discrete burps, I'm feeling pretty good about myself.
12:24 p.m. ET: Not feeling too different physically from my everyday self. At this point, according to the infographic, the only reason I'm able to keep all this sugar down in my stomach right now is thanks to the phosphoric acid in the beverage making it seem less sweet. As someone who has experienced being sick to one's stomach on sweets (Swedish Fish candies circa 2005), I can appreciate that.
12:34 p.m. ET: No change physically — perhaps my love of candy has made me immune to noticing the effects of such a sugar surge. But, now is when I should be starting my sugar rush, according to the graphic, and my liver is apparently kicking into high gear to turn these extra sugars into fat (oh, joy). Cue me putting a cardboard box on my desk (my eco-friendly and economical version of standing desk) so I can stand and hopefully burn some of these calories before they all turn into fat.
12:44 p.m. ET: Still feeling pretty normal over here, though I haven't mentally gotten over the idea that I'm likely forming fat cells as we speak.
12:54 p.m. ET: With the caffeine from the Coke well integrated in my system at this point, as the graphic says it should be, I do feel pretty peppy, not hyper, but definitely awake. The Coke seems to have brought me through the lunch hour without post-meal drowsiness.
1:04 p.m. ET: Within the last 10 minutes, I felt like my heart was beating a little bit faster than before, which could actually be an increase in blood pressure, or perhaps I'm just more aware because I'm thinking about it. It was around the 45-minute mark that the infographic said my dopamine levels should have increased, "stimulating the pleasure centers" of my brain." Well, I feel happy, so if that's what's going on, then good.
1:14 p.m. ET: I most definitely had to use the lady's room already — well before this hour mark. Though I haven't had my sugar crash yet, from previous experience, I know it's coming.
1:40 p.m. ET: About an hour-and-a-half post-Coke drinking, I'm starting to feel the crash (that, or the effects of waking up at 5 a.m.).
My overall assessment from this exercise is that when you are forced to think about the physiological aspect of going on to process that can of soda, it certainly makes you wonder if it was worth drinking (especially in light of the aforementioned ice cream restriction I'll be imposing on myself tonight).
In an email to TheBlaze, Naik explained that he decided to quit his job as a pharmacist at the head office of ASDA Walmart after he managed without medication to overcome a chronic auto-immune disease that doctors told him it would require a lifelong regimen of drugs.
Naik said he's helped others wean themselves off long-term medication, especially blood pressure medication, statins and diabetic drugs. One of his first recommendations would be to stop drinking sugary beverages.
"My first advice to them would be to do a simple swap. Replacing fizzy drinks with water with fresh lemon or lime juice," he wrote. "In many cases just doing this would have a dramatic effect on their health. So this indicated to me that fizzy drinks and sugar were big issues relating to blood pressure and metabolic diseases like diabetes and heart disease."
Naik wrote more about how the ingredients in most sodas react in the body in a post on his blog the Renegade Pharmacist back in May. It's starting to get play again after it was reposted by Truth Theory.
Listen to Ms. Klimas discuss this experiment on TheBlaze Radio.
(H/T: Daily Mail)
This story has been updated to correct the sodium measurement from grams to milligrams.