I used to be a big fan of Pepsi-Cola and RC Cola. Both are a bit sweeter-tasting than good old Coca-Cola, the standard by which all other colas is measured. Taste is a big factor in why people choose colas to drink, and people have their favorites. But it gets pretty hard to stick by one standard when they seem to keep changing.
New Coke, Old Coke, everywhere a Coke Coke
You may recall when Coke tried dumping its original formula in 1985?
The New Coke tasted pretty much like Pepsi and true Coke fans hated it. Either New Coke was the biggest blunder in cola marketing history or else it served as a fantastic brand coup in which Coke built even greater loyalty for its old formula. Coke claims it was just a big mistake. The evidence seems to support their claim. In 1992 the original Coke formula was rebranded Coke Classic.
Now there are more styles of Coke than ever. You can find Coke Zero, Caffeine Free Coke, Diet Coke, Vanilla Coke, Cherry Coke and The list goes on and on. Coke and Pepsi and all those other beverages trying to grab every niche in the market.
Consumers face all kinds of choices while shelf space is at a premium for cola marketers. Beyond the colas there are the Lemon-Lime drinks like Sprite (the default no-caffeine beverage) and Sierra Mist. You show up at a restaurant and ask, “Do you have Sierra Mist?
“No, just Sprite.” Yuck. I hate Sprite. Sticky thick syrup water in a can. Ugh.
Yes, it seems like soda varieties are everywhere and the supply is limitless. Yet if all the Coca-Cola ever made were allowed to run over Niagara falls it would flow for just over 24 hours. One day.
Coke by the numbers
15,695 cans of Coke equals 188,340 fluid ounces at 12 fluid ounces per can. That’s 5,885 quarts of Coke ingested over 43 years. Those 15,695 cans of Coke contain 2,197,300 calories.
Of course many people drink more than one can of Coke per day. Just two cans is equal to 4,394,600 calories. Three cans a day is 6,591,900 calories over 43 years. Are you feeling fat yet?
And sugar. There are 39 grams of sugar in a can of coke. That is 612,105 grams of sugar over a 43-year time period. Triple the intake of Coke and you’re looking at 1,836,315 grams of sugar between ages 12 and 55. Much of that sugar is delivered in the form of High Fructose Corn Syrup, a hyper-sweet concoction that can kill you according to Dr. Mark Hyman, MD.
Coach says no Coke
The other components of Coke such as sodium, carbohydrates and caffeine all contribute to a drink that while tasty is certainly not very good for you over the long term. It’s no wonder our high school cross country coach banned us from drinking soda during the season.
He didn’t like the carbonation in colas. He claimed that it gave you sideaches. That may be true. Some people notice sidestitches from drinking soda even when they are not exercising.
Our coach may have been missing the possibilities of the diuretic effects of caffeine, which are known to dry out muscles including the diaphragm, and a cramp in the diaphragm is often the source of side stitches.
So I quit Coke at age 14 and did not touch it through the age of 16 when I transferred schools and ran for a different cross-country and track program that did not talk about diet much.
The old Coke habit returns
The Coke habit continued through college where we’d drink 2-3 eight-oz. cups during lunch and a couple more during dinner in the college union. We were training 80-100 miles per week, so calories weren’t really an issue.
After college the training and racing continued but I ran into problems at a state track competition when I drank too much soda in the three days leading up to a competitive 5000 on the track. I went through two miles in 9:30 before pulling over with a side stitch so painful they put me in an ice bath to cool down my core temps.
In my early 30s a doctor told me to quit drinking Coke because my prostate was too sensitive to the effects of caffeine. For nearly 25 years I avoided caffeine in all ways. I didn’t drink coffee so that was no problem and I quit taking cold medicines and have actually had far fewer colds. So I didn’t miss much by quitting Coke and not using antihistamines.
I did eat dark chocolate but to no ill effects. Was it all in my head, all along?
One can never really know. But I took up drinking tea in my 50s and then graduated to Coke because it is served free at the office.
This time around I did not notice the cramping effect that had always bugged my prostate in earlier years. Then I worked up to a Coke a day and kept it at that level with rate exception.
All those years of running and riding without drinking Coke were not wasted. I do not believe in the supposed benefits to performance in drinking caffeine before a race. I always got nervous and jumpy enough to get “up” for competing. Who needed caffeine?
And who needed all that acidic juice in your gut? The corrosive effects of Coke are debated with site like Snopes.com insisting the claims are overblown. But we do know this; dentists and gum specialists do not like what the acids or sugars in colas do to your teeth.
Athletes and Coke
Tour de France riders also guzzle the stuff when it is offered. Burning 7000 calories a day requires something rich and quick to replace the sugars, sodium and calories used in competition.
I like a good Jack Daniels and Coke at weddings. Maker’s Mark does well too. So Coke is one of those tarsnakes of existence. On one hand it’s fun and flavorful. On the other hand it can eat your teeth and guts away and make you fat. But some say the same about marriage. So it’s a wash.
A heartbeat away
But the Coke a day habit I built again may need to go. Caffeine is not good for anyone’s heart either. It can set off an uneven heartbeat if you’re prone to such things. There are 34 mg of caffeine in every can of Coke. In 43 years of drinking one can a day that amounts to 1,553,630 mg of caffeine. And that’s a daunting figure.
So my running and riding feud with Coca-Cola continues.
If you stop and think about it, it is rather strange that we have such habits as drinking Coke. And that so much technology and marketing can go into selling an aluminum can filled with liquid that is not that good for you.