You must be familiar with your protein shakes, but have you heard of meal replacement shakes?
Unlike protein shakes, meal replacement shakes are intended to provide the nutrition of a full meal.
Meal replacement shakes are slowly becoming popular as the preparation time is negligible and contains 200-400 calories with a good amount of protein, fiber and essential vitamins and minerals.
This is the reason why meal replacement shakes are a convenient way to get a healthy, low-calorie meal on the go.
But replacing a meal with just a meal replacement shake without knowing it’s composition can be dangerous.
Here is a complete overview of whether or not these shakes help with weight loss.
Unhealthy Meals Can Be Avoided
Meal replacement shakes are portable and convenient, and they may help you resist the temptation to indulge in unhealthy junk foods.
Let’s face it, one of the biggest barriers to lose weight is the amount of time that goes in preparing healthy meals.
When you are stressed or in a hurry, it’s much easier to grab a processed convenience food or give in to fast food.
Unfortunately, typical processed foods can seriously derail your weight loss efforts.
Most are full of sugar, refined carbs and artificial ingredients, in addition to lacking beneficial nutrients.
Conversely, meals made from healthy, whole foods are best for losing weight, but that is not always practical with a busy schedule.
Meal replacement shakes are easy to drink on-the-go and a significantly healthier alternative to fast foods.
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They Provide Nutrients That Traditional Diets May Be Lacking
Meal replacement shakes are designed to provide all of the nutrients that you should consume in a complete meal.
When you cut back on calories, it can be difficult to get all of the nutrients you need from your diet.
Shakes are often fortified with nutrients, which might fill your nutrient gap while you are cutting back on calories.
The best meal replacement shakes contain protein, fiber and essential vitamins and minerals.
Promotes Faster Weight Loss
However, sticking to a low-calorie diet can be challenging, especially if you end up feeling hungry.
Meal replacement shakes can help you feel full while consuming fewer calories (5).
Four out of seven studies reported significantly greater weight loss with meal replacements than a traditional diet. Yet, the other three studies found no difference in weight loss (7).
Furthermore, some studies have found that meal replacement shakes boost weight loss in diabetics.
Those consuming the meal replacements also had lower fasting blood sugar and LDL cholesterol levels (11).
Meal replacement shakes may also help with weight maintenance after weight loss has been achieved (13).
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Not all meal replacement shakes are the same.
Nevertheless, many are high in protein, which is one of the most important nutrients for weight loss.
One study found that men on a high-protein diet reported fewer cravings and a reduced desire to eat late at night than those consuming a moderate amount of protein (18).
However, those in the high-protein group lost more body fat, and their “bad” LDL cholesterol levels were lower (24).
So finally to lose weight choose a meal replacement shake that suits your lifestyle and needs. The composition of your shake play a vital role in your weight loss journey.
Problems Associated With Meal Replacement Shakes
There are numerous benefits by using meal replacement shakes, but it has a dark side too.
Some Contain Unhealthy Ingredients
Plenty of meal replacement shakes are made with wholesome ingredients.
Others contain unhealthy ingredients like added sugars, corn syrup, partially hydrogenated vegetable oils, artificial flavors and chemical preservatives.
Look for a high-protein shake that also contains fiber and a list of ingredients you can pronounce. A healthy meal replacement shake should contain no more than a few grams of sugar.
They Are Not a Long-Term Solution
Meal replacement shakes may not be a long-term solution for weight management.
While many brands of meal shakes provide important nutrients, they cannot completely replace a healthy diet full of whole foods.
In addition to vitamins and minerals, whole foods contain antioxidants, plant compounds and enzymes that are difficult to put into a bottle.
Some shakes do contain fiber, although significantly less than the amounts found in whole foods like fruits, vegetables and legumes.
Additionally, drinking shakes for meals is not a sustainable lifestyle for many people. It can be a socially isolating practice, since many social events include food.
They Don’t Fix Unhealthy Eating Habits
In general, diets don’t work for weight loss. Long-term weight loss requires long-term lifestyle changes.
While drinking meal replacement shakes can help you lose weight, they don’t force you to change your eating habits.
If you simply go back to your old eating habits when you stop replacing your meals with shakes, you will likely regain the weight.
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How to Choose the Best Weight Loss Shake
To choose the best meal replacement shake for weight loss, ignore the claims on the front of the package and read the ingredient list on the back.
Choose a product with the following qualifications:
- At least 15 grams of protein per serving
- At least 3 grams of fiber per serving
- Less than 10 grams of sugar per serving
- No corn syrup
- No hydrogenated vegetable oils
- At least 33% of the Daily Value for vitamins and minerals
There are several different types of protein used in meal replacement shakes.
Whey protein has been found to improve satiety and is a good ingredient to look for in a meal replacement shake (17).
You can also make your own meal replacement shakes at home. There are endless combinations of ingredients, but here is one recipe to try:
- 1 cup unsweetened almond milk
- 1 cup frozen berries
- 1 tablespoon coconut oil
- 1 cup plain Greek yogurt
- 1–2 scoops whey protein powder
Mix all ingredients together in a blender until smooth. This homemade shake contains approximately 400 calories, 30 grams of protein and 30 grams of carbs.
Portability and short prepare time are the major advantages of a meal replacement shake. They may be an effective way to reduce your calorie intake and lose weight.
However, be sure to choose a meal replacement shake that is high in protein and low in sugar and artificial ingredients.
Most importantly, consult your doctor before starting a new diet plan, as abrupt changes to your diet cycle may lead to health complications.