Meal replacement shakes are designed to provide all of the nutrition of a regular meal, with its selling point revolving around its convenience. They can either be pre-prepared, or come in powder form, generally requiring you to just add water and give it a shake.
Usually, they contain around 300 calories, and contain reasonable amounts of vitamins, fibre and protein.
As such, meal replacement shakes can be a good way to get a convenient low-calorie meal, particularly if you don’t have much time to cook.
However, there may be a number of issues with including them in your diet on a regular basis.
Here is our complete guide on meal replacement shakes to help you decide whether you should use them or not.
Meal replacement shakes can help you avoid unhealthy foods
One of the biggest obstacles in the way of weight loss is the time and effort required to prepare healthy foods, with many resorting to unhealthy fast food to save time.
Processed foods tend to be massively detrimental to weight loss, as they are full of sugars and artificial ingredients, which can activate the brain’s pleasure centres and result in overeating.
Whole foods, on the other hand, are great for losing weight but not always practical for those with a busy schedule.
As meal replacement shakes are simple and convenient, they may help you to avoid unhealthy processed foods. They can be an easy way to have a healthy meal without having to spend time preparing it.
Meal replacement shakes can provide nutrients
Part of the appeal of meal replacement shakes is that they tend to contain all of the nutrients that would be found in a regular meal.
When cutting calories, it is often difficult to ensure that you consume all of the necessary nutrients while remaining within your calorie limit.
Many meal replacement shakes are fortified with nutrients, which would help to ensure you continue getting your required nutrients while cutting back on calories.
If you decide to use meal replacement shakes, make sure you look for ones containing protein, fibre and as many minerals and vitamins as possible.
Meal replacement shakes can speed up weight loss
When losing weight, one of the most basic rules is that you need a calorie deficit in order to do so.
Unfortunately, sticking to a low-calorie diet can be very difficult as they tend to leave you feeling hungry and unsatisfied. This often leads to people giving up and snacking on unhealthy foods, unable to resist their cravings.
Meal replacement shakes are designed to make you feel full while not providing you with fewer calories, and are fairly effective at doing so.
A number of studies have found that replacing meals with healthy shakes can speed up weight loss.
In fact, one study found that those utilising a meal replacement plan lost 5.6lb more over three months than those following an entirely food-based, calorie-restricted diet.
Fewer of the participants using the meal replacements dropped out of the studies, potentially suggesting that this method is easier to follow.
Meal replacement shakes have also been found to make maintain weight easier after goal weight has been achieved.
Many meal replacement shakes are high in protein
While all meal replacement shakes are made slightly differently, the vast majority of them contain high amounts of protein.
Consuming more protein tends to lead to a lower intake of calories, due to the way in which protein makes you feel fuller and more satiated.
High-protein diets have also been linked to a wide range of health benefits, including a reduction in body fat and increased lean body mass. Some meal replacement shakes have a higher protein content than others, so ensure that you choose one that is high in protein but low in sugar.
Downsides of meal replacement shakes
While there are number of benefits attached to using meal replacement shakes, there are also some disadvantages that need to be considered.
Some meal replacement shakes contain unhealthy ingredients
While lots of meal replacement shakes are made with healthy ingredients, some of them contain added sugars, artificial flavours and corn syrup, all of which will slow down weight loss.
Some contain more sugar than they do protein, so make sure you read the label to ensure that the one you choose is healthy.
Make sure that the shake you choose contains fibre and wholesome ingredients, and remember that you should consume as little sugar as possible.
Meal replacement shakes do not encourage lifestyle changes
Although meal replacements can be effective for weight loss, they may not be ideal for weight management, because you aren’t actually adopting a healthier lifestyle. They don’t force you to make long-lasting lifestyle changes, so unless you change your diet after losing weight you may well end up putting some of it back on.
Healthy foods also contain plenty of antioxidants, which are very rarely found in meal replacement shakes, and the fibre contained may not be enough to ensure a healthy body.
Choosing the best meal replacement shake
When choosing your shake, check the ingredients listed on the back of the packaging.
Choose a product that meets the following requirements:
- At least 15g of protein per serving
- At least 3g of fiber per serving
- Less than 10g of sugar per serving
- No corn syrup
- No hydrogenated vegetable oils
- At least 33 per cent of the Daily Value for vitamins and minerals