Are All Weight Loss Shakes The Same? The Truth Revealed
What are the benefits of using meal replacement shakes?
Calorie control is the most important part of any plan that helps you lose weight. Using meal replacement shakes can take a lot of the guess work out of getting those calories right. It is written directly on the label for you. Eating a balanced and calorie-controlled diet using food takes time and preparation. Success comes to those who can dedicate the time to plan out their meals and even do a little weekend meal prep. But if you don’t have that time to spare, you may be better suited to meal replacement shakes.
2. Reduce the temptation of food
In some ways, it may be easier to give up smoking that lose weight. With smoking, you can remove it completely from your life but with food it isn’t so simple. Our bodies need food and therefore we are faced with the decision about what to eat, repeatedly through that day. This means we need strong motivation and will power to keep making good decisions even when faced with temptation wherever we go. From snacks shared at work to the smells from the bakery as we walk past. So having a shake ready to go can reduce the temptation to go off track. It eliminates the need to make decisions about what to eat and therefore make is easier to say, ‘no thank you’ and keep focus on your goals.
3. Fast weight loss
A recent review of 23 clinical trials (Astbury N. 2019) of the effectiveness of meal replacement shakes for weight loss found that after 1 year, people who were using meal-replacements combined with support from a dietitian or healthcare professional, lost 3.9kg more than those who used a weight loss plan without meal replacements (and also included support from a healthcare professional). So, there is some evidence that using meal replacements not only works, but they may result in more weight loss than using a food-based plan.
Negative side effects such as headaches, poor sleep, tiredness, hair loss, dry skin, dizziness and constipation are commonly reported among those significantly restricting their food or calories (including when using meal replacements). Other possible effects include gallstones and a reduction in bone density. Also, if you also have a medical condition or are taking medication, the side effects could be significantly worse. Therefore, it is very important to speak with your doctor before starting any weight loss program (including food/meal plans) and seek the support of an Accredited Practising Dietitian to ensure you get the most out of your efforts while staying healthy. Meal replacements shakes are not recommended for people who are pregnant, elderly, have a history of severe mental health issues, alcohol or drug abuse and certain heart conditions (NHMRC, 2010).
Usually meal replacement plans are followed for anywhere between 2 – 16 weeks but under close medical supervision, very low-energy diets (including meal replacements) may be used safely for 12 months (Sumithran & Proietto, 2008).
5. Appetite control
Good quality meal-replacement shakes are made to have a lot of protein and fibre, which have both been shown to reduce hunger. The blunting of appetite is due to the mild ketosis that results from taking shakes that contain very little carbohydrates. Ketosis is when the body must switch from using carbohydrates for energy (it’s normal process) to using fatty acids instead. One of the side effects of this is a reduction in hunger and appetite which, if followed in the right way, can help with sticking to the meal placement plan long enough to see the benefits.
6. Balanced nutrition
When people try to lose weight by simply eating less, it gets harder to get the recommended amounts of nutrients that are important for good health. The evidence review mentioned earlier looked for health problems associated with taking meal replacements and it found they weren’t linked to any additional health problems other than those seen in very low calorie diets. This is probably because the meal replacements have vitamins and minerals added to them to make sure they meet recommended dietary amounts for complete nutritionas well as being governed by regulation on their composition.
How can I tell the good from the bad?
- Adequate protein – look for shakes with 15-25g of protein in each serve to meet your nutritional needs and keep you fuller for longer.
- Some fibre – aim for shakes that have around 5g of fibre per serve or more to help reduce likelihood of constipation and help with fullness.
- Meet your RDAs – Shakes should meet the minimum recommended dietary allowance (RDA) for vitamins and minerals when consumed 3 times a day and replacing your main meals. Without this, you miss out on vital nutrients needs for good health.
- Low in sugar and carbs – Look for shakes that contain less than 15g of carbs per serve to keep your overall carb intake over the day low and encourage mild ketosis which will help to reduce your appetite.
- Variety in flavours and options – It is easy to get bored having the same thing for breakfast lunch and dinner so consider a meal replacement product that offers a widevariety of flavours as well as a soup option/
- Tastes good – This can go without saying but consider sampling a few different flavours and brands before you commit to one.