I remembered the time when SlimFast meal replacement shakes were still the ‘in’ thing. It featured a woman opening a can and gulping this chocolate milk drink.
As a young child, I was confused about why anyone would prefer to drink their meals instead of eating them? But as I grew up, I understood WHY this is so.
But before we get into how this changed the course of my nutrition, let’s look at the facts and answer, ‘do meal replacement shakes work?’
First, let’s see what the data tells us.
The truth of the matter is…
Obesity and Type 2 Diabetes are both lifestyle disease and managed through proper diet and exercise.
Furthermore, these are two important aspects to negate other string of diseases such as stroke, heart disease, and osteoarthritis.
Here are further facts to support the efficiency of taking meal replacement shakes and making lifestyle changes.
A study shown in the American Diabetes Association showcased that using meal replacement shakes have some effect on the weight, body fat, blood pressure, and blood sugar (HBA1C, fasting insulin, and glucose).
A program called the National Weight Control Registry (NWCR) tracked over 10,000 individuals who managed to lose weight for a year or so. It aims to study the qualities of these individuals who managed their weight successfully over time. The qualities tested include lifestyle habits and behavioral approach while the weight tools include pedometers, smaller plates, food diaries, and meal replacement shakes and bars.
In another study, they separated a group of US Army soldiers was separated into two sets: one group used the ‘Weight to Stay’ (military education-based program to weight loss) and the other on meal replacements. It concluded that those who took the replacement meals made significant weight loss results compared to those who are in the ‘Weight to Stay’.
As more consumers crave for healthier food options, the meal replacement shakes and powder market has garnered more popularity than ever before. With a growing interest in the Asia Pacific and Eastern Europe regions, top companies such as NuSkin, Herbalife, and Amway have been offering these products to support healthy food options and lifestyles.
A walk through the basics
Meal replacement shakes usually come in a can or bottle. However, there are several powder types that you could mix with water or milk.
One serving of meal replacement shakes contains about 200 to 400 calories packed with all the necessary nutrients, vitamins, and minerals that your body needs. So, if you’re expecting a busy day ahead, bringing a meal replacement shake with you to work could help you to power through the day!
Moreover, the American Diabetes Association (ADA) recommends meal replacements at least once a day as this could result in maintained weight loss with long-term use.
My journey towards better health
When you think about ‘better health’, it’s not rocket science. When you weigh yourself on that scale, it’s undeniable how it got that high: too many beers, burgers, and late-night snacks consisting of chips and soda.
I’ve been there too.
It took one visit with my doctor to change my life around.
I started to see food and healthy living differently.
And it wasn’t easy.
When you’re obese, it’s easy to get discouraged and settle for less.
But then again, nothing is easy when you’re just starting.
It’s particularly challenging to count your calories. Consciously counting calories ALL THE TIME can be overwhelming for some (including me!).
But this is where meal replacement shakes worked wonders for my weight loss process.
So, do meal replacement shakes work?
Fact # 1: You can keep count of calories
This is a wonderful creation indeed!
It made it easier for me to count my calories since it’s already pre-determined for each serving I consume. In my case, I consume two servings of replacement meal shakes per day.
Fact # 2: It keeps you away from unhealthy foods
I run a hectic schedule where I get to do overtime in most days.
It’s all more challenging when you’re hungry and ready to pounce on anything edible at sight.
It’s pretty much everything you need for a meal!
The pre-portioned bottles also made it more convenient for me to get accurate calorie counts for that entire meal.
Fact # 3: You can say ‘no’ to overeating
I guess you could say we have the same sentiments when it comes to healthy meals. It’s time- consuming with all the preparation, cooking, or baking.
You could say it takes commitment.
And since our brains are lazy, we prefer to take the easier road.
After all, convenience stores and fast food are convenient and readily available, right?
When you consume processed foods, it can derail you from your objective and effort to lose or maintain weight.
The high amount of salt, fat, and sugar causes your brain to overeat. Not only that, but refined sugars also lack the nutrients needed by your body.
When you choose healthy food options such as whole unprocessed foods and meal replacement shakes, it helps curb those ‘sugar addictions’.
Fact # 4: It complements traditional diet
When you’re trying to lose weight, chances are you’re also cutting down on calories.
When you’re consuming fewer calories, some essential nutrients may be lacking in your diet.
Meal replacement shakes act as ‘fillers’ for this gap.
It contains essential nutrients and vitamins similar to a whole full meal—minus the calories. Most replacement meals contain high sources of vitamin D, calcium, iron, and potassium to help nourish your body’s daily nutritional needs.
Fact # 5: Replacement meal shakes could speed up the process
Do replacement shakes work to help you lose weight faster?
Well, it’s not always the case for everyone.
In my case, transitioning to a healthier diet was easier because of meal replacement shakes.
If you’re trying to lose weight, these will help you cut down on calories while making you ‘full’ for a long time.
Ideally, replacing one or two meals per day with replacement meal shakes could help you lose weight faster.
Fact # 6: Replacement meal shakes are safe
Replacement meals, just like full meals, contain healthy ingredients.
But it shouldn’t be the ONLY thing that you consume.
A ‘liquid-only’ diet only does not sustain all your nutritional needs (unless prompted by your doctor for medical reasons).
Meal replacement shakes don’t contain fiber, antioxidants, and enzymes commonly found in whole foods.
Fact # 7: Find products that have an almost similar nutrient content as a full meal
A healthy meal usually consists of 20 grams of protein and 10 grams of healthy fat, fiber, and other calories.
Since meal replacement shakes support your current diet, ideally it should contain about 10 grams of sugar, 3 grams of fiber, 15 grams of protein, and 30 percent of vitamins and minerals (Daily Value).
Check the back labels for these ingredients so you can maximize the benefits of consuming these healthy food options.
The side effects of meal replacement shake
Just like any dietary supplement, there are side effects you need to be aware of.
- Every product is unique
As I mentioned, it’s important to read labels. The variety of replacement meal products in the market can be dizzying.
If you’re not careful, some of these products contain harmful ingredients such as arsenic, lead, and mercury. Exposing your body to small doses of these ingredients can lead to several health problems such as constipation, joint pains, fatigue, and weakness.
- It can lead to weight gain
Some meal replacement shakes are suitable for weight gain.
For bodybuilders, the objective is to build muscles while getting sufficient amounts of protein and calories needed for heavy workouts. When taken with full meals, it can drastically increase the body’s mass.
So, if your purpose is to lose weight, the products should contain high protein but low in sugar.
Before purchasing any replacement meal shake product, be sure to check the intended use for this shake.
- It can cause constipation, diverticulitis, and hemorrhoids
As mentioned, replacement meal shakes do not have the same content as unprocessed whole foods.
Some essential substances such as antioxidants, dietary fiber, and phytonutrients (commonly found in grains, fruits, and vegetables) are not present in these products.
And with lower nutritional values, replacement meal shakes could lead to digestive problems. I’ve encountered a few bowel problems myself during the initial takes!
To counter this, adding fiber and raw whole foods to your daily meal plan will help you avoid having these problems in the long run.
- You might feel some bowel discomfort
The caution goes out to all who are lactose intolerant: whey protein, a common replacement meal shake ingredient, is NOT fully lactose-free.
Though it doesn’t contain the same lactose as milk does, it can still cause stomach upset, bloating, cramps, and nausea.
Don’t make the same mistake I did.
ALWAYS read the labels first before purchasing.
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