meal replacement shakes for weight loss

We live in a fast-paced world where finding time to prepare a healthy nutritious meal can often become a challenge.  Meal replacement shakes can provide you all the nutrients that you need in the right amounts. They are easy to prepare, convenient, and can also help you lose weight. Read on to learn more about meal replacement shakes and their benefits.

What is the meal replacement shake?

Meal replacement shakes intend to provide the nutrition of a meal, hence replace a meal. These shakes are available pre-mixed in cans or bottles or in powdered form, which you can mix in the beverage of your choices like milk or water. These shakes provide supply a concentrated dose of essential nutrients and hence save time.

Though they were initially invented as a way for people to efficiently absorb nutrients, meal replacement shakes are a convenient option if you are trying to lose weight. A dieter can consume a meal replacement shake to replace breakfast or lunch and have two regular meals through the rest of the day. Unlike diets, meal replacement shakes help cut calories without sacrificing gastronomic freedom.

Benefits of drinking meal replacement shakes

1. Contain a wide variety of nutrients

Meal replacement shakes provide nutrients like protein, fiber, vitamins, and minerals. They even provide vital nutrients like calcium, potassium, vitamin D, and iron, which may be lacking or low in your regular diet.

When dieters try to lose weight by restricting calories, they run the risk of nutritional deficiencies as they might not be able to include all the nutrient-rich food to their meals. Replacing one meal a day with meal replacement shake ensures you get all the nutrients that you should get in a healthy, well-balanced diet.

2. Helps to avoid unhealthy meals

Preparing healthy meals is not practical when you are short on time. When you are in a hurry or are stressed, you tend to opt for unhealthy food choices like processed meals. These foods are often high in fats, refined carbs, and sugars, which can derail your fat loss plans.

According to some studies, the high sugar, salt, and fat in food can activate the pleasure centers of the brain, which leads to overeating (1, 2). Meal replacement shakes are easy to prepare and healthier than processed foods. These shakes also help to keep you on track when it comes to fat loss.

3. Help to lose weight faster

You must reduce your calorie intake if you want to lose weight. However, this proves to be difficult for people as they develop hunger pangs and end up overeating. Meal replacement shakes help you feel full while reducing your calorie intake (3).

Several studies have shown that replacing one or two meals a day with a meal replacement shake can help to lose weight (4, 5).

According to a study by the Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons, New York, people who replaced one or two meals of their daily diet with a meal replacement shake, lost 5.6 pounds more than those who followed conventional diet plans. Fewer people following a meal replacement plan dropped out of the study, which shows that they are easier to follow than regular diets (6).

4. Can also help those trying to gain weight

Meal replacement shakes are also a good option for people trying to gain weight. People with chronic health conditions, older adults, and people who have lost their appetite can benefit from meal replacement shakes. They can take these shakes as a snack between meals to increase their calorie and nutritional intake. Meal replacement shakes are a healthy way to improve your weight, without consuming high-calorie unhealthy food.

5. Help with portion control

Successful and sustainable weight loss needs portion control. This may not be easy as even healthy foods like nuts, fruit, and legumes contain calories. Going overboard on these healthy foods can interfere with weight loss.

Meal replacement shakes help to take the guesswork out of calories and portion control. These shakes make it easy to manage portion sizes and prevent overeating. Studies have also shown that using meal replacement shakes is more effective than counting calories in your diet plan (7).

6. Rich in protein

Meal replacement shakes have high protein content, which can help in weight loss. High protein diets improve satiety, and this helps reduce cravings (8). High protein diets also improve lean body mass, reduce belly fat, and improve weight maintenance (9, 10).

According to a 2008 study from the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA, high protein meal replacements led to significantly more fat loss and helped lower cholesterol levels as compared to other standard protein meal replacement plans (11).

7. Improves blood sugar control

Meals that are high in carbohydrates can cause blood sugar spikes, which can result in symptoms of diabetes like fatigue, increased urination, and weight loss. Meal replacement shakes contain just the right amount of all nutrients, including carbohydrates, which help prevent spikes and crashes in blood levels. Meal replacement shakes have high protein content, which can slow down the absorption of sugar in the bloodstream and improve blood sugar control.

According to a study from Center for Human Nutrition, University of California, liquid meal replacements are a safe and effective weight loss tool for obese subjects with type 2 diabetes; and can result in improvement in body weight, glucose, hemoglobin, and lipid levels (12).

What to look out for when buying a meal replacement shake?

You can easily distinguish between a good and lousy meal replacement shake by merely reading the nutrition label. Look for a shake that has a balance of carbohydrates, fats, and proteins. A good shake should come in convenient packaging and contain 15 to 25 grams of protein, 18 grams of vitamin and minerals, 10 to 13 grams of healthy fat, and a good dose of fiber per serving. The ingredients should contain nuts, seeds, vegetables, and herbs.

A good meal replacement shake should be free of high fructose corn syrup, hydrogenated vegetable oil, and added sugar. Avoid any shake that has artificial flavors and a long list of synthetic chemical additives.

You can also supplement your meal replacement shake with healthy ingredients for added health benefits and improve the flavor. Spinach is full of vitamin C and can improve your body’s ability to absorb other nutrients. Greek yogurt adds creaminess and extra calcium, potassium, protein, zinc, and vitamins B6 and B12. Adding a bit of cinnamon can improve the taste and help in lowering blood pressure, reducing inflammation, and even have antioxidant benefits.

Homemade meal replacement shakes

You can also make meal replacement shakes at home. These easy to make recipes will provide you a healthy, nutritious, and wholesome meal on the go.

1. Almond milkshake

Ingredients

  • One large banana, peeled and frozen
  • One cup of almond milk (unsweetened)
  • One tablespoon almond butter
  • One tablespoon chia seeds
  • A dash of cinnamon

Method

Mix these ingredients in a blender till they are smooth. Almond milk and butter are rich in proteins. Chia seeds contain antioxidants and heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids.

2. Green protein shake

Ingredients

  • One large frozen banana
  • Peanut butter
  • Coconut milk
  • Fresh baby spinach
  • Vanilla protein powder

Method

Mix all the ingredients in a blender. Coconut milk contains medium-chain triglycerides, which researchers have linked with weight loss. Spinach is highly nutritious and is packed with folic acid, iron, calcium, potassium, magnesium, vitamin B6, B9, and E.

You can also use ingredients such as bone broth, pureed vegetables, greek yogurt, and grass-fed whey to make homemade meal replacement shakes.

Precautions

1. Unhealthy ingredients

While there are several benefits of using meal replacement shakes, some of the shakes available in the market contain harmful components and can be detrimental for health. Many brands of meal replacement shakes contain ingredients like thickeners and preservatives, color and flavor enhancers and vegetable oil, which are linked to adverse health effects.

2. Not a long term solution

You cannot completely replace a healthy diet with meal replacement shakes. Whole foods contain antioxidants, enzymes, and plant compounds which are essential for health. While some shakes contain fiber, it is much lesser than that available in whole foods.

3. Can’t change bad eating habits

While meal replacement shakes help you lose weight, they are not a permanent solution. If you don’t change your eating habits, you may end up gaining your weight back once you stop replacing your meals with shakes.

4. Can cause digestive issues

Some ingredients in meal replacement shake can cause digestive problems like nausea, diarrhea, pain, and cramping. People who are allergic to whey should avoid these shakes.

Final thoughts

Meal replacement shakes can be a convenient and powerful tool in your weight-loss routine. They are available pre-mixed in cans or bottles or in powdered from which you can mix in the beverage of your choices like milk or water. Consuming these shakes help avoid unhealthy ingredients, help with portion control, and hence help to lose weight faster. They can also help lower cholesterol and improve blood sugar levels.

However, to gain the health benefits of meal replacement shakes, one must choose a good quality shake. It should be high in protein, vitamins and minerals and low in sugars and synthetic ingredients.