The weight loss industry has become increasingly significant in the past few decades. A lot of people are curious when it comes to methods that help them lose weight, as well as what methods are the most effective. One of the methods that people consider often involves meal replacement shakes.
Most people can lose a significant amount of weight with meal replacement shakes. The loss can vary significantly between people, based on factors such as metabolism, commitment to the weight loss regimen, and how much weight the person has to lose. However, often, the weight loss is short-lived.
If you’re interested in trying meal replacement shakes, you may not know exactly what to expect. But if you read on, you might get a better idea of how it tends to work for people in general.
How Much Weight Can Meal Replacement Shakes Help Me Lose?
There is no straightforward answer that applies to everyone when you are trying to figure how much weight you can lose with meal replacement shakes. It depends on a variety of factors that vary from individual to individual.
For example, people who are carrying a lot of extra weight, have higher metabolisms, and are very committed to their weight loss goals are likely to lose more weight on any weight loss plan.
It is important to remember that meal replacement shakes are not a magic bullet when it comes to weight loss. Often, you will need to combine them with other approaches in order to achieve the results you want.
Additionally, you should keep in mind that weight loss using these shakes is typically more significant in the beginning.
What causes you to be able to lose weight with meal replacement shakes is the simple principle of calorie restriction. A meal replacement shake is a low-calorie alternative to a typical meal.
There are several studies that demonstrate the effectiveness of meal replacement shakes in weight loss. For example, in one study, dieters who drink meal replacement shakes lost approximately twice as much as those in a control group.
Another report (Effects of 3-week total meal replacement vs. typical food-based diet on human brain functional magnetic resonance imaging food-cue reactivity and functional connectivity in people with obesity), published in the January 2018 issue of Appetite, showed that people who drank three meal replacement shakes a day lost more body fat and had bigger reductions in food cravings over the course of three weeks than those who followed a regular low-calorie diet.
Weight Loss with Meal Replacement Shakes: Is It Sustainable?
Even though meal replacement shakes have shown themselves to be effective in weight loss, it also appears that the results are not necessarily sustainable.
In August 2013, Diabetes Spectrum reported that in order for people drinking these shakes to sustain the weight loss over the long term, they need to continue drinking them instead of eating meals.
In addition, many people end up gaining the weight back because they have a tendency to underestimate how many calories they are taking in per day that include the meal replacement shakes.
There are a few other reasons why the weight loss tends to be temporary when people rely on meal replacement shakes. Calorie restriction causes alterations to your metabolism and hormones, which makes it difficult for any changes to last.
When you engage in calorie restriction, levels of the hormone ghrelin rise, while those of the hormone leptin decrease. Ghrelin tells you that it is time to eat, while leptin tells you that you’re full, so this means that you’re hungry all the time.
Adaptive thermogenesis is another factor. When you restrict calories, your body also decreases the number of calories you burn during activity.
What Are Meal Replacement Shakes?
If you want to learn about the effects of meal replacement shakes, it helps to learn some background information.
Meal replacement shakes and protein shakes are not one and the same. Meal replacement shakes are made specifically to replace low calorie meals. Typically, they contain a mixture of protein, carbohydrates, and fat, in addition to vitamins and minerals.
A meal replacement shake is intended to replace the nutritional value of a meal, but it generally has fewer calories than even a typical low-calorie meal.
Typically, people who are following a program that involves meal replacement shakes will be replacing one or two out of three daily meals.
Some meal replacement shakes come in a ready-to-drink form, while some come in a powder form that you need to mix with a liquid, such as water or low-calorie milk.
Benefits of Meal Replacement Shakes
Drinking meal replacement shakes will bring certain benefits to your life. These benefits are why many people are continuing to choose them.
Faster Weight Loss
Even though the weight that people lose with meal replacement shakes is not always going to lead to long-term weight loss, these shakes have been shown to be helpful in some aspect.
It is very important to reduce your calorie intake if you want to lose weight. It can actually be very difficult to adhere to a low-calorie diet.
However, meal replacement shakes can be helpful because they can assist in your feeling full while consuming a smaller amount of calories.
Several studies indicate that replacement of one or two meals every day with a healthy shake can speed up weight loss, and also that they can help with weight maintenance after someone has gotten down to their ideal weight.
With a meal replacement shake, you don’t have to spend time cooking, weighing or measuring out ingredients, or figuring out portion control. They’re also relatively portable and easier to transport than a full meal would generally be.
Many people would say that one of the biggest challenges when it comes to losing weight is that it takes a lot of time to prepare healthy meals. Meal replacement shakes circumvent this particular obstacle.
Many people, dealing with the stresses of daily life, would rather eat fast food or some sort of processed convenience food rather than take the time to prepare a healthy meal.
Even though meal replacement shakes are not as healthy or conducive to losing weight as are whole foods, they are a superior alternative when compared to other processed foods that are high in salt, sugar, and fat.
These processed foods can be disastrous for people’s weight loss efforts, even though they may not realize it.
Less Contact with High-calorie Foods
Outside of reducing your inclination to grab fast food or processed snacks, meal replacement shakes are simply low-calorie alternatives to several meals that you could prepare at home. Even if convenience is not that important to you and you have plenty of time to cook, you may be cooking foods that are causing you to gain weight.
If you’re drinking a meal replacement shake, you aren’t eating a meal that could otherwise be full of rich, fatty ingredients.
Meal replacement shakes were made with your nutritional requirements in mind. They are supposed to give you all the nutrients that you should be consuming in a regular meal.
When many people cut down on their calories, it can be difficult to get all of the nutrients they need. Because meal replacement shakes are designed for this specific purpose, many of them are fortified with nutrients.
This can help you get all of the nutrition you need even when you are cutting your calorie count.
However, for this purpose, it is important that you choose a high-quality meal replacement shake.
You need to choose one that contains fiber, protein, and all of the essential vitamins and minerals.
Figuring out in which nutrients you have a deficiency would be ideal, so that you can make sure to get a meal replacement shake that contains those nutrients.
It is particularly important that you find a meal replacement shake that is high in protein if you are interested in losing weight.
Protein is crucial for weight loss in many cases. If you consume more protein, you are more likely to feel satiated, and this can lead to you consuming fewer calories during the rest of the day.
In addition, people who have followed high protein diets have shown that they experience other benefits.
They tend to have less body fat, increased lean body mass, less belly fat, and better ability to maintain weight loss. They typically also have fewer cravings and less of a desire to eat late at night.
Essentially, meal replacement shakes can bring you many benefits if you choose the right ones. It’s important to choose a meal replacement shake that is high in protein and low in sugar.
When you are drinking the same drink over and over again, you will have less of a sense of pleasure in response to it.
This will shift you in a direction where you are eating or drinking just to satisfy your hunger, rather than to stimulate your taste buds. This typically leads to a lower calorie intake.
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Drawbacks to Meal Replacement Shakes
In addition to the effectiveness of meal replacement shakes being short-lived when it comes to weight loss, there are other drawbacks as well. These include the following:
Many meal replacement shakes contain ingredients that you wouldn’t really want to consume, such as sugar. Manufacturers do this to make them taste good.
Even though you might still be able to stay within your calorie limits, this can actually present health complications and lead to issues such as high blood pressure and diabetes.
There are actually many shakes that are specifically promoted for weight loss purposes that contain more grams of sugar than grams of protein. Many people might not see this if they don’t carefully read the label before the purchase.
These shakes can also include ingredients such as partially hydrogenated vegetable oils, chemical preservatives, corn syrup, and artificial flavors.
This is why you should not automatically accept that a meal replacement shake is going to be good for weight loss. You need to read the nutrition label and understand what the ingredients (as well as the amounts of each one) mean for you.
You want a meal replacement shake that does not contain more than a few grams of sugar and that contains a high amount of protein.
It should also contain fiber and ingredients with which you are familiar, rather than a long list of artificial chemicals.
Meal replacement shakes are fortified with synthetic vitamins and minerals. This means that these nutrients are created in labs by humans.
Nutrients are best consumed in natural form, as you can when you eat whole foods. The synthetic vitamins and minerals in meal replacement shakes may not absorb as well into your body as they would in natural form.
Possibility of Malnutrition
Even though meal replacement shakes have shown some effectiveness, they are generally not considered a good long-term fix for people who are trying to keep their weight under control.
Even though there are meal replacement shakes that contain essential nutrients, they are not a replacement for a healthy diet that consists mostly of whole foods.
Whole foods contain not only vitamins and minerals, but also plant compounds, enzymes, and antioxidants that usually aren’t a part of meal replacement shakes.
Meal replacement shakes can be very nutritious. They can contain fiber, as well as vitamins and minerals. However, even the most nutritious shakes typically don’t have nearly as much nutrition as whole foods, such as legumes, vegetables, and fruits.
Most people are also not going to find drinking shakes as meal replacements to be a sustainable practice.
Even if they are effective at first, many people will soon tire of drinking a shake instead of having a meal.
Many social events include food, for example, and a lot of people are not going to be willing to give up the chance to try new foods and drink a meal replacement shake instead.
Ineffectiveness in Changing Lifestyles
Many people who have gone on multiple diets will tell you that diets are not very successful for people who are looking to lose weight permanently. If you are looking to lose weight and keep it off long-term, you will need to make long-term lifestyle changes.
Replacing some of your meals with shakes can help you lose some weight, but they do nothing to help you change your eating habits.
Most people are not going to be willing to permanently adopt the practice of replacing meals with shakes, so once they tire of the shakes, they are going to be right back to poor eating habits.
Even if you have lost some weight while using meal replacement shakes, this alone is not likely to assist you with long-term weight loss. When you go back to your old eating habits, you are likely going to gain the weight right back.
Meal replacement shakes are great for people who want to jumpstart their weight loss, but they can only be of long-term help for people who are also making lifestyle changes that have to do with diet and exercise.
What Constitutes a Good Meal Replacement Shake?
Many products present themselves as meal replacement shakes. However, not all of these are equal in quality and effectiveness.
In fact, research that has been performed over the past 15 years has shown that meal replacement shakes can constitute an effective means of weight management.
This method has been recognized by The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics in the United States and the European Food Safety Authority.
According to the European Union Commission Regulation, substituting two daily meals within part of a low-calorie diet with meal replacement shakes can help people lose weight.
Once someone has reached his or her ideal weight, they can continue to substitute one daily meal with a shake in order to maintain the loss.
However, this organization has put stipulations on the type of shake that can be expected to lead to these sorts of results. In order to qualify, a shake needs to meet the following criteria:
- It should contain 200 to 250 calories.
- 25 to 50 percent of the energy content of the shake should come from protein.
- A maximum of 30 percent of the energy content of the product should come from fat.
- One serving of the product should contain at least 30 percent of all vitamin and mineral daily requirements.
Why Protein and Fiber Are So Important
At this point, you know that it’s important to get a meal replacement shake with the right ingredients. There are certain ingredients that are more important than others, namely protein and fiber.
Many meal replacement shakes contain plant-based proteins, such as whey or soy protein. Dietary fiber is also a major ingredient in many of these products.
The reason for this is that both of these ingredients are very important in the management of appetite and hunger.
Fat is also an important ingredient in a meal replacement shake. As long as it contains good, healthy fats, they will work with the hormones of your body to tell you to stop eating at the right time. However, more important are protein and fiber.
There are certain reasons to seek out a meal replacement shake with high protein content. They are as follows:
- Protein is more likely to make you feel full than other nutrients.
- You will digest protein more slowly than you will digest carbohydrates. This means that the protein will be present in your gastrointestinal tract for a longer period of time.
- The source of the protein often doesn’t matter. Whether it is plant-based or animal-based, it will have a similar effect on your appetite.
- If your shake contains soy-based protein, this is also a good source of fiber.
Fiber is also a very important ingredient to look for when you are finding a meal replacement shake. The following are reasons why:
- Like protein, fiber fills your stomach. Fiber will actually stimulate receptors that tell your brain that you should stop eating.
- Fiber makes your food pass through the stomach and into your small intestine more slowly. This will slow down absorption of glucose into your bloodstream, which will ultimately keep you feeling full for a longer stretch of time.
- In order to move fiber through your system, you will need to drink a good amount of water. This will help fight hunger in an additional way, since a lot of people mistake thirst for hunger.
Meal Replacement Shakes vs. Protein Shakes
Many people will mistake protein shakes for meal replacement shakes. This is understandable, since protein is one of the most important ingredients in a meal replacement shake, and it helps you feel full more than almost any other ingredient.
However, many protein shakes will not be an adequate meal replacement. Even though protein is a very important ingredient in a shake, it is far from being the only important ingredient.
Many protein shakes simply do not have all of the nutritional value that a meal replacement shake will have.
Protein shakes have different purposes and are designed differently. Typically, while meal replacement shakes are used for weight control, protein shakes are used to help with athletic performance, including muscle gain. Protein shakes are good to drink before and after an intense workout.
Meal replacement shakes typically have the following attributes:
- They are made to substitute either one or two meals of your diet on a daily basis.
- They are very often fortified with vitamins and minerals.
- They contain fewer calories than the typical meal, but they also offer more carbohydrates, fiber, and calories per serving than the typical protein shake.
- They can be rich in protein, but they contain significantly less protein than the average protein shake.
In contrast, protein shakes can be described as having the following attributes:
- They are not created with the intention of replacing a meal, instead being a supplement to a regular diet.
- People generally consume them before or after workouts.
- They typically contain up to 25 grams of protein per serving, which is much more than you would find in the typical meal replacement shake.
- They typically contain less than 5 grams of carbohydrates per serving, which is much less than you would find in a meal replacement shake. This is because a meal replacement shake is intended to replace a full meal.
- They do not often contain added vitamins and minerals, other than those that are specifically provided by the source of protein.
Both types of shakes have their purposes. They can also each have a place in a successful weight loss plan.
However, it’s important to recognize the differences and recognize that a protein shake is not interchangeable with a meal replacement shake.
If you drink a protein shake thinking that it can replace a meal, you will be depriving yourself of a significant amount of necessary nutrition.
Other Things to Keep in Mind with Meal Replacement Shakes
You should understand that there are a few things you need to keep in mind if you are planning to enter into a meal replacement shake program.
You might be wondering, for example, which meal you should be replacing with the shake. The truth is that you can choose the meal that is best for your schedule.
If you want something convenient in the morning because you don’t have a lot of time before you have to get to work, it might be good to have one for breakfast.
However, this depends entirely on you. You should keep in mind that the best choice for you will be the one that is most sustainable in the long term.
You should be sure to maintain reasonable expectations of meal replacement shakes. For example, you cannot drink them and expect that your weight is going to go down right away. They will help you lose weight gradually, as long as you follow your regimen correctly.
It’s also important to keep in mind that if you expect real results, you need to do more than replace a couple of meals with shakes.
It will be pointless, for example, if you compensate for the lower number of calories by loading up during your other meals. You will also be likely to get quicker results if you incorporate exercise into your weekly routine.
As you can see, meal replacement shakes can help people lose weight. However, people should bear in mind that this weight loss will usually only be short-term.
Replacing meals with shakes is not a practice that will typically be sustainable for a long period of time.
The amount of weight that you can personally lose when you use meal replacement shakes depends a great deal on individual factors, such as your metabolism and your willingness to commit to your shake program. However, you are unlikely to experience long-term and sustainable results unless you make significant lifestyle changes as well.
- Livestrong: How Much Weight Can I Lose After Drinking Meal Replacement Shakes?
- ScienceDirect: Effects of 3-week total meal replacement vs. typical food-based diet on human brain functional magnetic resonance imaging food-cue reactivity and functional connectivity in people with obesity
- American Diabetes Association: Meal Replacement Shakes and Nutrition Bars: Do They Help Individuals With Diabetes Lose Weight?
- Healthline: Can Meal Replacement Shakes Help You Lose Weight?
- I Am Herbalife Nutrition: Meal Replacements or Protein Shakes? Choose What’s Right for You
- Nature’s Sunshine: 5 Things You Need to Know about Meal Replacement Shakes