In general, we’re told to eat less and exercise a little more to lose unwanted weight. But could using a meal replacement shake for weight loss be a useful addition to individual weight loss?
A meal replacement shake requires very little effort and is usually either pre-made or a powder mixed with water or milk. There are a number of reasons someone might use a meal replacement shake to lose weight, from calorie control to convenience. However, there are also some disadvantages. Often they don’t fill enough. Plus, it can take the joy out of cooking for the foodies out there. Because of this, they can cause people to eat more due to hunger, which could negate the potential weight loss benefits.
Live Science spoke to Liam Holmes, Performance Nutritionist and food source (opens in new tab) Ambassador to determine if using a meal replacement shake for weight loss is safe or advisable.
How does a meal replacement shake work?
A meal replacement shake is typically a shake that has a balance of protein, carbohydrates and fats with added vitamins and minerals. As the name suggests, these shakes are created to replace a meal, be it breakfast, lunch, dinner or a combination of these.
Holmes explains that meal replacement shakes are different best protein powder as they contain a slower digesting form of protein as well as carbohydrates like oats to help you feel fuller. Because they replace a meal, it’s important that a meal replacement shake still fills you up.
“People may find that meal replacement shakes help them make better meal choices,” says Holmes. This is mainly because there isn’t that much choice when deciding what to prepare: you just mix and drink.
“Thinking about breakfast and actually cooking it can be challenging for some people,” he adds. “Meal replacement shakes are popular with people because they’re so convenient.”
Does a meal replacement shake work for weight loss?
There are several benefits of meal replacement shakes that make them a useful tool for shedding unwanted pounds:
May help control calorie intake
Holmes says that using a meal replacement shake can help with weight loss as long as the person maintains a calorie deficit for a period of time.
“A calorie deficit is the number one reason for weight loss. So if a person swaps a 700-calorie meal for a 400-calorie shake, it could help them create the deficit needed to produce weight loss.”
He adds that people could use it to replace a meal they often overeat or struggle with making good choices, and this in turn will help them be more consistent.
However, it is important to maintain this calorie deficit. It can be worth tracking calories to keep track of any additional snacks or foods being consumed. Research published in Current Nutrition and Food Science (opens in new tab) also found that swapping out one or two meals a day with a meal replacement shake can speed up weight loss.
However, as Holmes explains, a meal replacement shake is not “a magic drink that burns fat and guarantees weight loss.”
“A meal replacement shake can work, but only if a person creates a calorie deficit and is consistent in it,” he says.
Ensures protein intake
“Protein is a very important nutrient and it’s a must in a diet,” says Holmes. He explains that protein helps maintain muscle mass during a diet while helping people feel fuller.
“While dieting, controlling hunger is a key area that requires attention, so a higher protein intake of around 1.4-1.8g per kg of body weight per day will help. A meal replacement is a convenient way to get enough protein in your diet.”
There are also research results published in Journal of Nutrition (opens in new tab) to show how a protein-enriched meal replacement can help increase fat loss. Fat loss and weight loss are different here, as weight loss can involve losing muscle mass that we want to maintain. Muscle also helps people have a healthy metabolism, which contributes to continuous calorie burning.
Pack vitamins and minerals
According to Holmes, when a person diets, the fact that calories need to be reduced means there are fewer ways to nourish the body.
“Meal replacement supplements with added vitamins and minerals can be a great way to get some essential nutrients into your diet,” he adds.
In fact, some vitamins and minerals have been shown to help with weight maintenance. A study published in nutrient (opens in new tab) found that while vitamin and mineral deficiencies were common in obese individuals, they were not as common in “long-term weight losers.”
Other research published in Journal of Nutrition (opens in new tab) also found that over a year-long study, those consuming meal replacement shakes or bars actually had more adequate intakes of essential nutrients than those consuming the traditional diet.
Using a Meal Replacement Shake for Weight Loss: Risks and Considerations
The advantages of using a meal replacement shake for weight loss include several disadvantages. One of these pitfalls is that a person could become dependent on meal replacement shakes.
“I think people may end up using meal replacements for more than one meal, or skipping meals and just having a shake,” says Holmes, who suggests people use meal replacements sparingly.
“Don’t rely on her for every meal. A good way to use them is for snacking — use half or spit in the morning or afternoon — or to top up the protein content of a meal.”
He also adds that you need to be aware of how you feel after taking a meal replacement shake. “If you’re comfortable drinking but starving an hour later and overeating or overeating at the next meal, then you need to adjust your strategy,” he says.
To stop the hunger pangs that could kick in and potentially interfere with your weight-loss efforts, Holmes says a meal-replacement shake could be used alongside a small meal.
“You could have some boiled eggs and a shake or some yogurt and fruit and a shake for breakfast. That way you get solid food without having to cook a lot.”
There is also a possibility of certain vitamin and mineral deficiencies when taking a meal replacement shake. Although meal replacement shakes tend to contain a range of nutrients needed for good health, they may contain less than whole foods, or the spectrum of vitamins and minerals may not be right for the individual.
However, it’s worth consulting your GP before beginning a meal replacement shake diet to make sure you’re getting the nutrients you need.
Should you use a meal replacement shake to lose weight? Source link Should you use a meal replacement shake to lose weight?