You’ve probably noticed how meal replacement shakes are a new trend in the weight loss community. However, as we’ve seen numerous times in this lucrative sector, just because something is popular doesn’t mean it is the healthiest option.   

While evidence indicates that these shakes can help you lose weight, it’s worth noting that they are just one of many approaches to weight loss. Rather than rely on them exclusively, consider using them to complement other strategies. As you’ll find out below, there are pros and cons to depending on anything that replaces real food. 

What is a meal replacement?

A meal replacement is anything consumed as an alternative to a solid food meal. It can be a shake, soup, protein bar, medically prescribed drink—the list goes on.

In the fitness world, this approach is widely used among bodybuilders because they often require 5–6 meals a day to sustain their size. Also, unless you truly enjoy cooking or don’t have a lot of disposable income, a shake can make life a little easier. By relying on a shake, bar, or soup, you can save time that you might otherwise have to spend shopping for food or preparing a balanced meal.

You’ll often find meal replacement powders that you mix with water, or another liquid, like almond milk. The powder is essentially a formula made of cellulose gel, cellulose gum, and a careful balance of protein, carbohydrates, dietary fiber, vitamins, and minerals. In theory, these contain all the nutrients your body needs and that you would otherwise find in food.

While there are many different powder brands, generally speaking, each serving contains the following approximate amounts: 6 grams of fiber, 16 grams of protein, 0.15 grams of green tea extract, and 31 grams of carbohydrates. These elements roughly translate into 200–250 calories after being combined with water or some kind of milk. 

Are meal replacement shakes safe?

Though meal replacement shakes are proven to be effective for weight loss, they own a controversial space in the health and fitness world. The question is, are they safe for daily consumption?

You’ll hear both sides of the argument, depending on where you go to find the answer. On the one hand, many nutrition professionals argue that these shakes lack the natural fiber our bodies need and are, generally, much less nutritious than a hearty meal made of whole food.

A diet based on shakes won’t provide your body with all the antioxidants it needs. There’s also the apparent risk of gaining weight once you end your diet.

That said, if you’re not exclusively relying on shakes and if you’re only using them to replace a few meals a week while maintaining an otherwise healthy diet comprised of real food, the benefits of using these shakes may outweigh the disadvantages.

Regardless of the circumstances, always consult a registered dietician before trying a new diet or attempting to lose a significant amount of weight. 

How much weight can you lose on meal replacement shakes?

Generally speaking, a calorie deficit is needed to achieve weight loss.Replacing a meal that is usually high in calories with a meal replacement shake that has fewer calories and more nutritional value will help you lose weight, but just how much?

A single shake can provide around 200–250 calories—before including other ingredients like fruits or nuts. Its protein content, which is 15–20 grams per serving, encourages fat loss instead of muscle loss. Other ingredients, like green tea and dietary fiber, function as hunger blockers. These keep you full for about 4–5 hours, depending on your physical activity.

Just how much weight you’ll lose depends on how many calories you store and expend on a daily basis.

Studies on meal replacement strategies’ effectiveness show that weight loss is more substantial with partial meal replacements than with reduced-calorie diet plans.

Additionally, individuals on a high protein meal-substitute diet generally have fewer cravings than those who consume a moderate amount of protein. They also feel less of an urge to eat late at night, which we all know is a no-no.

Things to keep in mind before using meal replacement shakes

Before you make meal replacement shakes part of your dietary regimen, consider the following:

  • Not all brands are as natural and healthy as they claim to be. Make sure you do your research. Choose a product rich in protein and low in sugar with a minimal amount of artificial ingredients.
  • Even when substituting a shake for a meal, you won’t see results if you don’t limit your consumption of unhealthy foods or if you continue eating other meals in large portions.
  • Body mass can increase due to hormonal changes in your body. Before starting a diet or exercise regimen, make sure to get a check-up. Consult a professional before making drastic changes to your diet or if you ever feel low on energy.

To wrap up…

Consider a meal substitute in tandem with a great workout regimen, a balanced diet, and a positive mindset. Achieving your weight-loss goals will occur as you strive toward a generally healthy lifestyle.

While replacing a meal or two is a great way to kickstart weight loss, it is also vital to develop healthy habits and learn how to manage your calories and nutrition. Everyone’s body is different. Find out what yours needs to be healthy.

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