How Meal Replacement Shakes Help Weight Management
Do meal replacement shakes work? Can they help you lose weight? Unlike protein shakes, these are intended to provide the nutrition of a full meal, and a good amount of nutrients and fibre.1 They could be just the thing you’re looking for if you’re trying to shift the pounds or manage your weight.
What is a meal replacement shake?
Meal replacement shakes are designed to replace your breakfast, lunch or dinner (often two out of three main meals). They’re packed with nutrients, but contain fewer calories than your average meal,2 often around 200-400. They tend to be rich in nutrients, such as those found in fruits, vegetables, dairy products and protein.
Quick and easy, these shakes can be consumed on the go, requiring little effort. They take some of the hassle out of things and save you having to do meal prep too often, for example.
How do meal replacement shakes help you lose or manage weight?
The recommended calorie intake for women is 2000 calories a day, while men need around 2500 a day.3 This is in order to maintain their weight, but can vary depending on factors such as age and activity level. Consuming more calories than your body burns will cause weight gain over time.
Meanwhile, being in a moderate calorie deficit can lead to sustainable weight loss. For this reason, many people count calories when trying to lose weight in order to keep track. Meal replacement shakes can help you achieve this, as they contain less calories than the average meal.
How they work
While low in calories, these shakes are usually high in protein, meaning they’re highly satiating and help suppress hunger for longer. Eating more protein also helps to reduce muscle loss, build lean muscle and helps maintain a healthy weight.4
How much weight loss is healthy weight loss?
Healthy weight loss is usually considered 0.5kg to 1kg a week (1lb to 2lb),5 as anything too rapid will be difficult to maintain, and you may regain it later down the line. Sustainable weight loss is not only key for your health, but also long-term success.
Pros of meal replacement shakes
So, let’s talk positives. Why are meal replacement shakes popular among those trying to lose weight?
Low calorie, highly filling
You don’t have to go hungry when trying to lose weight, but eating less can be a challenge for many. However, meal replacement shakes can help you feel full, without being packed with calories. This is the sweet spot when it comes to watching your weight!
Full of nutrients
Nutrition is not only key when losing the pounds, but keeping them off, and leading a healthy lifestyle in general. Meal replacement shakes should provide key nutrients and minerals, designed to be the equivalent of a full meal.
These shakes are a healthy option even if you’re out and about. Just grab and go, many of them only need stirring or shaking first!
Fibre is extremely filling, and digested more slowly than sugar or starches.6 It’s also good for gut health and heart health. Meal replacement shakes are usually high in fibre, which is good news for those trying to achieve a healthy weight.
These shakes are prepared for you and ready to go, which can help you avoid processed, unhealthy options. Many fast-food options are lacking in nutrients, while also high in sugars and fat. These can derail weight loss efforts if consumed too often. However, shakes can provide a healthier option, often made with wholesome ingredients – and will likely be cheaper than your typical fast-food meal.
Cons of meal replacement shakes
Of course, these shakes aren’t for everyone, and there are some potential pitfalls. These include:
They should be part of a wider weight loss journey
Meal replacement shakes can help you lose weight, but they’re not a complete solution. For example, if you have an unhealthy relationship with food, or eating habits that need improvement, these shakes likely won’t be enough to fix that. You need to work on the bigger picture in order to achieve long-term success.
They can’t completely replace whole foods
In most cases, shakes aren’t a long-term solution, but should be seen to aid weight loss efforts. 1 or 2 of your main daily meals should still be freshly prepared and full of healthy ingredients. Meal replacement shakes are a healthy alternative to some meals, however, the importance of a healthy diet can’t be underestimated. This will ensure your long-term success in keeping the weight off.
If you’re considering opting for a meal replacement shake, here’s some advice:
- Look for at least 15g of protein per serving
- Add the milk first (before the powder) for the best flavour
- Shake well
- Follow the instructions (e.g. should you replace 1 or 2 meals a day with a shake? Don’t do all 3!)
- Ensure the rest of your diet is healthy and balanced
- Opt for home cooked meals as much as possible
- Avoid artificial flavours and preservatives
- Follow an energy-restricted diet in order to lose weight
- When it comes to your other meals – watch portion sizes!
Shaken or stirred?
Meal replacement shakes aren’t a fix-all solution, nor are they often used for the long-term. But, they can be a useful weight loss tool that’s proven to help people get where they want to be. Getting a good understanding of a healthy diet is also a key part of the process.