Meal replacement shakes have been around for decades, with one of the most popular being the Slim-Fast meal replacement range. But despite this are they just another diet fad? Or can they really help you to lose weight?
One of the greatest appeals of meal replacement shakes and bars is how easy and convenient they are. They provide you with a simple way to have a calorie controlled meal on your diet. They are easy to make and consume in a rush, at work or whilst looking after the kids.
The NHS website includes this as the main pro of meal replacement diets – both the convenience and the fact that you get fixed portion sizes with no need to count your own calories. They also include the fact that there are no forbidden foods in a meal replacement diet, so you won’t be left craving something you truly desire and breaking your diet for it. Instead you just have 2 weight loss shakes per day, plus a normal meal of your choice in the evening.
Diet shakes also contain whey protein. So although they are limited in calories they are designed to help keep you feeling full for longer. Protein takes longer for your body to digest than carbs and therefore helps prevent cravings and snacking.
Problems with Meal Replacement Shakes
But what about the downsides of weight loss shakes? There must be some, right? Well yes, again the NHS website suggests 2 cons of weight loss shakes. The first is that they don’t help you break bad eating habits and educate you on good ones. Once you stop drinking the shakes instead of having a meal it could be easy to put weight back on. Also it can be difficult to get a nutritionally balanced diet if 2 of your meals each day solely consist of shakes.
However the best meal replacement shakes do take these factors into account and help you to deal with them both. They can do this by providing you with free diet plans to give you healthy meal ideas and daily diet plans, and by including additional vitamins and minerals within the shakes to help you meet your recommended daily amounts and stay healthy whilst dieting.
Is there Evidence that Meal Replacement Shakes Help Weight Loss?
So how about evidence for meal replacement shakes? Is there any? Yes, actually there is. In 2003 Heymsfield and his team looked at 6 studies, which showed that people using meal replacements lost 6-7lbs more than those on a typical weight loss diet.
A more recent study in 2011, showed that people who replaced their lunch with a weight loss shake consumed less calories and lost more weight than when they followed their regular diet.
The European Food Safety Agency has looked at studies into meal replacement shakes and concluded there is evidence that they help with dieting.
Replacing 1 meal per day with a meal replacement shake can help to maintain weight, and replacing 2 meals per day with a diet shake can help you lose weight.
This is of course when you use them properly as part of a calorie controlled diet. If your 3rd meal of the day is a takeaway banquet containing more than your recommended daily calories, then the shakes won’t be able to help!
There is no magic solution to weight loss – it all comes down to eating less and burning more calories. However meal replacement shakes have been proven to be a useful and effective tool in your dieting tool kit. By measuring your calories for you for 2 meals a day they can help you to lose your extra pounds.
Make sure you choose a quality meal replacement shake and understand the changes you need to make to your diet and lifestyle in order to lose weight and keep it off long term.