Should You Use Meal Replacement Shakes For Weight Loss? The Pros and Cons
Meal replacement shakes can be a lifesaver, especially when you need to get some energy or fuel in you, but you just don’t have the time. Convenience factor aside, many people wonder if their daily shakes are helping or hindering their weight loss journey. Let’s take a look at the pros and cons.
Meal replacement shakes are undoubtedly convenient — all of your nutrition is right there in one easy-to-drink bottle. These shakes can be helpful for weight loss if they’re taking the place of highly processed or fast foods, like stopping at McDonald’s on the way to work or grabbing donuts in the break room. They can also benefit you if you were previously skipping meals (research shows that breakfast eaters are more successful in their weight loss journeys.)
Some meal replacement shakes can also be highly nutritious (more on the not-so-nutritious in the next section), which can be a great way to start the day. To find an all-star shake to help with weight loss, look for one that contains 300-400 calories (any less than that will not be filling enough to replace an entire meal), and all three macronutrients — carbohydrates, healthy fat, and protein, plus vitamins and minerals. Although it will vary from shake to shake, aim for about 30-50% of the Recommended Dietary Allowance for a handful of nutrients.
However, not all shakes are created equal. Some may contain excessive amounts of sugar, unhealthy fats, artificial ingredients, or too many — or not enough — calories for one meal. Plus, many health professionals recommend consuming whole foods rather than a blended version of them.
Another potential downside is relying too often on shakes because your diet will not be varied enough, and you may miss out on crucial nutrients. Plus, constantly replacing meals with shakes may be too restrictive and not provide enough calories for your body — this can actually backfire for weight loss.
Overall, meal replacement shakes are not bad — but you don’t want to replace every single meal with them. If you still feel hungry shortly after drinking a shake, you’ll know that it’s not enough fuel for you. Try supplementing the shake with real food, like a banana with peanut butter, a hard-boiled egg, or nuts and cheese.