Eat Your Food, Don't Drink It! The Truth About Meal Replacement Shakes

You’ve seen the hype...want to lose weight effortlessly and drink down an entire meal flavored like a candy bar? It’s simple, just have a “healthy” meal replacement shake instead of a whole food meal.

Before you grab that to-go cup, let’s talk about whether or not meal replacement shakes are worth the cost.

Let’s consult science:

Ranging from 200-400 calories each, these shakes often contain vitamins, minerals, and essential nutrients such as fiber, protein, fat, and carbs.

Here’s the thing though, some are also high in added sugars, artificial preservatives and flavorings, and “proprietary blends.” Are you willing to put that in your body if you don’t even know what it contains?

Keep in mind, we’re not talking about a protein shake. Protein shakes are meant to supplement a person’s daily protein intake. As their name implies, meal replacement shakes are designed to “replace” an entire meal’s nutrients - but they can’t. Whole foods contain enzymes, antioxidants, and other ingredients you can’t put into a shake. Some shakes contain fiber, but never in the same amount or beneficial form as the fiber you would get from a whole food source.

So, can they really help you lose weight — and keep it off?

Research published in 2014 in the journal "Obesity" compared weight loss results from a 12-week program, with follow-ups after one and two years, among participants who had used meal replacements and those who had reduced calories and modified their lifestyles.

Both groups lost weight, but in the check-ins one and two years later, the meal replacement group had regained significant weight and the reduced-calorie, modified-lifestyle group had not.

In short, shakes don’t teach you how to eat healthy and make smart nutritional habits a lasting part of your life.

There’s no magic pill, drink, or silver bullet that can help you lose 10 pounds in a week and keep it off. Sustainable, long-term weight loss takes time, effort, consistency, and real food.

Jenny Wright