Meal replacement shakes are not a new topic; there has been marketing around meal replacement shakes for years now. But do they even work, or do they hype? This is an important question. So let’s drive into why you would use meal replacement shakes, to begin with.
For many of us, we work desk jobs. Even as writing this, I am sitting and spending time researching. It is easy for me to grab any food next to me or get something quick to eat. Let’s say I can order food or have a meal replacement shake. I may want pizza, burgers, or delicious food that is fast to make or get. Convenience plays a huge role in picking out the food we eat and is linked to our health (Poti 2015). One slice of pizza is around 200-250 calories, but we all know one is rarely enough. A meal replacement shake is about 200 calories and packed with protein.
Why is eating protein important?
The potential benefits from eating protein include
- increased satiety – protein is generally more satiety compared to when eating carbohydrates or fat
- The increased thermal effect of food (TEF) – higher-protein diets are associated with increased thermogenesis
- In our article, ‘How Protein Can Help with Weight Loss,’ you can read more.
What about the long term?
One of the most critical questions about any diet is, is this sustainable? Can this modification to the person’s eating happen to be done over the long term? Or is it a quick fix and burnout diet fad?
Looking at systematic reviews and meta-analyses of the effectiveness of meal replacements for weight loss, the older guidelines around meal replacement shakes might need an update. Typically diets will stay away from meal replacement shakes in favor of natural foods. While it is true that real food is overall better, convenience is essential. For example, training for one year in adults, a systematic review (Astbury, 2019) found that people who incorporated meal replacements into their diet had a more significant weight loss at one year than comparator to the weight loss of participants who did not use them. The report also stated that meal replacements should also be considered a valid option for managing overweight and obesity in community and health care settings.
Body Composition and Metabolic Parameters
For a person who is overweight or has obesity, other health-related issues can also show. This includes body mass index, waist circumference, HDL cholesterol, systolic or diastolic blood pressure, fasting blood glucose, and insulin resistance. All of which we want to keep within the health ranges.
A study (Guo, 2018) took 174 participants and split them into groups. One group was provided with a dinner meal replacement, and the control group continued their routine diet as before. After 12 weeks, the post-analysis showed significant improvements in body composition components with the meal replacement group. Lower bodyweight, body mass index (BMI) dropped, smaller waist circumference, and less body fat mass (including visceral fat). With the body composition improvements. There were also significant metabolic improvements of blood glucose. Plus, there was also a lowering of systolic and diastolic pressure with the improvements.
This study used a 388 calorie meal replacement at dinner time over 12 weeks. It contributed to improvement in body composition and clinically significant metabolic parameters in both male and female participants with overweight/obesity.
Okay, so what brand is the best?
For this, pick the brand within your budget that tastes good to you. That is the brand that is best for you. With all the brands of meal replacement shakes, taste and affordability are more important for long-term success.
Astbury, N. M., Piernas, C., Hartmann-Boyce, J., Lapworth, S., Aveyard, P., & Jebb, S. A. (2019). A systematic review and meta-analysis of the effectiveness of meal replacements for weight loss. Obesity reviews: an official journal of the International Association for the Study of Obesity, 20(4), 569–587. https://doi.org/10.1111/obr.12816
Guo, Xiaohui et al. “Effects of a Meal Replacement on Body Composition and Metabolic Parameters among Subjects with Overweight or Obesity.” Journal of obesity vol. 2018 2837367. 26 Dec. 2018, doi:10.1155/2018/2837367
Paddon-Jones, D., Westman, E., Mattes, R. D., Wolfe, R. R., Astrup, A., & Westerterp-Plantenga, M. (2008). Protein, weight management, and satiety. The American journal of clinical nutrition, 87(5), 1558S–1561S. https://doi.org/10.1093/ajcn/87.5.1558S
Poti, Jennifer M et al. “Is the degree of food processing and convenience linked with the nutritional quality of foods purchased by US households?.” The American journal of clinical nutrition vol. 101,6 (2015): 1251-62. doi:10.3945/ajcn.114.100925