There are plenty of reasons you might skip a regular meal in favor of a shake. Shakes are quick, portable, and convenient and usually low in calories, which mean they can help you work toward weight loss. But they also have their downsides, so it’s important to get as much information as you can about them before you add them to your diet.
Meal replacement shakes are less beneficial when it comes to total nutrition, however. Shakes simply can’t provide all the nutritional components of whole foods, which include antioxidants and other protective substances as well as vitamins and minerals. For each meal you replace with a shake, supplement it with a nutrient-packed, low-calorie snack such as a small fruit salad or a serving of brown rice.
Shakes have a definite advantage over full meals when it comes to convenience. They’re easy to take with you, quick to drink and simple to prepare. Often, no preparation at all is involved. Because they do provide some nutrients and will help keep you full, shakes are preferable to skipping meals entirely if you’re traveling or in a rush.
Trying to lose weight or change your physique with only meal replacement shakes isn’t a sustainable strategy. The most successful long-term weight maintenance programs involve detailed weight loss plans, regular physical activity, and support and quality medical care. Subbing a few meals for shakes may help you drop pounds in the short term, but you can gain the weight right back when you quit the shake strategy and return to your regular diet.
If you’re using shakes for weight loss, do so only for the short term and in combination with other healthy strategies. Always seek out shakes that feature whole food ingredients, have a variety of vitamins and minerals and contain only small amounts of added sugar.
Drinking a shake instead of a full meal can provide enough calories and nutrients to work toward gradual weight loss or a healthier diet, but there’s no guarantee that it will make a positive difference. Not all meal replacement shakes are nutritionally equal, so it’s important to spend some time examining nutrition facts and ingredient labels before you make a choice.
One main health benefits of meal replacement shakes is that they’re fortified with a wide variety of vitamins and minerals, so they can successfully stand in for a meal while still meeting your daily requirements. Another advantage is that shakes tend to have fewer calories than full meals, so if your goal is to lose weight, having a shake replace one meal every day can help you reduce your daily calorie count and build up a calorie deficit big enough to produce gradual, consistent weight loss.
There are also some potential risks to using meal replacement shakes. Shakes are classified as dietary supplements. Supplements are not subject to the same regulations as other foods. Thus, the advertisements and marketing claims they use do not have to be backed up by scientific research, and it can be difficult to get accurate information about them. While some do have genuine nutritional benefits, others contain so much sugar or fat that they are no better than full meals and may even negatively impact your health.
A healthy meal replacement shake needs to keep added sugar and fat to a minimum but contain enough calories to keep you full for several hours. The healthiest shakes will also be high in protein and fiber. A popular meal-replacement shake provides 20 percent of daily fiber and protein requirements with 5 grams and 10 grams, respectively, but it has only 190 calories. A well-known nutritional shake supplies about 250 calories but only 1 gram of fiber and 9 grams of protein; it also packs 18 grams of sugar into each bottle.
Before you use meal replacements shakes as a weight loss strategy or adopt any new diet plan, talk with your physician or dietitian and seek personalized health advice. A smarter, safer way to improve your health in the long term may be to adopt a varied, balanced, low-calorie diet that includes daily servings of lean proteins, fruits, whole grains, low-fat dairy and vegetables.