In an ideal world, we would all eat the ‘perfect diet’. Ideally, we would have time to get, prepare and cook our food using the best methods possible, however life gets busy, we are time poor and often eat on the go, so sometimes it can be hard to find a healthy meal. These factors make it hard for us to eat the ‘perfect diet’, however this doesn’t mean that we should accept a poor diet. The main thing is to eat as well as we can, as often as we can, and stay healthy.
If you open any magazine I can guarantee that you will see several full-page adverts promoting some form of meal replacement shake or plan, and people over social media trying to promote some other meal replacement product ‘guaranteeing’ weight loss. Essentially, each of these brands are promoting one thing… drink a shake instead of eating a meal and hey presto, you will lose weight. Pretty simple, right? Like with many things these products have pros and cons.
Personally I’m not a big advocate of supplements or meal replacements and I would opt for whole foods as much as possible and whenever possible, however they can have their place in a ‘diet’, but remember a supplement is exactly that, it is there to supplement a good diet NOT replace it.
Let’s look at the pros and cons of meal replacements and supplements.
They are great when you are in a hurry. For many people, the biggest obstacle is preparing food, and eating at the correct time with work and family commitments it can be quite common to skip a meal. A meal replacement shake can alleviate these issues, by offering you a nutritional substitute that you can throw in your bag and consume when needed.
They can boost short term weight loss. Notice I said SHORT TERM!! By replacing two meals a day with 2 of these shakes you can create a calorie defect, however most of this will be water weight and muscle loss, and at some point, when you go back to proper eating you may put this back on.
Easy to count the calories. No with all the calorie counting apps out there you would be surprised how many people misuse these or forget to use them. With a shake you can easily monitor what your consuming.
No straying. If you are committed to the plan then there is no chance of messing up as you know exactly what you’re getting and consuming.
Easily digestible. So they are pretty good pre or post workout, or to consume if you are ill to get the correct macro nutrients.
Added sugars, preservatives and other potential problem ingredients. Lots of these shakes have lots of sugar or sugar substitutes added to add flavour, or could consume a lot of carbohydrates. Be sure to read and understand the label and know where the protein source is coming from.
They can be expensive. Take this into consideration. A couple of eggs and a piece of toast in the morning costs about £1, one of these shakes can cost £3+ per serving.
They are not very satisfying. Shakes can be convenient, but because you are not chewing, you are not sending the correct signals to the brain to tell it your full. After a week or two you may be dying to sink your teeth into something a bit more substantial and satisfying.
They don’t teach you healthy choices with food. You become too reliant of supplements and forget how to have a healthy relationship with food. What happens if you accidently forget your shake? What do you have for breakfast? Chances are you wouldn’t know how to pick a healthy alternative.
Lacks fibre and other properties. Consuming shakes reduce our fibre intake and chances are you will not be getting your 5 a day from fruits and vegetables.
Yo Yo dieting. Chances are you will put on weight when you come off shakes, as you haven’t been educated about food and calories.
As you can see there are many pros and cons to meal replacements and shakes. My views on the subject revert back to the fact that they are there to help supplement a good diet, to use post workout or if you are really struggling to get the correct macros into your diet i.e, you don’t have time for breakfast they have their place. Using these shakes as a tool for weight loss, you are setting yourself up for short term results, but they do little to educate people about their eating habits and how to eat correctly and properly for sustainable long term success.
Before you decide if they are an option for you, ask yourself these questions:
Do I want to understand and learn how to regulate my appetite? Yes? I would give them a miss.
Do I want to make changes for the long term? Yes? I would give them a miss.
Am I prepared to use these as a quick fix and suffer the consequences afterwards? No, then give them a miss.
Am I doing the best that I can do with my current diet with the time I have? Yes, then these may help you get where you need to get.
Am I training for a competition and struggling to get my protein and energy in? Yes? They could be useful to ensure you meet your nutrient requirements.
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