What is the Best Meal Replacement for Weight Loss?

A quick online search for what is the best meal replacement shake for weight loss instantly produces a very lengthy list of all of the top 10 meal replacement shakes. The list includes pre-made bottled shakes, powders, sachets and recipes – all of which promise quick weight loss with minimal effort. 

How are you supposed to know what to pick and more importantly, if they’re required and all they’re cracked up to be? That’s where we come in! We’ve sifted through the available information with the aim to answer all of your burning questions on the topic.

What Is a Meal Replacement Shake?

To put it simply, a meal replacement shake is a liquid that can be consumed instead of a meal.

They are typically marketed and/ or designed to replace any meal throughout the day or a particular meal, e.g. a breakfast shake. 

Depending on the brand, they can contain a range of different nutrients. Some, such as those marketed for weight loss, tend to contain fewer calories than you may have for a main meal and some contain protein, whether that be whey or a vegan alternative e.g. pea or soy.

What are the pros of Meal Replacement Shakes?

Are there any pros or instances where meal replacement shakes may be good to consider?

  1. Convenience: they require little, if any prep and so they can be handy to have on the go or if you are short on time.
  1. Elderly or lack of appetite: due to things like lack of appetite during certain forms of medical treatments, perhaps when you are ill or for the elderly who perhaps find chewing certain foods difficult, shakes may be a useful way to help increase a person’s calorie intake.
  1. High calorie intake: in instances where a person’s calorie intake is relatively high, for example, someone with a very high training volume, a meal replacement shake may be useful if it is tricky to fit all of the required calories into meals and snacks. This may be particularly important if you find it difficult to stomach food following training.

What are the cons of Meal Replacement Shakes?

Unsurprisingly, there are a number of cons to meal replacement shakes, including:

  1. Less knowledge about your requirements: having shakes means you often don’t actually learn anything about nutrition and what your body needs, for example, suitable portion sizes.
  1. Expensive: some shakes, depending on the brand, can be pretty pricey, especially when you compare it to the cost of the number of calories and good quality nutrients they provide!
  1. Can impact sensory and social experience: food can be viewed as so much more than just calories. We get so much from it, including positive emotions, such as pleasure, not to mention the benefits we get from the social aspect of it. Opting for shakes will likely take away from some of the sensory and emotional side of things. Also, it could also be a little isolating to a certain degree if you have to pass on social events, such as meals out.
  1. Generic nutrition content: as individuals we each have very different nutritional requirements and meal replacement shakes cannot account for such variation. 

Are meal replacement shakes a good method for fat loss?

A deeper dive into the commonly searched questions regarding meal replacement brings up some pretty concerning questions relating to shakes and fat loss, including:

  • Can I lose 20 pounds in a month?
  • Is it healthy to only drink meal replacement shakes?
  • How can I lose tummy fat fast?
  • How can I lose a lb a day?

It is clear that often when it comes to fat loss, people want a quick fix, often in the shortest amount of time possible, with minimal effort. 

As we have discussed previously, crash dieting is not the way to go and it isn’t a sustainable or realistic goal to work towards.

When it comes to fat loss and as we’ve said before, there is no magic pill, it takes time and consistency and is about finding what works for you and your lifestyle. 

Do we recommend meal replacement shakes?

So to answer your question – what is the best meal replacement for weight loss? In our opinion, there isn’t one. Whilst some meal replacement shakes have improved over time and do not necessarily deserve to be shunned entirely as they are not ‘real food’, in my opinion, they should not make up the main bulk of your diet or be at the forefront of your considerations when you are looking to lose weight. 

We typically always aim for a food first approach when it comes to nutrition. 

What should you do instead?

When it comes to fat loss, you need to be in a calorie deficit – this means burning more calories than you consume. A calorie deficit can be achieved in two ways, either by increasing the amount of physical activity you do or decreasing the quantity of food you consume. We usually recommend a combination of both to get the best results.

We typically advocate consuming a balanced diet consisting of sufficient protein for your individual needs, plenty of colourful fruits and veggies and then prioritise low GI carbohydrates where possible. That’s not to say there is certainly a time and a place for other forms of carbs – there is room for everything in moderation!

Focus on food first, before reaching for shakes and meal replacements. Also, try to think about what you can increase in your diet, rather than just focusing on taking things out.

This sort of thing can take some time to settle into and involve a little trial and error, but that’s all part of the process!

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If all of this sounds a little overwhelming and you don’t know where to start, book a call with one of our all-knowing nutritionists to discuss your goal further. 

Have all the information you need but just don’t want to cook? Give our Fat Loss Plan a go with £50 off your 5-day trial with code BLOG50 – Order here.

Georgia Head

Published by Georgia Head

In her teenage years, a love of food and rowing led Georgia into this field as she wanted to know how to optimise performance through nutrition. With a BSc in Nutrition and an MSc in Sports and Exercise Nutrition, she has the skill set to help you track towards your goals and maximise your potential.

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