How Can Meal Replacement Shakes Help You Lose Weight?

Woman with shake

Unlike protein shakes, meal replacement shakes are intended to provide the nutrition of a full meal. Some come prepared in a can or bottle, while others come in a powdered form that can be mixed with milk or water. Most meal shakes contain 200-400 calories and a good amount of protein, fibre and essential vitamins and minerals. For this reason, meal replacement shakes are a convenient way to get a healthy, low-calorie meal on the go.

However, their ingredients and nutrient compositions can vary substantially, with various proportions of protein, carbs and fat.

Here is an overview of how these shakes can help with weight loss.

They Help You Avoid Unhealthy Meals

Meal replacement shakes are portable and convenient, and they may help you resist the temptation to indulge in unhealthy processed foods. In fact, one of the biggest barriers to losing weight is the time it takes to prepare healthy meals. When you are stressed or in a hurry, it's much easier to grab a processed convenience food or give in to fast food.

Unfortunately, typical processed foods can seriously derail your weight loss efforts. Most are full of sugar, refined carbs and artificial ingredients, in addition to lacking beneficial nutrients. Furthermore, processed foods that are high in sugar, salt and fat activate the pleasure centers of the brain, which can also lead to overeating.

Conversely, meals made from healthy, whole foods are best for losing weight, but that is not always practical with a busy schedule. Meal replacement shakes are easy to drink on-the-go and a significantly healthier alternative to fast foods.

They Provide Nutrients That Traditional Diets May Be Lacking

Meal replacement shakes are designed to provide all of the nutrients that you should consume in a complete meal. When you cut back on calories, it can be difficult to get all of the nutrients you need from your diet. Shakes are often fortified with nutrients, which might fill your nutrient gap while you are cutting back on calories.

The best meal replacement shakes contain protein, fibre and essential vitamins and minerals. For example, many commercial shakes are a good source of nutrients such as calcium, potassium, iron and vitamin D, which many people are lacking in their diets.

They Help You Lose Weight Faster

Reducing your calorie intake is key to losing weight. However, sticking to a low-calorie diet can be challenging, especially if you end up feeling hungry. Meal replacement shakes can help you feel full while consuming fewer calories.

Several studies suggest that replacing one or two meals per day with a healthy meal replacement shake may speed up weight loss. One analysis found that participants following a partial meal replacement diet plan lost 5.6 more pounds (2.4 kg) in three months than those following a food-based, reduced-calorie diet.

Interestingly, fewer people following the meal replacement plan dropped out of the studies. This might be because it was easier to follow. Moreover, one review found that four out of seven studies reported significantly greater weight loss with meal replacements than a traditional diet. Yet, the other three studies found no difference in weight loss.

Those consuming the meal replacements also had lower fasting blood sugar and LDL cholesterol levels.

Meal replacement shakes may also help with weight maintenance after weight loss has been achieved.

Some Are High in Protein, Which Helps With Weight Loss

Not all meal replacement shakes are the same. Nevertheless, some are high in protein, which is one of the most important nutrients for weight loss. Higher protein diets lead to greater satiety, which can help you eat fewer calories throughout the day.

One study found that men on a high-protein diet reported fewer cravings and a reduced desire to eat late at night than those consuming a moderate amount of protein. Furthermore, high-protein diets have been associated with other benefits, such as increased lean body mass, reduced body fat, less belly fat and improved weight maintenance.

In a study comparing high-protein meal replacements and high-carb meal replacements, both groups lost similar amounts of weight in 12 weeks. However, those in the high-protein group lost more body fat, and their "bad" LDL cholesterol levels were lower.

The Pitch

Herbalife formulated one of the very first healthy meal replacement shakes that many competitors have since tried to copy. It is high in protein as well as containing a full spectrum of essential nutrients for the body. See our product range here.