Do meal replacement shakes really work?

by | Jul 18, 2019 | Last updated Feb 15, 2022

Meal replacement shakes

We’ve all seen that co-worker or friend who bypasses lunch in the break room for a “smoothie” at their desk. You ask them: “What’s up with that shake you drink every day?” They tell you that they’re working to lose weight. There are a million weight loss plans out there these days and many use meal replacement shakes. But, do these shakes really work and help you lose weight?

The short answer is yes, you can probably lose weight with meal replacement shakes – but unfortunately, those results will be difficult to maintain. To discover why – and learn how to achieve better, more sustainable results – let’s start with some basic facts:

What are meal replacement shakes?

Meal replacement shakes are meant to replace a full meal, providing a low calorie, vitamin and mineral rich alternative. Typically, meal replacement shakes are used in very low calorie or low calorie diets to “jump start” weight loss and reduce overall calorie intake while providing adequate nutrition. Most meal replacement shakes are high in protein and fiber to help with satiety, and fortified with vitamins and minerals to make sure you don’t miss out on important nutrients. These drinks can be purchased pre-mixed or as a meal replacement protein powder that you can mix yourself. They’re meant to be a convenient option to help you reach your weight loss goals.

Choosing the right weight loss meal replacement shake

If you’re considering meal replacement shakes for weight loss, make sure you read the label. The best meal replacement shakes are low in calories and high in protein, fiber, and vitamins, and minerals. Choose an option that contains:

  • Less than 250 calories
  • 5+ grams of fiber
  • 10+ grams of protein
  • 25-30% most vitamins and minerals
  • Less than 5 grams fat
  • 5 grams of sugar

Since meal replacement shakes are meant to replace an entire meal, it’s important to keep your nutrition needs in mind: 

  • Protein: Your weight (lbs) x 0.36 = grams of protein daily, Your weight (kg) x 0.8 = grams of protein daily (USDA)
  • Fiber: 38 grams for men, 25 grams for women  (USDA)
  • Sugar: <25 grams added sugar (WHO)

When considering a meal replacement shake, you want to consider the type of protein or protein powder used. There are a variety of animal and plant-based proteins out there. The most popular animal-based protein options include whey and collagen, and the most popular plant-based protein options include pea protein, hemp protein, brown rice protein, and soy protein. Plant-based protein options usually contain fewer grams of protein and are not complete protein sources unless it’s a protein blend, but both options are good options!

Last but not least, you’ll want to consider your personal preferences. If you don’t enjoy the meal replacement shake, it’ll be a lot more difficult to incorporate it into your routine. 

Wondering how to spot some of the best meal replacement drinks out there? Here are the 7best meal replacement shakes of 2019 that are low calorie, and high in protein, fiber, and vitamins and minerals.

Now that we’ve covered a little more about what a meal replacement shake is and what to look for, we can talk about how to use them in a safe way.

How to use meal replacement shakes for weight loss

First, you’ll need to decipher how many calories you’ll need to lose weight in a healthy way, which is generally about 1-2 pounds per week. Because meal replacement drinks can sometimes lead to drastic drops in calories and nutrients, you’ll want to also plan out what other healthy foods you’ll use alongside them..

This might take some time and practice, so make sure to check out these 9 easy meal prep recipes for weight loss to help you get started. 

Second, decide where in your day you might like to use your meal replacement shake. You might consider your schedule and which meal or snack needs to be something quick and convenient. For most of us in this fast paced world, you might find yourself gravitating more towards breakfast or lunch here depending on what your day looks like. Remember that not all of your meals should be replaced. Try to make at least one meal an option that isn’t a shake. This will help you gain confidence and eventually help you step away from meal replacements altogether as well as help you get calories from whole, more hearty foods. 

A woman raids the refrigerator late at night

Third, as you progress with your weight loss, keep in mind that true sustainability and weight loss management comes from changing your eating habits as a whole. Meal replacements can be great short-term solutions for getting you started, but who really wants to drink their calories at lunch every day for the rest of their life? Work to limit your reliance on them and train your brain to seek out the healthiest possible option in any situation. Get comfortable with being a little uncomfortable at first, and stretch your comfort zone to get out of your stretchy pants. This will help you learn more about your own eating style, moderation, and help you avoid deprivation as you get deeper into your weight loss journey. 

Are meal replacement shakes healthy?

Meal replacement drinks can be an effective and safe strategy for reducing calories without skimping on vitamins and minerals that your body needs to thrive, if used in the right way. They might help you gain motivation and help get you ready for taking your next steps in losing weight. It’s important to remember that everyone is different and that this method for losing weight might not work for every person out there.

Are meal replacement shakes effective for weight loss?

Although you might see a short-term benefit from meal replacement drinks or bars, it will likely be a struggle to maintain. For most people, the weight comes right back when you return to your normal diet. Noom is different. We help you learn how to incorporate healthy foods while you lose weight and achieve sustainable results. Getting out of the diet mindset and thinking more about weight loss in terms of lifestyle change will help you keep your weight off for good. While a meal replacement might help you get a head start on the scale, it may not address the real reasons behind your habits or help you work towards building up long term healthy eating habits.