It's no secret that in society today we like instant gratification. In the realm of weight loss, weight-loss shakes may seem like the obvious choice for some when wanting to lose weight, fast. To some, they may sound like the easiest choice but they're not designed for the long term. Here, we will take a deep dive into what a nutritionist thinks of weight loss shakes.
First things first... what is a weight loss shake? Typically, a weight-loss shake is marketed as a liquid meal replacement. They are calorically controlled drinks that replace a meal/s or snacks throughout the day as part of a weight-loss program. Most shakes will contain artificial nutrients that are usually found within the foods we eat.
People who use weight loss shakes often get good results from using the shakes in the early stages. This is due to the rapid decrease in overall calories that they are consuming throughout the day. This early success often misleads people to believe they are working well before the unintended side effects of continual use or yo-yo use of these shake programs emerge in the medium term.
These unintended side effects include...
Nutrient deficiency and slowed metabolism: Shakes are synthetic and as such just simply can’t provide all the nutritional components of whole foods. Whole foods provide vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and other protective substances that shakes cannot provide. When starved of nutrients, the body recognises this as a threat and goes into "storage mode" this is a biochemical response to famine and is there to protect us and to hold onto the energy we yield from food. This causes the metabolism to slow and leads to many long term metabolic effects. Harms gut health: Many shakes are made from evaporated milk and sugar as the base. Both of these ingredients are like poison for the gut. In addition, the liquid nature of this diet also can remove fibre from the diet which the gut microbiome relies heavily upon. The gut needs fibre and a diverse variety of whole foods to function optimally. Good gut health is essential for overall health and wellbeing.
Regaining weight long term: Studies show that even though weight loss shakes can cause immediate weight loss, most people regain all of, if not more weight than when they began. Shake diets are not sustainable approaches to weight loss. As we mentioned above, the body's metabolism slows in response to caloric restriction and the body can not keep up long term weight loss.
Creates poor relationship with food and body: This often leads to a cycle of restricting food, bingeing and then restricting again. It also doesn't set you up for success in the real world. What do you order if you're eating at a restaurant? What do you eat at a party if you don't have your shake? Shakes do not educate the individual on HOW to eat healthily for their body!
Harms mental health: Shakes are harmful to mental health on many levels. Aside from the biochemical damage to brain health when nutrients are restricted, shakes also cause social and emotional stress. It is frustrating to lose, then regain weight and shakes lead to a negative behaviour pattern. This causes poor mental health which can be extremely damaging to the individual.
The bottom line
If you (or someone you know) would like to lose weight please consider the points we have made in this blog. It is just not sustainable or healthy to participate in a shake diet. Meal replacements are a bandaid solution to lifestyle issues surrounding food. Often, shakes are loaded in sugar, fillers, additives and preservatives. They are loaded with fillers and chemicals. Removing wholefoods from the diet is never a good idea especially when they are replaced with chemicals. There are many other ways to go about weight loss that will set you up for lasting success. In fact, Metabolic Balance (the program we use in the clinic) has proven to be the most effective method to lose and maintain weight loss in the long term. For more on this, please refer to our blog post - Weight Loss Methods the Good the Bad and the Ugly