Is it true that meal replacement drinks aid in weight loss?
In order to lose weight (hopefully you are referring to fat loss), you must consume fewer calories than you expend. These calories can come from food or a meal replacement drink. However, when you are in a caloric deficit (calorie intake is less than calorie expenditure), it is necessary to eat foods that will keep you satiated (feeling full) until your next meal. This way, you can remain in a calorie burning stage and not over-eat.
Because drinks are digested quicker than most foods, meal replacement shakes may lead the user to exceed their caloric allotment. Therefore, it may be a better idea for you to eat your food than drink it. The simple act of eating (chewing, swallowing, stomach distention) will improve one’s feeling of fullness. The role of digestion and absorption also contribute to satiety. In other words, the slower these processes are, the greater the time until hunger ensues.
Another reason for eating food is because it delivers necessary fiber, phytochemicals, flavonoids and other nutrients not found in meal replacement drinks. These nutrients contribute to satiety, intestinal motility and show potential for preventing certain types of cancers and strokes.
Because your body down-regulates and up-regulates enzymes based on need, the use of predigested liquid foods may decrease available enzymes for the digestion of whole foods. When whole foods are reintroduced, digestion becomes very difficult and uncomfortable for some time until the body begins to reproduce the lost digestive enzymes.
So, why would anyone use a meal replacement drink?
- It is recommended that we eat at least four meals per day. For many people, this is an impossible task. Skipping meals throughout the day leads to overeating. Therefore, people who cannot access whole foods can benefit from a meal replacement drink. It will provide necessary calories and nutrition to last until their next meal.
- Digestion of whole foods can take up to four hours. Nutrients in a meal replacement drink are designed to be available in less than an hour; thus, there may be a benefit to using a meal replacement drink before or after a workout.
Eating whole foods instead of drinking a meal replacement shake may be a good idea for someone trying to lose weight (body fat). However, there is a time and place where meal replacement drinks may be of use. Use your better judgment when choosing.