Slimming Shakes & Meal Replacements
Both increasingly popular and while some may say they are very similar this is not strictly true. Are slimming shakes really the best way to lose weight and are meal replacements a viable option for quick, easy and nutritious meals even perhaps the future? We explore it all in this week's podcast and you can listen to the length discussion below. Continue on for key points in written format.
What are they? Slimming shakes are products that are produced for one self-explanatory goal in mind. Weight loss. They do this by making it really simple to achieve a consistent calorie deficit. Eat XYZ shakes XYZ times a day for X amount of weight loss per week. The real question is this sustainable long term and is it safe for one's health.
Let's look at one of the market leaders. Slimfast. Down below is one of the more popular products and labels itself as "high protein". On Amazon, you can pick up a 50 serving tub and it works out at 0.44p per serving which doesn't seem too bad!
The key point to note here is that in small print, all serving nutritional information is based on adding 250ml of skimmed milk to each serving which shows that at its core it does not have as much as you may think especially protein.
So, can this work?
Of course, it can. The issue stems from its an inherently misleading name. "Slimfast" As Tom mentioned on the podcast when seeing any diet product or diet that is followed by the word fast alarm bells start to ring. Long term weight/fat loss requires long term sustainable lifestyle changes and when seeing this product you are already getting the impression that it's something that can happen overnight.
On their website, they do offer plans such as "3-2-1" which try and get you onto a more sustainable plan (using their products of course) and even say 1-2 lbs per week is the aim however in most cases we see people buying these shakes and merely using them to replace meals. An example me and Tom have seen is someone replacing their 3 square meals with a shake and then eating nothing else. This is less than 750 calories a day. This is essentially a very low-calorie diet and is something we have discussed on a previous podcast. They are to medically advised/monitored due to their very restrictive nature and potential risks. One of the risks being nutritional deficiencies however in Slimfasts defence it is fortified with 23 vitamins and minerals so should mitigate that risk. Sustainability, however, is a different beast. In the example mentioned this person lasted until lunchtime day 2 until they had to go home due to fatigue. Very low-calorie diets are for sedated individuals who need immediate weight loss for health reasons. Not overweight people who are working normal jobs and this case a rather active one.
The amount of protein. It has been said that a high protein diet is helpful for weight loss. This could be the thermic effect of burning more than consuming (minor) or when we are told that it can make you feel more full compared to fats and carbs. There are studies on the contrary however we'd say as it stands that yes higher intakes of protein can lead to lower mean calorie consumption due to satiety effects. Each serving only contains 15g of protein and some of this will come from the 250ml of skimmed milk you have to add to meet the serving nutrition.
For years, proponents of some fad diets have claimed that higher amounts of protein facilitate weight loss. Only in recent years have studies begun to examine the effects of high protein diets on energy expenditure, subsequent energy intake and weight loss as compared to lower protein diets. In this study, we conducted a systematic review of randomized investigations on the effects of high protein diets on dietary thermogenesis, satiety, body weight and fat loss. There is convincing evidence that a higher protein intake increases thermogenesis and satiety compared to diets of lower protein content. The weight of evidence also suggests that high protein meals lead to a reduced subsequent energy intake. Some evidence suggests that diets higher in protein result in an increased weight loss and fat loss as compared to diets lower in protein, but findings have not been consistent. In dietary practice, it may be beneficial to partially replace refined carbohydrate with protein sources that are low in saturated fat. Although recent evidence supports potential benefit, rigorous longer-term studies are needed to investigate the effects of high protein diets on weight loss and weight maintenance.
Halton TL, Hu FB. The effects of high protein diets on thermogenesis, satiety and weight loss: a critical review. J Am Coll Nutr. 2004 Oct;23(5):373-85. doi: 10.1080/07315724.2004.10719381. PMID: 15466943.
What would I recommend instead? Especially if you lead an active lifestyle you'd probably be much better buying protein powder and having a protein shake with some milk in. You'd get a better macronutrient profile and it could potentially be cheaper. Obviously, this would lack all the added micronutrients in a product like Slimfast but this can be mitigated with a multivitamin or a better option would be to ensure that you eat wholesome meals with plenty of fruit and vegetables that come with their own plethora of benefits. If you want more help on this get in touch.
Meal replacements can often get confused with slimming shakes simply because they normally come in liquid form. However, if we look closer meal replacements are normally not marketed as such and normally offer a higher calorie yield and potential extras to really make it the equivalent of a meal!
Like all shakes, they can be extremely convenient. For example, I have one every morning simply because I'm up early to train and by the time I'm finished my window of getting ready and getting to work is pretty slim so being able to bang a few scoops of powder into a blender and away I go is pretty good! Also, the peace of mind knowing that my first meal of the day is packed with all the good stuff my body needs.
That brings me onto the example product and that product is Huel. The reason I've chosen to discuss this as the example is that I've used it for a while now so am In a good situation to offer my thoughts.
Huel comes in at around £1.47 per serving and just with water offers 400 calories and 29g of protein. Compared to a slimming shake like Slimfast offers this is not bad at all! If you take into account this is without any added milk and that anyone can have it (vegan friendly) it's great value for money. The additions of things like omega 3/6 and pre/probiotics are also a welcome addition to a pretty complete package in terms of meal replacing. Most of us have gone to Tesco and spent £3 on a meal deal which offers very basic nutrition and is frankly quite expensive. For half that you can get a better option in my opinion. I'm not saying go and replace all your meals with these shakes because I believe that just isn't sustainable long term and can have multiple implications that fall under the socioeconomic umbrella!
These products won't be right for everyone but if you're someone like a busy city worker who normally just nips down to Burger King for lunch then these should be considered. High quality, healthy nutrition and at a decent price.
Can they help with weight loss? Similar to the slimming shakes it's monkey see monkey do to an extent as you know how many calories are exactly in each serving. An example is if your deficit target is 1600 calories a day you know that 4 of these shakes will do the trick. Super easy. Sustainable? Perhaps not. We do have some data however that supports incorporating meal replacements into your diet to aid in weight loss. Keyword incorporates so not completely replace every meal just a couple/few.
Programmes incorporating meal replacements led to greater weight loss at 1 year than comparator weight loss programmes and should be considered as a valid option for management of overweight and obesity in community and health care settings.
Astbury NM, Piernas C, Hartmann-Boyce J, Lapworth S, Aveyard P, Jebb SA. A systematic review and meta-analysis of the effectiveness of meal replacements for weight loss. Obes Rev. 2019 Apr;20(4):569-587. doi: 10.1111/obr.12816. Epub 2019 Jan 24. PMID: 30675990; PMCID: PMC6849863.
Look it really all boils down to liquid calories simply being easier. Yes, there may be times where whole food is preferential (Being in a calorie surplus. Easier&cheaper than shakes!) but really it depends on the individual. In terms of being for the future, I'd highly recommend listening to the final segment of the podcast as we spiral into a right socioeconomic rabbit hole!
Final Point. We'd really love to hear all your thoughts on this one. Have you used any of these products or similar before? What and why do you use it? If you have any more questions on today's topic or any of the products then please get in touch and the team and I will see what we can rustle up!