If you consume more calories than you use up then you will put on weight, it’s as simple as that. What you use up can vary depending on your body composition. Greater muscle requires more nutrition than less muscle. If you are taller then you will most likely need to eat more. However, the principle is simple eat less than you use up to reduce your weight.
One simple and convenient way of doing this is meal replacement and yet because it doesn’t come in the form of food you see and we have ingrained in us that anything that hunter gatherers didn’t collect isn’t food, many are opposed to the idea. In today’s world a quick convenient option is the perfect answer especially if you need a quick fix and don’t want to spend a lot of time cooking.
I have been using meal replacements for a while and recently, as I realised I no longer have any, I have really started to miss using them. I have listed below all the reasons why I think they are the answer for me but try to find what works for you.
1. If you can take the best of all nutrients and combine it into one, then what is the issue?
Despite the arguments for and against meal replacements, they are intended to provide you with all the nutrition of a meal and will most likely come fortified with vitamins that even a meal doesn’t have. Ok, so some may have artificial ingredients but in a world where we take vitamins as supplements, think pea protein is better than real meat surely eating artificial food isn’t really that bad?
In addition, meal replacements have been used for medicinal purposes for cancer patients who have lost weight rapidly and need to put it on again. PROSURE for example is a therapeutic nutrition for cancer cachexia which contains a unique blend of omega-3 fatty acid and protein which can help build muscle and gain weight.
2. They save time and the environment
I genuinely do not enjoy cooking, I have tried over the years and during lockdown made some attempts but the fact of the matter is that from a presentation perspective my food has looked ok, I have even received some complients on Instagram but the taste is never any good.
If I am cooking for just myself a meal replacement is a quick fix. If we were to think about the environmental impact then a quick blend of powder with water is much better than the number of pots you will use to make a meal and also the amount of time to heat things so that they can be cooked.
Let’s take the simplest meal we can, pasta!
To boil it, we need 1 pan and 1 spoon and cook for 20 minutes. To make the sauce we will need 1 knife and 1 chopping board to cut onions and tomatoes, 1 pot to cook and spoon to stir and another 20 minutes to cook minimum, but Italians would say the longer you cook it the better.
So you have pretty much used up 6 items which need washing and 40 minutes of heat. In comparison your meal replacement was blended together in 1 min and can be done directly in the bottle you will use to drink from if you don't want to use a blender,
3. I get my sugar fix
Often after a meal we feel the need to have some form of a sugar fix. Given the sweet flavours of meal replacement shakes this is often met. The best bit is that many use many these days use sweeteners instead of sugar which passes out of your body without being absorbed.
4. Avocado on toast has way more calories
A friend recommended Avocado on toast instead of a meal replacement and highlighted all the health benefits of eating one. What my friend hadn't realised is the number of calories in one!
One avocado contains 322 calories and 1 slice of bread has almost 80 calories. So in one meal you are looking to consume roughly 400 calories. In comparison a meal replacement shake will be 200 calories and will most likely keep you full. So why opt for the more calorific option if losing weight is your goal? It makes no sense to me.
What to look for in meal replacement shakes
Most meal replacements are high in protein which is very important when it comes to weight loss as it keeps you full which in turn helps you to lose weight.
However the protein needs to be balanced with the fibre intake so look for one which has added fibre. If you can’t find one then you can always get fibre supplements like Psyllium which is a form of fibre made from the husks of the Plantago ovata plant's seeds which you can add to your shake. However, this often expands in water if left too long and will give a strange taste so it is better to buy meal replacement shake which already has everything you need in it.
Also look for other important nutrients for you, but remember anything additional you add to your meal replacement will add to the calories, so best to buy something which already has everything in it.