Losing weight successfully has a lot to do with the foods you choose to include in your diet, not just the number of calories you've eaten at the end of the day. Choosing more satiating foods that fill you up and keep you feeling full will help you eat less and stick to your diet for the long term so you can meet your weight-loss goals. Packing more protein into your diet and replacing one meal a day with a satisfying, nutrient-rich protein shake may be your secret to shedding the extra pounds.
Protein Packs a Punch
More than the other two macronutrients -- fat and carbohydrates -- protein is a powerful ally in weight loss for a few reasons. Protein is the most satiating of the macronutrients, so you can eat less yet still feel satisfied. Protein increases thermogenesis, the production of heat in the body. It also increases energy expenditure because your body burns more calories digesting protein than it does digesting carbs or fat. Lastly, protein helps you build lean muscle mass when you combine it with a resistance-training program. The more lean mass you have, the higher your resting metabolic rate, which is the number of calories you burn while doing absolutely nothing.
Efficacy of Meal-Replacement Shakes
According to a meta-analysis published in "International Journal of Obesity and Related Metabolic Disorders" in May 2003, replacing some of your meals with a meal-replacement shake or other meal-replacement food is a safe and effective strategy for achieving significant sustainable weight loss. That's because meal replacements typically are lower in calories than a regular meal, while still being rich in nutrients. Let's say you usually have lunch at a nearby deli or Thai place with co-workers, a meal that can run you upward of 800 calories. Opting for a nutritious protein shake instead could help you cut 500 calories from your diet each day -- enough to lose 1 pound a week.
Which Type of Protein Is Best?
Any lean source of protein -- whey powder, tofu, pea protein, egg white protein -- can make a good addition to your weight-loss protein shake, but some types are especially effective at promoting satiety, according to research published in "Nutrition Journal" in December 2011. Researchers conducted two studies; in each, they gave participants some type of protein -- pea, casein, whey, egg -- in equal amounts in a beverage before a meal to see what effect each had on appetite compared to water. The researchers found that casein and pea proteins had the greatest effect on appetite, reducing participants' food intake at the proceeding meal.
Making a Nutritious Shake
No matter what type of protein you decide to add to your shake, if you're using it as a meal replacement, you want to be sure it contains other nutritious ingredients, including a healthy mix of protein, carbohydrate and healthy fat, and at least 200 calories. Choose a low-calorie base, such as skim milk, or almond, soy, rice or low-fat coconut milk. Fresh or frozen berries are a low-calorie fruit that add sweetness and dietary fiber -- another food component that helps fill you up to control calorie intake. You can also add a handful of fiber-rich spinach. For healthy fats, add an ounce of nuts or seeds or one-fifth of an avocado.