Meal replacements have become a new fad in the American diet, and though they are an adequate alternative, food should always be consumed first and foremost. When actual food is not available, meal replacements become a necessary supplement to fuel the body, while still allowing it to gradually and safely lose weight. There are many choices in the market when selecting a meal replacement, and there are a few aspects to keep in mind when choosing one.
Choosing a meal replacement shake should not be determined based on specific companies, but instead on bodily needs. There should always be a healthy balance of "good," or complex, carbohydrates, complete proteins and unsaturated fats. All of these macronutrients are necessary and play a role in bodily maintenance. If a shake has eliminated one of these nutrient groups, it either should not be consumed, if it indeed is your meal, or that group needs to be added to the shake. For instance, if there are no complex carbohydrates, a banana and/or flax seeds could be added to complete a good ratio of macronutrients.
Effective and lasting weight loss is a gradual process and usually is within a limit of 1 to 2 pounds per week. As long as your hormones are not overactive, weight loss is a numbers game. It takes an additional 3,500 calories to gain one pound and 3,500 fewer calories to lose one pound in a week. You can achieve this goal if you cut 500 calories per day from your normal caloric intake. Double that number and you will lose two pounds.
Most protein powders are simply one type of protein such as whey, soy, hemp, egg, milk and/or casein, which all absorb at different rates. There are, however, some mixes that not only have a complete protein, but also contain carbohydrates and fats, as well as added fruits and vegetables. Some of the meal replacement mixes attempt to cover as many bases as possible. Some of these include, among others, Amazing Grass' "Amazing Meal," Peaceful Planet's "Supreme Meal," Nature's Plus "Source of Life: Energy Drink" and for vegans or vegetarians, Vega's "Complete Whole Food Health Optimizer."
If possible, it is always recommended to eat your meals. Eating five to seven times a day, including three meals and two to four snacks will ensure that your metabolic rate remains high, constantly digesting your food. If your portion sizes remain small and your carbohydrate, protein and fat intake remain balanced, along with eliminating excess calories, normal eating will yield the same results as meal replacements.
Weight Loss in the Gym
If the elimination of an extra 500 to 1,000 calories per day is too difficult to maintain in terms of food intake, the same feat can be accomplished while working out. Adding the calories lost in the gym to those cut from the diet will still allow you to reach the magic 3,500 number. Weight loss can come in many ways; it need not be only through diet.
As long as you follow healthy eating guidelines, meal replacements are an adequate means of losing weight. Although the shake itself will not force the body to lose pounds, in accordance with the loss of excess calories, it will help in achieving the goal. There are many ways to lose weight; meal replacements can be used as long as they're thought of as a supplement, not as a new way of life.
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- "ACSM's Resources for the Personal Trainer"; American College of Sports Medicine; 2010
- "ACE Lifestyle & Weight Management Consultant Manual"; American Council on Exercise; 2006