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Is Ensure Meal Replacement for Weight Loss or for Weight Gain?

by
author image Jill Corleone, RDN, LD
Jill Corleone is a registered dietitian and health coach who has been writing and lecturing on diet and health for more than 15 years. Her work has been featured on the Huffington Post, Diabetes Self-Management and in the book "Noninvasive Mechanical Ventilation," edited by John R. Bach, M.D. Corleone holds a Bachelor of Science in nutrition.
Is Ensure Meal Replacement for Weight Loss or for Weight Gain?
Ensure may be able to help you reach your weight goals. Photo Credit Fuse/Fuse/Getty Images

Whether you're trying to lose weight or gain weight, Ensure -- a nutritional supplement made by Abbott Nutrition -- may help you. The drink can help control your calorie intake to lose weight, or it can be a convenient way to add calories to help you gain weight. Before making changes to your diet, however, consult your doctor to discuss the risks and benefits of using Ensure, to help you reach your weight goals.

Calories for Weight Loss and Gain

When you want to make a change to your weight -- whether you're trying to lose or gain weight -- you need to change your equation for the number of calories in and the number of calories out. To lose weight, the equation must be negative -- meaning that the calories you take "in" must be less than the number of calories "out" -- the calories you expend. To gain weight, the calories must be positive -- meaning that the number of calories in must be greater than the number of calories out.

One pound is equal to 3,500 calories, so subtracting or adding 500 calories can help you lose or gain 1 pound in a week. Ensure products can help you control your calorie intake for weight loss or help you add calories for weight gain.

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Ensure Products

Ensure offers a number of products that can help you manage your weight. If your goal is to lose weight, you might consider the original Ensure, which has 220 calories per 8-ounce serving. Or, consider Ensure Active Light, which has 70 calories per 8-ounce serving. For those looking to gain weight, the original version makes a good option, as does Ensure Plus, which has 350 calories per 8-ounce serving. Ensure also has a fruity, clear drink -- called Ensure Active Clear Protein drink -- which has 180 calories per 8-ounce serving.

Ensure for Weight Loss

When using Ensure for weight loss, you need to take into consideration the number of calories -- whether you're drinking Ensure to replace a meal or drinking it as a supplement with your meal. It's the total number of calories that count -- not the source of those calories.

Original Ensure is a good meal-replacement choice for anyone who's trying to lose weight, because of its calorie level, and because of its vitamin and mineral content. A 2003 review study published in the International Journal of Obesity and Related Metabolic Disorders reports that meal-replacement diets are effective at helping people lose weight safely. So for weight loss -- instead of having a regular breakfast, lunch or dinner -- you would drink an Ensure shake.

Ensure Active Light contains artificial sweeteners, and is lower in calories than the other Ensure products, making it a good option when you're trying to reduce your calorie intake. Ensure Active Light also makes an easy snack to help manage hunger until your next meal. Or, you can include it with your meal, to help round out the meal. For example, an 8-ounce serving of Ensure Active Light -- taken with 2 cups of mixed greens, 2 tablespoons of low-fat dressing and a small apple -- has 225 calories.

Ensure for Weight Gain

If you're trying to regain weight after an illness or you're looking to bulk up, Ensure products may serve as a convenient drink to provide those calories. Just as with weight loss, weight gain requires that you shift your caloric intake. For weight gain, you need to eat more calories than your body needs. To gain healthfully, the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics suggests that your extra calories come from nutrient-rich sources, which might include nutrient-fortified products such as Ensure.

As higher calorie options, original Ensure and Ensure Plus can help you meet those calorie needs in a smaller volume. This is especially important for those who have a poor appetite but are trying to gain weight. Ensure also offers a powdered version of Original Ensure -- in addition to Ensure Active High-Protein powder -- which you can use to boost the calories in your drink. Mixing 2 tablespoons of original Ensure powder to your morning cup of milk or lunchtime yogurt adds an extra 60 calories. To really boost calories, make your 1/2 cup of dry oatmeal with an 8-ounce serving of Ensure Plus, to create a 500-calorie bowl of oatmeal.

Original Ensure powder is a concentrated source of nutrients and you should use it with caution. This is especially true for older adults and those who have kidney disease. Getting too much protein without enough fluid can tax the kidneys and may possibly lead to dehydration.

Benefits and Considerations

In addition to helping you meet your vitamin and mineral needs, Ensure products make a good choice if you can't drink milk, due to lactose intolerance or if you can't eat foods that contain gluten. However, Ensure is not recommended for people with galactosemia -- which is a rare genetic disorder that affects how the body processes the simple sugar galactose -- or for those individuals who have a milk allergy.

Although Ensure products serve as a convenient drink for weight loss or weight gain, Ensure may not be for everyone. The drink is sweet, which may not suit everyone's taste -- and for some -- it may be expensive. It's also not a good source of fiber, and you should not use it as your only source of nutrition. It also may not make a good meal replacement choice for people who have diabetes, because of its sugar content.

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