It’s no secret that a whole food plant-based diet is one of the best things you can do for your health. But, getting more plant-based foods into your diet isn’t always easy. Also, based on the most recent health statistics, the majority of people struggle to get all of the nutrients that they need each day, meaning that food is no longer doing its job. For many, losing weight, increasing energy, and feeling better is a top priority, but sticking to a diet is difficult. For this reason, many people look to meal replacement shakes as a healthy and convenient option to control hunger and reduce calories, but do they really work? Let’s find out!
What is a Meal Replacement Shake?
A meal replacement shake should be exactly as it sounds - an alternative to a whole food meal. But, not all meal replacement shakes are created equally. In fact, most of what you’ll find on the market resembles a science experiment gone bad instead of what would qualify as real whole food. So beyond the title, meal replacement shakes should be nutritionally complete with all the macro and micronutrients you SHOULD be getting from food but rarely do. Another common attribute of meal replacement shakes is the convenience they offer versus cooking and preparing a meal. Usually, you can find them in ready-to-drink form or as a complete powder that is ready-to-mix in just water.
The best meal replacement shakes help to control hunger, but not because they contain artificial stimulants and harmful additives, but because they fuel your body in the right way using real whole foods.
Many studies have shown that people who choose to use a meal replacement shake or smoothie often lose weight much faster than those who don’t because it helps to keep them satisfied without adding empty calories, ultra-processed ingredients, reducing the need for unhealthy fast food and snacks.
How Does a Meal Replacement Shake Work?
They work in a variety of ways. Often when we are cooking, we add extra salt, sugar, and the jars and tins of food we use often have many additives and preservatives that simply don’t serve our bodies.
The portion sizes tend to be too large, and we’re not eating mindfully enough. Which often means we overeat.
A meal replacement shake will eliminate all of that calorie counting, they’ll take away all of the unnecessary fats and sugars. And instead, provide you with one drinkable meal replacement, which is fast and nutritionally sound.
They tend to have a lot fewer calories, and yet you’re still going to feel full and, in most cases, filled with energy too.
Skipping the Synthetics
There are a number of meal replacements on the market that are packed with sugars, artificial ingredients, and other additives that function just like junk food rather than a healthful nutrient-dense meal. Additionally, a vast majority of the shakes use whey protein - a highly processed and inflammatory ingredient that increases mucus production, damages your gut, and affects the quality of your skin. The first rule of choosing a meal replacement shake is to make sure it is 100% plant-based.
Using nature to harness all of the exemplary properties of plants, makes it possible to enjoy a wholefood, vegan, completely plant protein-based diet-without any of the stress, cost, and challenges of sourcing high-quality protein. But, protein isn’t the only ingredient to pay attention to.
It’s common knowledge that most people do not eat the recommended amount of fruits and vegetables on a daily basis. However, it’s widely researched that eating your veggies is ideal for losing weight due to the fiber and phytonutrients they contain. They are some of the most nutrient-dense foods you can eat. And, what you may not realize, is that many plants are actually packed with protein that is more easily digested and absorbed by the body.
Making sure that your meal replacement contains at least one full serving of organic greens is a surefire way to guarantee that you consume exactly what your body needs to feel full, increase energy, and maintain a healthy weight.
Plant Protein vs. Whey Protein
You will often find that there are two different forms of meal replacement shake - one that uses whey protein and the other that uses plant-based protein. So which one is better?
What makes protein high-quality:
- The amount of digestible protein per serving,
- The total amino acid content,
- And, the amino acid bioavailability.
The latter is how much your body can actually use the amino acids within the protein, which are the essential building blocks the body needs to build and maintain muscle and utilize on the cellular level for a myriad of bodily functions.
Every source of protein has a different amino acid profile. Which again makes it important that you understand the difference between plant protein and whey protein.
Whey protein comes from dairy. So if you happen to have any dairy allergies or are looking to have a vegan lifestyle whey protein simply is not an option for you. For the non-vegans, whey protein poses other issues. It’s an ultra-processed food that requires extreme heat, harmful chemicals, and a bunch of additives to make it ready for consumption. It has been known to cause gastrointestinal issues and skin problems and a wide range of long-term negative effects.
Plant protein, on the other hand, comes from a wide variety of natural sources rice, lentils, peas, chickpeas, and even pumpkins. With the innovation in plant-based nutrition, we’re constantly discovering new ways to extract protein from real whole foods. One of the primary advantages of plant vs. animal proteins is that they each contain a wide range of micronutrients, antioxidants, and phytochemicals that have additional health benefits beyond what just protein can offer - giving them the upper hand in health terms.
Why Does Plant Protein vs. Whey Protein Even Matter?
Your body can produce a number of amino acids; however, there are nine aminos that it cannot make on its own. These are referred to as essential amino acids. Which means you must get them through your diet.
Any food or shake that contains all nine of these essential amino acids is known as a complete protein. Animal-based proteins have used this as their one selling point for far too long. But, it's more marketing hype than factual science. In fact, not only is it possible to get all the essential amino acids your body needs from plants, but it’s actually preferred.
And, while whey protein still might be one of the most popular protein powders on the market due to their high protein content, the truth isn’t always as it appears. Numerous reports have been published about protein spiking. A deceitful marketing tactic that artificially inflates the amount of protein shown on a label to trick the consumer into believing they are getting more for their money. But, the truth is your body can’t absorb all this protein at once and the total protein content isn’t representative of what you actually need - the amino acid building blocks that construct it.
While it is true that it can be challenging to find a single-source of “complete” plant protein that doesn’t come from soy, the research shows that when you use complementary protein sources (like pea and rice) it’s quite easy to get the full-spectrum of essential aminos the body needs, meaning plants are superior sources of protein in every way possible.
What Are The Most Common Nutrient Deficiencies?
You might be wondering why this question is relevant when we are talking about meal replacement shakes. The truth is that most diets are severely lacking in essential nutrients like zinc, magnesium, choline, and vitamins D, B12, and K2 to name a few.
And, the problem is that most of us don’t recognize that we’re not getting enough until it’s too late. Studies show that over 98% of Americans fail to meet the basic minimum requirements for one or more essential vitamins & minerals daily. Over time, these compounds to greater health challenges that shorten lifespan, decrease immunity and accelerates cellular damage. But, the good news is that this is all easily preventable by giving your body what it needs - every, single, day. The best way to start combating these deficiencies which are related to the issues with modern diets is to look for a more complete option that is enjoyable and easy to stick to.
And that is where meal replacement shakes come in. The best meal replacement shakes include a full-spectrum of perfectly balanced nutrition to ensure your vitamin & mineral needs are met. This means they give you everything you need, without any excess calories, and are simple to make too.
One of the most important things to consider when it comes to understanding why meal replacement shakes work is their simplicity. Out of all the things you can do to improve health, few things are easier to incorporate into your lifestyle than simply making a shake. Cooking in the morning, or arranging meals every evening can be a bit of a burden. Having a healthy and convenient meal replacement shake on hand can save you time while keeping you on track with your wellness goals.
Adding a meal replacement shake to your daily routine has plenty of proven scientific benefits for your health. Not only is it something that contains all the nutrition you need to look and feel your best and help to keep you full, but you’ll also find that your glucose and energy levels will stay stable throughout the day.
As an added bonus, you’ll likely find an increase in your energy because your body is finally getting all of those nutrients that it’s been deficient in for so long.
A meal replacement shake is quick to make, enjoyable to drink, and incredibly portable.
Once you take away the ability to make excuses, provide your body with a source of cleaner and more efficient energy, and have a portion and calorie-controlled system in place, it is easy to see how and why meal replacement shakes work.
All of the science behind meal replacement shakes show that they can be an integral part of a weight loss journey, and can support people who intend to live a vegan or plant-based lifestyle while still supporting their body’s nutritional needs.