What once was quite a revolutionary way of eating a couple of years ago, is now quite normal, with hundreds of brands leaping on the trend.
Whatever diet you’re currently following, there is a meal replacement shake for you. Hundreds of companies have decided to try their hand at revolutionising eating. Why slave away cooking and spend all this money on ingredients when you could drink a ready-made shake that has the optimal nutritional composition?
While it sounds like a 1960s fad diet. It has well and truly become more than just a novelty. It is most common within the fitness industry but has started to branch out and make a name for itself as a legitimate replacement to a meal for the busy worker bee.
On the face of it, meal replacement shakes seem like an easy and efficient way to, well, eat. But, what are the actual pros and cons of meal replacement shakes?
What is a meal replacement shake?
Before we delve into the benefits and drawbacks, it’s important to understand what a meal replacement shake actually is.
Essentially, a meal replacement shake is a drink that can be consumed instead of a meal because It contains as many calories and nutrients as a ‘meal’. The number of calories and specific nutrients will differ depending on the brand.
- Time Efficient – Obviously, a meal replacement shake doesn’t take any time to prepare which is why it is heavily marketed at people on-the-go. While Jamie Oliver has tried his best to convince you that you can cook a healthy meal in 10 minutes, we often lack the motivation to actually follow through with this A meal replacement shake could save you some valuable time in the evening, in the morning if you’re in a rush or during a quick lunch break.
- Flexible – It’s hard to argue that meal replacement shakes can genuinely replace a balanced meal full of vegetables, but it won’t do any harm once in a while if you need to leave in a hurry. A couple of meal replacement shakes could save you when you lose track of time and have to leave the house in a hurry. Grab it out the fridge and drink it on the way to work.
- Great for Athletes – For the active ones amongst us, these meal replacement shakes are designed with you in mind. Firstly, it is easy to keep track of your calories. Secondly, if you are trying to hit a certain protein or carb intake, there are plenty of meal replacement shakes that are essentially protein shakes with added carbs. They work well as an extra meal if you’re eating a lot a day and need something easily digestible between meals.
- They Can Be Nutritionally Dense – While you might not think of it, plenty of meal replacement shakes are packed with nutrients. Important things we should be consuming daily to keep our body in top-notch condition such as vitamin D, omega 3 and magnesium can all be found in meal replacement shakes. Obviously, the nutritional density will vary greatly between shakes, so be sure to read the nutritional information.
- Less Nutritious – On the whole, they are less nutritious than a healthy meal full of whole foods. While we don’t all eat the perfect meal every day, these shakes don’t adequately substitute all the natural minerals, vitamins and proteins to effectively develop your body. However, they could be used occasionally as a substitute for an unhealthy meal; If it was the reason you chose not to get a takeaway, for example.
- Added Preservatives and Sugars – Because they are sweet and need to taste good in order to keep you buying them, they often have harmful preservatives and added sugars. It is a good idea to read the label to see what sugar is in the shake and what the source of protein is.
- Expensive – Good meal replacement shakes can actually be quite expensive. Not in comparison to the average meal at a restaurant, but for someone that cooks at home a lot. A nice hearty meal full of nutrition made from food purchased from the supermarket can actually be very cost-effective, often less than £1 a meal if done correctly.
- Bad Habits – Relying on meal replacement shakes often creates bad habits that rear their head once you lack motivation. Not learning how to cook effectively will result in ready meals and takeaways once the meal replacement shakes are out of favour. If you stop dieting because you succeeded or not, you are likely to fall back into bad habits because you haven’t learnt how to cook effectively and don’t understand the nutritional value.
There is definitely a time and a place for meal replacement shakes. They are not supposed to replace every meal, just the occasional one, and that’s ok. They are not the most nutritionally dense food, but if they could save you from skipping a meal when you’re in a rush or stop you getting an unhealthy takeaway, then they’re serving their purpose. There are meal replacement shakes for different purposes, whether you’re bulking up at the gym or trying to lose weight, just make sure you pick the right one for you and incorporate it into a diet plan.