Informational Articles

The RIGHT Way to Use Meal-Replacement Shakes for Weight Loss

Read before you sip.

   www.womenshealthmag.com
meal replacement shakes for weight loss

PHOTOGRAPH BY SHUTTERSTOCK

You’ve probably seen ads for weight-loss shakes blowing up your Instagram and Facebook feeds with seriously amazing before-and-after pics. But can swapping your breakfast or lunch for a shake really help you reach your goal weight?

“The short answer is yes,” says Marisa Moore, R.D.N., a registered dietitian nutritionist based in Atlanta. Here’s proof: Participants in aDiabetes Spectrum study who replaced two meals a day with a shake, hot chocolate, or soup lost 7.8 percent of their body weight after three months. The group with more leeway over what they ate lost just 1.5 percent of their body weight while consuming the same amount of calories.

Another analysis from the International Journal of Obesity and Related Metabolic Disorders reviewed studies that compared reduced-calorie diets with those heavy on liquid meal replacements. Both groups lost weight at the three-month and one-year marks, but the meal-replacement group lost more.

These seven R.D.-approved tips will help ensure that you’re actually seeing results (there’s more to it than: open shake, drink shake):

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Pay attention to that nutrition label! The grams of protein in your shake should always be higher than or equal to the amount of carbs you’re consuming, says Jamie Mass, R.D. “This prevents your blood sugar from dropping and keeps you full longer,” says Mass.

If you’re short on protein, add a side of nuts, deli turkey, or a hard-boiled egg, she says. Or, if your shake has less than 10 grams of carbs, feel free to add a piece of fruit.

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IMAGE BY AMANDA BECKER

When you’re glued to your desk and don’t have time to grab lunch, shakes can be a healthy, convenient option, says Rob Sulaver, a certified sports nutritionist for BandanaTraining.com. Keep a stash in your work fridge for those days when the vending machine is your only other choice.

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“People really struggle to get protein at lunch, so drinking a shake that’s rich in that nutrient with a small salad can be ideal,” says Mass. Just make sure that your shake clocks in at around 200 calories while your salad contains about 200 to 300 max, so you don’t go over your calorie budget for that day, she says.

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That same protein-rich shake (under 200 calories!) is the perfect way to stave off a three p.m. hunger attack, says Mass. Remember, keeping your blood sugar stable is key for weight loss, she says.

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Drink half of a meal-replacement shake 30 minutes before hitting the gym, then down the rest afterward, says Mass. If you’re working out during your lunch break, this is a great way to make sure you’re fueled and full. (To make an even bigger dent on your weight-loss goals, check out these fat-burning moves fromWomen’s Health’s Look Better Naked DVD.)

You can also try this strategy while heading to the gym after work. That way you won’t be too ravenous post-sweat to whip up a healthy din, says Mass.

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You can soothe your ice cream cravings by blending a shake (or half of one) with ice and vanilla extract, says Mass. You won’t miss the sugar crash that comes with a pint of B&J.

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