One guy vs all those meal replacement shakes
In the last few weeks, I seem to be frequently coming across ‘meal replacement’ shake mixes. Whether it’s at the gym, around friends, or with clients – these drink mixes are popping up everywhere. Once you know their dark secret though, you’ll probably look at them a little differently next time you see one.
I will declare exactly where I stand on this right here – I think some of these drinks should be taken off the shelves, and there should be education and prepackaged slow carb meals in their place, and if that were to happen, we would have a lot more healthier and happier people around the world.
Let’s have a quick look at a common example – I won’t name the brand, but nutritionally speaking, the numbers are all around the same:
‘Drink A’ – Premixed drink
Calories – 190
Fat – 5g
Protein – 10g
Carbohydrates – 26g
-Sugars – 13g
-Fiber – 5g
‘Drink B’ – Dry powder
Calories – 200
Fat – 2g
Protein – 15g
Carbohydrates – 31g
-Sugars – 23g
-Fiber – 6g
Just for Fun – Choc Banana Milkshake
Calories – 279
Fat – 5.4g
Protein – 9.7g
Carbohydrates – 50.6g
-Sugars – 35.2
-Fiber – 3.6g
Slow carb meal
Calories – 350-450
Fat – 3g
Protein – 28g
Carbohydrates – 24g
-Sugars – 2g
-Fiber – 10g
I expect you’ve already noticed a difference. For a start, there’s a lot less calories in both ‘meal replacement’ shakes. Don’t buy into the idea that the less calories the better – you need a certain amount of energy to keep you going through the day, otherwise you’ll start fading, and craving other high sugar, high fat snacks to quickly get more energy.
So, both the shakes lose when it comes to how much energy you get from them. But that’s not all bad.
If they had as many calories as the slow carb meal, these would be digested so much more quickly than the meal that your blood sugar would spike incredibly. Blood sugar spikes lead to fat gain, not fat loss (the goal, supposedly of these drinks). The shakes I have included are the mid-range – I have seen some powdered drink mixes with up to 31g of pure sugar! You might as well eat a candy bar (literally a Mars Bar has 31g of sugar).
So back to the 3 options. Both of the shakes have some carbohydrate – but mostly in the form of sugar. A quick glance at the slow carb meal sees sugar as being very low – this is a key difference. With this difference also comes a substantial difference in fiber content. Fiber helps slow down digestion, so if there isn’t much, then you absorb energy fast, use it fast and require more, more quickly.
Both the shakes will be abosrbed quickly, compared to the meal.
The likelihood that either drink will leave you hungry after just a couple of hours is very high, and likewise the chances that you’ll be craving something sweet will be very likely.
The problem with these drinks is that both examples I have taken are being sold as ‘diet’ drinks – things to replace meals with, for people wanting to lose weight. They’re especially expensive too, considering how little food value there is.
My real concern, and objection to these drinks is that they will keep thousands of people stuck in the ‘trying to lose weight’ cycle.
I have my suspicions that this is for a good reason – this target market, which might include you – is very profitable for food and supplement producers, and for diet-creators alike. Providing items for sale that work with the ‘lifestyle phase’ of trying to lose weight generates a lot more repeat business than helping people leave that phase altogether, and especially than helping people do that with whole foods that can be bought cheaply at the grocery store.
The bottom line
The bottom line is simple – whole meals beat shakes hands-down. If you are absolutely stuck for time, or your life is so configured at the moment that you just can’t eat in the morning, or at a certain time, then these shakes should still be the last thing on your list – they shouldn’t even be near the list!
First think about pre-packing cold salads with slow carb goodies, and if that can’t happen, then at last resort consider cottage cheese or protein shakes. Under no circumstances are these ‘meal replacement’ shakes anything like what they are sold as. If you are resorting to a protein shake, I recommend using an unflavored whey isolate powder, with a dash of cinnamon, mixed into water. Add to this some no sugar fiber supplement and you have a better start to the day than eating nothing. You still don’t have any carbohydrates though, like you would get from the beans. If you suffer from very low energy in the mornings, or if you’re craving bread, candies or baked goods at lunchtime, then you absolutely need to make time for breakfast with whole food. If you’re someone who can get by OK til lunch, then go with the whey drink routine, and check your results after 4 weeks.
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