Meal prepping can help you stay healthy by eating fresh ingredients without having to resort to fast food.
When you have meals ready ahead of time, it can help you eat the right amount and meet your nutrition goals. This means you won't grab unhealthy frozen meals or order takeout, especially when you're really tired or stressed.
Interestingly, many people are turning to meal replacements to manage their weight and supply their bodies with all the necessary nutrients.
In this article, we will briefly define meal replacement and see how it can help you with weight management.
What is meal replacement?
A meal replacement refers to substituting solid foods with a drink, bar, or soup. The previous elements contain controlled qualities of macronutrients, micronutrients, and calories. The most classic form of a meal placement is pre-mixed shakes, which are typically cheaper and provide similar health effects.
You can even get a medically prescribed meal replacement to replenish your stores of vitamins and minerals.
Meal replacement – What are its forms?
There are primarily two forms of meal replacement:
- Synthetic meal replacements
- Real food meal replacements
Synthetic meals consist of artificial products that supply your body with macronutrients, vitamins, minerals, calories, and other nutrients. They may also contain artificial sweeteners.
Conversely, real food meal replacements contain natural ingredients, making the food more nutritious. You can find this form in blended powders, which you can mix with water or milk to create an easy-to-drink shake.
What are the most common ingredients used in meal replacement?
Because the goal of meal replacements is to supply your body with every nutrient it needs, you will find the following ingredients in these formulas:
Carbohydrates – It goes without saying that carbs are the most important macro in your diet. Your cells convert carbs to ATP, which is like gas for your car. As for complex carbs (i.e., fiber), they optimize digestion and gut flora composition. This is why meal replacement manufacturers focus on supplying their products with simple and complex carbs.
Proteins – Proteins are indispensable macronutrients that interfere in enzymatic activity, building new tissues, synthesizing hormones, and more.
Healthy fats – You can find saturated and unsaturated (e.g., omega-3 fatty acids) in meal replacements. Despite the bad reputation of fats, they protect your cells, produce energy, serve as a precursor for many hormones, and aid in the absorption of fat-soluble nutrients.
Vitamins and minerals – While macronutrients are indispensable, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants are also very important. Every vitamin and mineral mediates a certain biological reaction.
Enough calories – Since meal replacements’ entire purpose is to replace your – well, meals, it makes sense that they need to contain enough calories to provide you with the energy you need. Generally speaking, meal replacement products contain between 200 and 250 calories per serving.
What are the purposes the meal replacement?
The main purpose of meal replacements is to supply your body with the macros and micronutrients it needs when you are super busy to have a proper meal.
Aside from this, meal replacements improve your digestion and prevent bloating as well as constipation. They may also lower your risk of certain chronic illnesses, such as type II diabetes, high blood pressure, and dyslipidemia.
How can meal replacement help in weight loss?
Meal replacement shakes can help you lose weight in a variety of ways. First, meal replacement products tend to have fewer calories than your body needs. Of course, they won’t make you starve but will help you lose a few pounds.
Second, the high protein content in these products will make you feel satiated, placing you in a state of caloric deficit. You see, protein intake stimulates the release of GLP-1, CCK, and PYY, which are appetite suppressors. At the same time, they reduce the secretion of ghrelin, which is the hunger hormone.
Over time, you will start to lose weight without having to sacrifice your muscle mass.
The combination of these two mechanisms promotes weight loss, and we have the science to prove it!
In a 2018 study, researchers recruited 200 people who took meal replacement products regularly and adopted weight loss programs. In the long term, participants reported that meal replacement products helped them adhere to their weight loss programs due to the simple structure and convenience of the nutrition plan.
Concerns about meal replacement
May contain unhealthy ingredients
Meal replacement shakes vary greatly in quality. Although some focus on nutritious ingredients, others are loaded with added sugars and artificial preservatives. Therefore, it’s important to read the label carefully before you make a purchase. Prioritize the products that contain high levels of protein but low in sugar.
Only offer a temporary solution
Despite the convenience and amount of nutrients found in meal replacement, it cannot replace a rich diet that consists of whole foods. Essential elements found in natural foods, such as antioxidants and plant enzymes, are hard to find in a shake.
May not be suitable for people with unhealthy eating habits
Meal replacement shakes don't inherently improve unhealthy eating patterns. Effective and long-term weight loss mainly relies on sustained lifestyle modifications instead of temporary dietary substitutions. If you don’t address the root causes of poor eating habits, the weight lost through meal replacement might easily return once the shakes are no longer used.
Meal replacement offers a practical and efficient way to take control of your nutrition and simplify your daily routine. By strategically planning and taking your meals, you can overcome the challenges of busy schedules and make healthier eating choices. These convenient options can be particularly useful on busy days when cooking or eating a traditional meal is challenging.
With that said, meal replacement shakes may not be suitable for everyone, especially those with eating disorders. Additionally, they are not sustainable solutions and cannot be adopted for a long time.
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