n today’s fast-paced era, a lot of people have started consuming meal replacement shakes. These beverages could offer a healthier alternative to regular meals. A lot of people who do not have enough time on hand to cook nutritious food, end up taking meal replacement shakes to ensure that they receive the important nutrients. These beverages have gained a great deal of popularity because of their many health benefiting properties. A lot of companies which make meal replacement shakes claim that these drinks can aid weight loss.
However, can drinking meal replacement shake truly help you lose weight? Here are the benefits of meal replacement shakes including its ability to promote weight loss:
What is a Meal Replacement Shake?
As the name suggests, a meal replacement shake is a type of beverage that can replace a full meal. These shakes are available in stores and can also be prepared at the comfort of the home. The preparation of meal replacement shakes is rather easy and convenient. The main idea of consuming this shake is to get nutrition and reduce the intake of calorie. A variety of food items like coconut water, chia seeds, banana, apples, soy milk, etc., can be used for preparing these shakes.
What are the Health Benefits of Meal Replacement Shakes?
Over the years, several clinical trials have been carried out to assess the health benefits of meal replacement shakes. While there are many ways in which these drinks can help you, here is a list of their key benefits that are worth knowing about:
1. Helps Manage Weight
Maintaining a healthy weight is essential for health. Numerous people all over the world are affected by weight-related problems like obesity. Being obese or overweight puts a person at high risk of developing a wide range of ailments. Some of the health problems that have been linked to obesity are heart-related diseases, diabetes, osteoarthritis, etc. Additionally, being overweight can have an adverse impact on one’s quality of life.
Using meal replacement shakes could help you lose the extra pounds. A study has found that high-protein liquid meal replacements could prove to be effective in reducing calorie intake and body weight. Seven volunteers participated in the study. Over the period of a few weeks, the experts studied the mechanism responsible for the reduced calorie intake in the participants. It was concluded that it was not the dietary composition of the meal replacement but the consumption of portion controlled meals that caused a reduction in calorie intake. The study suggests that just by substituting one meal per day with a meal replacement shake, a person could lose a significant amount of weight. 
A set of randomized controlled trials were also conducted to assess the safety and effectiveness of meal replacement strategy for long-term weight management. Some of the participants were given meal replacement shakes, while others who were overweight and obese had to follow a conventional reduced calorie diet plan. The evaluations took place after 3 months and again after a year. It was found that while both the groups of participants lost significant amounts of weight, the greater weight loss occurred in subjects who took meal replacement shakes instead of following a reduced calorie diet plan. The participants who took meal replacement shakes lost approximately 7-8% body weight and it was estimated that they lost around 2.54 kg within a span of 3 months. Thus, it was established that using meal replacement shakes could help a person safely and effectively lose weight. Additionally, meal replacement shakes were able to improve risk factors of certain types of diseases associated with excess weight.  Another open-label, clinical trial was conducted to evaluate the efficacy of a meal replacement beverage in inducing weight loss.
The subjects took meal replacement beverage daily instead of breakfast and lunch during the 12 weeks of the trial. The ones who completed the trial lost 13.8 pounds over 12 weeks and experienced significant improvements in their overall health. Improvements in physical functioning, cognitive restraint on eating, mental health and vitality were reported in the subjects. 
Meal replacement shakes can also be used as weight loss tools for individuals who suffer from severe mental illnesses. People with severe mental problems often take antipsychotic medications that are known to cause side effects like weight gain. A research study was conducted to check if meal replacement shakes could help these patients lose weight and improve their metabolic parameters. As per the findings, the inclusion of meal replacement shakes into a daily routine resulted in weight loss among patients who have a severe mental illness. 
2. Provides Important Nutrients
Meal replacement shakes are known to be homogeneous and provide one-third of the recommended dietary allowances for essential nutrients such as vitamins and minerals. On an average, meal replacement shakes contain 10-14g of protein, 3-8g of fat and 1-5g of fiber. 
Meal replacement shakes provide a reliable and healthy alternative to solid food. Plus, they are convenient and can be made in a short period of time. They often contain milk proteins (whey or casein), carbohydrate (maltodextrin or sugar), vitamins and minerals. These shakes are enriched with nutrients that are a beneficial and convenient addition to the diet. 
A lot of people consume a diet that lacks key vitamins and minerals. However, with the help of a meal replacement drink, one may get the required quantity of nutrients for the proper functioning of the organs. You could either purchase a reputable meal-replacement diet shake or make one at home to ensure that you are getting the right amount of vitamins and minerals.
3. Helps Promote the Feeling of Fullness
The feeling of fullness after a meal is known to suppress the desire to eat. The high-protein and low-fat composition of meal replacement shake enable it to promote the feeling of fullness.  Also, meal replacement shakes are an excellent source of fiber. This component of milkshakes gives a feeling of fullness that stays for a longer time. 
Experts believe that these foods, by promoting satiety-enhancing neuroendocrine feedback responses, could combat obesity effectively. Satiation is the feeling of fullness that can cause a significant reduction in appetite. Meal replacement shakes have been found to be effective in reducing appetite and imparting the feeling of fullness. 
4. Helps Control Portion Sizes
Portion control is known to play a crucial role in weight management. However, eating less is not the right approach to portion control. Instead, limiting portions of high-energy-dense food and increasing the proportion of low-energy foods in the diet could prove to be an effective strategy for managing body weight. This is where meal replacement shakes come into the picture. As meal replacement shakes are effective portion-controlled foods that could help limit energy intake and promote weight loss.  By including meal replacement shakes in the diet, you could replace a higher-calorie meal with nutritionally controlled, portion-controlled meal effectively. 
5. Helps Manage Blood Sugar Levels
Meal replacement shakes could also benefit people who have type 2 diabetes. This is a life-long condition that adversely affects the way in which a person’s body processes glucose. The treatment process of type 2 diabetes often involves weight management.
A randomized clinical trial was conducted to determine the safety and feasibility of meal replacement shakes in inducing weight loss in people suffering from both type 2 diabetes and obesity. The 12-week clinical trial involved 57 individuals who had type 2 diabetes. It was reported that none of the individuals who took liquid meal replacement developed any adverse side effect. As per the findings, meal replacement drinks were able to induce safe and effective weight loss. Also, it was found that the participants who took these drinks experienced an improvement in body weight, glucose, insulin, and lipid levels. 
Few more studies found that when it comes to controlling type 2 diabetes in obese patients, meal replacement programs can prove to be far more effective than conventional diets.  Furthermore, the high content of protein in meal replacement shakes helps to improve the blood glucose response in people who have type 2 diabetes. According to research involving 12 subjects with type 2 diabetes, a high-protein diet could lower blood glucose levels and also lead to an improvement in the overall glucose control. 
Best Types of Meal Replacement Shakes
The content of a meal replacement shake could make a huge difference in the quality of the product. That is the reason why you should know about the features of the best meal replacement shakes when buying or preparing them at home. A meal replacement shake is supposed to provide essential nutrients and promote the feeling of fullness until your next meal. Ideally, it should provide 400-600 calories. 
A majority of meal replacement shakes maintain the right balance of protein, fat, and carbohydrates. They contain a high quantity of protein and are low in fat. A few meal replacement drinks that boast of muscle-building property usually contain whey or casein protein. Even milk and egg-based ingredients as sources of protein are seen in these products. When it comes to fat, the best meal replacement shake would either contain healthy fats or essential fatty acids instead of saturated fats. You could look for ingredients like borage or flaxseed oil, as they are great sources of healthy fat.
Meal replacement shakes also contain soluble and insoluble fibers. They are either derived from grains, flaxseeds or psyllium. Lastly, it is essential for meal replacement shakes to contain just a modest amount of sweetener. If you plan on making meal replacement shakes at home, it is wise to use ingredients like rice syrup, fructose, cane juice, and fruit juice concentrate rather than refined sugar. 
Here are some of the combinations of plant-based proteins and healthy fats that you could add to your meal replacement smoothie:
- Chia seeds and coconut oil
- Plant-based protein powder and coconut oil
- Oats and almond butter
- Silken tofu and chia seeds 
Meal Replacement Shake Recipe
Though you can always buy meal replacement shakes from stores, if you prefer making them at home, here are some easy recipes you could try:
1. Green Banana Jungle Shake
This is a meal replacement smoothie that contains a high content of fiber and is packed with healthy nutrients like vitamins A and C and selenium. It also contains potassium, carbohydrates, vitamin B6, magnesium, manganese, calcium and riboflavin.
2 cups of chopped kale leaves
½ cup of plain soy milk
2 raw Brazil nuts
½ cup of coconut water
2 teaspoon of goji berries
½ cup of frozen mango chunks
1 frozen banana
1 tablespoon of unsweetened dried coconut flakes
½ cup of ice
Take the stated quantity of kale, coconut water and soy milk and put them in a blender. Blend the ingredients until you get the right texture. Next, add the rest of the ingredients to the blender and blend again to prepare the meal replacement smoothie.
2. Skinny Purple Berry
If you want to try a protein-rich and satisfying meal replacement shake, then the skinny purple berry recipe is worth trying. This meal replacement smoothie contains 357 calories, 10g fat, 48g carbohydrates, 21% iron, 8g fiber, 12% vitamin A, 26% calcium, and 52% vitamin C.
¾ cup of silken tofu
1 frozen banana
½ cup of vanilla soy milk
½ cup of fresh blackberries
A pinch of salt
¼ cup of ice
1 teaspoon of acai powder
Put all the ingredients in a blender. Then, blend by increasing the speed from low to high to get the smoothie ready. 
There is no denying the fact that meal replacement shakes possess multiple health benefits. However, factors like the quality of the meal replacement shake, its content and most importantly the overall health of the person consuming it plays a crucial role in determining the results. That is why it is highly recommended to consult a qualified dietician before including meal replacement shakes in your daily routine.
If you want to lose weight in a healthy and effective manner, then you could try meal replacement shakes. They promote the feeling of fullness, induce weight loss and encourage you to consume healthy portion sizes. So, go ahead and make these remarkable beverages a part of your routine to reap the rewards.