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Meal Replacement Shakes for Weight Loss: A Guide

Meal replacement shakes are meals in drinkable form that contain enough vitamins and nutrients to replace a traditional meal. They effectively aid in weight loss because they usually have the added bonuses of being much lower in calories than the equivalent meal and cut down on a lot of unwanted elements like sugar and fat. Many people also choose to use meal replacement shakes for the ease of preparation. In this way, a regular meal or two can be replaced with a shake to aid in weight loss.

Meal replacement shakes are becoming an increasingly popular way to effectively and conveniently lose weight. However, all the information and differing opinions out there can seem overwhelming when you’re just trying to get started. Don’t worry though, the actual concept of losing weight with meal replacement shakes is really quite simple. Here the bare bones of what you need to know when using meal replacement shakes for weight loss.

How to Use Meal Replacement Shakes for Weight Loss

blending shake

Just follow these basic steps to most effectively lose weight using meal replacement shakes:

  1. Start out by replacing one meal a day.

Everybody is different and some bodies may react adversely to a new diet. You don’t want to start out replacing two meals a day because the drastic decrease in caloric intake may cause you to experience temporary side effects like fatigue, mood swings, headaches, nausea, and bowel problems.

  1. Exercise!

To accelerate your weight loss, healthy exercise will help you burn even more calories and use up the protein that’s in your meal replacement shake. Additionally, regular exercise is a fantastic habit to keep with you to stay healthy even after you’ve lost the weight.

  1. Eat healthy meals.

Drinking a meal replacement shake does not mean you can eat junk food for the rest of your meals. The most important aspect of losing weight is to develop healthy habits that will help you keep the weight off in the future. Take this opportunity to learn more about what foods are good for you and how to cook them in healthy and delicious ways. Many meal replacement shakes will come with nutrition plans and recipes to try. Try them out!

  1. Eat a healthy snack in between meals.

If you feel hungry between meals, don’t be tempted to binge on potato chips or ice cream. Keep some healthy and tasty snacks on hand to avoid this situation. Try to keep your snacks to around 100 calories.

  1. Start replacing two meals a day (for accelerated weight loss.)

Once you’ve gotten used to replacing one meal a day with a meal replacement shake and you’re not experiencing any of the adverse side effects listed in step 1, you can start replacing two meals a day with a shake for accelerated weight loss.

  1. Drink plenty of water.

Everyone should be drinking a lot of water, whether you’re trying to lose weight or not. Water keeps us hydrated and flushes toxins, helping us to avoid a slew of health problems. A lot of people mistake dehydration for hunger and opt to consume more calories instead of drinking water. To avoid this mistake, be sure to drink eight to ten glasses of water a day. Drinking a glass of water after every meal replacement shake is a good idea. This will help to keep your caloric intake down, thus aiding you in your weight loss goals.

By following the above steps and choosing the right meal replacement shake for you, you should be able to effectively replace meals and lose weight.

How Do Meal Replacement Shakes Work?

chocolate shake


If you can understand the elements that work together in a meal replacement shake, losing weight with it makes a lot of sense.

Hunger Suppressant: The most effective meal replacement shakes contain a hunger suppressant to keep you feeling full for longer. This is an essential part of appetite control, which is the whole point of dieting to lose weight. If you feel hungry all the time, you are far more likely to give in to cravings and lose the battle of calorie restriction. Many meal replacement shakes contain a good dose of fiber, which helps you to feel full. The most effective meal replacement shakes will contain an additional hunger suppressant (like IdealShake with its powerful hunger blocker) to really keep you feeling full until your next meal.

Convenience: One of the hardest things about eating healthily and reducing calories is finding the time to shop for and prepare healthy meals. By the time you’ve finished calculating all the calories, prepping all the food, storing the rest, cooking, eating, and cleaning everything up, it’s almost time to start preparing for your next meal. This added work and stress is often too hard to maintain. Meal replacement shakes help to alleviate this stress by taking the work out of one or two of your meals. All you have to do is add the powder to your liquid, shake or blend it up, drink, then rinse out your bottle. It doesn’t get any more convenient than that.

Nutrition: A good meal replacement shake contains a good balance of protein, vitamins, and minerals, while having a low amount of fat, sugar, and calories. Many shakes provide 50% or more of your RDI (Recommended Daily Intake) per serving. The protein helps you build lean muscle with exercise, which in turn increases your metabolism, and the nutrients give you the nutrition you would get from an equivalent meal; often even more. The reduced calories help you lose weight, and the low fat and sugar content helps you lose fat.

Elements of a Meal Replacement Shake

Here’s a list of things to look for when searching for a good meal replacement shake:

  • Low sugar: Try to find a shake that has a small amount of sugar, like one gram of sugar per serving. Excessive sugar has a lot of undesirable side effects, including turning into fat and having addictive properties that will cause you to crave (and eventually, eat) more food. It’s already difficult enough to keep sugar intake down with sugar being present in almost every food we eat, so it’s extremely helpful when your meal replacement shake does some of the work for you.
  • Plenty of fiber: Choose a meal replacement shake that has at least 5 grams of fiber. It is recommended that women get 25 grams of fiber a day and men get 38, so the more fiber your meal replacement shake can offer, the better. Fiber is extremely helpful in any weight loss regimen because in addition to all of its other healthful properties, it slows down your digestion of food, helping you to feel full for longer.
  • A hunger suppressant: Not all meal replacement shakes are created equal; some don’t include a hunger suppressant while others do. This can be the difference between feeling hungry all the time or not. Fiber may help you feel full, but it is rarely enough to keep you going until your next meal. Hunger is one of the main reasons why people give in to cravings and are unable to see results. A good hunger suppressant, or hunger blocker, will be invaluable in helping you stay on track in maintaining your weight loss goals.
  • Protein: Women should have 12-20 grams of protein per shake and men should have 20-30 grams. It’s easy to add more protein to your meal replacement shake by blending in nuts or nut butters, milk, or protein powder. In addition to being satiating, protein is necessary for building and rebuilding muscle, tissue, and organs. Paired with healthy, regular exercise, protein is essential in building up your metabolism to help you keep the weight off in the future.
  • Fairly low calories: You won’t be able to lose weight unless you’re consuming fewer calories than you’re burning, so choose a meal replacement shake that will help you keep up with your calorie restriction. 120 calories or less per shake is a good ballpark. Another reason you want the calorie count to be low is so you still have room to blend in some yummy and healthy mix-ins, like fresh fruit and vegetables, nuts, and/or different milks and juices. While meal replacement shakes are designed to be drinkable with just water, having the option of adding mix-ins will add variety and enjoyability, not to mention all the great phytonutrients you’d get from the fresh fruit and veggies.
  • Good flavor: Some meal replacement shakes are definitely tastier than others. It will be too difficult to maintain your weight loss if you can’t stomach the flavor of your shake. For starters, you can read the reviews on different brands of meal replacement shakes to see how most people like (or don’t like) the flavors. is a good resource for some flavor opinions. Additionally, some brands like IdealShake will give you your money back if you don’t like their product.

Additional Tips for Using Meal Replacement Shakes

woman drinking shake

  • Do:

      • Have a shaker bottle and a blender. They aren’t absolutely necessary but are really convenient to have. A shaker bottle has an airtight cap and a wire whisking device inside of it to quickly blend your shake powder into your liquid on the go. You don’t need the whisk, but without it you may end up with little clumps of powder and a shake that’s not as smooth. A bottle enables you to take your meal replacement shake with you anywhere. A blender, while not as portable as a bottle, will also help blend up your shake into a nice, smooth texture, as well as allow you to add different mix-ins for variety.
      • Know that you can control the size of your shake to fit your nutritional needs. As with any other food, the nutrition facts you see on meal replacement shakes are usually based on a 2,000 calorie diet (it may specify other diets as well,) which is applicable to most people. However, it’s up to you to know what your specific diet plan is and to make the necessary adjustments to fit that plan.
  • Don’t:

    • Replace all of your meals with a shake. Two meal replacement shakes per day is the maximum recommended amount and sufficient for your weight loss needs, and it’s only until you have reached your weight loss goal. You still need to learn how to choose and eat healthy meals for your other meals as an important lifestyle change.
    • Eat junk food for the rest of your meals. Using meal replacement shakes is no excuse to pig out, not to mention wiping out your hard-earned calorie deficit with a greasy, fatty meal is counterproductive to your weight loss goals and not worth it!

So, Are Meal Replacement Shakes for You?

Yes, people are consistently losing weight by replacing some of their meals with meal replacement shakes, so we know they work. They are especially effective if you’re trying to lose weight but don’t have the time to prepare healthy meals several times a day. A good meal replacement shake with a hunger blocker will also prevent you from feeling the hunger you would feel if you were simply cutting back on calories. Additionally, meal replacement shakes are a good supplement if you’re having trouble getting a good balance of nutrition every day. Just make sure you find one that offers a good balance of proteins, fats, carbs, and other nutrients.

Maybe not, if you enjoy cooking your own meals and have the time to do it, and if the thought of a drinkable meal is not appealing to you. Also, if you have any specific diet restrictions, you will definitely need to check those out first, although it may be notable that many meal replacement shakes are gluten-free, and you can even find some that are soy-free, dairy-free, and vegan.

My hope is that with this summary of how to use meal replacement shakes for weight loss, it is no longer a vague and intimidating subject for you. Now it’s up to you to decide if this is how you want to jump start your weight loss and figure out which shake you want to go with. This should be enough information to help you know what to look for in a good replacement shake. For all your other fitness questions and goals, be sure to peruse Ask Fitness Coach to see all the great ways out there to stay fit and healthy.

IdealShake meal replacement shake


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