Weight loss shakes are often presented to dieters as an escape from the confusing and tedious world of calorie counting and workout tracking. Just chug one shake instead of eating a normal meal, and the weight will magically fall off, right? Well, not so fast…
Weight loss shakes are often sought out by people with a big weight loss goal, and a short time frame. In the lead up to a holiday, a wedding, or a class reunion, people are often wrapped up in the planning of that event, and don’t feel they have the time for slow, sensible weight loss. So they began drinking these shakes – but do they actually work?
The answer to that is complicated, so let’s break it down and look at some reasons why the marketing behind weight loss shakes can be very deceptive.
Losing Water Weight Isn’t a Long-Term Fix
When a person with no particular eating plan suddenly begins a diet, their body responds by dropping weight very rapidly, especially in the first two weeks. This is the “hook” that gets consumers to believe the hype about effortless weight loss thanks to a chocolate shake.
There’s just one problem: that early weight loss is almost always water weight. It’s your body letting go of bloat and retained fluids, rather than any actual fat loss. The sneaky thing about water weight is that you can put it back on just as easily as you lost it. Ask anyone who’s ever lost ten pounds in preparation for a holiday, and put all ten back on by the time they came home.
The Threat of Muscle Wastage (And The Weight Gain That Follows)
So, you swapped out that juicy lunchtime burger in favor of a weight loss shake, and now the numbers on the scale are heading in the right direction – but are you losing the right kind of weight?
Weight loss shake diet plans often recommend that you replace up to two whole meals with these drinks. These shakes are often very low calorie: sometimes fewer than 200 per drink. When your body experiences a sudden and drastic reduction of calorie intake, it can begin behaving in strange ways.
Your body does not always default to burning fat, and if you’re not carefully monitoring to ensure you’re getting adequate calories and protein, your body will begin looking for them elsewhere. Namely, your muscle tissue.
Once your body is burning muscle, it’s in full-blown starvation mode. Any extra calories you sneak in from this point on will immediately be converted to fat, and stored as emergency reserves by your very confused system.
Some Have Unhealthy Ingredients
You might have noticed the tendency for weight loss shakes to come in flavors like “decadent chocolate,” “strawberry shortcake,” or “crème brûlée.” What do all of these flavors have in common? They’re more likely to be found on the dessert menu than anywhere else.
You don’t get flavors like that without adding in some potentially unhealthy ingredients. The two biggest culprits are sugar, and artificial sweeteners. Added sugar completely defeats the purpose of a weight loss shake, and artificial sweeteners can still wreak havoc on your insulin levels. Careful label reading is always recommended.
The Restrict/Binge Cycle is Real
The weight loss shake diet plan usually goes like this: one shake for breakfast, one for lunch, and a sensible dinner topping out somewhere between 500 and 600 calories. That might sound reasonable until you do the math and realize that you will be taking in just 900 to 1,000 calories a day. In some cases, that may be less than half of what you actually need.
Extreme calorie restriction leads to intense cravings that get harder and harder to ignore as you continue to starve yourself. This usually leads to a binge, where you finally give in to all of your cravings at once, and wind up consuming thousands of calories in a single sitting.
And what happens after that? Well you feel terribly guilty, of course. Time to begin extreme restricting again to make up for what you just did.
This is a cycle that many people can find themselves stuck in for years, and it is massively unhealthy. Weight loss shakes can sometimes be the biggest culprits behind this behavior.
This Eating Plan is Not Sustainable
An important question to ask yourself when setting out on a new eating plan is: “Can I see myself still eating like this a year from now?” If the answer is “no way,” then your diet is not sustainable – and speaking candidly, nobody wants to be on liquid meal replacements for a year anyway.
It’s much healthier to have a more realistic approach to weight loss. You are going to be invited out to lunch or dinner, and you are going to have days where you aren’t able to prepare your meals at home. Might as well set yourself up for success in these situations, rather than failure. Teach yourself to make healthy choices more often than unhealthy ones, exercise more than you’re exercising right now, and create a reasonable calorie deficit so that you can lose weight slowly and effectively.
It’s much healthier for you, and the results are much more likely to last.