Meal Replacement Shakes for Weight Loss

With more and more Americans fighting the battle of the bulge, people are spending huge amounts of money in an effort to lose weight. Last year people spent approximately 60 billion dollars trying to shed those unwanted pounds. But what really works? Clearly not everything works, since 68 percent of American adults are overweight or obese. If all the stuff they were selling out there worked, more people would be skinny. In the next few weeks in a series of articles we will look at what’s hot in the world of weight loss. We will explore new trends, old standbys and the latest breakthroughs from the scientific world. But more importantly we will look at what works and what doesn’t.

Meal Replacement Shakes: Are They Effective for Weight Loss?

I get asked this question a lot, my answer is, yes…no…kind of. Now that we’ve made that crystal clear let’s talk a little bit about meal replacement shakes and why they have me so conflicted.  Meal replacement shakes are really hot right now especially among the MLM (multi level marketing) crowd. You probably have a friend, relative or co worker who has talked with you about one of these products. The idea is you replace one or two meals a day with a special shake made from a powder that has been specially formulated to be nutritious and low in calories. These products come in a variety of flavors and can be mixed with fruit or other ingredients to create a pretty tasty drink. You can get these shakes from various manufacturers like Slim Fast, Atkins, Maximuscle, Visalus and Herbalife.  I personally have used these shakes with clients and had great success at getting people to lose significant amounts of weight in a fairly short period of time. So what’s the problem?

I have two major problems with these products. The first one is it usually takes about fifteen minutes to read the list of ingredients and you would have to have an advanced degree in chemistry to know what the heck you are drinking. I’m a big fan of real food: You know the stuff Mother Nature made–not some chemist in a lab– and the shakes I’ve come across aren’t anywhere close to being real food. My second problem is, while I have had loads of people lose weight by drinking these meal replacement shakes I’ve never had anyone keep the weight off. Everyone has always regained the weight they lost as soon as they stopped drinking the shakes. Now if you’re like one of my celebrity clients who needs to lose weight for their next film or red carpet appearance, or your gearing up for your 20 year class reunion and want to look your best for the big event, this can be a great short-term option. Add some strength training and intense cardio exercise to the meal replacement equation and you can really get some pretty amazing results. But if you are looking to get slim and stay slim this is probably not the best choice, unless of course you think you can drink these shakes for the rest of your life.  And, given the number of chemicals and preservatives that make up the ingredients in the shakes that may not be a very prudent move for your overall health and wellbeing.

KentHeadshotModifiedKent Burden is the creator of the “Workout at Work” e-book series. The first two books in the series are “Workout at Work: 25 Upper Body Strength Exercises with Resistance Bands to do at Your Desk,” and “Workout at Work: 25 Lower Body Strength Exercises to do at Your Desk.” Other recent books include “Exercise Sucks! The Secret to Losing Weight Without Really Trying” and “Is Your Chair Killing You?” All of Kent’s books are available at