Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Are Meal Replacements Really That Bad?

OK, i decided to tackle this topic because i have been reading some fitness blogs and other sites and the general consensus about meal replacement are that it is considered cheating, its for whimps etc etc. In short, most people have a very negative view with regards to using meal replacement shakes as a mode of weight loss. Now i used to feel the same way too until some time back i spoke to one of my clients and we decided to give meal replacements a try and it worked wonders for her... of course this is in addition to an exercise routine which i coached her on. So the big question is, are meal replacements really that bad? Is it really considered cheating? Well here is my opinion on it.

Meal Replacement are basically low calorie shakes which is consumed in place of a normal meal. So instead of eating your usual meal, you replace your meal with this low calorie shake. They usually taste very good and have anywhere from 80 to 100 calories... which is pretty low for a meal. It is also usually pretty thick and this is important as it needs to be able to fill you up. If its watery, then you are less likely to get full on it and will feel hungry and probably munch on other things because you feel hungry. Also, its important to note that most meal replacement products are still designed to give you all the nutrients you need from a normal meal, but just without the heavy calorie baggage. So all in all its actually a good product and i don't see any harm in people using this to lose weight.

Lets look at some of the arguments that usually arise with regards to this and my opinion on these.

Its Cheating
When it comes to weight loss, there are hundreds of products out there which promise weight loss without effort. From slimming centers to brain surgery to the swallowing worms, you name it some one has thought of it and is already marketing it. Hence even with Meal Replacements, its considered that you are taking the easy way out. This is true, its an easy way out, but if there are no harmful side effects, then whats wrong with it? Let me put it in a different way. If you are looking to build muscle mass, chances are you are consuming some kind of protein shake to ensure you get enough protein in your system. Isn't a protein shake cheating as well? Shouldn't you just tough it out and eat boiled chicken breasts and egg whites to get all the protein you need? The reason you drink the protein shake, is because you are not able to diligently eat that much protein. Hence you supplement it with a protein shake which is convenient. Same goes for taking vitamin supplements? We take it because we know our diet really lacks these minerals and hence why why do it. Same goes for meal replacement shakes. Its just a convenient way for people to ensure they don't over eat.

Its for whimps
OK, usually this comment is followed by because people don't want to exercise and depend on the meal replacement shakes all the way. Personally for me, i don't think anyone should replace all their meals with meal replacements. what i usually recommend is that you swap one meal per day with a meal replacement shake... ideally its the meal which you know you cannot control and will end up overeating. I am aware of some people who sell meal replacements tell you to drink ONLY the shake and nothing else 3 times a day and this is because your shake will finish faster and you will have to buy more and that person makes more profit from you. This is not effective because how long can you honestly go on without eating solid food? a week, maybe 2? then what? This is why i recommend exercise along with swapping of maybe one meal with the shake and the results i have seen are pretty good. And i know its healthy and safe, because it is only one meal a day. So yes, i agree with the rest that consuming this 100% is not the way to go, but at the same time, i think don't think it should be completely thrown out your plan.

Its Expensive
Yes it is expensive but so are protein shakes. My point is, if people are willing to spend that little extra to see better results, why not. Why should we stop them from this? I am not saying that meal replacements are mandatory for weight loss, but if you can afford it, why not? The usual comparison made here by others are that people are willing to spend so much money on these products rather than just jog outside for free. Point taken... but again, i like using meal replacements as a method to turbo boost your weight loss progress. If its works and its safe, why not? Again, not all your meals, just one meal a day.

So would i recommend meal replacements to people who want to lose weight? Absolutely. Would i recommend it with exercise... YES. Would i recommend meal replacements with no exercise? NO, but then you must understand that everyone has their own ideas and a hard headed sometimes. You can tell them what you want, but its up to them to decide after that. Honestly, just drinking meal replacements with no exercise is still better than no exercise and no meal replacement and just maintaining the status quo and continue being overwieght. Which do you think is healthier? So again... if it works and its safe, why not.

What do you guys think of meal replacements? YES or NO in your books? Do share your comments and as usual, look forward to hearing your comments.


ian yusof said...

Yes, especially Positrim. It's extremely delicious and very filling. Very important for a busy people like me, who always have meal on the go .... but of course, if you have time to prepare and have a balance meal, that's the best. Often times, we are are all caught up with very little time for ourselves, so meal replacemnet especially from trusted manufacturers are next best thing to have.

KevL said...

I really like this entry as you made some very good points and reasoning.

I particularly like this:

"Isn't a protein shake cheating as well? Shouldn't you just tough it out and eat boiled chicken breasts and egg whites to get all the protein you need?"

That statement basically pwned everyone out there who takes protein shakes but talks about just how bad meal replacement drinks are. And that also goes the same for the other point which you talked about vitamin supplements.

"I am aware of some people who sell meal replacements tell you to drink ONLY the shake and nothing else 3 times a day.."

This is also very true, as the perception that direct sellers project nowadays really give a brand or product a really bad name. And to top it off, some products do *not* work at all. It's no wonder that people have gotten so cautious about these things that they start to stereotype.

One bad apple spoils the rest in a basket as the saying goes.

Rajan said...

Ian: You hit the nail on the head. Its important to choose a meal replacement shake from a trusted manufacturer. Yup, balanced meal is still the best, but when you can't, meal replacement is still better than nasi lemak bungkus.

KevL: Thanks dude. Yeah.. i see so many people putting down meal replacements, yet they drink protein shakes like water. So if they can, why not those who are overweight as well? fair comparison if you ask me.

Yeah... those people who oversell products should be shot. Its just not ethical.

anfield devotee said...

Does beer count as a food substitute . . . ?

Rajan said...

AD: Hahahahaha.... for you can lah

ben_everhealth said...

just my 2 cents worth. some MLM companies (herbalife, etc) are well known for pushing meal replacement for weight loss and no exercise...

but yeah, if you're really busy then a meal replacement powder is better than fast food or even nasi campur (recycled oil, etc)...

Rajan said...

Ben_everhealth: Yeah i agree with you. Some MLMs do over push their products as the only way to lose weight. The problem is not the products, but the people who are pushing the products. The sad part is, MLM memberships are open to anyone who wants to make money. Many of these people who join MLMs obviously have little or no knowledge on weight loss and all they know how to do is sell to make money. So any joe on the street who has enough money to pay the membership now has the right to sell weight loss products.

Christina said...

It depends on the product. I am a traveler i can't have food at time. My doctor advised me to go for Meal Bars. I have been suggested to idealshapes.com. IT WORKS WELL!

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