Martin, Ryan

Do Meal Replacements Improve Weight Loss?
When people turn to dieting, some people will take on strenuous diets that deprive the body, and end up doing more harm than good in the long term. Diet trends are not new neither. Anytime a report, whether it be scientifically or not, people flock to the diet in an attempt to lose a drastic amount of weight. However, meal replacements are not some new fadf diet. They have been around for years, and many have proclaimed them as an effective way to lose weight temporarily. I will examine what exactly a meal replacement is, different types of meal replacements, content of meal replacements, pros of meal replacements, and finally, cons of meal replacements.

What is a Meal Replacement?
meal replacement shakes pic.jpg

A meal replacement can come in many different shapes & sizes. A meal replacement can be a smoothie or shake, a nutrition bar, frozen meal, or snack bar that are high in calories and nutritional material. Slimfast, Special K, and Lean Cuisine are some examples of meal replacements that are popular choices for consumers. They all offer a meal's worth of nutrition in either a cereal, bar, snack, or frozen meal. They can be great options for some people that are looking to lose weight, especially since they are formulated with dieters in mind.

Meal replacements can be a substitution for one single meal a day, or the can be a substitute for multiple meals, but it really depends on how much weight loss is desired.

What Types of Meal Replacements are Available?
Slimfast, Special K, and Lean Cuisine are three of the top players in the meal replacement industry. Slimfast offers protein bars, snack bars, and protein shakes. Their products are aimed to work in conjunction with their diet plan. Slimfast suggests eating one balanced, 500 calorie meal once per day, and substituting other meals with their line of products. If followed properly, their plan will cut out excess intake of energy, and really only provide that which your body needs.

Special K offers a multitude of meal replacements. They have cereals, bars, treats, crackers, frozen meals, and protein shakes. I personally think Special K is a great resource for people looking to try meal replacements, but not trying to go too far with it. They have a ton of different options, which is really important if you're going to be cutting out calories and meals. Special K is once again aimed solely at those looking to lose weight, so it is a great option for people worried about which products would benefit them best.

Lean Cuisine is the only meal replacement maker that only makes frozen entrees. Their meals are great tasting meals, except that they are regulated to have a limited amount of calories, in addition to having proper amounts of nutrition. Lean Cuisines are the most user-friendly meal replacement of the three I am examining, in my opinion. While they are meant for people trying to lose weight, they also can be used for anybody looking for a quick and easy meal to make at home. The flexibility Lean Cuisine offers is really an excellent choice for a meal replacement. There are so many options to choose from, and they truly are available in almost every grocery chain nationwide.

slimfast.jpgspecial K.jpgLeancuisinelogo.png

Content of Meal Replacements

Each meal replacement differs from the next in make-up. It really depends on each product when examining what goes into it. However, generally speaking, meal replacements should be made up of complex carbohydrates, some fat, and a lot of protein. It is important to fuel your body with energy that will last long term, especially when you cut down your meals and intake. Simple sugars simply will not cut it with a meal replacement diet. They will give a quick burst of energy, followed by a crash. The exact opposite type of energy you need when cutting back on meals.

Meal replacements should also contain about 1/3 of your daily nutrients and vitamins, since they still count as a meal when measuring your RDA of vitamins. Just because you are eating less frequently, does not mean that you need to consume any less of your vitamins. That is really important to remember when starting a meal replacement diet. Each meal replacement should also contain about 10-15 grams of protein, and even more if you are eating less than 3 meals per day.

Pros & Cons of Meal Replacements

One of the biggest pros of meal replacements is that they effectively curb calories and contribute to weight loss. Also, when taking on a diet, the mindset that comes with that can motivate dieters to exercise more frequently. Another pro to meal replacements is that they tend to make users become more conscious as to what they are feeding their bodies with because the dieters really have to plan out their meals. The final pro I will mention is that even though users will gradually consume less calories, their bodies adjust to the smaller meals and caloric intake and you do not experience symptoms of fatigue.

Probably the biggest con of meal replacements is that they can quickly turn into simply a temporary fix. When you follow the regimen closely and monitor you intake, it is easy to lose weight. When your desired weight is achieved, utilizing meal replacements is not really ideal. Once you stop using meal replacements, it can be very very difficult to regulate your caloric intake all of a sudden. You go from having everything planned out, to being able to make many more choices on what you want to eat when you want to eat it. Another con to meal replacements is the unknown effect it possibly could have on your body. Starting a diet is a serious matter, and consulting a doctor is imperative. You never want to cut something out of your diet when your body is craving it. Since all of our bodies are built differently, it is important to respect your body and listen to what it is telling you.

In conclusion, meal replacements are a great option for people looking to lose a moderate amount of weight without altering your diet too drastically. Obviously exercise is important to any diet, but going on a meal replacement diet is all about regulating your caloric intake and being cautious as to what you put in your body. There are, luckily, many different options for meal replacement dieters looking for variety. From Special K, Lean Cuisine, and Slim Fast, there are several different outlets to find the right meal replacement for your body. Meal replacements are great because they typically contain about 1/3 of your RDA of vitamins and nutrients, as well as giving you energy that will last you throughout the day, without over generating energy that will end up being stored as fat. Overall, I see meal replacements as a viable option for people looking to lose 5 pounds, or even 30 pounds. The regulation and control that comes with this type of diet is truly wonderful. It helps control which things go into your body, and helps to eliminate all the excess calories and simple sugars that would come from day-to-day life.

Kulovitz, M, Kravitz, L. Do Meal Replacements Deliver Results? . 2012. Available at: Accessed June 21, 2014.

Weight management using a meal replacement strategy. National Center for Biotechnology Information. 2003. Available at: Accessed June 20, 2014.

Coleman, E. Is Ensure Meal Replacement for Weight Loss or for Weight Gain?. LIVESTRONGCOM. 2013. Available at: Accessed June 20, 2014.

Clinical Studies: Meal Replacements For Weight Loss. Clinical Studies: Meal Replacements For Weight Loss. Available at: Accessed June 21, 2014.

Zangwill, M. Home Page. NYU Langone Medical Center. 2012. Available at: Accessed June 20, 2014.