Don’t “Shake” it for Weight Loss: Eat Meals, Not Meal Replacements

I was at the gym the other day and noticed an advertisement for a local group of nutritionists in the area.  With a closer look, I see they specialize in something called “Shakeology”, which I am presuming to be some kind of meal replacement shake that is full of vitamins, minerals, etc… to help you lose weight.  A little while later, I notice a trainer with a big tupperware-like beverage holder that reads “Shakeology”…sort of sounds like some crazy religion to me.

Many people, in an attempt to lose weight, revert to the idea that starvation is best.  However, if they want to be healthy in their starvation efforts, they think that if they drink their meals full of supplements they can starve themselves for weight loss, but still get their nutrients.  Hmmm…

Well, plain and simple, this is a bad idea.  First off, anyone who tells me they fill up (or feel satiety) from drinking rather than eating is full of something other than satiety (maybe delusional from being so hungry).  Drinks don’t fill people up for more than about 20 minutes.  Physiologically speaking, they can’t.

When you eat, a few processes take place.  First off, the food, in it’s whole form, is not digestible.  The body uses all kinds of enzymes to breakdown the food, so that the molecules are small enough to pass through tissue, and be digested.  The longer this process takes, the longer we feel full.  Meals that are high in fat, take a long time to digest, which is why we feel so full after a high-fat meal.  However, beverages (including pureed drinks and juices) have already been broken down for us, mechanically.  So when they enter our bodies, it’s like half the work has already been done which causes two negative side effects.  One, we don’t feel all that full (except for the temporary fullness from putting liquid in our stomach for a little while), which just prolongs our hunger even more.  Second, because our bodies aren’t doing all the mechanical work of digesting food, we are not burning as many calories.

Let’s talk about the first point.  Any dieters doom is hunger.  No one likes to be hungry.  The body doesn’t like to be hungry.  And the more you let yourself be hungry, the more you’ll make up for it later by binging (the body’s natural reaction to starvation).  It is much better to maintain satiety, never over-eating, but eating enough so that you don’t deprive the body of it’s needs, so you don’t binge on donuts at 4 pm.  Letting yourself go hungry is a great way to not lose weight, for the long-term.

Second point, of all the calories we burn in a day, about 10% of those calories are burned digesting foods (we call this the thermic effect of food).  We need to use energy to digest food.  When we consume our calories through beverages, there isn’t as much digestive work that the body needs to do, and therefore, we burn less calories per day.  To put some numeric value to this, if you’re  normal metabolism requires 2000 calories a day for maintaining weight, you burn about 200 calories a day simply digesting your food.  That’s equivalent to a 20 minute jog!

Remember, the best way to lose weight is to eat nutritious foods and get plenty of exercise.  Optimize metabolism, don’t slow it down (age will slow it down for you!).  Starvation and diet drinks aren’t the answer.

About Kimberly Dawson, M.S.

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