It seems like hardly a week goes by that I am not approached by someone that “thought of me” and wants to share this incredible new discovery they have made. Since I own a fitness business, their discovery typically involves some type of meal replacement shake…. and an “opportunity” to make money, while doing good for others.
Without naming names, I’m sure that you’re familiar with the company that has been making a massive marketing push in North America in the past year, issuing people a challenge to get themselves fit, lean and healthy in 90 days. The premise is that they have created a superior product to other meal replacements or shakes (they have not) and that if you are trying to lose weight, you would be better off drinking their product twice per day instead of eating real food. Over the 90 days, you’ll lose weight, feel great…. and hopefully inspire your friends and relatives to join you by starting their own journey.
So… is it a good idea to stop eating and start drinking?
As a professional in the Health and Fitness industry with over 20 years experience, I would have to say absolutely not. In guiding people to develop better nutrition habits that are supportive of metabolism, I always teach that “real” food is best. The idea that a shake is “better” than a chicken breast, broccoli and a sweet potato is ridiculous. The role of any supplement (like a shake) is to SUPPLEMENT your eating habits. A meal replacement shake can be a useful tool for those times when you just can’t get to a meal, but it shouldn’t be used ongoing as the meal in and of itself. You can’t fix bad eating habits with supplements, no matter what any marketer will tell you.
Weight loss as a result of drinking instead of eating is a result of cutting calories and reducing carbohydrates. There is no magic formula. The shakes do not “burn fat”, nor do they “build muscle” as the marketing materials will tell you. If you replaced your meals twice per day with 300 calories of chocolate milk you would also lose weight.
Cutting calories (and carbs) for short term weight loss does work. BUT, it always leads to weight being re-gained (as metabolism slows to protect your body) and causes what many refer to as the yo-yo dieting phenomenon. The weight that you lose by drastically cutting calories will include some lean muscle tissue (the source of an efficient metabolism). When this happens, you will hit a plateau where you can’t seem to lose any more weight and then start to actually re-gain what you have lost. The problem is that, while you lost lean mass, you regain what you’ve lost as fat. You’ll find yourself back where you started… but with MORE body fat and a slower metabolism.
The bottom line is that if you base your health and fitness success purely on pounds lost, you will be disappointed at some point. And you’ll be susceptible to any claim or product that tells you that they have the magic to get you there.
Speed your metabolism by learning to EAT a mix of protein and complex carbohydrates frequently throughout the day, build your muscles (the source of your metabolism) and exercise aerobically for a stronger heart and lungs. When you can’t get to a real meal, use a shake.
That’s it. THAT’S the magic.
If it seems to be too good to be true, it is.
Ernie Schramayr– Owner All Canadian Fitness