I get asked a lot by clients about taking meal replacement shakes. The most common shakes I am asked about are Herbalife and Shakeology. The idea is that you replace at least one meal per day with these shakes, and eat two other balanced meals and healthy snacks for weight loss.
I get it. I get why products like shakes and Lean Cuisine are appealing. The portions are already measured out, so all you have to do is follow directions and at least one meal is already portioned out and taken care of. I have done this. I have taken Herbalife shakes. I have done SlimFast. I was on the Lean Cuisine bandwagon. I do not judge anyone who has tried this stuff, because I have tried it myself. I am not here to bash anyone’s decisions. I am simply adding some food for thought based on my experience and knowledge.
Despite having jumped on all of these fads, when I am asked I always advise against it. The problem with meal replacement shakes, is that it is not long term. Can you drink Herbalife for the rest of your life? Can you bring your blender with you on vacation, with your Herbalife tub and whatever other ingredients you want? No. Or maybe you can, but that seems like way too much work. If you do not have it with you, what are you going to eat? Are you going to go buck wild for the meal you would normally have there? Are you going to eat very little?
My goal, always, is for clients to be able to be successful on their own. When I can get to a point with a client that I can tell them “hey look, I love working with you and I am happy to still do so, but you don’t need me anymore.” I am happy. I have done my job. I want clients to have the tools to maintain their health and fitness throughout their life. That means no crash diets, and finding workouts that they love and can fit into their life, no matter what. Meal replacement shakes are not designed for that. They do not set you up for long-term success.
Beyond the fact that they are not a long-term solution, they also tend to be much lower calorie than I would prefer someone have for a meal. I can get onboard with a Shakeology protein shake post workout. Having a protein shake (or some form of protein) 30-60 minutes after your workout is smart on so many levels and will help you increase your metabolic potential. Many of the recipes offered with these shakes are about 200-300 calories. As a meal replacement, I personally would need more. If you are on a lower calorie diet, you could probably swing that.
One of my biggest gripes with meal replacement shakes (besides the lack of sustainability) is that, even though they did fill me up, I always lacked energy. In my opinion, the fast digestion of a blended shake, in conjunction with the lack of fats (a quick search of recipes shows many of the recipes with 30 or so grams of protein, 40 or so grams of carbs, and 0-1g of fat) is not balanced enough to sustain energy throughout a busy day. I admittedly felt lighter, and sometimes less bloated, but I always lacked energy until I had a real meal.
Since I want my clients to feel energized, and to have the tools for long-term success, I do not recommend for them to take meal replacement shakes. I do recommend they enjoy a protein shake 30-60 minutes after a workout to repair their muscles, so if they use Shakeology or Herbalife (or any other meal replacement shake) in that realm, I think it is extremely beneficial; however, taking a meal replacement shake in order to lose weight is not a long term solution. Eventually, you have to figure out how to eat that other meal. Instead, I try to help my clients see the value in food. What types of nutrients are they getting? This helps them to be able to eat in any setting: a controlled environment (home), out to eat, or even on vacation.
I see too many people who work so hard to reach their goals, missing out on going out to eat with their friends and family, just to eat like a lunatic on vacation and gain back all their weight because they struggle to get back to their habits. Balance is my goal 100% of the time – for my clients and me. That means reaching your goals while eating out and going on vacation. That means still having some level of responsibility for the food you consume, whether you are home or on vacation, without being overly restrictive in either environment. That means enjoying cake once in a while, without eating the whole cake because you had a taste. That means learning how to eat real meals and snacks, instead of relying on meal replacement shakes.