Meal replacements have become a big business over the last decade. Highly touted by weight loss companies, there has been an influx on the shelves and in our lives of a variety of brands, styles, and types of products all designed to replace standard meals. But are they good for you? Should you use these meal replacement foodstuffs? If you do use them, how often should they be included as part of a healthy diet?
Let’s dive right in and get to the bottom of this hot topic!
About Meal Replacements
Basically these handy items were made in response to our fast paced world where people don’t have the time for good, sit-down food all the time. As a great alternative to fast food and other unhealthy snacks, meal replacements come as shakes, bars, and powder that can be mixed in with juice, water, milk, and other things.
Usually these meals are meant to fill two specific needs. Most common is the weight loss options for people that are looking for healthy alternatives when they get hungry. The benefit here is a fixed portion and sometimes an included appetite suppressant. The other type is for weight gaining, which is usually for athletes and bodybuilders who are looking to add muscle and size. Again the portions are fixed and ensure you get sufficient protein as well as other nutrients.
But, not all quick meals are created equally. Some are going to have a lot of sugar and high calories; basically like eating a candy bar. You need to read labels very carefully to see exactly what you are getting in regards to ingredients as well as nutrition.
Better than food?
Meal replacements are not meant to be used instead of food. Yes, you can gain valuable nutrients from them but there are better options in getting raw foodstuffs into our bodies that are full of vitamins, minerals, and are easily digestible. While they can be a good addition to a healthy diet, meal replacements should never be used as a basis for a balanced diet. All health experts agree that they are more of a tool that should only be added in one to two times per day. For people who exercise regularly, using a post workout shake as a meal replacement is often a good idea to get need nutrients into the body in a way that they can quickly be absorbed.
But people who try to use these replacements as a basis for a diet are going to face the same types of issues as people who only use processed meals; an imbalance of raw ingredients. Meal replacements haven’t been around long enough for long term studies to provide factual feedback, but in general processed foods and laboratory created products can be difficult for some people to stomach on a constant basis.
Are they right for you?
If you are looking to add muscle or lose fat then you can’t go wrong with meal replacements as a supplement to your diet. They make a quick and easy snack for those times when you are too busy to whip something up. But I wouldn’t rely on them.