Time is a luxury that most can’t afford, especially when it comes to cooking meals. When you are pressed for time or when life gets busy, it’s easy to fall off the keto diet. Reaching for the biscuits or making a PBJ sandwich just seems so much more convenient. However, the guilt always catches up with us. This is why many people are turning to instant meal replacement shakes for the convenience and to curb hunger on the go. But are instant keto meal replacement shakes as healthy as they seem and do they really help with your weight loss efforts?
What is a Meal Replacement Shake?
As the name suggests, meal replacement shakes are designed to supplement your body with nutrients in place of a traditional meal. Depending on which brand you choose to buy, most meal shakes are instant and usually bottled or canned. Some shakes also come in powdered form and can be mixed with water or milk. Many of these powdered or liquid shakes contain fewer calories than some meals but are also high in MCT oil, fiber, and protein. They usually contain about 300 to 400 calories per serving, but the ingredients and macro ratios vary from brand to brand. Most people use meal replacement shakes on the keto diet to break a fast, as a treat, or for a boost of energy right before a workout, but the most common reason many turn to a meal shake is to speed up weight loss.
What To Look For In A Low Carb Meal Replacement Shake?
While most meal replacement shakes may be low in calories, many manufacturers sneak in sugars, sweeteners, and artificial ingredients to make the shake more palatable. Many instant meal shakes are also high in protein. A moderate amount of protein is allowed on the keto diet, however, if you consume too much protein, some of the amino acids are converted to glucose during a process called gluconeogenesis. When gluconeogenesis starts, it can prevent your body from going into ketosis.
A good keto shake should contain a high content of fat since this is your main source of energy, a moderate amount of protein to help maintain lean muscle tissue, a limited number of carbs, and no sugar, sweeteners or artificial flavors. Additional ingredients to look for in a low carb meal shake is key vitamins and minerals. Vitamins and minerals are an essential part of any meal and shouldn’t be treated any differently when it comes to shakes. When carbs are restricted from a diet, the nutrients in your body start to deplete and the side effects can be quite debilitating, which is why it is important to supplement it with a nutritious meal, or in this case a nutritious shake.
Unfortunately, finding an instant meal replacement shake that fits these criteria can be difficult because of the ‘taste’ factor. What’s the point in buying a meal replacement if it doesn’t taste great? Reading the labels is your best bet when it comes to choosing the right shake.
Do Low Carb Meal Replacement Shakes Have Any Weight Loss Benefits?
Meal shakes are convenient and can be used as a weight-loss tool, but not as a solution. Unfortunately, there is no miracle liquid meal that will help melt off the pounds, if there was, we wouldn’t need the keto diet. Reducing your calorie intake helps to promote weight loss, but replacing all your meals with a shake is not the answer.
While studies have shown that replacing one or two meals with a meal shake may help to speed up weight loss, the results were based on an instant shake brand that contains 7 grams net carbs per serving, skim milk, canola oil, corn syrup solids, and sugar, which is not compatible with the keto diet. In another review, seven different studies were conducted on the effects of meal replacement and long-term weight loss. Only four of the seven studies showed a significant reduction in weight over a one year period, while the other results showed no significant difference at all. Based on this information, some meal replacements may help with speeding up weight loss, while others do not have any significant weight loss benefits. Results always vary depending on various factors such as your lifestyle, eating habits, and the manufacturer’s formula.
Shortfalls Of Meal Replacement Shakes On A Keto Diet
Drinking keto shakes in moderation does help with curbing hunger when you are pressed for time and eliminating the temptation to reach for unhealthy snacks. Some are also great for delivering a substantial amount of protein just before a workout. However, there are a few shortfalls when it comes to replacing keto meals with these shakes.
Many low carb meal shakes contain some ingredients that are beneficial for keto dieters, however, most do not contain all the vitamins and minerals your body requires. The most common ingredients in a keto shake are sweeteners, flavorings, and BHB salts. The exogenous ketones will help to give you a temporary boost of energy and can help to reduce keto flu symptoms, however, because you are replacing a meal, you still need important vitamins and minerals to function properly. Meal shakes are not able to provide the enzymes, plant compounds, and antioxidants that you would get from eating fruits and vegetables. The fiber content in most shakes is also significantly less than the fiber you would get from eating wholesome foods.
It Is Not A Long Term Solution
Replacing most of your meals with these shakes is not a sustainable way to lose weight or change bad eating habits. The calories found in most products are not enough to satisfy you the way a healthy meal does. Drinking most of your meals is convenient but the act of chewing your food plays a vital role in triggering the entire digestive process. This simple act is usually overlooked, but chewing is beneficial for:
- Maintaining a healthy weight
- Absorbing more nutrients
- Promoting oral health
- Reducing harmful bacteria in the intestines
Another downside of drinking low carb meal replacements is the cost. Most brands come with a hefty price tag and only a few servings per tub. The price varies from $50.00 to $70.00 for 15 to 30 servings depending on the brand. It may cut your mealtime in half but it can burn a hole in your wallet. Preparing a low carb shake from natural ingredients at home and complementing it with a good quality keto weight loss supplement will cost a fraction of the price and gives you full control over the ingredients you are putting in your body.
Homemade Keto Shake
Whipping up your own meal shake is just as easy and convenient. All you need is a good quality blender and wholesome ingredients. Homemade shakes can be made in advance and stored in the fridge overnight or in the freezer up until you need your next meal on the go.
- ½ a cup of unsweetened almond or coconut milk
- 1 ounce of spinach
- 1/4 cup of cucumber
- 1/4 cup of avocado
- 1/4 cup of celery
- 1 tbsp MCT oil
- 1 tbsp of low carb protein powder
- 1 tsp of matcha powder
- Blend all the ingredients until creamy.
- pour into a glass and sprinkle with chia seeds or save for later in the fridge.
Instant Keto Meal Replacement Shakes
The keto diet encourages cleaner eating and a more positive attitude towards wholesome foods. Instant keto products are beneficial for saving time but as mentioned before, most of these shakes and snacks are not always budget-friendly. These products do not encourage you to cook or teach you how to make healthy meal choices either. The exogenous ketones found in most of these products are a great addition to the diet but the added sweeteners, artificial flavors, and other questionable ingredients may just counteract the goals you are trying to achieve. There is no harm in enjoying an instant shake every now and then, but a more sustainable and healthier approach is to make a low carb meal replacement shake with wholesome ingredients at home and top it off with a high-quality exogenous ketone supplement.