Will a shake help me lose weight?

If you choose to replace a meal with a liquid (shake) meal, it may help you with weight loss – but not because it is liquid or a special “weight loss” formulation. Meal replacements can help you lose weight because they are portion controlled and Calorie controlled. Once the can is finished, it’s finished. Unlike making selections from real foods where you have to decide how large a portion you should have, a shake controls that for you. Some people have success by replacing one meal a day with a shake, and enjoying portion controlled amounts of healthy foods for the other two meals and their snacks. The downside of a program that is exclusively meal replacements is that most people get bored and will eventually want to go back to the world of chewing where the challenges of portion control and food selection remain.
In all studies, meal replacements bars and shakes have been shown to be an extremely effective aid for weight loss and in almost all cases, more effective than conventional methods of dietary restriction. Additionally, meal replacements have been shown to be just as effective as dietary restriction combined with drug therapy/medication. Most importantly, continuous use of meal replacements may be the most effective means of all treatments when it comes to maintaining weight loss.
Meal replacements are generally used to replace one or two meals a day and allow freedom of choice for the remaining meals/calories.

Meal replacements allow:
1. Between meal snack as an energy boost or to manage hunger

2. Portion control: people generally attempt to consume meals to completion; therefore meal portion size significantly impacts a person’s total calorie intake.  Overwhelming evidence validates that the smaller the portions, the fewer daily calories consumed and vice-versa. In other words, people tend to “eat with their eyes not their stomachs”. Use of portion-controlled meals has proven to yield greater weight loss than conventional diet therapy alone.

3. Accurate calorie counts of total daily food intake when compared to having to estimate the calories of self-prepared or unmarked meals

Yes, meal replacement shakes will help you lose weight but only if you use them as they are intended. Meal replacement shakes are simply that, a replacement for a meal that comes in a premade form or as a protein powder you can use to make protein shakes yourself. Protein powder does not induce weight loss with some special ingredients. It is simply protein powder that some brands add vitamins and amino acids to…that’s it!

Premade meal replacement shakes/protein shakes that are produced commercially can aid in weight loss because they are premeasured portions, so you do not have to worry about portion control or calorie counting. Premade protein shakes come in cartons, cans, or bottles that are clearly labeled with how many calories they contain which is very convenient to those of us logging our food and they are also great for meals on the go.

Protein powders can be used to make you own shakes but you must mix them yourself. Some people simply put a scoop or two of protein powder in a “blender bottle” and mix with water, milk, or a sports drink. Other will use an actual blender and mix the protein powder with water, milk, or a sports beverage and even some fruit. A word of caution: like anything else you eat, portion control counts so if you are not consuming a premade shake be mindful of what you add so that you do not exceed your caloric requirements for a meal negating the positive effect that would have on weight loss.

If you are interested in more information on protein shakes or some “recipes” of meal replacement shakes, please feel free to contact me.

Lona Sandon
Nutrition & Dietetics

The answer to this question is highly individual.  Several studies have shown that meal replacement shakes can be beneficial for achieving weight loss.  Some people find that a meal replacement shake is a valuable tool for helping them manage their weight by helping to control calories and avoid large portion sizes.  Others may find themselves quickly hungry for solid food soon after drinking a shake.  Shakes with higher protein levels may help keep you feeling full longer.

Remember, for every strategy you use to lose weight, you need a planned strategy to keep the weight off.  This means finding meal options that are equivalent in calories to the shakes so you do not increase your calories and gain the weight back. 


Ruth Frechman
Nutrition & Dietetics

Meal replacements work for some people, whether it be a shake or bar. Shakes make life easy. You drink the shake, and you are done with the meal. Many people have a problem stopping, when they feel just satisfied. The meal may taste really good. The portions may be large, or they keep eating to escape a problem. Having only a shake for a meal can control the amount of calories consumed and thus be an effective weight loss tool.

Marisa Moore
Nutrition & Dietetics

As a registered dietitian, I have seen some people drop pounds using weight loss shakes. Often that weight loss is short lived. Unfortunately, liquids don’t satisfy hunger as well as solid foods do. And frankly, drinking shakes daily can become boring and may lead you to stray from the diet. So, yes, while shakes can help you lose weight, it is not a good long term weight management solution.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.