Nothing can split opinion amongst those on a diet more than the weight loss (or to give them their ‘proper’ name, meal replacement) shake.
People often tend to fall into the evangelical, ‘this will change your life’ camp or the dubious, ‘you want me to replace two meals a day with this shit?’ camp.
There is always plenty of noise swirling around the interwebs regarding meal replacement shakes, making it difficult to actually nail down the true facts from the anecdotal ‘it worked for my cousin’s sister’s dog groomer’s best friend’ evidence. We’ve rounded up the evidence from trusted sources to give you the lowdown on how weight loss shakes work, why they work (it’s not magic sadly) and what to look for when choosing one.
Weight Loss Shakes: Do they work?
The biggie – ‘cos no one wants to be living off a largely liquid diet for the hell of it. The answer? Yes-ish. Meal replacement shakes can work very effectively in the short term but only if you’re committed to using them in exactly the way it was suggested by your chosen program which is usually to replace two meals a day and then enjoy a low-calorie, balanced meal for the third.
The Weight Management Industry of Australia reports that meal replacement products have been shown in clinical trials to produce a weight loss of 3 to 9.5 kg over one to five years. They caution however that they are not a substitute for your entire daily food intake and should be used in conjunction with a healthy, balanced diet and regular exercise.
In other words, they are not a magic pill. They can help you lose a substantial amount of weight but to do so, you really do not to commit and work on building new habits for the long term.
Why do Weight Loss Shakes work?
The science behind why meal replacement or weight loss shakes and other products work is not complicated. Typically, your standard meal replacement shake will be extremely low in calories (usually between 800kj-900kj per serve). If you are replacing your typical breakfast and lunch with a weight loss shake, your overall calorie intake will be dramatically reduced. Experts generally recommend that to lose weight steadily, women should consume around 1200 calories per day.
Weight loss shakes make it very easy (in theory) to stick to this number of calories without the need for meal planning or prepping. In short, they help you eat less and consume fewer calories. In conjunction with a third, healthy meal each day and moderate exercise, you will be able to achieve a reasonable calorie deficit which means you are using more energy than you are consuming.
Downsides of Weight Loss Shakes
The downsides to Weight Loss Shakes? Fewer calories mean that your tummy may spend a lot more time rumbling, especially in the early days. If you are used to consuming more than 1200 calories (which many of us are), cutting right back can come as a shock to the system and leave you more prone to snacking or really going hell for leather during your non-shake meal each day. And when you are hungry – you tend to eat.
That’s why the fibre content of shakes is so important. The fibre helps ‘fill you up’ so your stomach feels fuller. The more fibre you consume, the less hungry you will be.
The Canstar Blue survey of dieting Aussies found that 64% of those surveyed ended up snacking between meals after not feeling satisfied post shake which goes some way in explaining why less than 60% of respondents reported successfully losing weight while using meal replacement shakes. The moral of the story? You need to find a product and/or brand that leaves you feeling relatively full and satisfied.
What to look for when choosing a Meal Replacement product or weight loss shake?
There is no shortage of options when it comes to weight loss shakes. The market is absolutely saturated with products, all making slightly different claims but with the same end result — weight loss. The majority of products are made with skim milk powder and are high in protein and fibre and very low in fat. Many also contain ingredients like wheat and soy which is worth noting for those who may be sensitive or intolerant.
One of the most important things to note when choosing a product is sugar content. Canstar found that some products can contain up to 23g of sugar per serve (almost 6 teaspoons!) while others contained less than 2g. The type of sugar used is also important. Fructose, xylitol, stevia and a variety of artificial sweeteners are the most commonly used to ensure the shake tastes good. Clearly, avoiding products with an excess of sugar is going to be your best bet for sustained weight loss.
There are also a number of more ‘natural’ products hitting the market which are free from artificial sweeteners and use largely whole organic ingredients. The downside to these weight loses shakes is the cost, sometimes more than double your typical supermarket brand. But many of these more boutique branded weight loss shakes also contain the real high-quality ingredients – so it does come down to ‘You get what you pay for!’.
So in summary – look for:
- The amount of sugar
- The type of sugar
- The amount of fibre
- Quality of Ingredients
Who makes the cut of the Best Weight Loss Shakes?
Canstar Blue commissioned market research agency Colmar Brunton to survey 6,000 Australian adults to gather data on the most popular meal replacement shakes. The results were taken from customers within the survey group who have purchased and used weight loss shakes in the last six months – in this case, 891 people.
The following products were awarded either 4 or 5 stars (out of 5) for overall customer satisfaction
IsoWhey offers a range of meal replacement snacks and shakes that use pure, grass-fed whey protein and 23 vitamins and minerals for a comprehensive nutritional profile. The shakes come in five different flavours and are free from gluten, artificial flavours, colours and sweeteners with 1.5g of sugar per serve. I like the fact that this has significantly less sugar than other brands!
Comes in the following flavours:
- Strawberry Smoothie
- Classic Coffee
- Madagascan Vanilla
- Ivory Coast Chocolate
- Banana Smoothie
- Ivory Coast Chocolate Diabetic Formula
- IsoWhey Clinical Nutrition Diabetic Formula in Vanilla
- IsoWhey Keto Meal Replacement Shake in Vanilla
The Lady Shake is a relatively new weight loss shake to the market. Designed specifically for women’s needs, the shake is designed to be taken as a meal replacement for breakfast and is high in protein, fibre, vitamins and minerals, and is low in sugar. This shake has 88% less sugar than other meal replacement shakes on the market (and if you add that up – that is 88 teaspoons less sugar per week). As it is low in sugar, these shakes are suitable for diabetics.
Unlike many of the other weight loss shakes, The Lady Shake isn’t recommended to replace all three meals per day.
- They have Vegan shakes available
- Great flavours including vanilla, chocolate, choc-mint, coffee, banana, caramel and strawberry
Cons of The Lady Shake:
We didn’t really find any. These seem like a good all-round choice. They taste good, are very low in sugar and are reasonably priced.
The Taste of the Lady Shake Weight Loss Shakes
I purchased the coffee flavoured Lady Shake (with my own money – this was not a paid exercise). I mixed it with cold water as recommended. It tasted like a watered-down chocolate and coffee mousse. I found it quite filling too and I did like that it was low in sugar.
Where you can purchase The Lady Shake Online:
The Healthy Mummy Shake range is 96% sugar-free, 100% fructose free and 100% artificial sweetener free. Their smoothies contain apple pectin, rice bran fibre, cellulose, psyllium husks, inulin, flaxseed meal, and pumpkin seed meal. It’s dairy and gluten-free and breastfeeding friendly.
- Price Per Shake: About $3
- Fructose Free
- 96% Sugar-Free
- 11 flavours
Cons of The Healthy Mummy Shakes:
According to reviews some of the Healthy Mummy shakes taste a little gritty.
Where you can purchase The Healthy Mummy Shakes Online:
- Purchase directly from The Healthy Mummy website
I’ve included this weight loss shake as it gets great reviews online (4.9 stars based on 426 reviews). Plus this is the weight loss shake that I use when I want to lose a bit of weight. I have a ‘funny tummy’ but I can really tolerate this weight loss shake (particularly the Banana & Honey flavour). This is a premium weight-loss shake that is high in protein and low in carbs. It’s the additional ingredients in this product that makes it premium, it contains Carnitine which is proven to assist in weight loss, green tea extract and coconut water powder (so it tastes good too).
Comes in Chocolate and Vanilla flavours and can be mixed with water, juice or coconut water.
The Taste of the Pro Decine Weight Loss Blend:
I purchased the Banana and Honey flavoured shake – and it was really delicious – like a ‘slightly weaker banana smoothie’. I found this one out of all the shakes to be the most filling – even though it wasn’t nearly as ‘thick’ in the consistency of the other shakes. So filling, in fact, that hubby had to remind me to eat my dinner as usually, I’d go chasing it.
Suitable for vegetarians, is gluten-free, has no added sugar and is blended and packed in Australia from New Zealand ingredients.
5. Optifast (Recommended by Bariatric Surgeons and Tastes GREAT!)
- Very Low-Calorie Diet
- Suitable to replace three meals per day
- Is Gluten-Free
This has been my personal ‘Go To’ weight-loss shake when I’ve had them in the past. They honestly taste terrific – and yes they have a fair bit of sugar in them BUT they are what Bariatric Surgeons recommend to their patients when they undergo Gastric Banding surgery. And if surgeons are recommending this shake it must be good! Another good quality of Optifast is that it is widely available at most chemists. You do tend to get it cheaper online though.
Flavours: Chocolate, Vanilla, Strawberry, Mocha, Coffee
Should you try a meal replacement program?
That is a decision best made in consultation with your GP or a registered dietician. The Weight Management Industry of Australia reported that meal replacement shakes, when used in conjunction with a healthy eating professional have a better chance of working long term. It seems using weight loss shakes to ‘kick start’ your weight loss while gradually implementing healthy habits is the way forward. Many programs only recommend using their products continuously as meal replacements for 12 weeks at a time. This is thought to be enough time to establish weight loss and new habits which can then be phased into ‘normal life’.
More Reading: List of the Best Weight Loss Shake Options in Australia
Other Brands Available on the Market in Australia:
Weight-loss Product Reviews
- Zotrim Review: Hot Weight Loss Product Now in Australia!
- Trimtone Review: Awesome Fat Burner Trending with Mums
What has your experience with Weight Loss Shakes been?