Do meal replacement shakes work for weight loss?

Chocolate, vanilla and banana meal replacement shakes in glasses with bananas and oats and blueberries.

Meal replacement shakes have been growing in popularity over the last decade, and it’s easy to see why: they’re quick, convenient and can fill you up when you’re pushed for time. But are they actually good for you? And can they help you lose weight?

In this blog, we explore what exactly meal replacement shakes are, and their pros and cons when it comes to weight loss.

What are meal replacement shakes and how do they work?

Meal replacement shakes are what they say on the tin: shakes that you drink in place of a meal. They can come in different forms, either as a premixed ready-to-go drink, or as a powder formula you mix with milk or water.

People drink meal replacement shakes for different reasons – for weight loss, weight gain, convenience, or to boost nutrient intake when they can’t eat a meal.

When it comes to weight loss, meal replacements work in two ways:

  • Reducing your overall kilojoule (or calorie) intake. Weight loss shakes are lower in kilojoules than a meal, so by replacing one or two meals per day you’ll consume fewer kilojoules which can lead to weight loss.

  • Helping to reduce cravings. Food cravings are one of the biggest barriers to weight loss success. Research suggests a link between taking meal replacements and lower levels of food cravings, which can boost early weight loss and lead to long-term success.

Is it healthy to use meal replacement shakes for weight loss?

Research backs the use of meal replacement shakes as a safe and effective method of weight loss. But there’s a catch: meal replacement shakes are only recommended for short-term use.

Although high-quality meal replacement shakes are fortified with vitamins and minerals, they don’t provide you with the full spectrum of antioxidants, enzymes and nutrients your body needs over time. This is why wholefoods are always the best choice for nutrition.

The research suggests that for effective long-term weight loss and maintenance, a period of meal replacement use needs to be followed by a transition to a healthy food-based diet.

What to look for in a meal replacement shake

Each brand of meal replacement shake will be formulated with different ingredients and in varying ratios of protein, carbohydrates and fat. For a weight loss shake, you want to look for a high protein content, because as we know, a higher protein diet is key to effective weight loss and maintenance.

The best meal replacement shakes will also be fortified with the vitamins and minerals that you miss out on by not eating a balanced meal. For meal replacement shakes in Australia, you’ll find the full list of micronutrients on the product’s nutrition panel.

Fibre is another key component to look for in a high-quality meal replacement shake. Fibre is essential for good gut health. It’s mostly found in fruits, veggies and whole grains. When you replace these foods in your diet with a shake, it’s important to make sure you still meet your recommended daily intake of fibre (25 g for women and 30 g for men).

Protein and fibre are the two main components that will keep you feeling full and help you stay away from cravings, so a good meal replacement shake for weight loss will feature them prominently.

A high-quality meal replacement shake will also be free from artificial sweeteners, colours, flavours and preservatives.

MORE: You can view the full nutrition label of our Fast Start shakes here.

The pros and cons of meal replacement shakes for weight loss

Pros

  • Can help you lose weight quickly
  • Keeps you feeling full which can reduce cravings
  • Can provide you with nutrients if you normally skip meals or eat unhealthy meals
  • Convenient when you don’t have time to cook

Cons

  • You can miss out on important nutrients with a poorly formulated shake
  • They’re not effective for long-term weight loss unless you transition from shakes into a healthy diet
  • The rest of your diet can lack variety or be nutritionally incomplete

CSIRO Total Wellbeing Diet Fast Start program

The new CSIRO Total Wellbeing Diet Fast Start program is an alternative way to start the scientifically proven CSIRO Total Wellbeing Diet. Fast Start combines meal replacement shakes with the Total Wellbeing Diet digital platform to boost your weight loss.

How is the Fast Start Program different from other meal replacement shakes?

The Fast Start program is different because it’s completely backed by the CSIRO Total Wellbeing Diet digital platform and support system.

“There is a vast body of scientific evidence that supports meal replacements as a weight loss tool – that’s not in dispute. What we’re doing differently here is providing a program that supports a more sustainable weight loss journey by helping people to transition to a whole foods diet,” says Dr Gilly Hendrie, CSIRO Research Scientist.

Fast Start members begin their program with two shakes per day (breakfast and lunch) plus a Total Wellbeing Diet dinner. They’re then guided through their transition from two shakes, to one, to a complete whole food diet with meal plans and practical content about nutrition and lifestyle habits.

All members also get to be part of the highly engaged CSIRO Total Wellbeing Diet member support community.

What about Fast Start shakes?

Fast Start meal replacement shakes have been thoroughly researched and tested by CSIRO to ensure they’re safe, nutritionally balanced and effective for weight loss.

Fast Start shakes are:

  • fortified with fibre, vitamins and minerals
  • full of protein, with 25 g of protein in each shake (when prepared)
  • free from artificial colours, flavours, preservatives and sweeteners.

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