*To avoid legalities, this post will not name names of brands or products, but rather focus on the group as a whole. Here are two ingredient panels of the most common (and controversial) brands.
If you’re a regular gymer or are familiar with the supplement aisle of the supermarket, you’d want to read what’s to come. Let’s start with some ingredient names that you’d be familiar with:
Exclusive Myo-IsaLean Complex™ [whey protein concentrate (undenatured), milk protein concentrate (undenatured), low-heat nonfat dry milk], fructose, natural dutch cocoa powder, isomaltooligosaccharide powder, sunflower (Helianthus annuus) oil powder, natural flavors, olive (Olea europaea) oil powder, xanthan gum, flax (Linum usitatissimum) seed powder, medium chain triglyceride (MCT) oil powder, Ionic Alfalfa™, potassium citrate, magnesium oxide, tricalcium phosphate, sea salt, magnesium citrate, enzyme blend [lactase (from Aspergillus oryzae), lipase (from Rhizopus oryzae), cellulase (from Trichoderma longibrachiatum), invertase (from Saccharomyces cerevisiae), protease (from Aspergillus oryzae), amylase (from Bacillus subtilis), bromelain (from Ananas comosus), papain (from Carica papaya), acid stable protease (from Aspergillus niger)], silicon dioxide, yucca (Yucca schidigera) root powder, vitamin C (ascorbic acid), magnesium stearate, psyllium seed powder, biotin, selenium amino acid chelate, Lactobacillus acidophilus,cinnamon (Cinnamomum zeylanicum) powder, stevia (Stevia rebaudiana) leaf extract, vitamin E succinate, copper amino acid chelate, vitamin A (beta carotene), zinc oxide, manganese amino acid chelate, iodine amino acid chelate, niacinamide, d-calcium pantothenate, vitamin D3 (cholecalciferol), chromium amino acid chelate, niacin, molybdenum amino acid chelate, vitamin B6 (pyridoxine hydrochloride), vitamin B12 (cyanocobalamin), vitamin B2 (riboflavin), vitamin B1 (thiamin hydrochloride), folate (folic acid).
Soy Protein Isolate, Fructose, Cellulose Powder, Corn Bran, Artificial French Vanilla Flavour, Guar Gum, Potassium Chloride, Calcium Phosphate, Calcium Caseinate, Caesin, Rice Fiber, Soy Lecithin, Canola Oil, Medium Chain Triglycerides, Carrageenan, DL-Methionine, Inulin, Magnesium Oxide, Silicon Dioxide, Licorice Flavour, Natural Vanilla Flour, Ginger Root Powder, Psyllium Husk Powder, Citrus pectin, Proteases Derived from Aspergilius niger and Aspergilis oryzae (from Aminogen©), Honey Powder, Ascorbic Acid, DL-Alpha Tocopheryl Acetate, PapayaFruit Powder, Blueberry Powder, Pomegranate Powder, Biotin, Niacinamide, Beta Carotene, Ferrous Fumarate, Zinc Oxide, Copper Gluconate, Chromium Chloride, Sodium Molybdate and Sodium Selenite.
Apart from the mention of ‘water’ here and ‘soy protein’ there, how many of you really understood the words above? Leave aside understood, how many of the above can you really pronounce?
Hopefully the answer is already clear from there. The above list is from a meal replacement product that’s sitting out there on the shelves right now, and perhaps even in your pantry. The truth about meal replacement shakes is that they are highly artificial, inflammatory, and potentially toxic. To make things more comprehensive, I am going to break down the above essay into some of the most common ingredients found in these meals and explain just why these shakes (and the ingredients) are definitely not the answer to your health and weight loss goals.
- Fructose: Fructose is highly inflammatory, blood sugar spiking and addictive, just to start. The addition of fructose is nothing short of ironic – these products are marketed as the ultimate weight loss solution and fructose has now been found to be one of the leading causes of obesity worldwide.
- Refined Seed Oils: Oils such as sunflower and canola are extremely high in omega-6 polyunsaturated fatty acids, which are highly inflammatory, toxic and like fructose, a leading cause of obesity. Keeping a positive balance of omega-3 to omega-6 oils is a very important nutritional consideration.
- Soy: Soy contains high levels of phytoestrogen, which creates an estrogenic (high oestrogen) environment and as a result, lowers natural testosterone levels. Common symptoms include body fat accumulation, lowered libido and increased risks of infertility and cancer. In addition, soy contains goitrogens, compounds that inhibit the thyroid’s ability to utilise iodine efficiently, a significant contributing factor to hypothyroid issues.
- Excess carbohydrates: The majority of low calorie products are high carbohydrate, as fats are more than twice the calorie per gram. Excess carbohydrates will create an insulin spike and immediately blunt the utilisation of fat.
Fat loss and behavioural change
One of the most important considerations with regards to fat loss, is creating long term behavioural change. Meal replacement shakes do not teach meal planning, basic culinary skills or time management to allow for the prioritisation of grocery shopping and food preparation. They may provide short-term results, but one must consider what will happen when you stop forking out hundreds of dollars per month for artificial convenience.
Focus on real food and invest time in preparing your meals ahead if your lifestyle requires. The aim of every meal should be the most nutrient dense option available. Opt for a combination of protein, good fats and greens and keep your carbohydrate choices as natural as possible. Fruit, sweet potato, potato and quinoa will always offer a far great nutrient profile than anything in a box or packet. Nourishment, blood sugar control and satiety are the essential ingredients for long term, sustainable behavioural change.
Do you consume meal replacement meals or shakes post a sweat session? If so, what about them do you think is positive and would you still continue to consume them after reading this?