Posted on 19 September, 2016

Shake Diets: Good or Bad?

By Jacob Andreae in Nutrition, Belief Shake Diets: Good or Bad?

[Image Source: Dylan]

Shake diets can help you lose weight FAST! There are also many stories of people losing weight fast but putting it all back on again though. Shake diets have been controversial because they no doubt get results, but how sustainable are those results?

The main reason shake diets work is because you’re simply not eating as much. Of course you’re going to lose weight when you don’t eat. When you dramatically reduce your caloric intake, you’re going to lose weight. This is a simple view of calories in, calories out. But the body is much more complex than this.

Food doesn’t just provide energy. It provides information. Food tells your body when to release hormones and which hormones to release. It tells your body when to switch on genes and which genes to switch on. It even helps your cells renew, repair and be healed.

Food is made up of cells. When digesting real food, the body has to break down the cells walls of that food. This is work for the body and gives the digestive system a workout. This process leads to a feeling of fullness for a decent amount of time. Liquid meals don’t have the ability to provide this feeling of fullness and a feeling of hunger often persists.

Eating whole, real foods takes time to chew, swallow and digest. This process, along with taste, is an important part of the eating process. It takes your body about 20 minutes to register that it is full.Liquid diets, and diets high in pill/capsule/tablet supplements, bypass chewing and are digested very fast, often not giving that sensation of fullness.

Fibre is a very important nutrient. It adds bulk to faeces and helps to prevent constipation. Shakes are typically low in fibre and therefore have it added. Even so, this won’t give you the satiety factor of real, whole foods, particularly foods high in protein.

To answer if shake diets are good or bad, the answer is no. They might achieve huge loss of weight in a very short amount of time but they are not healthy for you. In addition, people more often than not put that weight back on again, and then some, when they finish their ‘diet’. Shake diets are simply not sustainable. Considering why that excess weight was put on in the first place is the safest, healthiest and most successful way to lose it.

A healthy weight loss measure is 1kg per week. You can work harder and lose 1.5kg per week by optimising your diet and exercising regularly, but losing any more than 2kg per week is just not sustainable. These figures can be achieved for a week or two in the beginning because it’s new to the body, but maintaining them for any longer doesn’t allow adaptation of the endocrine and nervous systems, which release hormones and nerve signals respectively. Hormones and neurotransmitters drive behaviour.

Even the best of intentions and strongest of motivations can’t compete with the power of habits. Physiologically, the body wants to maintain homeostasis at all costs. From the transfer of neurotransmitters to the release of hormones, the body is set on regularity. This is an evolutionary need for survival. It can be changed however. The body will adapt. Understanding why and how you got to where you are is essential for long-term, sustainable success. Long-term weight loss is fundamentally a psychological issue.

The reason shake diets are so popular, and other supplement diets too, can also be explained through psychology. Humans don’t like to remove things from their life. That gives you a feeling of missing out. When working towards achieving something, humans prefer to add things. This gives you a feeling of moving forward. This is also one reason why info commercials selling exercise equipment are so successful. Gym memberships work in a similar fashion. It makes you feel as though you are making progress towards a goal when you add something to your schedule. Think about it. When you want to achieve something, the first thing you probably think of is, “What can I do?” Most people think about adding something rather than giving something up.

Adding exercise to your schedule makes you feel as though you’re making progress towards your health and fitness goals. Removing ice cream for example, makes you crave it and want it even more if you’re used to eating it every night. If you could just exercise more to lose weight, but keep eating those unhealthy foods all the time, most people would be up for that.

Adding shakes and supplements to your diet, even if that means removing real food, makes you feel as though you’re adding to your life. It gives you a feeling as though you’re moving towards your goals. It’s different and your motivation to persist lasts a bit longer. But in the long run, the lack of real, whole food makes it unsustainable.

Swapping unhealthy options for more healthy options is the key. Allowing yourself permission to consume unhealthy options every now and again is a very effective tool in reducing your desire for them. Banning yourself completely only increases your desire. Letting yourself consume them every so often will reinforce why they aren’t good for you as you increase your intake of real, whole foods that give your body all the nutrients it needs. Your body will let you know what’s right once you start giving it what it needs.

Shake diets and supplements are an effective way for big companies to make money from the second most common searched phrase on the Internet, how to lose weight; behind, how to make money online. When you see that all these companies also provide a way to make extra money and a passive income, you can see that there’s a business idea that will appeal to the billions.

In my opinion, if these companies are so good, then why doesn’t every academy and institute of sport around the world invest in their product. Yes, there are some individual athletes who do, and these athletes are jumped on by those companies for their endorsement. Again though, with all we’ve spoken about, I wonder how sustainable this is for them.

In my opinion, shake diets and supplements are an unsustainable way to long-term health. Every thing your body needs comes from eating real, whole foods. Permanent weight loss can only be achieved by understanding the psychology of it all and addressing your habits.

Have you tried a shake diet? What results did you achieve? Have those results persisted?

About Jacob Andreae

About Jacob Andreae

I write and speak about Fitness, Nutrition and Mindset. 

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Shake Diets: Good or Bad?A quick start guide to losing weight and staying on track. Learn the strategies I use to eat and move for optimal health. Includes worksheets to enhance your motivation, commitment and discipline, along with a sample eating plan and exercise program.