Meal Replacements & Protein Supplements
In today’s blog I’m going to talk about food replacement meals and shakes as well as the increasing mention of Protein shakes and supplements. My blog is targeted at the normal person and those who are looking to lose weight.
After watching the tv yesterday I noticed an ad for ANOTHER meal replacement plan – Developed in Denmark they launched in Ireland this week. I actually got invited to their launch party (I had no intention of going) and part of their explanation of their product they said: The Very Low Calorie Diet (VLCD) consists of six meal replacements shakes or soups, which come in a variety of delicious flavours. The VLCD diet makes dieting healthier for the body with products containing all the essential vitamins, minerals, proteins and fibres – but with a minimum of calories. This gives the body the chance to burn its fats deposits, and therefore facilitate rapid weight loss”.
Every time I see one of these products come out I feel so sorry for the people who get sucked in and jump at the idea of wanting to lose their weight and not have to do anything. All they hear is RAPID WEIGHT LOSS and don’t care about the rest. They don’t realise that these are not sustainable and you won’t actually learn anything about your weight, the reasons why you became overweight in the first place and how you are going to keep the weight off for good. These replacement meals and shakes are just like others on the market and work in the same way – you replace your normal food with their products which contain enough nutrients to keep your body functioning while at the same time being VERY LOW IN CALORIES. The first couple of weeks you do any of these meal replacement meals you will more than likely lose weight because you are suddenly reducing your calorie intake and your weight loss is not fat but water loss. After looking at their Facebook page and the comments people have left besides people looking to buy their product, one lady wrote that she lost 8lbs in one week and will be buying more. This lady who lost 8lbs will probably now be hooked for another few weeks until her weight stalls due to the lack of calories and then what will happen? She’ll either go one of three ways – either eat even less calories which will make things worse or she’ll eat normal food as well as the shakes etc which will start to increase her weight or she will just give up completely and her weight will just go back on, plus a little more.
Now, please don’t get me wrong, there will be those people that meal replacements DO actually work for – and for some people food has become such an issue with lack of control over regular food that they feel the replacements are the only option – but on the flip side what happens when they have hit their goal or they cant afford the meal replacements any more? There will still be a process of having to learn new habits of eating “normal” food – and if you have not learnt which foods have been our downfall in the past or along our weight loss journey then it can often be difficult to readjust and get it right to continue to maintain our weight and judging portion sizes. The ideal way to learn about the correct size portions and the best food choices is to learn gradually as you are following your weight loss journey so that you can continue and progress seamlessly into your maintenance plan. For anyone who has lost weight using meal replacements and is struggling to adapt to everyday foods again and maintenance why not consider using a food diary to help you re-train your brain and keep your hard work exactly where you want it?
With so many Irish adults officially overweight — it’s little wonder the market for slimming products is rapidly expanding. These range from pills that claim to ‘bind’ to fat to stop you absorbing it, to seaweed capsules that say they speed up your metabolism.
Most make enticing claims for their effectiveness — some even stating that you don’t need to diet to lose weight. The vast majority asserts they are ‘clinically proven’ or, more impressively, makers say they are a ‘certified medical device’. But don’t be taken in by these claims, say experts. For instance, according to Professor David Haslam, chair of the National Obesity Forum, a ‘certified medical device’ is ‘a legal loophole, not a mark of safety’.
He explains: ‘Calling a capsule a “device” rather than a “foodstuff” allows these companies to get around the law.’
This is because unlike products in the ‘drug’ or ‘foodstuffs’ categories, ‘devices’ don’t have to provide any evidence of efficacy.
As for ‘clinically proven’, some manufacturers provide research to back their claims — but Professor Haslam points out that although studies show the ingredients themselves may have a small weight-loss effect, in most cases there is no evidence the product in the capsule results in any weight loss.
The company who’s ad I saw said they “conducted an online survey of over 426 Irish men and women aged over 18 and their results showing that more than half of Irish people (64%) were unhappy about their weight and found it difficult to do anything about it.” So you can see that most of us want to do something about our weight but the majority of us are not willing to work hard at doing something about it. As I mentioned before that the World Health Organisation state that we should be doing a minimum of 30 minutes of moderate – intense exercise each day just to MAINTAIN our weight, so you can see what we need to do to lose weight. The statement from meal replacement businesses that their products contain all the essential vitamins, minerals and proteins etc. IS correct – BUT what you don’t realise is by following a healthy diet you will also be getting all the necessary and essential vitamins, minerals and proteins. Eating the right combination of proteins, carbohydrates and fruit and vegetables will give you a balanced diet without having to deprive yourself of actual food – and with a little careful planning you will get all of the nutrition you need and still be able to have the odd treat and STILL lose weight!
The Power of Advertising & Hype
Another issue is the power of advertising and hype and a good example of this would be ‘protein shakes’ – The classic protein drinks have usually been characterised by displays of over-sized bottles and tubs, often with labels depicting rippling torsos. The powders and bars targeted hardcore gym-goers and amateur athletes. The typical customer was someone who wanted to build muscle and aid recovery after a serious workout.
Everybody needs protein in their diet on a daily basis as it is essential to body tissues, is necessary for growth and contributes to muscle mass and bone health. But processing excess intake can put pressure on the kidneys. Excess animal protein is linked with kidney stones. In people with a pre-existing condition, excess protein can accelerate kidney disease.
People in Ireland & the UK usually already get more than enough protein in our normal foods so we do not need additional supplements.
Healthy protein intake depends on weight, with a recommended intake figure of 0.8g per kg of weight per day often cited. Age is also a factor. Over the course of a day, the average man should be eating around 55g of protein, while a woman needs 45g, says the British Dietetic Association. In Ireland & the UK the mean intake for men is 86.5g per day, with women consuming 65g, so you can see that we already get enough protein. Example: A chicken breast might contain around 40g of protein, a cod fillet 30g, a helping of tofu 15g and an egg 6g.
Topping up with supplements can see substantial amounts of extra protein enter the diet, with some shakes offering up to 35g per serving and therefor adding more pressure to your organs.
Only vulnerable groups, such as those recovering from surgery or frail older people, tend to need more protein – something for which medical advice should be sought.
Protein supplements do have a place used once a day after muscle-building training but most people – including regular gym goers – would find that milk contains the right combination of protein and carbohydrates for rehydration and repair. Those doing extra, more intense exercise could have that extra peanut butter sandwich, second chicken breast at dinner and taller glass of milk and all protein needs without any supplements.
For many athletes using shakes and other supplements it’s the convenience they offer – rather than the belief that they’re an alternative to food – that is important to remember. After a workout there’s a window to aid recovery and at that time you may not want to sit down and have a full meal. Always try and eat a balanced meal and to make sure you combine shakes with real food and not supplement it for food.
The key is a balanced diet
What did we do before all these shakes, supplements and replacement meals were around?
Don’t get sucked into the hype and clever marketing. Follow a healthy diet, watch your portion sizes, drink plenty of water and allow exercise to be part of your lifestyle.
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