Diet & Weight Magazine

Replacing Meals with Protein Shakes for Weight Loss – Does It Work?

By Barun K.

Protein shakes

Protein shakes aren’t just beneficial for weightlifters, gym rats and athletes, they’re also good for anyone trying to lose weight.

Research shows us that people already on weight loss plans, or about to start one, can experience even more success by increasing their protein intake. (1)

In addition to repairing and building muscle, replacing meals with protein shakes can help your weight loss efforts in the following ways:

Positive Impact on Hormones

Adding more protein to your diet can help increase the levels of GLP-1, CCK, and PYY hormones, which reduce your appetite. Furthermore, protein shakes can help to reduce the hunger hormone known as ghrelin. (2)

In fact, one study discovered that a high protein breakfast can have a greater impact on reducing ghrelin levels throughout the day than a high fat or high carb breakfast. (3)

Feel Fuller

In addition to reducing ghrelin, protein shakes can help you feel fuller for longer periods of time. This means that you can go longer during the day without feeling like you are starving.

Protein has been linked to a higher rate of thermogenesis, which has a direct impact on satiety. In fact, additional studies show that a high protein meal was significantly more satiating than a high carb or high fat meal. (4, 5)

Consume Less Calories

With less of a desire to eat, it should come as no surprise that people who increase their protein intake have been found to consume less calories during the day.

In 2015, researchers in Illinois found that their subjects consumed up to 135 less calories per day after eating a high protein breakfast. (6)

Furthermore, a study conducted by the University of Missouri discovered that an increase of protein intake to at least 25% of their subjects’ total caloric intake helped to cut cravings and late-night snacking, which led to an overall decrease in calories consumed each day. (7)

Boost Metabolism

An increase in protein can also help increase your metabolism. As mentioned above, protein has a higher rate of thermogenesis.

This means that more protein calories are burned off in the digestion and metabolizing of protein than carbs or fat. Because your body has to burn off more calories to digest and metabolize protein-rich foods, it increases your overall metabolism. (8)

Furthermore, the combination of higher protein and resistance training has been linked to an increase of muscle mass. (9)

The more muscle you have, the higher your overall metabolism is. Further proving that protein has a direct and indirect effect on the body’s metabolism.

Lose Body Fat

Over the years, numerous studies have proven that a higher protein intake can help you not only lose weight, but also body fat. And, this isn’t just regular fat, it’s the dreaded stomach fat.

Participants in a 12 month study lost 10% more stomach fat after increasing their total caloric intake to 25% protein. A 23-week study saw participants lose 5 pounds of fat at the end of the trial, just by consuming 56 grams of protein per day. There are more studies that corroborate these findings. (10, 11)

Bottom line, increasing your protein intake can have a direct effect on fat loss especially in the stomach.

Controlled Meals

Another reason why protein shakes are so beneficial, is that you already know what’s in them and can take those nutritional facts into consideration when planning out your meals for the day.

This helps you to create a more controlled diet that targets your caloric and weight loss goals.

Less Meal Prep Time

For many of us, we like to grab something to eat quickly. We don’t like to spend all day in the kitchen making meals.

Protein shakes make it easier to fuel your body with essential calories and nutrients. This is perfect for those of you who are busy throughout the day or who don’t like to cook that often.

Take With You on the Go

Protein shakes are very convenient for taking with you on the road. If you are traveling or work all day in an office, protein shakes are perfect for ensuring you get those essential calories and nutrients.

They can also help to prevent you from making poor food decisions like going to the nearest fast food place or grabbing something from a vending machine.

In other words, protein shakes are amazing replacements for poor food choices.

What Type of Protein Shake?

In regards to weight loss, just about all types of protein are equal. Multiple reports have confirmed that whey, soy, egg, and rice proteins can all help you lose fat. (12)

With that being said, there are a few factors that can help you to narrow down which one is best for you:

  • Whey, casein and soy proteins all have the essential amino acids you need. This means that you don’t have to consume them through eating other foods like you would if you took rice protein shakes.
  • Whey protein is quicker to absorb and makes you feel fuller for the short term than other proteins. (13)
  • Whey is better at maintaining muscle mass during a weight loss diet than other proteins like soy. (14)
  • Make sure that your protein supplement of choice is filled with vitamins and minerals.

How Much Protein per Day?

The DRI (dietary reference intake) recommends that you consume 46 to 56 grams of protein per day.

Unfortunately, this isn’t enough protein if you are trying to lose weight.

A few of the studies mentioned above, all increased protein intake to at least 25% of total daily caloric intake.

However, some of these studies and experts feel that you should go to at least 30% of your total calories consumed each day.

For example: a 2000 calorie diet, would require at least 150 grams of protein per day. This might seem like a lot, but it’s really not.

Keep in mind, that 1 protein shake could have 25-50 grams of protein depending on if you have 1 or 2 scoops. So, 2 shakes per day could get you at least 50-100 grams of protein.

If you add some lean meat or eggs to your daily meals, you will easily hit this 150 gram mark.

Final Words

Before purchasing a protein supplement, consult a medical professional to ensure that protein supplements are safe for you.

Additionally, it’s best to only replace 1-2 meals per day with shakes. This is just a means to get some extra protein and to cut down on caloric intake. It’s not meant to eliminate meals altogether.

It’s also very important that you balance your carbs and fat intake with the increased protein intake. Both carbs and fat are essential for the body, and they shouldn’t be eliminated completely.

Lastly, increased protein for the purpose of weight loss should be in combination with a solid exercise program. This will maximize your weight loss efforts and increase your overall health.


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