I have been doing some research into various weight loss programs for my my patients and many of the commercial programs include some sort of protein shake product as a meal replacement and then supplement with low glycemic index snacks between shakes that help you to reduce your daily caloric intake. When researching the different dietary methods that address how to lose weight they all seem to go in different directions. One strives to derive glucose strictly from fat metabolism through strict carbohydrate restrictions while another tries to increase dietary fiber and limit digestible carbohydrates to only low-caloric-density/high-nutritive plant sources. And what seemed simple, quickly becomes complicated again. It is no wonder the public gets confused.
As a healthcare provider interested in giving more people the benefit of a chiropractic lifestyle, I can tell you that whether we are talking about vegan, vegetarian, gluten-free, paleo, keto, (and so on), the common thread, as it pertains to weight loss, is reduced caloric intake. Different diets will make it be harder or easier to achieve that than others. But if you lose weight, it is because your caloric intake was less than what your body is burning. It really is that simple. And with all the benefits of the different diets, the most important question is whether it is a diet that you are willing and able to live on… forever. This becomes a question of taste, cost, satisfaction, time commitment, and family support. But it should be obvious that if you achieve results from a special diet but then go off the diet, you are going to sacrifice the results you worked so hard to achieve. And rapid weight loss can lead some to be more likely to suffer from gall bladder problems, and certain other special diets can cause other problems, like gout, etc. So, the calorie calculation is simple, but living differently than you are used to is utlimately the real challenge.
Without a strictly defined set of pre-designed meals to consume according to a strict schedule, it can be complex trying to track how many calories you are eating and then how to address hunger without going over your calorie target, all within the other specific dietary constraints that are important to you (e.g. eliminating animal products, dealing with food sensitivities, etc). This is where the diets differ, since digestion of different foods have different effects in terms of how they nourish the body. And, while trying not to be too cynical, this is where the strategy of providing nutrition in a powdered shake product lends itself to the conclusion that a given commercial product is the magical key. It isn’t. The key is compliance, consistency and motivation. If you don’t do it, it won’t work (compliance). If you don’t do it the same way every time, you may miss the mark affecting your results (consistency), and if you aren’t adequately focused on consistent compliance, you will eventually fall off the wagon (motivation). And here is the real secret: the magic ingredient list isn’t what is creating the results. It is the consistent motivated compliance with… the reduction in calories. So, as soon as you allow yourself to consume something other than the shake mix or the “allowed” snacks… You are right back to your original challenge. What to eat and how much?
Does this feel depressing? Well it doesn’t need to be. If you are consistent with a commercial product, you can be consistent with a set of homemade recipes made from commercially purchased food products. Why not? If you customize the recipes to suit your personal preferences and tastes, calculate the resulting calories and then plan your meals to ensure that your total calorie intake is equal to the calories required to maintain your target weight, you will be able to achieve, slow, steady weight loss and you won’t have to change your eating habits down the line. What is your motivation to eat the way you eat now? It is personal taste. You just need to figure out what personal tastes contribute to healthy caloric intake and get used to a caloric intake that will result in your target weight. If you eat what it requires to maintain your target weight, you never have to learn anything new again. And you will grow into your new body gradually. Naturally. And slow, steady weight loss won’t strain your organic metabolism at all. And here is the best part… If it is healthy for you, it is healthy for your whole family!
You will get tired of eating the same thing all the time. When you do, you just go back to the drawing board and design another food/recipe to add to your repertoire that will provide the same calories and same good nutrition. This process, this skill is what you need to maintain your new weight.
OK, all that said, being able to slap together a meal replacement drink or powdered protein shake is still an amazingly convenient way to ensure good nutrition and to exercise calorie control on a daily basis without having to cook every meal. If time is precious and money is not an issue and you aren’t having to still provide a “normal diet” to the rest of your family anyway, maybe a commercial program or some commercial nutritional shake is what you should pursue. But this post is about a way to use a shake strategy that doesn’t require a commercial powdered shake product. Instead of a shake mix, you would use a blender to build your own.
Generally, a homemade, blended nutritional drink is what I call a “smoothie”. I think the “shake” term goes back to the typical protein shake commercial flavors that resemble the three common milkshake flavors: strawberry, vanilla and chocolate. When you go to a smoothie, what you lose in convenience, you gain in customizable textures and flavors. You don’t need stabilizers and emulsifiers and thickeners and “natural flavors” when you are making your own. You just need food.
The real bottom line question is, what is more important to you and what will you actually make and consume? A typical powdered nutritional shake will cost you between $2.50 and $3.00, but it takes about 1 minute to prepare. On the other hand, I can buy a 2-1/2 lb package of fresh spinach for $4 at Costco which would provide an excellent source of nutritional green leafy vegetables for about 20 servings. Add a banana, some dates, a couple of tablespoons of almond or peanut butter for protein, a couple teaspoons of coconut oil, a half cup of non-dairy milk substitute, a half cup of ice and a dash of vanilla extract and you have a great nutritious meal for a lot less than $3. But, your meal won’t be delivered by mail. You have to buy real food from a real grocery store. And you need a blender rather than a “mixing jar”. And there are more ingredients than a single powder envelope. Yup. That is true. This is not for everyone. But if you are considering a commercial weight loss plan, I think you should look to the horizon. I’m afraid that if you can’t start by eating the way you will need to eat forever, you will be doomed to fail. Instead, consider playing with a select set of similar recipes and calculate their calorie content using a tool like Chronometer.
The below are some great “fillers” that I found on a great nutritional smoothie site. Adding these to your recipe help to keep you satisfied for longer between meals.