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How meal replacements can help you maintain your new weight

A great deal is written and discussed regarding the process of losing weight, but not that much is shared about how to keep the weight off once we achieve our goal.

Hamish van Wyk, registered dietitian and diabetes educator from the Centre for Diabetes and Endocrinology (CDE), says there are numerous approaches to maintaining a healthy weight.

These range from following strict dietary advice and increasing the amount of exercise you perform, to using weight-loss aids such as supplements and pharmaceuticals.

While some drugs are effective, many are expensive, and many have side effects and can result in heart or gut problems,” says van Wyk. Typically, once someone stops using these pharmaceutical aids, it is difficult to maintain their weight, or continue to lose weight.

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READ MORE: Why Use Meal Replacements And Protein Bars

A need for exercise

Van Wyk notes that combining exercise with a suitable weight-loss diet is a worthwhile approach.

“While exercise is not that successful in losing excess weight, it can be very beneficial in maintaining weight loss – around 0.8 kg from published data over 10 months. We definitely see better results with massive amounts of exercise; roughly 2000 calories burnt per week. But, that’s a lot of exercise in anyone’s book and few people have that kind of time. So, while exercise is good for general health, it still is not a sure-fire way of keeping off significant amounts of weight.”

READ MORE: It’s About More Than Muscle: How Whey Protein Can Help You Lose Weight

Supplement your success

Van Wyk explains that recent research findings are guiding evidence-based nutritional advice and come out strongly in favour of scientific meal replacement options.

“Interestingly, research shows that the use of just one meal replacement per day will result in an average of 3.9 kg of sustained weight loss over 12 months when compared to someone not using a meal replacement and following a moderately restrictive diet, and an exercise routine.”

This is higher than patients who were using drug interventions to maintain their weight loss (3.5kg of weight loss), many of which are unsustainable over the longer term.

READ MORE: Pick Your Protein: Meal Replacement Or Whey Protein?

Diet alone less effective

Van Wyk says following a restricted ‘diet’ will only result in 1.2 kg of sustained weight loss.

We have found that meal replacements have the best results as part of a total dietary approach where patients have regular coaching and support from a registered dietitian,” he emphasises.

The big question is which shake to use. Consumers can often fall for well-marketed but inferior products.

Unfortunately, not all meal replacements shakes are of the same quality, and may not even contain all the ingredients listed on their labels. Being largely unregulated products, there may be very little quality assurance.

READ MORE: Drinking Your Whey Shake With A Meal May Enhance Body Composition

Van Wyk says while regulation is improving, enforceability is not where it should be. “It is so important to only use a replacement product that is methodically tested in a regulated factory.

“You need to ensure that you use a reputable brand so you are assured the product is safe. Such products may be a little more costly, but at least you know what you are getting. If you are not sure, it is always best to consult a registered dietitian with experience in these products.”

Van Wyk says the key is a good meal replacement in combination with advice from an excellent dietitian.

Author: Pedro van Gaalen

When he’s not writing about sport or health and fitness, Pedro is probably out training for his next marathon or ultra-marathon. He’s worked as a fitness professional and as a marketing and comms expert. He now combines his passions in his role as managing editor at Fitness magazine.

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