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Do Protein Drinks and Bars Help with Weight Loss?

Posted: Jun 11 in Nutrition, Optifast, Weight loss by
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For decades, people working towards losing weight have turned to different types of diets for weight loss – low-fat, low-carb, low-calorie TV Dinners delivered to the house, skipping meals and other trendy solutions. For a time, people were eating ancestral diets (“Paleo”) and now there is again a trend to do ketogenic diets (“Keto.”) Many turn to gluten-free diets, and many are doing only “Real Food” diets. But at the end of the day, what does the scientific evidence tell us about weight loss?

Well, any dietary strategy can work for an individual, but when looking at larger populations, it is hard to demonstrate that one strategy works better than the next. The only exception to this rule is meal-replacement strategies. When meal replacements are studied vs. calorie-matched “real food” eating plan recommendations, the meal replacements generally come out ahead.

There have been several published studies documenting the effectiveness of meal replacement programs. In these studies, meal replacements are generally highly nutritious protein drinks and bars. Many of the studies use the Optifast Brand, which is one of the reasons we have chosen to carry these foods at CNC. Typically people will substitute a protein drink or a protein bar for one or two of their daily meals. Because Optifast is formulated as a full meal replacement solution and contains all of the macro and micro nutrients needed by the typical person, their studies typically involve a complete meal replacement (i.e. all Optifast foods, no other food).

In his 1997 study published in the International Journal of Obesity, Dr. Wadden was able to obtain a dramatic 18% weight loss sustained at 12 months with the use of a full meal replacement. Several years later (2001 – Archives of Internal Medicine) he achieved an average of 16.5% weight loss with Optifast combined with intensive lifestyle intervention and weight loss medication. And again in his Look Ahead study on the value of intensive lifestyle intervention for the treatment of diabetes (2009, Obesity) he showed that people that ate 2 meal replacements per day (again, including Optifast) lost double the amount of weight at a year than those that did not consume them regularly. Another more recent study (OptiWin) demonstrated a significant improvement in type 2 diabetes with the use of meal replacements.

Why do meal replacements like Optifast work so well?

  • They promote satiety (fullness) because they are nutritionally complete.
  • They taste good, but not so good that you want to have two or three
  • They have a fixed number of calories, which is hard to achieve when placing a portion of food on a plate
  • They provide structure, which is a key element in a successful weight loss program

Meal replacements can be used once or twice a day as part of any of the above dietary strategies, or for more dramatic weight loss, can be used for most or all of the person’s daily food intake. Many of our patients do a full Optifast program, but have a dinner of protein and non-starchy vegetables during their weight loss program, then continue to have 1-2 meal replacements per day for long-term maintenance of their weight loss.

If you have not considered meal replacements as part of your weight loss journey, now might be a good time! Talk to your dietitian at CNC and we can work with you to make these a structured part of your daily plan.

Note that we do have a wide variety of high quality drinks and bars including the Optifast brand at our CNC Store. You can visit it online by clicking here.

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