Weight loss shakes – a poor choice for losing weight

I was once asked, whilst offering consultations in a health food store, “have you got anything to help me lose weight when I am sleeping?” The woman was eating an ice cream as she asked the question and I had to say I did not have such a miracle cure.

But the question reflects a constant seeking for a holy grail of weight loss, whilst avoiding making any true change that might support a deeper overall wellness.

Have you ever been tempted by the promise that you can lose weight fast or lose weight easily with a weight loss shake or meal replacement? It appears that many of us would love to find that magic ingredient that would make weight loss effortless.

The weight loss industry is a multi-billion dollar industry that thrives on the promise that we can lose weight if we buy whatever product or program is on offer – but what are we paying for or buying into when we buy a weight loss diet shake?

Is it the promise of losing weight fast?

Or, is it the promise we can lose weight whilst indulging in a delicious milkshake that comes not only in chocolate or vanilla but also in an array of exotic flavours like chai or mocha – sounds really good doesn’t it?

Weight loss made fast, easy, effortless and enjoyable. It’s too good to be true!

If we were to really stop and think about the reasons why we have gained weight, at the most superficial level it is very likely that we have eaten too many sweets or high starch foods, which convert to sugar fairly rapidly after consumption. Are we eating ice cream, chocolate, yoghurt, chips, crisps and bread or drinking energy drinks, alcohol or cappuccinos? These are but a few of the hugely weight-gaining products that many of us consume daily, perhaps unaware of the sugar content or its contribution to weight gain.

If we put aside all the empty promises, what are we really paying for when we purchase a weight loss shake?

A typical weight loss shake contains milk powder, protein and lots of sugar. Would you be shocked to discover that these ingredients are very similar to those in the sugary desserts and treats we would no doubt avoid on a diet, like ice cream?

Let’s compare a typical commercial weight loss shake with that of a chocolate Paddle Pop ice cream.

Obviously, the ingredients are very similar, but what may be shocking is that there are more carbohydrates and sugars, which are major contributors to weight gain, in the diet shake than in the ice cream.

Both the diet shake and the Paddle Pop are milk and sugar based, yet no one would seriously consider a Paddle Pop ice cream as a meal replacement plan!

Considering we are now aware that sugar is highly addictive[1] – the more you have the more you want – one has to ask; what is its value in a weight loss product?

Shakes, although loaded with sugar, do increase their dietary value compared to ice cream by including protein, which assists in feeling full for longer, and they are fortified with vitamins. However, many popular shakes contain A1 casein from milk as their main protein which, although it has many reported benefits as a slowly digested protein, has also been documented to be associated with digestive upsets.[2]

Instead, you could whip up an omelette made with two eggs and produce a meal that provided 600kj, 17.5 g protein and only 0.3g of carbohydrate. An egg is naturally packed with nutrients, the protein is easy to digest, the carbs lower and the overall cost more economical.

The combination of protein and fat in the humble egg keeps you full for longer and doesn’t leave you craving for more sugar.

The point being, that if we are serious about weight loss we also have to get serious about the way we care for ourselves, including the foods we eat. Sugar addiction is arguably the biggest addiction on the planet, though we don’t usually think of it this way, as we consider it a food, rather than a substance that we use and abuse. However, one look at the growing obesity epidemic and it is clear that sugar has a stranglehold on many.

When we pay for a weight loss shake, we are in effect paying for something that contains the exact same ingredients, particularly sugar, as in the foods that we ate which contributed to our weight gain in the first place.

When we are truly ready to begin our weight loss journey, it will begin with honestly looking at ourselves, understanding how we really use food and beginning to choose our diet based on what is best for our body. If we maintain our consumption of sugar whilst dieting it is unlikely to produce long term change, as we continue to feed the addiction in the midst of our dieting regime. Even if our temporary calorie restriction brings results in the short term, unless we can actually start to change our habits, we are very likely to put the weight right back on again.

So, are weight loss shakes really a diet solution? That is for you to decide – but if the shakes are being used to satisfy your cravings while dieting, or as a magic weight loss cure, then the answer is probably no.


  • [1]

    Ruani, A. Is Sugar an addictive Drug? Health Science Academy. Retrieved 22/1/2019 from: https://thehealthsciencesacademy.org/health-tips/is-sugar-an-addictive-drug/

  • [2]

    Pal, S., Woodford, K., Kukuljan, S., & Ho, S. (2015). Milk intolerance, beta-casein and lactose.Nutrients, 7(9), 7285-7297. doi: 10.3390/nu7095339. Retrieved from: https://www.mdpi.com/2072-6643/7/9/5339/htm

Filed under

CaloriesDietsLosing weightObesityNutritionSugarWeight

  • By Alison Greig, BA LLB(Hons), LLM(Hons, Grad Dip Psych, EPA Recognised

    Alison is a writer, life coach and a passionate advocate for true freedom of expression. Her legal and philosophical interests include regulation of cyber-abuse and cyber-crime, health care, freedom of religion and human rights.

  • By Cindy Morris, Naturopath

    Cindy works with people to help bring greater understanding of the link between diet, lifestyle and health. Cindy has a keen interest in the science of the body and loves to share this understanding with others to promote optimal health and well-being for all.

  • Photography: Rebecca W., UK, Photographer

    I am a tender and sensitive woman who is inspired by the playfulness of children and the beauty of nature. I love photographing people and capturing magical and joyful moments on my camera.