Do meal replacement shakes really work for weight loss?

Diet advice
I frullati sostitutivi del pasto funzionano davvero per dimagrire?


The science behind meal replacement products

Evidence of the effectiveness of meal replacements

Losing weight is often not easy and, what's more, over the years many people have indulged in failed diets and dubious eating patterns. I meal replacements, together with diet and exercise, offer an alternative and effective solution that leads to a gradual weight loss and to line management in time. 

The benefits start from the practicality offered by meal replacements, passing through their ability to appease hunger, arriving at the crux of the matter: the supply of healthy nutrients and essential for the daily requirement of your body.

Today, we want to dive into why Herbalife meal replacements work better than typical low-calorie diets, according to science and research.



The science behind meal replacement products

La scienza dietro i prodotti sostitutivi del pasto


When we talk about the science of meal replacements, we mainly want to discuss three aspects concerning their effectiveness for weight management:


  • Protein and glycemic index
  • Nutrient density
  • Behavioral changes


Protein and glycemic index


the proteins they are the most satiating macro nutrient, which means that control hunger longer than carbohydrates or fats. Getting the right amount of protein to control hunger at every meal every day is key to achieving (and maintaining) a healthy body weight.

I Herbalife meal replacement shakes, in addition to a balanced protein intake, they also have a low glycemic index. 

The glycemic index is a measure of how quickly a food raises blood sugar levels. When you consume foods with a high glycemic index, your blood sugar will rise and then fall sharply, promoting lethargy and hunger.

However, a meal replacement shake like our Herbalife Formula 1, like other foods with a low glycemic index, releases sugar into the bloodstream more slowly, providing another way for meal replacements to help control hunger. For comparison, a meal replacement shake Herbalife Formula 1 it has a low glycemic index, while orange juice has a moderate to high glycemic index.

Whenever you consume foods such as: fruits, vegetables, whole grains and meal replacements that have a low glycemic index, your body digests them more slowly than simple carbohydrates and sugar in snacks. Consequently, there is a slower increase in the glycemia. 

Protein, which helps lower the glycemic index, has an independently proven effect on hunger control. Getting the right amount of protein is critical for meal replacements to be effective. Meal replacements that have a low glycemic index can curb appetite despite their lower calories than typical meals.

It's important to note, however, that a low glycemic index doesn't necessarily mean a food is rich in nutrients. This is why the next concept is so important.


Nutrient density


The nutrient density refers to relationship between nutrients and calories in a food. Food with a low nutrient density provides a lot of calories, fat and sugar with few essential nutrients. Cookies, cakes, pasta, and sugary sodas fall into this category. Nutrient-dense foods provide many nutrients per calorie and include: fruits, vegetables, lean meats and fish, and meal replacements.

In other words, nutrient density is a measure of how much nutrition you get per serving or per calorie consumed.


For example, a meal replacement shake Herbalife Formula 1 it is 170 calories when mixed with 250 ml of skim milk. Provides high quality protein, fiber, healthy fats, vitamins and minerals. On the other hand, a croissant is around 200-300 calories, but will only provide "empty calories" made up of saturated fat and sugar, with no other significant nutrients.

Most meal replacement products, moreover, can contain vitamins And minerals which make them more nutrient dense.

Meal replacements promote a high quality diet by being high in nutrients and low on the glycemic index. When combined with exercise, meal replacements can also help promote growth lean body mass, strengthen muscles and support fat loss.

In fact, some recent research has been conducted on overweight and obese people to study the effect of a high-protein diet based on partial meal replacement. Significant decreases in fat and cholesterol intake and substantial increases in protein and fiber intake were observed at each phase of the research.

The dietary intake of all micronutrients tested, including some nutrients of relevant concern for the health of the human body (vitamin D, calcium and potassium) increased significantly while sodium intake decreased.

Whereas those who are overweight or obese are probably struggling to consume a balanced diet in terms of nutrients, the high protein diet can be one effective strategy to improve the overall nutritional quality. The high-protein diet could be incorporated into a healthy lifestyle program including healthy eating and exercise for those at risk for macro- and micronutrient deficiencies.


Behavioral changes


Aside from the nutritional considerations above, meal replacements make weight management easier by letting you focus on the food control in one or two meals a day. The behavioral benefits of a partial meal replacement diet are as critical as the nutritional benefits over typical or fad diets.

The Department of Medicine of theUniversity of Ulm, in Germany, conducted a four-year study of obese patients (not taking Herbalife products). Researchers identified six specific reasons why meal replacement diets worked so effectively for weight loss.

These reasons include:




Lack of time to prepare healthy meals is one of the biggest obstacles to weight loss. Meal replacements make meal planning easier.


Greater compliance


Meal replacements reduce barriers to diet adherence, such as the temptation to indulge in unhealthy foods by not adhering to it.


Regular food pattern


Repetition and routine are essential in a weight loss or weight maintenance journey. Eating at regular times during the day and avoiding long periods of time between meals has a positive effect on energy level and feelings of hunger.


Calorie estimation accuracy


Dietitians typically recommend consuming a certain number of calories throughout the day, depending on your health goals. Meal replacements, when prepared as suggested, are an easy and accurate way to track how many calories you're consuming.


Quality of food consumed


Cutting calories can make it difficult to get the nutrients you need. Meal replacements are often vitamins, minerals, protein and fiber fortified, which help avoid a nutrient deficiency.


Positive influences on self-control


Recording food intake helps people become aware of their current food-related behaviors. Tracking meal replacements is easy, facilitating self-awareness of target behaviors and outcomes.



Evidence of the effectiveness of meal replacements

Prova dell’efficacia dei sostituti dei pasti


In 2018, researchers from theUniversity of Oxford published a systematic review and meta-analysis of meal replacements for weight management. They reviewed 14 studies that compared the effect of weight loss interventions that incorporated meal replacements to that of alternative interventions.

They concluded that meal replacements are superior to usual diet and calorie restriction.

In many countries today, clinical recommendations for the treatment of obesity advise that people attempting to lose weight should aim for an energy deficit of 500-1000 kcal. Unfortunately, these recommendations do not encourage meal replacements as tools to help patients achieve this deficit.

The meta-analysis provides new evidence to inform clinical guidelines, especially when it comes to obesity. The use of meal replacements should be promoted as an effective dietary strategy for weight loss as meal replacements have been proven effective and readily available without a prescription. However, it is important to note that, as with any changes in diet and physical activity levels, people should always consult their physician before embarking on any weight loss journey.

Meal replacements for weight control have also been reviewed by theEuropean Food Safety Authority (EFSA). The Panel on Dietetic Products, Nutrition and Allergies has been asked to provide a scientific opinion on the weight loss claims relating to meal replacements.

In their account, they acknowledged the following:


  • The weight loss achieved with meal replacement products is significantly greater than with conventionally prescribed low-calorie diets with the same calorie content.
  • When weight loss strategies are equally effective, the intensity of intervention required is three times greater for conventional low-calorie diets than for meal replacements.


But not all meal replacements are created equally. Quality is a key differentiator, especially when it comes to food products.

In 2020, independent researchers studied the efficacy and safety of Herbalife products used as a high protein meal replacement for weight management.

In their meta-analysis, they reviewed randomized controlled trials of the company's high-protein products used as meal replacements, published through July 2019 in peer-reviewed journals. The researchers consolidated data from nine studies, which included 934 participants: 463 in the treatment groups and 471 in the control groups.

Upon completion, they found that participants who consumed Herbalife products experienced significantly greater reductions in body weight, body mass index and fat mass, compared to people who ate control diets.

In summary, these studies show that meal replacement shakes work better than self-directed weight loss attempts. While popular fad diets might work for short term weight loss but in the long run, the willingness to continuously diet will be an issue.

Of course, if you are trying to achieve and maintain a long-term healthy body weight with a meal replacement diet (even partial), it is important to combine it with a balanced diet and a healthy and active lifestyle, but the results are scientifically guaranteed by years of field studies and research.

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