Weight Loss Shakes

Weight loss shakes can include protein shakes, homemade smoothies, and meal replacement shakes. If you haven’t dabbled in weight loss shakes recently, you may be surprised at the variety of options and palatability.

When picking the weight loss shake option for you, you’ll want to consider a few things:

• Price
• Convenience
• Nutritional Value
• Meal replacement shakes cannot be safely continued beyond 12-16 weeks max

First of all, it is important to note that if shakes are used in addition to normal meals, they usually result in weight gain rather than weight loss. Only when used as a complete meal replacement system do they begin to result in weight loss in the short-term. If shakes are used as meal replacements, for safety reasons you need to be under the supervision of a medical doctor.

We will now review the best products for each of the three categories to help you to understand the best weight loss shakes. It’s important to note that while weight loss smoothies can sometimes support a healthy diet—especially if they are rich in superfoods— they do not contribute to sustainable long-term weight loss. Long-term weight loss requires lifestyle changes, such as changing your diet. Similarly, meal replacement programs in the form of a protein-sparing modified fast can sometimes contribute weight loss, but for health safety reasons can only be used for around 12 weeks. So once again lifestyle changes are needed to maintain any weight loss long-term.

Do weight loss shakes and smoothies really result in weight loss?

Weight loss shakes have been shown to be effective for temporary weight loss if a verified meal replacement program is used which completely replaces all meals for a period of around 3 months. However, when meals are mixed with meal replacement shakes, weight loss is not consistent and sometimes weight gain can occur.

While carefully selected weight loss smoothies can result in weight loss in the same way that careful dietary planning can, this is usually not the case. Most people gravitate toward better tasting ingredients for smoothies; including a high fruit content or liquid calories such as fruit juices, agave, or honey. Unfortunately, this increases caloric load and glycemic index which often prevents weight loss. However, when weight loss smoothies contain a much higher proportion of superfood vegetables that are rich in micronutrients and fiber and much lower in calories, what is surrendered in taste can often lead to better weight loss and potentially improved health.

How much do weight loss shakes cost?

Pre-packaged weight loss shakes cost an average of $1 – $5 per serving. Some weight loss shakes also require mixers (such as unsweetened almond milk), which can add an additional cost.

If you make shakes or smoothies yourself, the price may vary according to the ingredients; but making smoothies at home is an affordable option for many people.

The Best Weight Loss Shakes for Price: Homemade Weight Loss Smoothies

When it comes to cost, the cheapest option is definitely a make-it-yourself smoothie. It is actually quite simple to make your own smoothies that can serve as a complete meal replacement for an individual meal only (not a complete meal replacement program), or a healthy snack, for a total of only a couple of dollars.

When making your own weight loss smoothie, some ingredients you may want to consider are:

• Plant-based protein powder
• Plant-based milk
• ½ banana for texture
• Larger amounts of leafy green superfood vegetables (spinach, kale, dandelion greens)
• Small amounts of low glycemic index fruits such as a few berries (blueberries, strawberries, raspberries, blackberries, cherries) or a couple of slices of apple
• A small amount of seeds (flax seeds, hemp seeds, chia seeds)
• Other superfood add-ins (turmeric, ginger root, maca powder, cacao nibs or raw cacao powder, or lion’s mane)
• Blue Kale
• Spinach
• Chard
• Celery
• Carrots
• Fresh ginger root
• A red delicious apple
• Unsweetened almond, flax, or soy milk
• Small amounts of ground flax or ground chia
• Ice or water

Here are two weight loss smoothie recipes to get you started:

Recipe #1: Green Sunrise Smoothie

(Modified, From self.com)
• 1 scoop plant-based protein powder
• 1 cup fresh spinach
• 1½ oz sliced avocado
• 1 cup unsweetened almond or cashew milk
• 1 tbsp ground flaxseed

Recipe #2: Chia-Berry Belly Blaster Weight Loss Smoothie

(Modified, from self.com)
• 1 cup flax milk, unsweetened
• 1 cup fresh or frozen unsweetened berries (blueberries, strawberries, or açai berries make great options)
• 1 cup of blue kale
• 1 tbsp vanilla extract
• 1 tbsp ground chia seeds
• 1/2 cup ice

By including a variety of the above ingredients in your homemade weight loss smoothie, you can make a cheap meal replacement that is filling, packed full of vitamins and minerals, and easy-to-make.

The Best Weight Loss Shakes for Convenience: Protein and Meal Replacement Shakes

We don’t always have the time or blender availability to make a homemade weight loss smoothie. If you’re looking for something that you can bring anywhere with you and prepare with or without a blender, protein shakes and meal replacement shakes may be your best options.

Highest Quality for Convenience: Meal Replacement Shakes

Of these two options, meal replacement fortified shakes are a slightly better choice because our bodies need more nutrients than are included in a simple protein shake, including some essential vitamins and minerals added. Because they contain some basic nutrients beyond just protein in a meal already prepared, some companies advertise that this may help with portion control and satiety. However, it is important to note that this has not been demonstrated consistently with studies. Further, using any form of prepackaged protein meal replacement may carry harmful consequences to your health—especially if used as a full meal replacement over time. This is because these shakes do not represent real or whole food with a full complement of micronutrients.

You can find some meal replacement shakes that are premade in an easy-to-drink, on-the-go container. These are the most convenient options, but also are more expensive. They also tend to be bulkier, so you can measure the pros and cons of different options based on your personal needs.

Lowest Cost for Convenience: Protein Powders

Protein powders can be inexpensive, often costing only around $1 per serving. They can offer a quick fix when you’re feeling hungry, but the primary problem is that protein in-and-of-itself is not a complete meal. Protein powders lack sufficient nutrients to be a true meal replacement. If you are using protein shakes in place of a meal, for example after a workout, it is important to make sure that your remaining meals for the day contain a rich balance of plant micronutrients.

When it comes to protein powders, they are best used when you are needing a quick snack, before or after a workout, or when blended into a smoothie with other foods, such as superfoods, fruits, and plant based milk.

While not a complete meal replacement themselves, protein powders may play an important role in helping you control hunger by providing the protein you need for exercise.

The Best Protein Powders for Weight Loss

If you walk into your local Whole Foods or Natural Grocers and go to the protein powder isle, you will be bombarded with all types of choices. Here are our three favorite protein powders:

1. Plant-Based Protein Powder
Orgain organic protein powder and RAW protein powders are plant-based high quality complete proteins containing all essential amino acids in many flavors. Because they are 100% plant-based, they are also anti-inflammatory. This is an ideal option if you are vegan or if you are simply wanting the highest quality complete plant-based protein available.

2. Soy Protein Powder
If you are a vegan, soy protein powder can also be a great option. Especially when mixed with other plant-based protein sources, it contains all of the nine essential amino acids that humans require. Similar benefits have been found with using soy protein powder as when using whey protein powder for weight loss and may help some people to feel more full.

3. Whey Protein Powder
Whey protein powder is the most common protein powder and is commonly used as a workout supplement. Some research suggests that using whey protein powder can help people who are overweight shed pounds and gain muscle, possibly enhancing lean muscle mass when they are working out rigorously. This is likely due to whey protein powder reducing hunger and thus helping to curb our desire to overeat or snack throughout the day.

4. Fiber-Fortified Protein Powder
One of the problems with protein powder is that it doesn’t contain any nutrients besides protein. There are some plant-based protein powders that also contain fiber. This is great because few of us get the amount of fiber that we need each day, and this can help to improve our digestive health.

When looking for a fiber-rich protein powder, try to find one that has 5 or more grams of fiber per serving.

Do Weight Loss Shakes Work?

Weight loss shakes can be one option to help reduce unhealthy eating. That said, they are not as good as a diet full of fruits, veggies, and other whole foods.

“Whole foods provide a much better balance of nutrients than meal replacements,” according to Hillary M. Wright, MEd, RD, a nutrition counselor at Harvard Vanguard Medical Associates in Boston.

Why Do Weight Loss Shakes Only Work Short-Term?

While you may find some luck with weight loss shakes, they do not represent a safe long-term weight loss solution. The primary reason is that meal substitutions like weight loss shakes, especially prepackaged ones, don’t teach you how to eat healthfully. In the absence of education, the weight loss is often short-term. Additionally, because shakes are not real whole food, they cannot be used as meal replacements safely long-term without health consequences.

Many people try weight loss shakes and lose some weight, only to resume their old eating habits, and therefore gain weight, once they’re no longer taking the shakes. Many others use weight loss shakes but also continue eating with the shakes, often leading to weight gain rather than weight loss. One recent study even showed that protein shakes (along with all other liquid calories) cause weight gain rather than weight loss, especially when used as part of a broader diet.

In order to lose weight and keep it off, foundational lifestyle transformation is needed, including a healthy diet, a workout routine, and other healthy habits.

When Diet and Exercise Aren’t Enough

The fact is that losing weight is harder for some people than it is for others. Even if you follow a 100% healthy diet, you won’t necessarily lose all of the weight that you need to in order to live your healthiest life.

If you find that healthy eating and exercise aren’t enough to lose weight, or you find that you lose 50 or even 100 pounds only to gain it all back as soon as you stop dieting, there are other options.

Weight loss surgery in Colorado can help people who suffer from obesity to lose weight and keep it off. Bariatric surgery isn’t a magic solution, but when combined with diet and exercise, it can help you to lose weight, keep it off, and get your life back. Bariatric surgery is generally covered by insurance, and the cost of bariatric surgery is lower than you might think.

If you would like to learn more about weight loss surgery and if it is right for you, click the button below to schedule an appointment today.

Dr. Joshua Long headshot

This page was medically reviewed by Dr. Joshua Long, MD, MBA, FACS, FASMBS. Dr. Long is a double-board-certified bariatric surgeon and bariatric medical director for Parker Adventist Hospital.
Full Bio: Dr. Joshua Long, MD, MBA, FACS, FASMBS
Page Updated: January 6th, 2023

Are You a Candidate for Weight Loss Surgery?

Take Our 60 Second Assessment.

Start Assessment

*Please note that individual results can vary and are not guaranteed.