The Ultimate Checklist for Choosing the Best Weight Loss Shakes

Last Updated 30th October 2019
Strawberry Meal Replacement Shake

Perhaps you’d like to lose a little bit of weight but between working full-time and keeping your home and social life in check, time to prepare healthy meals is seriously limited. Or maybe you feel that shedding a few pounds would benefit your long-term health, but struggle to understand the ins and outs of nutrition.

Well, it’s these very scenarios which lead people into the world of weight loss shakes. As well as being specifically formulated to meet nutritional requirements, weight loss shakes allow precise control over calorie intake and can really help to simplify the process of losing weight.

But with so many different meal replacement shakes on the market – each with varying nutritional compositions and ingredients – which one should you pick?

Here, we investigate UK weight loss shakes and discover whether they’re actually effective and, if so, what you should be on the lookout for whilst choosing the best weight loss shake.

Scales with apple and measuring tape on top

Are Weight Loss Shakes the Best Option for Me?

Weight loss/meal replacement shakes may be a good option for you if you:

  • Live a busy lifestyle and therefore struggle to find the time to cook fresh, healthy meals
  • Are nervous to cut your calorie intake in the fear of missing out on vital nutrients
  • Experience snack cravings and regularly feel hungry shortly after meals
  • Feel that you lack nutritional knowledge and don’t understand the building blocks of a meal
  • Regularly skip meals due to a lack of time, leading to snacking on processed foods
  • Struggle with portion control when cooking for yourself

What are Weight Loss Shakes?

Weight loss shakes, better known as meal replacement shakes, are designed to provide the full nutrition of a meal but in the form of a quick and convenient drink.

Meal replacement shakes are formulated to aid in a weight loss or management regime, but are often also used as a health and nutrition-boosting tool for  busy lifestyles. As they contain a defined amount of calories and full nutritional profile, they truly take the time and guesswork out of a healthy diet.

Most weight loss shakes come in the form of a powder which you’d mix with liquid – though they’re often available as a ready-to-drink can or bottle, too.

Girl in grey joggers holding Nutribuddy Complete weight loss shake
Nutribuddy Shake Complete by Laura Lucas

In Europe, meal replacement shakes are regulated to guarantee they provide the body with sufficient energy content and nutrients. However, it’s still essential to remember that meal replacement shake ingredients vary widely and even if a product contains adequate nutrition, it’s not necessarily healthy over the long-term.

But how do weight loss shakes work? Well, as you probably know, the key to weight loss is to reduce your calorie intake and/or burn off more calories through exercise. When you eat fewer calories than your body requires to perform vital day-to-day functions, you create a calorie deficit. Then, your body gets the energy it needs from stored fat instead, which causes weight loss. Weight loss shakes work by providing all the nutrition you need, but in far fewer calories than a solid meal. They also allow greater control over your calorie intake.

Woman sitting on bed about to weigh herself

Do Weight Loss Shakes Actually Work?

Numerous studies conclude that replacing regular meals with nutritionally complete meal replacement shakes (or soups/bars) is a feasible and effective weight-loss strategy. Let’s check them out:

  • A 2018 study tested the effectiveness and safety of a total diet replacement and concluded that replacing meals leads to substantially greater weight loss and greater improvements in the risk of cardiometabolic disease. Yep, that means weight-loss plus health benefits – a total win-win.
  • A 2017 study evaluated a standardized, meal replacement-based weight loss program which resulted in a significant reduction of body weight and body fat in participants.
  • A 2013 study of meal replacement shakes for weight-loss in diabetic patients found that at 3 months, a group consuming meal replacement options and bars lost 7.8% of their initial body weight, whereas a group eating conventional foods lost just 1.5% of their initial body weight.

We think the results speak for themselves. And while we’re not denying that opting for healthy, home-cooked, solid food is a convenient and effective option for many, it’s clear that meal replacement shakes are an effective weight-loss method for those who struggle to find the time to cook for themselves.

Busy city road at sunset
Busy lives mean that weight loss shakes are a convenient option for those who struggle for time to prepare meals

How Much Weight Can I Lose Taking Weight Loss Shakes?

During your search for the perfect weight loss shake, you’re likely to head over to Instagram or scroll through Google’s search results and be hit with promising headlines:

‘Lose 30lb in just 1 month with no exercise!’

‘Shed 10lbs in a week with our rapid weight loss shakes!’

And guess what? We wouldn’t trust them as far as we can throw. Even if these claims were true, this rate of weight-loss is likely to leave you severely undernourished, feeling tired and weak and, in some cases, could even be dangerous. On top of this, it’s completely unsustainable and is likely to lead to a rapid weight-gain as soon as you stop your regime.

So how much can you lose with weight loss shakes in a safe, sustainable and healthy way?  

The NHS safe weight loss plan deems it safe for women to lose 0.5kg to 1kg (1lb to 2lb) per week by sticking to a daily calorie allowance of 1,400kcal.

While the amount of weight loss depends on individual factors such as activity level and your initial weight, you can expect to lose around 2lb per week if you stick to this calorie allowance with the help of 1-2 meal replacement shakes per day. The other 1 or 2 meals should be home-cooked, balanced and healthy. Some women may choose to go slightly lower still, but we wouldn’t recommend consuming fewer than 1,200kcal per day.

The best way to use meal replacement shakes for weight loss is to take it slow and steady, whilst combining it with other healthy lifestyle changes for long-term impact.

woman researching weight loss shake products and ingredients

Are Weight Loss Shakes Safe for Me to Use?

We’ve already distinguished that good-quality weight loss shakes can be an effective weight loss aid if used in the right way, but you may wonder if they’re actually good for your health.

But the fact is, with so many products on the market – some more genuine than others – it all comes down to which shake you choose. With plenty of unethical meal weight loss shakes touting miracle weight loss claims, do be aware that some may contain laxatives or other chemicals which could negatively impact your health (more on that later!).

On the bright side, high-quality, nutritionally balanced shakes which provide essential nutrition through the use of whole foods rather than synthetic vitamin blends, are totally safe for use. Ultimately, it’s all about educating yourself on what to look for and carefully analysing the ingredients before making your purchase.
With that said, let’s take a closer look at the things you need to consider before buying weight loss shakes.

Strawberry meal replacement shake for weight loss

8 Things You Need to Know about Selecting the Best Weight Loss Shakes

1. Ingredients are Super Important for Safe and Effective Weight Loss

Okay, we get it – you’re reading this article because you want to lose weight and that’s your main priority. But don’t neglect your long term health and wellbeing in the process – after all, what’s the point in looking slimmer but feeling awful?

Thankfully, there are plenty of super nutritious ingredients which can help you on the path to weight-loss and good health. The trick is picking a weight loss shake which is chockablock full of recognisable, whole food ingredients which provide the body with a mega-dose of vitamins and minerals.

Raspberries and strawberries on wooden spoon

The following ingredients fit the quota nicely, though this is by no means a comprehensive list:

Some meal replacement shakes, on the other hand, are full to the brim with artificial ingredients, chemicals and additives. If reading the label feels like a science lesson (what on earth is potassium iodide?!), it’s probably best avoided. The ideal weight loss shake will contain natural, whole food ingredients and won’t include synthetic vitamin blends (a decent wholefood shake imply doesn’t need them) or scary-sounding chemicals. Oh, and we totally don’t mean to brag, but the Nutribuddy Shake Complete manages to tick all those boxes.

For more information on the do’s and don’ts of meal replacement shake ingredients, check out our short guide.

Woman in grey tracksuit holding Nutribuddy Shake Complete and shaker bottle
Photo by Laura Lucas

2. Beware of Promises of Rapid Weight Loss

We’ve already covered this briefly, but it’s one of the most important aspects of choosing an effective and safe weight loss shake.

We totally understand that when you’re hoping to lose weight, you want to see results. When wild marketing claims like ‘Lose a stone in 2 weeks’ grace your smartphone screen, products can become pretty damn tempting!

But in this case, faster doesn’t mean better. In fact, rapid weight loss comes with some nasty health risks, such as:

  • Gallstones
  • Dehydration
  • Malnutrition
  • Electrolyte imbalances
  • Headaches
  • Tiredness
  • Weakness
  • Constipation
  • Menstrual irregularities
  • Hair loss
  • Muscle loss

Yep, slow and steady truly does win the weight-loss race. Taking the gradual approach means your body will still be nourished, you’ll still have enough energy to take on the day and it’ll be far easier to maintain your new weight over the long-term.

So, opt for a healthy, nutritious shake which doesn’t use suspicious laxatives (even if they’re ‘natural’, like senna) to boost weight-loss. Don’t be tempted to go too low-calorie, either. A meal replacement shake should contain least 200-400 calories per serving once mixed with milk.

Lastly, don’t replace all 3 meals – aim to cook at least 1 healthy meal per day – and make sure you’re hitting at least 1,200 calories a day.

Woman in pink blouse looking concerned

4. The ‘Natural’ Label Doesn’t Mean They’re Actually Healthy

Annoyingly, this one can be super hard to get your head around. With products here, there and everywhere labelled as ‘natural’ – be it nutritional supplements, beauty products or cleaning products – it’s easy to assume this vague label automatically makes them healthy.

But that’s simply not the case. The term ‘natural’ isn’t actually regulated, meaning companies are able to plonk it on any ol’ product. We’ve seen regular instances where meal replacement shakes which contain a few natural, wholefood ingredients but are then packed with artificial ingredients and preservatives, are labelled natural. Doesn’t look so natural to us, guys…

Basically, the word ‘natural’ in terms of food packaging is meaningless. And while legitimately natural products are obviously a fantastic choice, you’ll need to analyse the ingredients to find out which ones actually live up to the label. If you’re looking for genuinely natural meal replacement shakes, take a look at our Grab N Go Goody Box – we bet you’ll recognise every single ingredient on the list!

Nutribuddy Grab N Go Goody Box - Breakfast Shake, Shake Complete & Rose Gold Bottle
Nutribuddy Grab ‘N’ Go Goody Box includes natural products made with wholefoods such as oats and chia seeds

3. Protein Shakes Aren’t Always Best for Weight Loss

Meal replacement shakes and protein shakes are similar products, both of which are effective in their own ways. But what’s the difference and which one is best in terms of weight-loss?

Meal replacement shakes are designed to substitute an entire meal, such as breakfast, and therefore contain a nutritionally balanced composition of carbs, fats, fibre, vitamins, minerals and, of course, protein. So, yes, even though meal replacement shakes aren’t marketed as protein shakes specifically, they will still contain an adequate dose of protein.

Protein shakes, on the other hand, aim to deliver a super dose of protein. They’re not designed to replace a whole meal – and we wouldn’t recommend doing so, as you’re likely to miss out on other vital nutrients. You could, however, add other ingredients to the shake or use it alongside meal replacement shakes as a filling yet low-cal snack. The Nutribuddy High-Protein Sculpting Shake, for example, contains 10.6g of protein per serving, yet adds up to just 76kcal.

Therefore, if you’re looking to replace meals and achieve a healthy weight loss, meal replacement shakes are the sensible choice. While protein shakes may contain less calories, they won’t provide your body with the nutrition it requires, which could lead to dangerous deficiencies.

Nutribuddy vegan protein shake for weight loss

5. Not All Carbs are Bad for Weight Loss

To carb or not to carb? Carbohydrates are constantly a hot topic in the world of health and weight-loss. In fact, just scrolling through the #healthandfitness hashtag can leave you feeling like carbs are the worst enemy. But is this true, and more importantly, realistic?

The thing is, carbs are a very broad food category. This means that different types of carbs are better or worse, in terms of health and weight-loss, than others.

Processed carbs such as white bread, sugary cereals and pizza, are often packed with added sugars and refined ingredients, leaving little to no fibre or nutrient content behind. When you consume these types of carbs, your body breaks them down into glucose almost immediately, causing an unhealthy spike in blood sugar. Your body then surges your blood with insulin to clear out all that sugar, which leaves you feeling hungry and craving more food. This can lead to overeating and – you guessed it – weight-gain.

High-fibre, starchy carbs such as fruits, vegetables, pulses and whole-grains, on the other hand, provide a mega boost of vitamins and minerals and can make you feel fuller for longer. Including these sorts of carbs in your diet (or meal replacement shake) can help you to reduce your snacking habits, keep your blood sugar healthy and, over the long-term, make it easier to maintain a healthy, stable weight.

Oats, for example, are packed with a soluble fiber called beta-glucan which slows digestion and can help to increase satiety and reduce appetite – and that’s without mentioning their impressive nutritional profile! Opting for a meal replacement shake which contains high-fibre carbs, such as the Nutribuddy Breakfast Shake, therefore, can actually be a fantastic aid in your weight-loss efforts.

Conclusion? Don’t be scared of carbs in your weight loss shake – just make sure they’re the right ones.

Woman working out using a fitness ball

6. Cheap Weight Loss Shakes Aren’t Always Best

With so many weight loss shakes available, it’s tempting to go for the cheapest option and save a few pounds. But, considering this is a product which will have a direct impact on your health, it’s essential to consider more than just the price tag.

Here are a few things to consider if you’re looking for a cheap weight loss shake:

  • Organic ingredients are normally more expensive. However, as they generally have a higher nutritional value than non-organic ingredients, organic weight loss shakes may be better for your long-term health.
  • Cheap meal replacement shakes often rely on synthetic vitamin blends and artificial additives as a low-cost way to add nutrition and substance. Nutrients are best when they come from whole foods.
  • Allergens such as soya protein are normally cheaper than non-allergens. If you’re in need of a hypoallergenic formula, you’ll probably need to buy at a higher price point.
  • Cheap weight loss shakes might contain senna leaves or laxatives. While this may bring on rapid weight-loss, it’s not sustainable and comes with a host of dangerous side-effects.

Ultimately, while price is important, make sure you’re making an informed choice by reading the ingredients list and nutrition label. And while you’re doing so, be aware that, with these sorts of products, cheap often means artificial. Thankfully, there are plenty of natural, high-quality weight loss shakes available which won’t break the bank.

Woman in forest holding drink in recyclable mug

7. Vegan Weight Loss Shakes are a Safe Option, Especially for those with Sensitive Stomachs

With veganism on the rise, vegan weight loss shakes are increasing in availability. By combining different types of plant protein (such as pea, rice, hemp and soy), vegan shakes can still provide a complete dose of amino acids. The Nutribuddy Shake Complete, for example, combines pea, rice and hemp protein to supply complete nutrition without the need for animal products.

But vegan meal replacement shakes aren’t necessarily just for vegans. Non-vegan weight loss shakes tend to include whey protein, which is a by-product of cheese, and often causes stomach upset when consumed regularly. In fact, many customers find they can’t handle regular consumption of whey protein despite having no problems with lactose beforehand!

For this reason, vegan meal replacement shakes are a safe option whether you’re vegan or not – especially if you tend to have a sensitive stomach. They’re just as effective but tend to be much, much easier to digest and rarely cause stomach irritation. Do choose one without soy protein, though – it’s another common allergen.

Cat sniffing vegan mixed berry weight loss shake in kitchen
Nutribuddy Shake Complete by JustHelina

8. There’s Little Difference in Weight Loss Shakes for Men and Weight Loss Shakes For Women – It’s All Marketing!

Have you ever noticed that brands, especially in the health space, tend to market their products towards men or women? Well, here’s the secret: If a meal replacement shake ticks all your boxes but is marketed towards the opposite gender, you can totally still buy it.

It all comes down to marketing. Health companies want to sell their weight loss shakes (they are a business, after all!) and marketing towards a specific gender can help them relate to their customers on a deeper level. But truthfully, nutritional value and ingredients usually boil down to the product quality rather than the gender it’s marketed to.

If you’re looking to understand the type of ingredients and nutritional compositions which would work best for you, then it’s far more effective to base your research on your specific health and fitness goals rather than your gender alone.

Man holding 2 healthy weight loss shakes with strawberries

Final Thoughts

f you’re looking to lose weight but seek a simple and uncomplicated regime, weight-loss shakes might be the ideal tool. As well as being quick and easy to prepare, they take the guesswork out of nutrition and help you obtain all the nutrients you require, whilst still remaining relatively low in calories. Sounds like a winner!

But it’s not as easy as picking the first weight-loss shake which shows up on your Instagram feed. It’s totally fine to want to shed some weight, but make sure you’re consuming a product which is actually good for you, too. Avoid overly-synthetic ingredients or laxatives and opt for a shake which provides nutrition through natural, whole food sources alone. This way, you can reach your weight-loss goals whilst still remaining healthy, energetic and vibrant in the process! Thankfully, there are plenty of high-quality weight loss shakes on the market to fill these expectations. Nutribuddy, for example, checks off all that criteria and more. Our Breakfast Shake and Shake Complete have been formulated to contain all the necessary components of a full, healthy meal, but are 100% free from chemicals, laxatives, emulsifiers, thickeners and artificial flavourings. They’re low in calories and have helped countless customers lose weight and feel amazing!

Buy our meal replacement shakes as part of the great value Grab ‘N’ Go Goody Box.


Stock image credit: UnsplashPexels & Pixabay

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Nutribuddy Ltd.

Author Bio!

Alice Nutribuddy Author Bio

Post by Alice

After graduating from University with a 1st class marketing degree, I ventured into the world of freelance marketing. I now work as Nutribuddy’s Marketing Assistant on all things content and social media! Originally from North Wales but now based in Chester, I spend my free time writing on my blog, hanging out with my sausage dog and travelling. As a self-confessed animal-lover who’s trying to lead an increasingly eco-friendly lifestyle, I’m super happy to be working with an ethical, cruelty-free and vegan brand like Nutribuddy!