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Quite a few people ask me whether I can recommend any smoothies to drink for weight loss, and I completely understand why they ask!
The short answer is yes, you can drink certain smoothies for weight loss, but on certain conditions to be effective. In this article, we will analyze whether smoothies are healthy and effective for weight loss, why people want to drink them for that purpose, and ideal ingredients in smoothies to drink for weight loss.
When I think about smoothies to drink for weight loss, I usually think of creamy concoctions like vanilla or chocolate Slim Fast shakes. I actually tried Slim Fast about 20 years ago, albeit very briefly, because I had a coupon at the time and was curious about the hype. I only bought a four-can package though, so don’t have extensive experience with the product.
The main reasons why I wasn’t convinced to use Slim Fast was 1) the shakes contain a bevy of questionable or artificial ingredients (which you should know are not my jam!), and 2) I was certain I could achieve the same or better results without using their shakes, since I knew their shakes contained no magic ingredients to expedite weight loss.
Also, I did not find Slim Fast shakes filling compared to a regular meal, and their suggested regimen seemed more about conveniently packaged calorie control than anything else. I didn’t need that sort of convenience at the time and figured eating regular solid foods would be more nutritious.
So, if you’re wondering whether smoothies to drink for weight loss trump other forms of foods or beverages for losing weight, don’t worry. We will cover that subject in this article as well.
Why Do People Seek Weight Loss Shakes?
Convenience is the main draw for meal replacement or weight loss shakes. If you look at this article on the top four reasons why dieters fail to lose weight, three of those reasons involve people miscalculating factors to lose weight: how many calories to eat, how many to burn, and when to eat.
Thus, following a regimen that only requires shakes for all or certain meals each day may be appealing to people who don’t want to calculate what and when to eat for themselves. For instance, Slim Fast touts promotes a regimen of replacing two meals a day with one of their products (e.g. shakes or smoothies), having three approved snacks, and then eating a “sensible” meal of your choice.
Really, their regimen boils down to portion and calorie control, which is convenient for people who don’t want to spend time calculating or making meals. Buying their approved items keeps that guesswork out to help you feel in control of your diet.
However, as we’ll discuss further below, this approach may not work long-term for everyone.
Marketed smoothies to drink for weight loss understandably hype the product. Testimonials and guarantees will always bring customers.
However, even if a particular regimen works short-term, you have to be able to maintain weight loss long-term for the results to matter.
This study observed that only 12% of participants in a diet program maintained at least 75% of their weight loss three years later, and over half regained most (95% or more) of their weight. So, if you find a diet or regimen that works, including weight loss smoothies, then it should be sustainable.
The problem with quick weight loss is that your body can find ways to make your regain that weight, and potentially more. (We will touch on that more below.) So, it’s best to view any rapid weight loss cautiously, until you know you can maintain it. Finding a routine that can help you maintain your weight loss long-term is key.
Too Much Conflicting Information
Unfortunately, so much conflicting information exists on ways to lose weight. The amount and availability on the Internet certainly don’t help.
For instance, one of the most longstanding recommendations for weight loss is pure calorie counting, i.e. the “calories in, calories out” approach. That phrase refers to the idea that if you burn more calories than you consume on any given day (whether by exercise or metabolism), you should lose weight.
However, this study found that reducing calorie intake doesn’t necessarily translate to weight loss and can even alter your body’s functioning. Your body may produce more appetite-stimulating hormones and reduce its metabolic rate to encourage you to retain and regain weight over time.
Another study also found that your body adapts to caloric restriction by decreasing metabolic functioning, but also suggested the importance of exercise in weight loss. The latter brings up another variable in the debate between diet and exercise for optimal weight loss. Generally, research supports that diet is more important than exercise in weight loss, but that combining both is ideal.
Also, different groups promote different kinds of diets, like veganism, vegetarianism, a raw-food diet, keto, or low-carb. Everyone has their own opinion on which type of diet is healthiest and most effective for weight loss, so the potential for confusion is especially high. Someone telling a person simply to drink a certain shake or smoothie may seem easier than navigating all this conflicting information.
Do Effective Weight Loss Smoothies Actually Exist?
Yes, depending on how you use them. No “weight loss smoothie” has magical ingredients to induce your body to lose weight quicker than other ingredients. Rather, weight loss smoothies may work by providing a convenient meal replacement that can also be calorie- or portion-controlled. What you do outside of drinking that smoothie heavily matters, however.
For instance, my husband used to routinely make very caloric, high-fat, high-protein smoothies as meal replacements for three main reasons: 1) they were easier to make than putting together an actual food meal; 2) they were convenient to bring to work for lunch, and 3) he kept the ingredients clean to conform to his efforts of limiting processed, high-sugar foods.
If calorie restriction is your method, understand that it can work short-term, but can have the long-term repercussions and hurdles discussed above. You may also tire of drinking smoothies daily indefinitely.
Thus, the more realistic approach to using smoothies for weight loss would be to fit them into your overall dietary regimen as a snack or meal substitute when desired or needed, but not to view them in isolation as a magic bullet to weight loss. Generally speaking, making “lifestyle changes” is more effective in terms of training your brain to adopt a new diet than viewing any particular regimen as a “quick fix.”
You should have a good idea of how your diet should look for the rest of your life and select one with which you can realistically stick indefinitely. After that, you can think of how certain smoothies fit into that dietary lifestyle and use them as a convenient fix when you don’t know what else to eat.
Variation in diet is good to ensure you consume different vitamins and minerals. Drinking the same smoothie for most of your meals may prevent that from happening.
What Ingredients Should Be in Smoothies to Drink for Weight Loss?
Consuming an adequate amount of protein is key to any successful weight loss regimen. This study found that participants who consumed a high-protein diet burned twice as many calories as participants who did not.
Protein helps you feel full for longer, so you’re better equipped to last longer between meals with fewer cravings. This study found that participants who increased their total dietary intake showed a noticeable decrease in appetite and increase in weight loss.
Thus, you should ensure any smoothies to drink for weight loss include protein.
One ingredient you should avoid or minimize is sugar. Research very clearly ties sugar consumption with weight gain. So, if you buy premade smoothies to drink for weight loss, or make your own, you should ensure the sugar content is low.
Can You Make Your Own Smoothies to Drink for Weight Loss?
Like most products you can buy, you can make your own at home! We discussed how high-protein and low-sugar content is ideal.
Fat isn’t bad either (e.g. oils from nuts, avocados, or coconut fat), depending on how the rest of your dietary intake looks. (See our article, Is Fat-Free or Low-Fat Healthy for You? 15+ Studies Say “No” to Popular Beliefs.) So, feel free to add fat sources to “bulk up” your smoothie for satiety, so long as you don’t mind the texture and flavor.
Basic Smoothie Recipe
Here is an easy, basic smoothie you can make: blend about 1.5 cups of whole milk (or almond milk), 1 serving of protein powder and/or collagen powder (which should equate to about 20 grams of protein), 1 tsp. of vanilla extract, and liquid stevia to taste. I like to add ice and heavy whipping cream as well, to make more of a milkshake consistency when blended.
(See our article, What is the Best Alternative Sweetener?, for other options on sweeteners to use, if you don’t like stevia.)
Below are some variations you can make, depending on your flavor preferences. However, keep in mind that the objective is to have a filling high-protein, low-sugar beverage that you will also enjoy drinking. Because my smoothies often resemble milkshakes, I don’t particularly crave anything sweet afterwards.
If you don’t mind the sugar, you can add blackstrap molasses instead of stevia for an interesting, caramel- or malt-like flavor (and for extra health benefits).
Chocolate / Chocolate Peanut Butter
If you’re into chocolate, you can add cocoa powder and even a scoop of peanut butter, if you want a delicious chocolate peanut butter flavor. When we bought a pint of chocolate peanut butter Häagen-Dazs ice cream, it actually tasted just like the chocolate peanut butter smoothies I routinely make at home! That was much to my dismay, since I was hoping for a flavor I don’t normally have!
Fruit / Berry
If you prefer fruit flavors, you can substitute one of the cups of milk with one cup of plain, whole fat yogurt and then add frozen blueberries or strawberries (or another lower GI fruit) instead of ice. (See our Beginner’s Guide: Make Amazing Yogurt in the Instant Pot to make your own yogurt!)
You can actually just add protein powder to any smoothie, like a green smoothie to increase the protein content. (See our article, Make Green Smoothies Healthier + Low-Sugar Guaranteed | Recipe.)
Do you regularly buy or make smoothies to drink for weight loss? If so, feel free to share your favorites!