Sunday, July 12, 2009

About Meal Replacement

Meal replacements came into prominence several years ago, when a company called Met-Rx introduced a unique formula that was unlike anything else on the market. This revolutionary product was billed as a means to build muscle and reduce body fat. They go by many names: Myoplex, Rx-Fuel, Met-Rx, etc. They are ideal for bodybuilders, dieters and those who are time pressed.

Essentially, these products are a high protein, low fat, moderate carbohydrate food source that is rich in vitamins and minerals. They are designed to provide a maximal amount of nutrients in a format that is not inclined to promote significant body fat storage. Per serving these powders usually contain 250-300 calories, 35-45 gm of protein, 20-25 gm of carbohydrates, and 2-4 gm of fat. They also have between 50-100% of the RDAs for most of the major vitamins and minerals. Protein sources typically consist of whey, calcium caseinate, milk protein isolates, sodium caseinate, and egg albumin, which are all derived from milk and egg. Carbohydrate sources usually consist of maltodextrin (short glucose chains), corn syrup solids, or sucrose (table sugar). Fat comes in the form of partially hydrogenated oils such as canola or coconut oils.

Unlike many of today's popular "meal replacement shakes" and weight loss beverages like slimming tea, meal replacements are very low in simple sugars. Because simple sugars are rapidly assimilated into your blood stream, they tend to cause a corresponding surge in your insulin levels. This oversecretion of insulin produces a spillover effect that is directly associated with increased fat storage. In fact, sugar-based products can actually promote greater body fat levels than high fat foods, making them highly undesirable for maintaining a lean, healthy physique. Instead of simple sugars, meal replacements like protein shakes use maltodextrin as their primary carbohydrate source. This wheat-based derivative is complex in nature and thus enters your blood stream in a "time released" manner. This helps to stabilize insulin secretions, minimizing the potential for excess fat deposition.

These products obtain their protein from high-quality whey and egg sources rather than cheaper alternatives. By nature, whey and egg proteins are maximally absorbed into your body. This allows a greater amount of protein to be utilized for important functions such as tissue growth and repair-a critical factor if you are a serious athlete.

As a rule, meal replacement are best utilized as an adjunct to a well-balanced nutritional regimen - not as a substitute for natural foods. They fill a specific dietary niche, but by no means are a complete source of nutrition. Hence, their overuse can lead to a disparity in dietary ratios as well as a deficiency in vital nutrients. Combining meal replacements with natural foods is the best way to satisfy all of your nutritional requirements, ensuring an optimal intake of nutrients.

In practice, it is best to eat a hearty breakfast, lunch and dinner, using shakes as "interim" meals. It is widely recognized that a diet consisting of small, frequent meals (five or six a day) spaced out every two to three hours provides optimal nutritional utility. Eating in this fashion increases metabolic function, regulates blood sugar levels and stabilizes various hormonal processes, allowing your body to operate at peak efficiency. Furthermore, it helps to suppress hunger and thus prevent the temptation to snack on "empty calorie" foods that are high in saturated fat and sugar. Since meal replacements are convenient and easy to prepare, they facilitate your ability to consume quality nutrients at regular intervals without expending a great deal of effort.

On the other hand, meal replacement products like meal replacement shake or meal replacement bars will not directly build your muscles or make you stronger. There is a prevailing misconception that they have powerful, "steroid-like effects" that will miraculously transform your body from fat to fit. However, despite the hype, muscular development can only be achieved through intense strength training. Although consuming adequate dietary protein will aid in the muscle building process when combined with a dedicated weight-training regimen, simply adding meal replacements to your diet will have no effect on building better muscles!

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