Healthy Living Blog

Liquid Diets for Weight Loss

With a growing number of new weight loss trends, many people are looking into liquid diets to learn what they are, whether they are effective for weight loss, and if they are safe to use.

The term liquid diet refers to a weight loss method where calories come solely from drinks rather than solid foods. People who have recently had digestive tract surgery or other specific medical procedures will often be put on a liquid diet to assist with their recovery. In these instances, a doctor or dietitian will recommend a liquid diet for individuals who cannot tolerate a standard diet due to medical conditions.

Liquid diets have more recently been promoted as weight loss aids or methods to assist in promoting health. First and foremost, people should have a basic understanding of liquid diets before investing time or money into adding this practice to their lives.

Eating significantly fewer calories will result in weight loss

While calories aren’t everything, they are necessary to provide our bodies with the energy we need. Most diets that focus on restricting calories result in weight loss if calorie restriction remains over time. However, some of these diets are difficult for people to maintain in the long term, meaning that individuals will not maintain a lower calorie intake and people will not see the same results compared to the start of the diet.

By this rationale, the calorie reduction that is associated with liquid diets can cause weight loss, though there are many other ways of dieting that yield similar effects. Liquid diets also assist individuals with calorie reduction by controlling portions, since shakes and other weight loss beverages are usually sold in pre-portioned sizes. Portioning food into serving sizes assists people in complying with diets because it lessens the effort needed to plan for each aspect of a meal or snack.

Some diets are based on the premise of limiting the types of food that people can eat. Research has shown that when people are given less variety within their food, they typically eat less on average. While diets that focus on the elimination of all carbs, all fats, or all solid foods may result in lower calorie intake and some weight loss, these diets are not sustainable over time.

Lasting weight loss can only result from a lasting change in eating habits. Most people are unwilling to eat or drink within strict boundaries over time, meaning that while highly restrictive diets may be effective at first, these practices often lead to individuals regaining weight over time.

Despite the focus of many diets on calorie reduction for weight loss, our bodies and minds are the healthiest when they receive over 1,000 calories each day. People who are working toward weight loss should also know that consuming a greater number of liquid diet products will still not provide the body with adequate nutrients due to the contents of these products.

Liquid diet product quality varies drastically

As with most diet products, not all liquid diet products are the same. Liquid diet products should contain far more nutrients than simple protein shakes and powders, since these products are intended as alternatives to solid food. Weight loss beverages should contain an array of vitamins and minerals along with a balance of protein, carbohydrates, and fats to mimic the nutritional value of a traditional meal. Yet, most liquid diet products contain mainly fruits, vegetables, proteins, and pureed whole foods that do not provide the appropriate nutrients to achieve good health over time.

Similarly, juice products or clear drinks that are used as part of cleanses and detoxes are typically deficient in protein, calories, fats, and fiber. While liquid diet products like ready-made supplements are convenient, these items lack fiber and phytonutrients such as antioxidants and other anti-inflammatory substances found in plants.

People who use liquid diet products in place of all solid foods may experience low energy levels and low nutrient intake, so it is not recommended to entirely eliminate solid foods. Keep in mind that solid plant-based items in particular have many nutrients, along with the minerals, vitamins, proteins, and fats that can assist someone toward good health.

The creators of liquid diet products often make unverified claims

Certain manufacturers may claim that their liquid diet products can detoxify or cleanse the body, revitalize organ systems, or enhance health. These claims are often made to assist with product sales, and statements are rarely connected to scientific evidence. While many liquid diet products do contain some vitamins or minerals, these products do not contain special ingredients that boost weight loss, as they may claim. The opposite is true in most cases, since these products often lack most of the key nutrients our bodies need. These claims make it vital for each person who is considering a liquid diet to investigate the supporting evidence for these products.

Consider your personal circumstances

While many people are concerned with how quickly they can lose weight, a person’s weight loss journey is better compared to a marathon rather than a sprint. True success is best measured by how long someone can maintain a healthy weight.

With this concept in mind, there are many paths someone can take to support a healthy weight. Each person has different eating habits, schedules, levels of interest in cooking, and personal preferences, which all impact their progress toward weight loss. These variations make it difficult to recommend that each person follows the same strict dietary trend, though there are core principles that can help people comply with healthy meal plans.

Some good rules to follow are the infrequent use of liquid diet products and eating balanced meals on a regular basis. In order to consistently eat balanced meals, individuals must avoid liquid diets for extended periods to obtain all the necessary nutrients that their bodies need. Liquid diets may be most helpful as supplements to solid foods that are used when individuals do not have access to balanced meals. Since skipping meals increases an individual’s risk for regaining weight, liquid diets may also assist individuals in regularly consuming food when the alternative is skipping a meal.

Individuals should understand the mechanisms and evidence-based benefits of any weight loss method before incorporating it into their daily lives. Education and awareness will assist individuals in adhering to the core principles of healthy eating while maintaining a balanced weight along with good health.

Learn more about Structure House’s nutritional approach.

About Benjamin White, PHD, MPH, RD, LDN, Nutrition Director

In addition to nutrition, Dr. White has a background in public health and scientific research. Ben is excited about translating research into practical knowledge that people can use to improve their overall health. He teaches a variety of classes, ranging from online nutrition resources to meal planning to controlling  your  food environment. He oversees the nutritional components of the program to ensure that participants are equipped with the necessary skills, resources, support, and knowledge to succeed after leaving Structure House. Restaurant outings, individual nutrition counseling, and workshops are also key parts of the program overseen by the nutrition team. The chefs and dietitians at Structure House work in tandem to provide participants with a menu that is appealing, balanced, satisfying and healthy.

Ben earned his Master’s degree in Public Health Nutrition from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He has experience in weight loss counseling, motivational interviewing, diabetes management, vegetarian diets, teaching, and scientific research. Dr. White joined Structure House in 2016 as a Registered Dietitian.

View all posts by Benjamin White, PHD, MPH, RD, LDN

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