Is There a Benefit to Using Protein Drinks for Weight Loss?

Can meal replacement powders help you control your weight?

For a num­ber of years, I’ve rec­om­mend­ed a detox diet plan that includes, dur­ing one phase, the use of pro­tein pow­der meal replace­ment shakes.

The detox plan has worked great for a num­ber of my patients – and I’ve ben­e­fit­ed from it too.

But meal replace­ment pow­ders are often rec­om­mend­ed as part of a strat­e­gy to lose weight.

whey protein

Do they work?

  • Can pro­tein pow­der meal replace­ment sup­ple­ments help you lose weight?
  • Who should use them?  And for how long?
  • Are cer­tain types of pro­tein pow­der bet­ter than oth­ers?

I dis­cov­ered both pros and cons to using pro­tein pow­der meal replace­ment prod­ucts.

First, the pluses

  1. Mus­cle tis­sue has a high­er base­line metab­o­lism than oth­er types of tis­sue, so the more mus­cle you build, the more you’ll boost your metab­o­lism and the eas­i­er it will be to lose weight.  Burn­ing calo­ries is one rea­son that exer­cise is essen­tial to weight loss, but the mus­cle-build­ing aspect of exer­cise is even more impor­tant. Tak­ing a pro­tein sup­ple­ment imme­di­ate­ly after exer­cise has been shown to boost mus­cle syn­the­sis. That alone is one rea­son to use a pro­tein pow­der meal replace­ment prod­uct as part of your weight loss strat­e­gy.
  2. Here’s an extra bonus:  The amino acids in the pro­tein we eat actu­al­ly gen­er­ate a hor­mone-like sig­nal that trig­gers the body to syn­the­size more mus­cle.  (This is espe­cial­ly true of leucine, an impor­tant branched-chain amino acid.)  That accen­tu­ates the meta­bol­ic boost you get from pro­tein pow­ders.
  3. Research has point­ed to the val­ue of pro­tein shakes in con­tribut­ing to weight loss. One study was report­ed in the Jour­nal of the Amer­i­can Dietet­ic Asso­ci­a­tion in 2001. Half of a group of women was giv­en a stan­dard 1,200-calorie meal plan.  The oth­er half was told to replace all three dai­ly meals with a liq­uid shake con­tain­ing 220 calo­ries, sup­ple­ment­ed with fresh fruits and veg­eta­bles to total 1,200 calo­ries per day. Both groups of women lost 3 to 6 pounds of body fat in the first three months.  But only the women using the meal replace­ment plan main­tained their weight loss over an entire year.  The oth­er women regained the lost weight.

Now the negatives

  1. Com­plete, nat­ur­al foods are always more nutri­tious than sci­en­tif­i­cal­ly-con­coct­ed sup­ple­ments.  They have trace com­po­nents that sci­ence is only begin­ning to tease apart.  Pro­tein pow­ders will always fall short. Instead of a pro­tein shake, you might be bet­ter off eat­ing a high-pro­tein food like a boiled egg, or a small piece of bison or wild-caught salmon.
  2. Although the research that backs the use of pro­tein meal replace­ment shakes seems con­vinc­ing at first, the real­i­ty of people’s eat­ing behav­ior is far more com­plex. One rea­son that women using pro­tein shakes can lose more weight is that a pro­tein-shake diet is sim­pler to fol­low.  Any time that you have a restrict­ed range of choic­es, it’s eas­i­er to choose – and that makes the diet eas­i­er to stick with. Oth­er research bears this out.  For instance, a diet in which you replace one meal a day with a glass of milk, or a bowl of chee­rios, or any sin­gle food choice, is very easy to fol­low.  These diet plans are proven to help you lose weight, too. In oth­er words, there’s noth­ing mag­i­cal about pro­tein shakes when it comes to los­ing weight.  What works is build­ing your com­mit­ment to a low-calo­rie habit.

So why not use low calo­rie meals that have a more com­plete range of nutri­ents than what’s found in pro­tein pow­der?

The bottom line

If you’re try­ing to build mus­cle, a pro­tein sup­ple­ment after work­ing out can help.  Here’s more info.

As part of a detox diet, a pro­tein shake can be use­ful because it sim­pli­fies your food choic­es and makes it less like­ly you’ll be ingest­ing some­thing that you’re sen­si­tive too or can’t digest eas­i­ly.

If you’re try­ing to lose weight, using meal replace­ment pro­tein pow­ders might be a help too.  Choose a high qual­i­ty prod­uct that sup­plies a bal­ance of nutri­ents.

Moss Nutrition’s Select Whey is one of the bet­ter prod­ucts out there.  It comes in choco­late,  vanil­la, or unfla­vored.

Whey is one of the best pro­tein sources, because it’s eas­i­ly digestible and absorbable.  And it’s high in the amino acid leucine, the strongest trig­ger for pro­tein syn­the­sis. Although it’s derived from dairy, it rarely caus­es any aller­gic response (most peo­ple with a dairy aller­gy are sen­si­tive to casein, the oth­er type of pro­tein found in milk.)

You can order Whey Select direct­ly from the Moss Nutri­tion web­site.  Moss Nutrition’s prod­ucts are only avail­able through licensed health pro­fes­sion­als. When you order, they’ll ask you for your doctor’s name.  Enter my name – Ronald Lavine, D.C.


Deepen Your Body of Knowledge

Very low calo­rie diets and pro­tein shakes

Dr. Lavine’s Detox 2014



About Ronald Lavine, D.C.

Dr. Lavine has more than thirty five years' experience helping patients alleviate pain and restore health using diverse, scientifically-based manual therapy and therapeutic exercise and alignment methods. His website,, provides more information about his approach. Please contact him at or at 212-400-9663.
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