The debate on meal replacements and maintaining a healthy lifestyle has taken a boost recently, as the meal replacement drink Soylent will be available in the UK from Thursday 4th October; sparking big debate in the sports nutrition
and health industries as a whole.
Soylent is a drink that has an aim to take away the need for solid foods by providing people with enough nutrients and minerals to replace the ones provided by food. The company hasn't had an easy ride, however, as they had to make various changes to meet the tough UK food regulations and have also come under fire for the lack of clarity around the impact it actually has on our health.
Since being bombarded with criticisms, the company has re-branded the drink from an everyday meal replacement to completely take away the need for food, to an 'occasional meal' that is aimed to bridge the "food voids" we face in our daily lives (the times when we can't get a meal, so need something on the go).
This comes after nutritionists and health experts are sceptical about the long-term effect of eating no solid food or using the replacement. Kris Ringer replaces two of his daily meals with another meal replacement names Huel.
Although Kris said it is great for a productive lifestyle, he went on to say; "I don't think I could go to a full replacement though. By the end of the day, I'm longing for real food that I can actually chew.." which is fair enough, considering the replacement is for function over form, so the flavour isn't something that they really focus on.
We spoke to two of our experts to get their opinions on meal replacements. See what they had to say below:
Lee Hinegan - Personal Trainer & Course Tutor
"With food supplementation, basically, it is meant as it is implied... "to supplement" an existing diet of real food and drink etc.
A diet that relies solely on supplementation is not ideal as a lot of these are synthesised from either natural or unnatural sources, and though will provide the body with some nutrition, nothing beats real food
Consuming real food also ensures good enzyme production for the body, as a lot of supplement food and protein powders are already pre-digested. These work for people taking them because the nutrients quickly enter the body rather than having to go through the "digestive process".
I would say that overall, I advocate the use of supplementation for people training at any level, as they may get the necessary nutrients from these that they may not get in the "normal diet". This is because supplements are generally easier to prepare, especially on the go, and can be taken as a snack to bridge the gap between meals."
Louis Homer - Personal Trainer & Course Tutor
"Food supplements are a tricky one because the industry is so young. This means that even when we do want to find out the pros and cons of them, we end up with biased opinions and we no one comes out any the wiser.
Although, with the studies that have been done so far, I think meal replacements are extremely useful, as they do not pose any negative effects in the short-term use of the products such as Soylent. Yet again, this benefit only goes to a certain extent, as consuming a liquid-based diet will sprout problems with digestion later down the road.
Overall, I think it is too early to make a reliable assumption about meal replacements, but I think that if they are used in a smart way, and are used as they are intended; to make consuming our energy sources more productive, then they are definitely a good idea."
Lindsey O'Toole - Personal Trainer & Course Tutor
There can be benefits to supplements if taken properly and with the right training. In general, I would rather advise to get what you need from your diet and make adjustments where needed and not rely on supplements.
I don’t agree with meal replacements as they are only a short-term fix and rarely have the desired effect. A balanced diet should be enough to give you everything you would need.
Overall, the debate around Soylent and meal replacements as a whole is one that is not going to end any time soon, as a lack of in-depth meta-analysis means we can neither deem it good or bad, but as studies show, if you use it as it is meant to be (as a supplement rather than a replacement) then the benefits could be huge.
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