This Diet Fad Needs to Go

Jul 15, 2021 | Nutrition

One of the weirder fad diets that has hung around FAR longer than it should is the idea of liquid diets. 

And I don’t mean doctor prescribed ones that are necessary for medical procedures.

I mean the meal replacement shakes, supplements, broths, cleanses and whatever other names there are out there to promote weight loss via consuming all of your calories from liquid sources.

We Have Teeth for A Reason

The first gripe I have with liquid diets is that we have teeth for a reason – we’re meant to chew our food.

Most of us think of the stomach and intestines when we talk digestion, but the process of digestion begins in the mouth.

Not only do our teeth and tongue begin breaking down our food, but saliva also contains enzymes that begin breaking down starches and fats while still in the mouth.

Additionally, the act of chewing signals the remainder of the digestive tract to process food. This means our GI tract is better able to absorb nutrients when we chew our food. And if you’re on a liquid diet, one of the main concerns is getting optimal vitamins and minerals for bodily function.

Liquids Leave Our Stomachs Faster

Another issue I have with an all liquid diet for weight loss is you’ll end up spending more time hungry.

If you’re on a fat loss journey, there’s really no way around feeling hungry some of the time. If you’re in an energy deficit, your body will signal you that it wants more. Instead of giving in, you’re having your body use the fat stores you already have.

When you consume only liquids though, they empty from your stomach up to 50% faster than solid foods, meaning your stomach is empty for even longer (and thus you’re hungry for even longer).

As mentioned above, this faster emptying can lead to less nutrient absorption and you won’t get optimal levels.

Call me crazy, but it seems counter-intuitive to be hungry MORE as a way to try to lose weight.

Liquid Calories Add Up Fast

One of my very favorite snacks is a chocolate, peanut butter and banana protein shake.

It has just one scoop of protein, one TBSP of peanut butter, half a banana, some milk, chia seeds and ice… aaannnnnd it comes in at a whopping 472 calories.

And yes, I said a SNACK.

Some people eat entire meals that are 500 calories, and I’m talking just a snack.

Because when you start adding in nut butters and proteins and other supplements, the calories come in quick.

Don’t get me wrong though, this favorite shake of mine is completely a healthy snack choice. Nut butters, chia seeds, protein powders, even other supplements can make for a super healthful snack.

But it’s not filling by any stretch of the imagination.

Not only do I ingest a whole bunch of calories (for just a snack anyways), but it also empties from my stomach faster, so I’m hungry again sooner.

All of this means I’m actually more prone to OVER-eating later when I’m hungry again, even though I drank plenty of calories.

Liquid Calories Make for Great Gainers

When I was working as a collegiate strength and conditioning coach, we had athletes who were “hard gainers,” meaning they had a super high metabolism and a tough time gaining weight (a nice problem to have if I say so myself haha).

But to get them some easy calories, we would have them drink shakes similar to my favorite chocolate, peanut butter, banana shake.

Same goes for cancer patients undergoing chemo who have a tough time eating due to the effects of the chemicals – there’s a whole industry of supplemental shakes to help them maintain weight via easy liquid calories.

So the diet industry has taken the concept and flipped it on its head in a very counterintuitive way, and turned it into a fad that has managed to stick around for decades.

Sure, you can drink all your calories and manage to do it in an energy deficit, but you’ll also be hungry a lot and you may even be deficient in nutrients because of it.

I’ve not tried a liquid diet for weight loss, but all in all, it sounds like a pretty terrible way to go about losing some weight.

I’d rather have one less bite of cheesecake; or throw in an extra five minutes of moving my body.

Weight loss is hard enough for most people, why would you want to make it even tougher with more hunger pangs and never getting to feel like you’ve eaten enough?

My advice: join me in letting the liquid diet fad fade away as it should have a long time ago.


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