Liquid diets go back as far as 1930, when Dr. Stoll's "Diet Aid" was hawked in beauty parlors. In the late 1970's, liquid protein diets such as "The Last Chance Diet" became all the rage, much like low carb diets became popular in the 1990's.
According to the FDA, in 1977, 58 deaths were reported by adults following these strict liquid protein diets, which lacked essential nutrients and solid food.
When news of the deaths made the headlines, liquid protein diets fell out of favor. However, they returned just as quickly in different incarnations. One of them was the doctor-supervised liquid protein diet, which provided an extremely low calorie diet (as low as 800 calories per day), primarily aimed at the seriously obese.
Proponents of these "second-generation" liquid diets, which still exist today, say they are safe and nutritionally complete because they are medically supervised and patients are given vitamin and mineral supplements.
The liquid diets became immensely popular again in the late 1980's. According to a New York Times story, when Oprah Winfrey announced the name of the liquid diet program she was using, that company recieved one million phone calls in a single day. By 1988, diet clinics expanded beyond the medical setting and had become a $10 billion dollar industry.
The third generation of liquid diets came in the form of powders or cans of diet drinks, which you could pick up at the local grocery store. Generally, you were advised to eat a shake for "breakfast," a shake for "lunch" then eat a "sensible" dinner consisting of whole foods. Sometimes snacks were allowed in between.
All these liquid diet programs claimed you would lose weight on them. That much may be true. But many claimed that you would lose more weight using their products than you would with real, whole food, and that their products would help you keep the weight off. That part is NOT true.
Very low calorie diets (VLCD's) that that emphasize liquid nutrition and de-emphasize whole food, can be unhealthy, nutritionally inadequate and even dangerous, and are one of the worst things you could ever do to your body and your metabolism in the long term. Here's why:
First, these programs are usually 800 to 1000 calories per day or less, which will virtually always trigger your body's starvation response. According to Eleanor Whitney and Sharon Rolfes in the textbook, "Understanding Nutrition, "Very low calorie diet formulas are designed to be nutritionally adequate, but the body responds to this severe energy restriction as if the person were starving - conserving energy and preparing to regain weight at the first opportunity."
Second, the weight comes back. No doubt, the weight losses from liquid diets can be dramatic - but not nearly as dramatic as the weight regain afterward - along with the physical and pychological damage that comes with it. According to Dr. Phillip Sinaikin, an addiction recovery specialist, "A drug addict stands a better chance of recovery than a [liquid] dieter."
The fact is, liquid formula diets do not teach you how to eat in order to STAY slim for the long term.
In a New York Times survey of 31 men and women who had lost up to 194 lbs on liquid diets, 23 said they began to develop a strong fear of food, yet they experienced uncontrollable cravings and urges at the same time. One respondent said that after a binge that started with 7,000 calories in one day, he had regained 21 lbs in 15 days.
Third: Many of these liquid diet products are poorly formulated and loaded with junk such as pure sugar (sucrose) or corn syrup! YES - CORN SYRUP - That nasty refined sugar that nutritionists are blaming much of obesity and childhood obesity on during the last decade.
You would be shocked - even disgusted - if you looked at the "ingredients list" of some of these drinks and shakes that are actually being passed off as fat loss or health food.
Fourth, even if you know how to select a quality meal replacement product, these products do NOT contain any fat-burning or muscle-building properties that you can't obtain from regular food.
Today, nutritional supplements have come a long way and we now have "fourth generation" products including protein powders and meal replacements that contain protein and carbs. The better products are more adequate in calories than the previous generation of diet drinks and they are usually well fortified with vitamins and minerals and use high quality proteins such as whey and casein. Some even have added fiber.
High quality, modern meal replacement products can play a small role in your nutrition program. But even the very best products will never be superior to real whole foods. Human beings cannot manufacture food products that improve on mother nature.
All-natural, unrefined whole foods contain naturally-occuring vitamins, minerals, fiber, phytochemicals, and bioactive compounds. They provide bulk and satisfaction and they improve your metabolic functioning.
The truth is that meal replacement drinks and protein shakes are nothing more than "powdered food"
(or "liquid food"). They're useful for convenience when you're in a hurry and don't have time to
prepare and eat whole food and some product can be very helpful for post-workout nutrition... but they're not better than food.
The fat burning solution is to eat real, whole food as much as possible, to eat small frequent meals throughout the day, and avoid very low calorie "liquid diet" products unless your doctor is having you use them for a specific reason. Use the latest-generation, nutritionally-complete meal replacements and protein powders only for convenience purposes, NOT for weight reduction per se.
Train hard and expect success,
Tom Venuto, Fat Loss Coach
Author of Burn the Fat, Feed the Muscle
Founder and CEO of the Burn the Fat Inner Circle
CLICK HERE to learn more about Tom Venuto's Burn The Fat, Feed the Muscle: Fat Burning Secrets of the World's Best Bodybuilders & Fitness Models.