Judith Haudum

Liquid energy - Liquid meal replacement in sport

Drinking food is also becoming increasingly popular in sports. The market for products is constantly growing and we can now choose from a wide range of products. Products appeal to different target groups. They combine carbohydrates, protein and fat, and are often rich in vitamins, minerals and other bioactive substances. Athletes use them for various reasons. After training, take the protein shake to support recovery. Sometimes they also try to gain weight with it, while others aim for exactly the opposite and want to lose weight as a result. Whatever the goal, it is important to choose the right drinking diet.

Liquid food has different compositions.
Depending on your goal, it is important to choose the product that supports your goal.

To lose weight and improve health status, we can choose from many different energy-reduced methods. Interestingly, some scientific studies have shown that reduced energy intake with the help of drinking food results in a more significant decrease in snacking than with the traditional, reduced-calorie diet. In addition, the risk of overeating appears to be lower because the portions are regulated by the drinking package.

But is that relevant for athletes? Many do not meet their daily calorie requirements. Recent studies show that many athletes end their workouts with a very large energy deficit. There are several reasons for this deficit: busy schedules, underestimated energy requirements, incorrect food choices. Even though many people don't want to believe it, the group of athletes who eat too little is actually very large. For these athletes, drinking food can be a good solution to increase energy intake. If you don't have time to cook, there might still be enough time to grab a shake and drink it in return. And for those who can't eat all the calories they burn, a pack of hydration also provides an easy way to consume more calories and enough nutrients. If you don't want to buy shakes, there are also many recipes for making yourself a smoothie. Fruit, vegetables, dairy products, healthy fats and spices are a good combination and a good source of nutrients. You can also quickly pack a few hundred calories into a delicious shake this way. My athletes love that.

There is one important thing about it though: The right recipe. Since retailers offer many products, we have a large selection, and you can now also find many smoothie recipes on the Internet. However, if you want to achieve a specific goal, the shake should have the right composition and the right energy content. While some contain protein, there are others that all contain macronutrients. Especially those used for medical purposes also contain micronutrients. For someone who normally eats lots of fruits and vegetables, it's important to make sure not to consume too much micronutrients by the end of the day. If the food already provides enough of it, you don't need highly concentrated amounts in the shake. Otherwise, this can result in extremely high absorption.

If you are an athlete who wants to lose weight, it is important to check the protein content. Drinking food without sufficient protein content does not protect against muscle loss. However, during a period of reduced calorie intake, it is necessary to consume enough protein to maintain muscle. Losing muscle mass is quick, but it takes a long time to rebuild it. In addition, protein improves satiety and when you eat less, it is important to feel full and consume foods that increase satiety. Weight loss shouldn't be the time when you're constantly hungry. Protein is important for this. However, drinking food needs more than protein. Protein alone is not enough to meet your daily nutritional requirements when you switch to liquid. The body needs carbohydrates, protein, fat, vitamins and minerals. A pure protein shake doesn't cover all of that. The shake should cover the daily requirement, but at the same time it should not contain the nutrients in extremely high concentrations.

Hot chocolate was perhaps the first food to drink.
Milk is referred to as food. It is a good source of nutrients. For many years, people drank milk with a meal because it was everywhere and was often the only thing available. Cocoa came later and became popular. A good source of carbohydrates and protein.

Relaxation after exercise is the time when many athletes choose a shake instead of a meal. While there are many powders and finished products, there is also good old chocolate milk, which has recently gained popularity again. Why It is natural, available almost everywhere and is a good source of protein and carbohydrates that also tastes good. Of course, there are also athletes who don't drink cow's milk and choose milk alternatives, but the high protein content and the density of some amino acids (e.g. leucine) in particular makes chocolate milk a great regeneration shake.

Cocoa was already being used in the early 20th century. Perhaps not as a regeneration drink (people didn't know about the role of protein and carbohydrates in recovery back then), but some nations already had them at the table at the games.

Drinking food should not become the only source of energy and nutrients.
Although it seems pleasant to use drinking food for energy and nutrients, we should keep in mind that it is not a typical traditional meal. Food is also associated with many other things. Eating and chewing is a completely different experience. And the social aspect also remains, because meeting up for a shake is not like dating to eat pizza.

A quick shake before training — that sounds good for many. But it can also quickly lead to a certain degree of boredom. What seems great at first quickly becomes boring. A shake on the go is convenient and can prevent an undersupply if you have a lot to do and a meal is quickly skipped. But the habit of drinking food is missing one thing. We're used to sitting down and enjoying a meal, chewing, swallowing, talking, and spending time at the table. Imagine you're meeting up with a friend for a shake. That is not comparable to dating a pizza and a steak.

Another important aspect is the energy and nutrient content. As already mentioned, it is important to read the composition carefully or study the recipe. We all have specific needs and goals, and our meal should support them. While it is an easy way for many to increase calorie requirements, for a few fewer, it can also result in taking in too many calories. What helps is to look at the nutritional information. Good recipes also provide this information. This makes it easy to determine whether it is right for me or whether I need to adjust it so that I can achieve my goals.

Further literature:

Thom & Lean (2017) Is There an Optimal Diet for Weight Management and Metabolic Health? Gastroenterology, 152, 7, 1739-1751. https://doi.org/10.1053/j.gastro.2017.01.056

Noronha et al (2019) The Effect of Liquid Meal Replacements on Cardiometabolic Risk Factors in Overweight/Obese Individuals With Type 2 Diabetes: A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis of Randomized Controlled Trials. Diabetes Care, 42, 767-776. https://doi.org/10.2337/dc18-2270

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