The Truth About Ensure
In the fight for weight loss and fitness, people will try just about anything.
Over the years, as both a health coach and sport nutrition specialist, I’ve come across a lot of people who use Ensure Meal Replacement shakes as part of their health and fitness programs.
So what’s the deal with this popular product? Is Ensure good for you? Or is it a bad choice?
Nutritional Value of Ensure
First, let’s look at the basic nutritional value of Ensure. The basic Ensure brand is low in saturated fat, very low in cholesterol, and high in a number of important vitamins and minerals. It comes out at only 6 grams of fat and includes a healthy 9 grams of protein. All in all, not bad at 250 calories.
The Plus & Active options are a bit higher in fat, protein, and even calories and are intended for people who have trouble maintaining a healthy weight. And finally, the High Protein option has the same fat content as the basic option, but comes in with 3 extra grams of protein (unless you are looking at the Active High Protein which has 16 more grams).
Nutritional value is one thing, but it’s sort of meaningless without understanding the source of those nutrients. No matter which type of Ensure drink you’re looking for, sugar comes out as the 2nd or 3rd ingredient (the first being water). And this isn’t good sugar – this is refined white sugar, which means it’s great at causing blood glucose spikes that will leave you feeling hungry and craving more sugar shortly thereafter.
It’s also packed full of chemicals and corn derivatives that aren’t so great for your bod, such as corn syrup, corn maltdextrin, short-chain fructooligosaccharides, and other corn and soy oils. The rest of the ingredients are primarily vitamins that have been artificially added to the shakes. What we’re left with is something that is not at all natural and contains little in terms of “real food.”
Personally, I prefer to support my active lifestyle with a whole foods diet that is rich in natural sources of vitamins and minerals. I do supplement with protein shakes, such as Gaspari Nutrition Myofusion and Optimum 100% Natural Whey, but when I do, I always mix them with fruit, skim or almond milk, and healthy non-fat yogurt. This ensures that I’m getting something “real” with my extra protein.
As for working out, I wouldn’t label either the basic or high protein option as great post-workout drinks. Read my full article on Protein and Muscle Building to see exactly how much protein you should be consuming on a daily basis if your goal is to build lean muscle.
My Final Word on Ensure
My final answer is NO, Ensure is not so good for you. It’s packed full of sugar and other ingredients that will just interfere with with your weight loss efforts. If you have access to real food, go with that. If you simply can’t get a real meal in for breakfast, then I suppose an Ensure once in a while would be better than nothing. But unless you’re elderly or sick, pass on this popular line of meal replacement shakes.
If you’re looking for a healthy snack, I’d recommend a whole foods energy bar like Oh Yeah! Bars which are the best I’ve ever tasted and the nutritional breakdown is awesome. Alternatively, you can also look at making your own healthy high protein cookies like my ultra popular Chunky Chocolate Protein Cookie Recipe.
Have any questions or feedback about whether Ensure is good for you? Please leave a comment below…