When it comes to getting fit and losing weight, working out is very important. However, there’s one thing that is even more critical: a good diet. As our understanding of nutrition evolves, nutritious meal replacement shakes have emerged which can now be consumed instead of having a full meal. These shakes carry all the essential nutrition that you need, are easy and quick to prepare, and can help you stay fit.
Over the course of this article, we shall be examining meal replacement shakes in great detail: what are these shakes, how did they come into being, are they good for you, what their drawbacks are, who should take them, as well as a large number of other questions. Many people are also confused between protein shakes vs meal replacement shakes. We shall be providing this difference in great detail as well. This is a three-sixty degree guide on meal replacements and everything that you need to know about them.
However, one thing that you must know before we deep-dive into the world of meal replacements is that they go hand in hand with working out. Only working out or only consuming these shakes is not going to give you the best possible results. While both of them are beneficial on their own, it is only when you use them together that you get the maximum benefits out of them. That being pointed out, let us now take a closer and detailed look at everything that you need to know about meal replacement shakes:
What Are Meal Replacement Shakes?
In the simplest of words, a meal replacement shake is basically a drink that is designed to replace an entire meal. The idea behind a ‘meal’ when you are working towards bodybuilding or weight loss is to get all the right things inside your body and cutting out all the unwanted elements. These meal replacement shakes are essentially the perfect ‘custom-made diet’ for your gymming or weight loss needs.
These shakes generally consider a large number of nutrients, vitamins, and minerals which are essential for your body and eliminates everything else. A well-balanced diet needs nutrients, vitamins, proteins, fiber, and carbs. A meal replacement shake can put all of that in a bottle that you can easily drink instead of you having to eat various different food products which may carry some unwanted properties in them.
These are a great option for anyone who is looking forward to shedding a few pounds and is working out for that. This helps you cut down on your calories and ensures that you can consume just the right amount of calories that you need. Sometimes people who are on weight-loss diets tend to skip their meals in order to lose weight. However, with these shakes, you don’t even have to do that. These are easy to prepare compared to a traditional meal as you just have to mix them with water and you’re done.
As per modern definitions of what a meal replacement shake should be, the European Union has defined the following criteria:
- First up, the energy should be between 200 to 250kcals
- 25-50% of the total content should be proteins
- Fat should be less than or equal to 30% of the total content
- Vitamins and minerals should form at least 30% or more of the total nutrition reference values of the shake
However, this is a very modern criterion. Let us now take a look at how things were when they started
Tracing the History of Meal Replacement Shakes
The concept of ‘meal replacement’ used to be a science fiction concept that has been seen in various books and movies over the 1950s and 1960s. However, from about the 80s, these have become quite the reality! While science fiction envisioned them as pills or potions, meal replacement today happens via these shakes or via bars which can be consumed in order to get all your nutrition. These shakes act as a complete meal by themselves and you no longer need to eat different things.
Over the years scientists and nutritionists have been working on developing these shakes to become as good as a proper meal, and with time they have become quite accurate too. In 2021, meal replacement shakes give you a tailor-made diet of carbs, fibers, vitamins and minerals, and all the other essential nutrients that your body needs.
While it is always best advised to have a proper meal if you can, but in the absence of one, or in case of shortage of time, meal replacement shakes can be equally beneficial. However, we would still advise you to not use them as the only meal but to only treat them as a backup option as there’s still research and development that’s going on when it comes to developing meal replacement shakes.
What Goes Inside Meal Replacement Shakes?
Let us take a closer look at the various components of meal replacement shakes and the benefits of each of them:
- Protein: This usually forms the biggest chunk of your meal replacement shake’s composition. Generally varying between 25 to 50% of the entire bottle (as seen on the nutrient profile of Garden of Life meal replacement shake), protein is essential to build muscles as well as for repairing muscles. Proteins also help oxygenate your blood better, which is another major reason to consume them. Lastly, they also form various enzymes in your body which aid your digestive tracks, thereby also helping with better digestion.
- Fiber: Following protein, dietary fiber is usually the second-largest component of any meal replacement product. Most shakes and powders will carry a lot of fiber because it helps you normalize bowel movements and aids in lowering the risk of many diseases such as colorectal cancer and hemorrhoids. Two more benefits are that fiber helps lower your cholesterol levels as well as controls blood sugar levels.
- Carbohydrates: The best meal replacement shakes carry about 5-10% of carbs and not more than that. Carbs form a small chunk of the mix, but they are essential for you because that’s where you get your energy from. Reduction or elimination of carbs from your diet can cause easy fatigue, weakness, dizziness, and a number of other similar weakness-related symptoms. Carbohydrates give you the energy that you need to work out for longer hours.
- Vitamins: Vitamins play multiple roles in our bodies and they are essential to be consumed. A good diet has to have a good number of vitamins in them. Hence, the best meal replacement shakes for men generally tend to have a lot of vitamin content, particularly rich in Vitamins A, C, and D among others. They help build immunity, heal wounds, improve bone strength, prevent diseases and perform multiple roles. Always make sure you are checking the vitamin profile of the shake that you are buying.
- Minerals: Minerals, like vitamins, are essential for your body and are needed for thousands of purposes. Most good meal replacement powders and shakes are bound to carry minerals such as Calcium, Zinc, Iron, Sodium, Potassium among many others. These minerals perform many small tasks such as healing your muscles, strengthening your bones, ensuring proper brain functioning, production of various enzymes and hormones, etc.
- Fat: While many people consume these shakes to lose weight, the interesting thing is that most of the best meal replacement shakes carry a small amount of fat in them (usually between 3-6%). This fat content is essential because fat helps produce fatty acids in the body which are useful for certain vitamins (such as Vitamin A) to get absorbed by the body as these are fat-soluble Vitamins.
- Sugar: Sugar plays a very important role in your diet. Apart from just sweetening the food that you are consuming, sugar also provides energy and glucose to the brain – something that the human brain needs in order to function properly. Usually, the sugar content in these shakes is present but is minimal (not even 1%)
While this is the primary nutrient profile of meal replacement shakes, there’s one more aspect to it – flavors. Not everyone can consume shakes that do not taste good. Hence, there are some flavored variants out there, such as the French Vanilla flavored organic meal replacement shake from Purely Inspired, which are particularly beneficial for people who are just starting out with these shakes.
Benefits of Meal Replacement Shakes
Having talked a bit about what meal replacement shakes are and how they came into being, one must also know about the benefits of these shakes. Here’s a list of some of the major advantages:
- Weight loss is one of the biggest and the most common reasons why people consume meal replacement shakes. Given that they have no extra or unwanted ingredients, but just the essential nutrients, vitamins, and minerals, these shakes are really good for you if you are working on a weight loss diet. Consuming these shakes every now and then and working out is a good combination to tackle obesity. Getting a meal replacement powder such as RSP’s Truefit can really help you cut down on your weight.
- Apart from weight-loss diets, another major reason why people prefer using meal replacement shakes is because of convenience. Considering that cooking food takes a long time, and counting calories of each portion takes even longer, consuming a bottle of a meal replacement shake is easier and faster – and provides your body with the right combination that is needed by it. These are meals on the go, allowing you to nourish yourself anytime you wish to.
- While weight loss is one major reason, another reason is to bulk up. If you are someone who wishes to gain weight or add more calories to your diet, you then need to consume a meal replacement shake after your meal, which provides you with the extra dose of nutrition and calories that are needed.
- There’s another important yet underrated benefit of consuming these meal replacement shakes. This is the fact that when you are consuming these shakes, you are not eating junk or food that is low in nutritional value. These shakes make sure that you are not consuming anything that is harmful to your body.
Meal Replacement Shakes vs Protein Shakes
One of the most common confusions that people have is about the difference between a meal replacement shake and protein shakes. Many people consider them to be the same thing, but in reality, they are different. A meal replacement shake contains some proteins in it, but a protein shake does not contain other elements such as fiber, carbs, vitamins, and minerals that a meal replacement shake contains. In essence, a protein shake is basically a supplement that you are consuming to increase your protein intake and you have it after a meal. However, when you have a meal replacement shake you skip the meal altogether and only consume the shake.
A protein shake is generally consumed before or after a workout. A meal replacement shake doesn’t necessarily have to be aligned with your workout timings. One of the biggest benefits that protein shakes give you is the fact that they help build or repair muscles. This is why they are so important for those people who are actively working out. A meal replacement shake is just a way to get you on the right diet with the right number of calories.
A large part of a meal replacement shake, too, consists of proteins, as seen in the Authentic Meal Replacement Powder, where proteins form the largest chunk of the premix. This is because you feel ‘full’ after consuming proteins. It also takes your digestive tract a longer time to digest protein than compared to other nutrients, meaning it remains in your body for a longer amount of time.
Lastly, we’d like to reiterate the point that a meal replacement shake can replace a whole meal and is good for those who are on a weight loss diet, but a protein shake is basically an add-on and a supplement that will help increase your protein intake so that you can work out better and gain bigger muscles. One must also keep in mind that the best meal replacement shakes for men carry a high amount of protein, but even the best of protein shakes do not carry the same number of carbs, fiber, and other essential macro and micronutrients that a meal replacement shake does.
Buyer’s Guide for Meal Replacement Shake: What to Consider?
Having understood so much about meal replacement shakes and the benefits that they have to offer, one must also know about what are some factors that are to be considered while buying a meal replacement shake. Here’s a closer look at some of them:
First up, you need to know the nutrition breakdown of the shake. You need to know about all the exact micronutrients and macronutrients that your meal replacement shake is offering you. The best meal replacement tends to be rich in nutrient profile, has a high protein and fiber content and can provide you between 400 to 600 calories. However, if you are on a weight loss diet you can also find some shakes that provide you between 200 to 300 calories. If you are following a keto diet, make sure that you are going for a keto-friendly meal replacement shake such as Nature Fuel Keto Meal Replacement Powder, which offers you low carbs and high proteins.
While it is important to know what goes inside your shake, it is also important to know the quality of these nutrient-rich ingredients and where are they coming from. Generally, a shake that is rich in whey and egg white is considered very healthy. However, one more aspect that comes into the picture is the kind of diet you follow. If you are a vegan, you might want to go for something that has a combination of brown rice along with some peas. In that case, Wellpath’s ‘Essential’ is a good option for you as it is designed for vegans. Also, check the amount of fat and the fat source. It is acceptable if the fat is being sourced from healthier sources such as sunflower oil or flaxseed.
One more thing that you might want to look into is that the meal replacement that you are getting offers a low sugar content. A very sugary shake can end up causing more damage than the benefits it has to offer. Besides, also look for fiber. Something that is rich in fiber will always be good because it can help you stay full for a longer time and it will also ensure that your stomach remains healthy.
Meal replacement shakes come in two forms: powders and ready-made shakes. Powders are usually the preferred choice because they are cheaper and are often considered more nutritional and are the ‘traditional’ ways of making a meal replacement shake. A readymade shake has the benefit of being more convenient, but it is also more expensive. The cost factor is always something that comes into play while making any purchase and these shakes are no different.
Lastly, some people also like a hint of flavor along with their meal replacement shake. This is natural, and more so for those who are just beginning to consume these shakes because we are all human and no one can really consume something that doesn’t taste good, especially for the first few times. Take a look at the flavor of the shake, but make sure you don’t fall for the sugar trap.
Meal Replacement Shakes and Weight Loss
We now come to the question that we hear a lot: do meal replacement shakes actually help with weight loss? The simple answer is: yes, they do. However, just these three words don’t suffice so let us now dig deeper into this aspect of meal replacement shakes and see how they can help you lose weight:
One of the first things that you should know about meal replacement shakes is that they give you an exact idea of the calories that will be consumed by you. Traditional methods of ‘calorie counting’ can give you an approximation but never an exact estimate. However, when you consume meal replacement shakes you know exactly how many calories are being consumed by you on a per-meal basis. This can help you lose weight faster because if you know that you are to have, for example, three meals a day of 400 calories each, that’s what you are going to follow.
Meal replacement shakes such as Vega One Organic Meal Replacement also help you lose weight by providing you with the right kind of food. You don’t really know the exact micronutrient and macronutrient profile of the meal that you are eating otherwise, but with these shakes, you know exactly what goes inside them as all the details are on the label. Cooking a well-balanced meal is much harder than simply consuming a meal replacement shake.
Furthermore, for the best results, don’t completely replace your regular food-based diet with shakes. Just consume them every now and then, especially when you get the urge for a snack. Just count the calories of the snack and prepare a meal replacement shake instead, which is way healthier and is going to keep you fuller for a much longer period of time. It is best consumed as a backup to meals and not as a complete replacement.
When it comes to losing weight, only shakes are not going to do you much good. You also need to work out and burn the calories that you are consuming. Technically weight loss happens when you burn more calories than you consume in a day. Hence, consuming a meal replacement shake is a good idea just before a workout. About an hour or 30 minutes before you hit the gym, chug down some of this shake. This will help you stay energetic throughout the workout and the protein content will help you build muscle as well.
To sum it up we would strongly recommend that these shakes are good alternatives for meals but they should be consumed as either a backup or a replacement for an unhealthy snack. Also, before you consume these shakes, it is best advised to get in touch with your nutritionist so that they can guide you better on how many calories a day do you need and whether these shakes will suit your body.
How and When To Consume Meal Replacement Shakes?
First up, let us again reiterate the point that meal replacement shakes should never be a complete replacement to whole food meals. They are to only be consumed in the absolute absence of a proper meal and in situations when it becomes too tough to prepare them. So if you can, grab whole food meals. However, if you can’t then these shakes are a good alternative.
In order to consume them, all you need to do is simply grab the packet, open it up and empty all the powder inside a shaker. Use some cold water and stir and shake well. That’s it – your shake is ready. You can also grab a ready-made shake, such as the Soylent Complete Nutrition shake (which comes in 8 flavor variants), from a nearby store that sells healthy food items, or you can make one at your home too. Let us take a look at some of the best recipes which can help you prepare your own meal replacement shakes at home:
DIY Recipe for Preparing the Best Meal Replacement Shakes at Home
While there’s always the option of grabbing a meal replacement powder or pre-mix from the market, you can also create your own DIY meal replacement shake at home. The process isn’t really difficult and it involves the use of some common products that can be found in any fridge on a regular day. One thing that you might require additionally is Whey protein. With that said, here’s how you can make a meal replacement shake from the comfort of your kitchen:
- First, add one cup of unsweetened almond milk to a blender.
- Follow that up with one cup of frozen berries
- Add one tablespoon of coconut oil to the mix
- Proceed to add one cup of plain Greek yogurt to the blender
- Lastly, add one or two scoops of Whey protein powder
Turn the blender on and wait till the mixture becomes completely smooth. Proceed to take it out and pour in a glass. Your meal replacement shake is ready. This should charge you up with about 400 calories, about 30 grams of protein, and about 30 grams of carbohydrates. Since you’re using berries and almond milk, you won’t even need to add sugar to the mix because the blended product is not going to be bland or bitter anyway. This is a healthy, homemade DIY alternative to meal replacement shakes.
Pros and Cons of Meal Replacement Shakes
Before we move to the FAQs and conclusion, here’s one final look at the pros and cons of these meal replacement shakes:
- They offer you the complete nutrient profile that a healthy diet requires
- These shakes, along with workouts, help you lose weight faster
- You know the exact amount of calories that you are consuming while drinking these shakes
- These shakes carry fiber and vitamins that have multiple health benefits
- Meal replacement shakes can be consumed quickly and there’s no hassle of preparing them
- They are a very healthy alternative to unhealthy snacking needs
- High protein content in these shakes helps you work out better and build and repair muscles
- These are to be considered only as an emergency meal and cannot actually replace all your meals
- The human body requires more antioxidants than these shakes can provide
- Getting off the shake diet can lead to a spike in weight once again
- Not all nutrient shake powders use good quality ingredients in the powder
Frequently Asked Questions About Meal Replacement Shakes:
Here are the answers to some of the most common and frequently asked questions about meal replacement shakes:
1. Is it necessary to have meal replacement shakes for losing weight?
No, you can lose weight without necessarily consuming these shakes too. However, when it comes to keeping a count of the exact number of calories that you are consuming on a day-to-day basis, a meal replacement shake can play a major role. They ensure that you are consuming only a certain number of calories and hence losing weight faster.
2. How many grams of protein does a meal replacement shake carry?
In the case of the best meal replacement shakes for men, anywhere between 25 to 50% of the total content is proteins. This is the key difference between protein shakes and meal replacement shakes – there are plenty of other components involved in a meal replacement shake, such as fiber, vitamins, and minerals among others. However, in a protein shake, everything else is very less and the amount of proteins is way higher.
3. How much weight can you lose with these meal replacement shakes?
There is no specific answer to this question as the amount of weight that you can lose depends on you too. It depends on what else are you consuming, whether you are working out and if so, how much you are working out. Studies have proven that when you consume these shakes and work out, you tend to lose weight faster than when you do it without them.
4. Where can I buy meal replacement shakes?
These meal replacement shakes can practically be bought at any store that sells health and fitness-related supplies and products. However, the best place to buy them would be online, as you get to see the exact nutritional breakdown and check out customer reviews as well, ensuring that you are getting the best possible product for all your specific needs.
We hope that this article provided a good insight into the world of meal replacement shakes. The primary reason as to why we came up with this was so that you can get a good understanding of why these shakes are important and whether you should be consuming them. These shakes are a good means to lose weight and to gain quick energy before a workout, but one must keep in mind that whenever possible, whole foods are always a better alternative. However, in the complete absence of whole foods, these shakes are a healthy alternative. If you have any more questions about these shakes, feel free to mail us or let us know in the comments and we shall get back to you as soon as we can! Till then..
Happy Dieting! 🙂