If you are eating 5 – 6 small meals per day and/ or following a low carb diet/ high protein diet, it may not always be possible or practical to prepare or eat low fat meals consisting of protein and complex carbohydrates. Although whole food should always be your first choice, when the situation does not allow, a meal replacement/ protein shake is healthier than filling up on junk food or skipping a meal altogether. If you can have a chicken salad or tuna sandwich, it is better to choose these options.
Note: It is not advisable to replace more than 2 of your 5/ 6 meals with protein shakes. To find out which are the 7 best meal replacement shakes go here or to make your own check out how to make a weight loss shake.
Advantages of Meal Replacement Shakes
Meal replacement shakes or protein shakes are:
- More practical either at work or while on the run. Therefore, if you can, keep a tub of protein powder/ MRP shake at work or get a protein shake from a juice bar.
- Reduce the need to think about food during the day.
- Calorie counting has already been done.
Meal Replacement Shakes vs. Protein Shakes
There is a difference between meal replacement shakes and protein shakes. It is important to recognize the difference between shakes, as there is a big difference in calorie content between meal replacement shakes and simple protein shakes (read more about protein shakes).
Meal replacement shakes and other meal replacements such as bars, soups, puddings and other snacks are designed to replace one or two of your daily meals. Meal replacement shakes are specially formulated for weight loss and weight maintenance.
These shakes are designed to give you a wide range of essential nutrients in a low calorie meal substitute, rich in proteins and low in carbohydrates (typically 2:1 ratio). A good MRP shake contains both carbohydrates and protein and between 200 and 400 calories.
A protein shake or smoothie on the other hand, is simply that – protein. This shake contains little or no carbohydrates, fat and other essential nutrients. Protein shakes are very low calorie and are not designed to replace a meal.
|Meal Replacement Shakes
|Protein Diet Shakes
|Complete meal. Can replace a meal.
|Not a complete meal. Cannot replace a meal. Supplement/ snack designed to supply you with high quality proteins.
|Provides balance of carbohydrates, protein and essential nutrients.
|A true “protein shake” is only protein. Little or no carbohydrates. Most common protein sources are whey, eggs, soy, and casein.
|A serving may contain between 200 – 400 calories.
|A serving typically contains less than 200 calories.
|Specially formulated for fat-reduction, weight loss, and weight maintenance.
|Supplement to your diet plan.
Meal Replacement Shakes for Weight Loss
Meal replacement foods and protein shakes do not have any special fat reducing or muscle building properties. They are simply powdered foods, supplementing an existing healthy diet – not replacing it. These products are not superior to whole foods. Your metabolism increases when processing and digesting whole foods, but does this to a much lesser degree when processing liquid foods.
For maximum weight loss using meal replacements and for weight maintenance:
- Unless you are the supervision of a doctor, limit the use of meal replacement shakes to no more than two meals (or one meal and one snack) per day.
- Meal replacement shakes should contain at least 200 calories and good balance protein, carbohydrates, dietary fiber, the essential vitamins and minerals your body requires. This is important, as meeting your nutritional requirements will help avoid adverse effects to your health and prevent hunger.
- Use meal replacement shakes for the most troublesome meals. For example, if you skip breakfast or worse indulge in donuts and alike, swap it for a meal replacement shakes. If you’re too busy and usually miss lunch or surrender to the convenience foods swap it for a meal replacement bar. If the thought of making a healthy dinner from scratch makes your head spin or you succumb to the munchies in the evening, try a meal replacement.
- Use when convenient. Depending on how pressed you are for time, some days you might use two meal replacement shakes on others one or none. Try to limit meal replacements to those times when it’s either that, nothing or fast food. The point of meal replacement shakes is to ensure you stick to your calorie intake.
- Avoid boredom by using different products. Try different meal replacement shakes and other meal replacement products to add variety.
- Go for fresh fruit and vegetables when you can. Fruits make for great snacks and provide valuable natural nutrients and fibers in a way man-made foods can’t.
- Maximize weight loss by ensuring your “normal” meals are nutritionally balanced. Your meals should consist of protein, healthy fats and carbohydrates. This translates into vegetables, meat/ legumes and starches such as potatoes (optional).
The Best Meal Replacement Shakes
When buying a meal replacement shake or protein shake powder, consider the following points:
- You need to be able to mix the powder with water, juice or milk.
- Meal replacement shakes should offer a proper balance of calories from protein, carbohydrates, dietary fiber, and all the essential vitamins and minerals.
- No or low in saturated fats, trans-fats and sugars. Some shakes are very high in sugar.
- Make sure the calorie content is right for you. This will different depending on whether you are using the shake as a meal replacement or snack.
- Too much sugar or too few calories can cause you to eat more and defeats the purpose of weight loss.
- Remember to look for low carb meal replacements if you are on a low carbohydrate diet.
- Compare different brands in order to make the most informed decision. Compare calorie, fat, protein and carbohydrate content. When looking at carb content, see how much of those carbs are sugar.
We all have different needs. To know what works for you, check them all out, compare and then make a final decision.
It is not wise to simply judge your protein or meal replacement shake by taste alone, as the adding of sugar and carbs by some companies to make a thick, creamy and tasty milkshake with tricky labeling and hidden ingredients, may not help your weight loss goals. Your first priority should be to buy the highest quality supplements you can find, then consider taste.
Types of Meal Replacement Shakes
HOMEMADE. The best meal replacement shake is the one you make yourself. You know what’s in it and it’s as fresh and healthy as it gets (check out the shake recipes and how to make a smoothie). If you can make you shakes thick, as thick shakes are more filling. Here’s a recipe for a delicious breakfast shake – coffee protein shake.
However, making a meal replacement shake is not always possible. So follow the guidelines above to buy the best meal replacement shake. Particularly popular meal replacement shakes are low-calorie and low-carb meal replacement shakes:
Low calorie meal replacement shake. Low-calorie meal replacement shakes are geared towards weight loss. Although similar in cost to the higher protein meal replacement shakes, these contain less protein, carbs fats and of course calories per serving.
Low-carbohydrate meal replacement shake. Low-carb meal replacement shakes are geared toward those on a low-carbohydrate diet or simply controlling their carbohydrate intake. Calories in these shakes are variable, but tend to be lower than your average meal replacement shake. Carbohydrate content in these low-carb meal replacement shakes starts from 0 grams.