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.
Well what a lovely site, Thank you so much for explaining the difference between whey protein and meal replacement it was a terrific help.
I have tried everything on my own but put on a pound as to look at a biscuit so going to try having whey with a proper meal then two replacement see how I go.
Sent with smiles from val
i have bi polar and am on alot of medication and i have diabetes what replacement shake would you advise, would the shakes interfear with my medication?
Hi Frankie, If you’re on a lot of medication, I would advise that you speak to your doctor and nutritionist first. Knowing what medication you’re on and your current health, they can give you advice on what to look for in a meal replacement shake and what ingredients you should avoid (if any). They may also advise you to take a more medically formulated meal replacement shake, such as by Metagenics for example. Hope this helps!
I am looking to lose about 40 lbs what is a good meal replacement shake that’s not crazy expensive ??
I need to lose at least 20lbs by September. I Just bought Equate Weight Loss Meal Replacement Shakes, strawberry flavor, and it seems there is an average view on this product. Haven’t tried them yet, but I am open to other MRP shake ideas. Let me know ASAP please and Thank you.
Thanks for the great post. Now I have clear information about the differences between a protein shake and meal replacement shake. I though they were quite same before.
I am looking to lose 15lbs. I have trouble eating as I always tend to skip breakfast and at time other meals, trying to find the best meal replacement shake for me.. Please help me…
I use Vitasystems Protein Synthesis for both MRP and protein shakes. I’m trying a low carb, high protein diet and this has only 2g of carbs no sugar. Depending on the day, my MRP always have a fruit and sometimes I may add fresh ground peanut butter. Having this has definitely helped with losing weight and great on my 12 hour days that I work.
Hi, I am currently looking for a MEAL REPACEMENT, I need to drop 50 lbs fast (Doctors orders high blood sugar) I need something diabetic friendly. he wants me on OPTIFAST three times a day all liquid diet for 6 to 12 weeks. It is VERY EXPENSIVE. So far I have lost 55 lbs on my own and now I need to lose another 50.
I need help. Would your program work for me? 2 shakes a day and a sensible meal? say a 400 calorie one. I don’t think I could just live on shakes.
Replacing 2 meals with shakes and eating a sensible meal (lean protein, complex carbs and healthy fat) will help you lose weight. However, I’d recommend you speak to your doctor about choosing the right meal replacement that will work for you and any medical issues that need to be taken into consideration.
How did u lose 55lbs on your own
healthy way of living
Thanks for the post about meal replacement shakes. Meal replacement shakes are my go-to breakfast on those hectic mornings because they’re convenient and keep me feeling full all through the morning. I just throw all the ingredients in my protein shake bottle and take it with me on the go. Thanks again for sharing the best meal replacement shakes!
Having a weight problem and not being able to solve it is to say the least Life Threatening! One Day I started having a Banana Protein Shake for my Mid Day Meal…Well, that was great and then next day had one and still great…Here I am now a size smaller and pounds lighter and feeling more like me…YAY…check it out…Experience the Difference for your self!
I am starting 2 shakes and a meal diet tomorrow. Anyone who would like to follow my progress follow me on twitter @vikki_live
How is your progress going?
Great breakdown of the top 10 weight loss shakes.
Some of these I’ve heard of before so that was good for me.
I look forward to your future health and nutrition reviews.
I am glad that you outlined the differences between a protein shake and meal replacement shake. Huge difference. With our busy lifestyles today it is important to not only eat healthy, but to not skip meals. Finding the right meal replacement for you can make all the difference in your energy and health. Tons of value here, thanks for sharing!
I have a really bad problem with eating, I always have urges, what is the best name of a meal replacement powder that I can use, to control my hunger till dinner or lunch please help me, Ihave never been this big before and I want to get pregnant, and just be healthy.
You’ll probably want to go with one of the low-calorie meal replacement shakes. However, if you have issues with eating and want to lose weight to help you get pregnant, then you need to solve those with the help of a health professional. A good book to read is “Intuitive Eating: A Revolutionary Program That Works”. Good luck with everything!