Complete Guide to Meal Replacement Shakes
If you have never used one, you have probably seen a commercial for a meal replacement shake. These drinks are used for a variety of reasons including nutritional support, dietary restrictions, weight gain and weight loss. When considering using a meal replacement shake for weight loss purposes, look for drinks that supply an adequate amount of calories to keep you full and contain necessary, proteins, carbohydrates, fats, vitamins and minerals. Not all shakes work equally well for all people, so if you are not finding the success you desire, try a different brand or make your own. Read the following for answers to the most commonly asked questions about meal replacement shakes.
What Are Meal Replacement Shakes?
Meal replacement shakes are intended to be used to take the place of one or more meals a day. The meal replacement drinks supply calories, nutrients, vitamins and minerals in a convenient drink that requires little or no thought. You do not have to worry about portion control or dietary variety. Instead, you unscrew the top or add ingredients to a blender or shaker and enjoy your meal. Plus, you do not have to starve yourself to reach your weight loss goals. Meal replacement shakes let you feel full while monitoring your calorie intake.
Meal replacement shakes are a convenient way to eat on the go and can eliminate the “I don’t have time to eat breakfast” excuse. Since those who eat breakfast are less likely to gain weight, according to a study presented in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association, weight loss shakes are an easy way to avoid a 13 percent increased risk of weight gain from not eating breakfast.
If you typically work through your lunch, a protein shake for weight loss offers a solution to neatly and discreetly eating at your desk.
What Are the Different Types of Meal Replacement Shakes?
When supplementing your diet with a meal replacement shake, you find a variety of options from the ingredients and taste to the preparation and transportation aspects.
Meal replacement shakes are offered in:
- Pre-made shakes
- Pre-made smoothies
- Shake powder- either in a tub with a scoop or in transportable pouches.
- Smoothie powder- available in a canister with a scoop or in single-use pouches.
Another difference between meal replacement shake types is in the protein. Weight loss protein shakes contain protein sources such as:
- Whey- which is a milk-based protein
- Soy- a plant-based protein
- Peanut- an incomplete protein based on nuts
- Eggs- an egg-based protein
- Casein- a milk-based protein
The optimal protein source depends on your food allergies and sensitivities as well as your fitness goals. For example, if you eat a dairy-free diet, you want to select a meal replacement shake that contains an egg, soy or nut based protein.
Look for other differences between meal replacement shakes including:
- Total calories
- Grams of protein
- Grams of sugar
- Sodium content
- Serving size
What Are Meal Replacement Shakes Used For?
Your first thought when considering a meal replacement shake is most likely weight loss. The typical brands promoted on television show people substituting a meal with a shake and losing weight. Weight loss meal replacement shakes can help you reach your weight loss goals when it is combined with overall healthy eating and an exercise program. Simply switching one meal to a shake will not give you the results you desire. If you struggle with food selection, a meal replacement shake takes all the guesswork out of eating which can ease your mind and reduce stress. Stress reduction also helps with weight loss.
Others use protein shakes for weight loss for the opposite purpose- to gain weight. Bodybuilders often find it difficult to consume the thousands of daily calories required to build muscle. A meal replacement shake makes this a little easier and can be ingested when driving home from a workout or during the work day. When you add these calories to an already well-balanced meal plan, you are able to increase your calorie intake without increasing it from fatty foods.
Those who have difficulties chewing and swallowing or who are struggling to eat and digest healthy foods also benefit from meal replacement shakes. If you know you need the vitamins from fruits and vegetables but your stomach is not happy processing them, you have to find another solution. A meal replacement shake with essential nutrients, vitamins and minerals is an ideal solution and is often easier to digest. Not all blend well with every digestive system, so you may have to try a variety before you find the best meal replacement shake for you.
Do Meal Replacement Shakes Work?
Meal replacement shakes work to help you reach your goals when you use them correctly. For instance, if your goal is weight loss, diet shakes for weight loss help track your daily calories to limit your intake. The shake does not work on its own. You also have to select healthy foods throughout the day and participate in an exercise program. It is always best to speak with your physician to determine an appropriate daily calorie limit and discuss how meal replacement shakes fit into your plan.
For weight gain, meal replacement shakes are an effective way to increase your calorie intake without added fats. If your meal plan includes a variety of foods, with adequate amounts of protein, carbohydrates and fats, a meal replacement shake for weight gain is an easy way to boost your lean muscle tissue.
In the aging population or for those with dietary issues, meal replacement shakes offer a gentler way to receive calories and nutrients. Whole foods are always a better option for your body than a meal replacement shake, but if your body is rebelling, a shake can supplement your dietary concerns with little uncomfortable side effects.
Who Benefits from Meal Replacement Shakes?
Those who need a set way to reduce calories benefit from a meal replacement shake for weight loss. The best weight loss shake removes any thought surrounding meal planning or portion control. You are limited to the calories contained in the shake. Others who benefit are those who have difficulties chewing and require the nutritional support. People seeking weight gain also benefit from the calories and nutrients in a meal replacement shake.
Speak with your doctor to decide if a meal replacement shake is beneficial for you or a family member.
What is the Best Time of Day to Drink a Meal Replacement Shake?
The best weight loss shake companies have different advice to answer this question.
- Many companies suggest replacing your largest meal with a shake to see the fastest weight loss results.
- Others recommend using your meal replacement shake first thing in the morning to supplement breakfast and begin your day feeling full and energized.
- You may want to drink your shakes for weight loss at lunch to provide brain fuel for the remainder of the work day.
- You can drink your meal replacement shake after a workout to boost your recovery and replenish your glucose stores.
- Ideally, the best time of day to drink a meal replacement shake is the time that works for your needs and workout goals.
The American College of Sports Medicine, ACSM, suggests you view your best protein shakes for weight loss another way. Your body can only absorb a particular amount of protein at one time, so if your meal replacement shake is primarily protein, you may need to split up the contents throughout the day. Your body absorbs approximately 10 grams of protein each hour. If the protein content is higher than this, the remaining will be stored as fat which defeats the purpose if your goal is weight loss.
Are Meal Replacement Shakes Healthy?
Healthy meals contain essential nutrients, vitamins and minerals and are low in fat, sodium and sugar. Weight loss shakes that work do not always provide your essential nutrients, but they can be a healthy substitute when used once in a while. Select healthy shakes for weight loss that contain the following to increase your chances of selecting a healthy supplement:
- Approximately 200 calories per serving or a total of 325 to 400 calories in each shake.
- Between 5 and 10 grams of fat per shake.
- 10 to 20 grams of protein per shake.
- Approximately 5 grams of fiber per drink.
- Offers nearly one third of your daily vitamin and mineral requirement.
When purchasing the best shake for weight loss, be mindful of the sodium and sugar contents. If you have high blood pressure, your doctor may have set daily sodium limits so be sure your meal replacement shake meets your requirements. If you are a diabetic, pay close attention to the sugar content of your shake to avoid insulin spikes.
Dramatic weight loss shakes can be used for a limited time, but are not a substitute for real food. If you use a shake temporarily to gain control of your weight, use one that is made of quality ingredients with useful nutritional value.
What are the Benefits of Meal Replacement Shakes?
- Convenience- You do not have to pack food or prepare a meal when using meal replacement shakes for weight loss. The best meal replacement shakes for weight loss are pre-made and can be consumed warm or cold for the utmost in convenience. They travel well in your gym bag, purse or briefcase for on-the-go eating at any time.
- Easier to eat- If you any digestive concerns, difficulties chewing or swallowing, a meal replacement shake provides an easy meal substitute. This is when a shake can be used temporarily for instance, after dental work or when you are ill with a sore throat.
- Leads to weight loss- When combined with healthy eating and exercise, replacing one meal a day with a shake decreases your calorie intake and helps you with your weight loss goals.
- Better than snack foods- If you are tempted to grab a candy bar or bag of chips when you are hungry, a top weight loss shakes offer more nutritional value and keeps you feeling fuller longer.
- Aids in weight gain- For those who want to gain weight and build muscle tissue, a meal replacement shake is a simple way to increase your daily calorie intake without chewing another piece of chicken.
- Set portions- Excess weight gain is often the result of limited portion control. If you struggle with eating large portions or the need to finish everything on your plate, a meal replacement shake removes the struggle. The portion is set by the container. After you finish your shake, you are finished with the meal.
- Feelings of fullness- As opposed to skipping a meal and dealing with hunger pains, a good meal replacement shake eases your hunger. It does not feel the same as if you eat a complete meal, but you will get an energy boost from the shakes. If you select a meal replacement shake with a higher fiber content or pair it with an apple, your feelings of fullness last longer.
- Good tasting- The majority of good tasting meal replacement shakes offer a variety of flavors and combinations of flavors. If your desired meal shake is limited in flavor, you can combine your shake with fruits if desired to gain variety with your meals.
- Protein packed- The best weight loss shakes deliver protein in a quick and easy form. If you follow a vegetarian diet, a meal replacement shake provides a protein supplement to keep your body healthy and functioning well.
- Enhances regularity- Instead of skipping a meal, a meal replacement shake is an easy alternative. When you eat more regularly throughout the day, your digestive system operates better and your bowels become more regular. If you struggle with inconsistency, a meal replacement shake may ease your discomfort.
- Supplies vitamins and minerals- When your diet is severely lacking in nutritional value, a the best nutritional meal replacement shake provides vitamins and minerals. Although still limited for 100 percent of your daily value, a meal replacement shake gets you closer to consuming what your body needs to repair, grow and stay healthy.
- Builds bone health- Meal replacement shakes that contain milk-based protein are a sneaky way to increase your calcium intake. If you are not one who enjoys drinking milk or eating yogurt or cheese, a meal replacement shake offers a delicious alternative to keep your bones healthy and strong.
What are the Limitations of Meal Replacement Shakes?
- Dependence- Using a meal replacement shake for weight loss is one way to jump start your path. However, it does not teach you healthy eating habits or portion control. These are important skills to learn for a lifetime of weight maintenance. Plus, a the best meal replacement shake for weight loss will not always be available to you and you need to learn how to make healthy choices when out to eat or having a meal at a friend’s house.
- Lack of nutritional value- While a meal replacement shake provides nutrients, vitamins and minerals, it is not a substitute for real food. The majority of the companies that make these shakes still suggest healthy meals for the rest of the day because if you eat poorly, your overall health will decrease.
- Hunger- If the meal replacement shake leaves you hungry, it may defeat the purpose. To curb your hunger, if you reach for food to satisfy you, you are increasing your calorie intake and taking away from your weight loss progress.
- Expensive- The best shakes for weight loss are costly. Most cost between $3 and $10 dollars. If this is what you typically spend on a meal, then you will not notice the impact. However, considering an entire box of cereal costs $3 and supplies at least 5 days worth of breakfasts, you may see your budget change.
- Limited variety- Meal replacement shakes that taste good and have variety are tough to find. Some meal replacement shakes are available in basic flavors such as vanilla, chocolate and strawberry. This limited variety interferes with your feelings of satisfaction after a meal and may lead to you reaching for a more flavorful food with higher calories.
- Side effects- The ingredients in some meal replacements shakes takes its toll on your body. Over time, the liver and kidney may have difficulties processing the shakes. For those with diabetes and high blood pressure, sugar and sodium contents need to be greatly monitored. Other meal replacement side effects may include fatigue from the lack of calories, dizziness from low blood sugar and nausea if you are not used to the protein powder and fiber. If you feel nauseous or bloated after drinking a meal replacement shake, speak with your doctor first, but you may be able to switch to a different brand.
- Digestion calories- All foods use calories as your body processes them and breaks them down. Since meal replacement shakes are easily absorbed, which is beneficial for those with digestive issues, the calories used for digestion are limited.
- Texture- Added protein in the best weight loss shakes may make the texture of your drink thick and grainy. Although many manufacturers have perfected the texture of their shakes, if not blended or shaken well, you may encounter grainy or chalky textures.
- Bad breath- Some users report bad breath after using a meal replacement shake. You may be able to reduce this by staying hydrated and rinsing your mouth after drinking the shake.
What are the Most Common Ingredients in Meal Replacement Shakes?
Meal replacement shakes are available in a variety of combinations to meet your personal, dietary and calorie requirements. For instance, some shakes such as Orgain Organic are gluten-free, vegetarian and Non-GMO. The vitamins and minerals in this shake come from natural sources such as blueberries, apples, beets, spinach and carrots. Other meal replacement shakes for weight loss such as Shakeology, add herbs to the shakes to enhance the stress-boosting benefits and curb hunger. All protein meal replacements shakes have certain ingredients in common. These include contents such as:
- Water- the first ingredient in most meal replacement shakes is water. This reduces dehydration and makes it easier to digest the replacement shake.
- Protein Source- the next ingredient is the protein source. This can vary between milk-based, plant-based, nut-based and egg-based proteins. Use caution. Some meal replacement shakes use a milk-based protein such as whey or casein, but advertise themselves at lactose-free. If you experience digestive issues such as bloating and gas, switch to a non-milk-based protein replacement shake.
- Carbohydrate- for sweetening and carbohydrate value, the meal replacement shakes add a carb source such as sugar, cane juice, xanthan gum, Stevia or sucralose. If you have allergies or try to avoid artificial sweeteners with your meal replacements shakes, examine the ingredients carefully prior to use.
- Oil- meal replacement shakes also add fat to boost the texture and thickness of the shake. This may include oils such as sunflower, safflower and canola oil.
- Salt- most meal replacement shakes have added salt. Some use sea salt if you prefer a more natural taste and quality.
- Vitamins and Minerals- natural meal replacement shakes use fruits and vegetables for flavor and vitamins and minerals. Others, add ingredients such as Riboflavin, Folic Acid, Vitamin A, Sodium and Thiamin to provide nutritional value.
- Flavor- a natural meal replacement shake offers nature-made flavors such as blueberry, vanilla beans, strawberries and cocoa. Others offer a variety that includes chocolate, caramel and coffee flavors.
What are the Differences Between Meal Replacement Shakes and Meal Replacement Bars?
Meal replacement shakes and meal replacement bars provide the same benefits. You substitute one of these products for a meal. The goal is to eat fewer calories to aid in weight loss. Or you can add the shake or bar to your healthy diet plan in an effort to consume more calories and gain weight. How do you choose between a shake and a bar? You evaluate your needs first.
- Digestive concerns- if your stomach is sensitive and does not digest foods well, select a meal replacement shake instead of a bar. The shakes are made to be readily digested to ease any discomforts.
- Texture- if you are sensitive to textures such as chalky or lumpy, you may not be able to swallow a protein-packed meal replacement shake. In this case, select a bar that has the texture of food.
- Chewing- you may not feel as full when you drink your calories. The act of chewing stimulates a part of your brain so you realize you are eating. If a liquid meal replacement does not satisfy your hunger, select a meal replacement bar so you can chew it.
- Variety- meal replacement bars may have more taste and variety than a one-flavor meal replacement shake. The bars mix flavors together and often feel like you are eating a dessert, which may also bring more pleasure than drinking the shake.
- Hydration- since the main ingredient in meal replacement shakes is water, you remain hydrated and prevent dehydration concerns such as headaches, dizziness, fatigue and lack of mental focus.
- Fruits and Vegetables- if you blend a shake at home, you have the capability to add your favorite fruits and vegetables to the shake. The meal bar cannot be added to. It remains what it is when you open the package.
- Storage- meal replacement bars can be thrown into a bag and forgotten. You do not need a mixer or blender to prepare them. On the other hand, shakes may need to be refrigerated or prepared. It is nice to have a variety of bars and shakes for various activities.
Best Meal Replacement Shakes for Weight Loss Reviews
Your meal replacement shake needs to fit into your personal requirements. Look for weight loss shakes reviews look for drinks that contain between 10 and 20 grams of protein, have fiber, low sugar, low sodium and a moderate amount of calories. If cost is a factor, search for a product that fits your budget.
Meal replacement shakes for weight loss give you the opportunity to substitute a meal with a ready-made shake. The shakes are available in a variety of flavors including the basics such as vanilla, chocolate and strawberry. Search around if you enjoy other flavors such as caramel and mocha. You can also find vegetarian shakes, gluten-free shakes and lactose-free meal replacement shakes to care for all your dietary needs.
The perfect meal replacement shake is not without side effects. It is always best to speak with your doctor before you begin using a meal replacement shake for weight loss or weight gain. If you experience bloating or an upset stomach, review the ingredients or only drink half of the shake at a time to ease your digestive system.
Examine the daily value of vitamins and minerals and look for meal replacements shakes that contain between 20 and 30 percent of your daily value.