Meal replacements shakes have been for a while and help with weight management, weight loss and provide simple, convenient and nutrient dense nutrition for everybody. The difference between a simple protein shake and meal replacement is that meal replacement shakes are intended to provide the nutrition of a full meal – i.e., replace a meal (1).
They can come pre-mixed in cans and bottles, or they can come in powdered form – intended to be mixed with your favorite beverage.
1. IdealShake Meal Replacement Shake
IdealShake packs over 11g of whey protein, 22 vitamins, and 5g of dietary fiber into a 120-calorie smooth and creamy meal replacement shake. This combination promotes lean muscle mass so the IdealShake makes a great supplement for lifting.
IdealShake has just the right mixture of carbs, proteins, and fats for a full replacement meal. It is recommended to replace one or two meals a day with IdealShake for safe and effective weight loss. For these reasons, it’s our #1 pick.
2. Ample Meal Shake
Ample Shake contains over 30g of whey and pea proteins, alongside a blend of essential branched-chain amino acids that afford balanced nutrition and energy. It only has 4 grams of sugars and includes a mix of poly and unsaturated fats.
Fibers from chicory root, acacia, psyllium, and green banana feed and extend the release of the probiotics for a healthy gut. An organic blend of wheatgrass and barley grass provides a natural source of antioxidants and polyphenols that fight against free radicals.
3. Organifi: Complete Protein
This complete protein meal replacement shake form Organifi is a 100% vegan blend of plant-based proteins and digestive enzymes to promote a healthy metabolism. It also improves your immune system, boost enzyme activity, and give you all your daily essential vitamins and minerals with just a single serving per day.
Organifi complete protein contains high-quality ingredients from 6 different superfoods: quinoa, monk fruit, vanilla bean, coconut, pea protein, and pumpkin seeds.
4. Orgain Organic Meal Replacement Powder
Orgain’s organic meal replacement powder features 20g of plant-based protein and over 8 grams of organic dietary fiber per serving. The mixture contains Orgain’s signature blend of organic sprouts, greens, fruits, and vegetables.
A single serving is only 220 calories and a single glass. Orgain is 100% vegan, gluten, dairy, and soy-free so it contains no common allergens or animal byproducts. Orgain is also a great source of vitamin B6, vitamin C, riboflavin, thiamine, iron, and pantothenic acid.
5. Garden of Life Meal Replacement Powder
With over 20g of clean organic protein in a blend of over 44 ingredients from quality superfoods, the Garden of Life meal replacement powder will help you build lean muscle and boost your energy throughout the whole day.
It’s made with absolutely no pesticides, herbicides, or fungicides, and does not use any GMOs, artificial growth hormones, or antibiotics. Each serving only has 115 calories and a full daily serving of most essential vitamins and minerals.
6. Soylent Meal Replacement Shake
Packed with over 20g of organic plant protein, a single Soylent can replace up to two meals and will give you enough energy to keep going all day. Soylent is packed with 36 vitamins and minerals, including vitamin C, B12, riboflavin, niacin, iron, and more.
A single serving of Soylent contains only 120 calories but almost a full day’s serving of protein.
7. RSP TrueFit
RSP TrueFit meal replacement powder contains over 25g of grass-fed whey protein per serving, 5g of branched-chain amino acids, and 4g of glutamine neurotransmitters for peak physical and mental performance. All fats used are from naturally occurring whey and MTC oil and 8g of fiber from sweet potatoes help with indigestion.
A single serving can replace up to two meals and contains an organic blend of 12 non-GMO fruits and veggies and 8 grams of prebiotic fibers to promote healthy digestion.
8. Click Coffee and Meal Replacement Drink
A single serving can replace your morning meal and morning cup of coffee, and give you a sustained source of energy for the whole day.
Each scoop contains 150mg of caffeine from real double-shot espresso coffee mixed with Click’s slow metabolizing proteins that depress the appetite and keep energy levels high.
9. Labrada Lean Body Meal Replacement Shake
Labrada offers a whopping 40g of whey protein per serving available in 8 delicious flavors. A single serving has over 22 vitamins and minerals including vitamin A, vitamin E, biotin, riboflavin, and potassium; a veritable nutritional powerhouse that can replace up to two meals a day.
Labrada is 10% gluten-free, contains no sugars, and is free of soy protein, making t good for those with food allergies.
10. SlimFast Original
One 26g serving of slim fast is sufficient to replace 3 meals and provides over 20g of protein. The SlimFast original meal replacement shake is available in chocolate, vanilla, strawberry, and new dark chocolate.
Each glass of SlimFast contains 4g of fiber to promote healthy digestion and the mixture is 100% gluten-free, so those with allergies drink without worry.
How We Ranked
The first thing we looked at was the product quality. We wanted the products in our rankings to be a real meal replacement, not just a bunch of cheap powdered protein and sugar. Slimfast, while still a good product, was put last because it is high in sugar. We also discounted products that were too low calorie like FitMiss Delight because it didn’t provide enough calories to act as a real meal replacement.
Next, we looked at any special metabolic qualities the meal replacement shakes have. Organifi complete protein uses slow-burning complex carbs and proteins that take more time than normal to metabolize. These molecules keep your metabolism system active for longer and suppress your appetite, contributed to greater fat burn. Slow-burning proteins are a way to keep your metabolism active, so it stays working through the day and into the night.
We also looked at the number of artificial ingredients in a given product. We preferred natural and gave bonus points to this like Garden Of Life, for staying as close to nature as possible. There’s really no reason to have artificial flavorings in 2019 due to the scientific advancements – other than trying to cut corners and make a quick buck.
Third, we looked at the macronutrient breakdown. Most protein shakes contain a blend of at least 3 key ingredients: fats, carbs, and proteins. These macromolecules are the essential nutritional units needed for humans. We preferred shakes that had a good balance of all 3, mimicking a normal meal. Products like IdealLean stood out here, proving a ratio of 35:40:25 of protein, carbs, and fat. It also contains fiber, which is an important ingredient for overall health and satiety.
Lastly, we wanted products that included extra vitamins, minerals, probiotics, and amino acids. Since you would be swapping this for a whole meal, we wanted to make sure you wouldn’t be missing out on key nutrition found in food.
1. Meal replacement shakes that are high in protein seem to help burn more fat. A 2011 study showed that men on a high protein diet reduced desire late-night food cravings – which helped with long-term weight loss (2).
A few other studies also reported that higher-protein diets led to more feelings of fullness (3, 4).
A 2010 study published in medicine and science in sports and exercise showed that high protein diets led to greater increases in lean body mass (5).
A 2012 study showed that high protein diets were inversely related to abdominal body fat storage (6).
A 2008 study published in the Nutrition Journal compared the effects on weight of high-protein meal replacements versus high-carb meal replacements. Both groups lost similar amounts of weight in 12 weeks however those in the high-protein group lost more body fat, and their “bad” LDL cholesterol levels were lower (7).
2. Meal replacement shakes relieve the digestive burden. A 2014 study showed that liquid foods were easier to digest and absorb than solid foods (8).
This can help relieve the digestive burden created by the onslaught of highly inflammatory foods.
3. Meal replacement shakes may benefit men more than women. A 2002 study found that meal replacement might benefit men more than it does women (9).
While the study wasn’t necessarily focused on the effects of meal replacement and gender, when the results were examined, researchers found that men lost a greater amount of weight on average, than did women.
4. Meal replacement shakes help with weight management. Two studies done in 2012 and 2013 showed that higher protein intake was directly related to positive bodyweight maintenance over the long-term (10, 11).
Another 2004 study found that unlike traditional diets, meal replacements were found to keep excess weight off better (12).
5. Meal replacement shakes help speed up weight loss. A 2012 study showed that replacing 1-2 meals with meal replacement shakes per day helped men and women lose weight over the short term by increasing feelings of satiety (13)
A 2004 study published in the International Journal of Obesity and related medical disorders showed that meal replacement shakes helped patients lose 1% body fat per month (14).
Another 2004 study published in the Nutrition Journal showed that meal replacements lowered inflammation and oxidative stress- which are key factors in weight loss and long-term weight management (15).
6. Meal replacement shakes help fight off stress-related weight gain. High-stress environments often take a great toll on the human body—and usually result in a spare tire around your midsection due to excess cortisol. Studies show that cortisol is directly related to weight gain in the midsection (16).
Meal replacement shakes allow for sensible food choices and help combat stress-related weight gain (17).
7. Meal replacement shakes are convenient. For many people, the biggest obstacle to eating right is time. If you work 12-hour shifts, or you’re trying to keep up with your kids’ sports schedules, or just have too many responsibilities on your plate, the thought of standing at your counter and carefully chopping vegetables seems ridiculous.
Studies show that this can lead to decision fatigue and increase the likelihood of eating delicious, but unhealthy food (18).
Meal replacement shakes cut through all of these issues by offering you a calorie-controlled and nutritionally balanced meal substitute that you can toss into a purse or backpack.
8. Meal replacement shakes support healthy blood sugar levels. A 2007 study showed that both liquid and solid meal replacement options provide an effective means of positively influencing glucose levels (19).
This means that liquid food replacement options don’t increase glucose levels despite not reducing weight as much. Keeping blood sugar levels healthy means, you have a reduced risk of type 2 diabetes and will have less weight gain with time.
9. Meal replacement shakes are effortlessly tracked. As we know, long-term health management comes down to many factors. One pivotal factor has to do with the law of thermodynamics. A 2017 study published in the American Journal of Physiology, Endocrinology and Metabolism showed that calories in, calories out is a major factor in weight loss and management (20).
Even though calorie counting apps offer amazing features like barcode scanning and even photo recognition, these features mean nothing if you forget to use them.
For many people, the issue with calorie counting is being absent-minded rather than anything else. However, weight loss shakes can help make calorie counting very easy for at least one or two of your meals each day.
10. Meal replacement shakes that are soy-based can reduce triglycerides. A 2005 study published in the American College of Nutrition showed that soy has been proven to greatly improve triglyceride count and metabolic health (21).
11. Meal replacement shakes may be more nutritious than regular meals. Despite our best efforts, the average 21st-century diet is notoriously unhealthy. A 2014 study showed that diet quality since the turn of the century has declined dramatically and contains much lower levels of essential minerals and vitamins (22).
Meal replacement shakes are designed to provide all of the nutrients that you should consume in a complete meal. As such, they are fortified with nutrients, which might fill your nutrient gap while you are cutting back on calories.
12. Meal replacement shakes can support muscle growth. For maximum muscle growth, the body needs to be saturated with adequate protein, carbs, and nutrients. Meal replacements can provide the proper combination of those building blocks to ensure every workout session helps build more lean tissue.
1. Meal replacement shakes can sometimes contain cheap and unhealthy ingredients. Unfortunately, not all shakes are created equal. A shake may be wholesome, but the one next to it might be littered with high sodium, trans fats, artificial flavors, and preservatives.
2. Meal replacement shakes can become expensive. A single slice of toast and a piece of fruit for breakfast may cost cents, but a meal replacement shake for breakfast could be costing you an extra $2.5 per day – or an extra $75+ per month! Take cost into consideration when deciding on dietary options, and do some price comparisons.
3. Meal replacement shakes that are soy-based can lower testosterone over time. Some shakes contain many soy ingredients which can be troublesome for men. A 2001 study showed that soy-phytoestrogens can lower testosterone levels (23).
4. Meal replacement shakes can cause digestive distress. Some ingredients can cause digestive issues such as nausea, flatulence, diarrhea, pain, and cramping. Some people are also allergic to whey (a common protein) which further aggravate these issues.
5. Meal replacement shakes are not as satiating as regular food. Shakes may be easy and convenient, but they are not always satisfying. A 2008 study published in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association found that liquid food replacements didn’t do as much to curb hunger compared to solid food (24).
This can mitigate any potential weight loss benefits the meal replacement might have.
6. Meal replacement shake nutrition labels can be deceiving. Some meal replacement shakes and bars actually contain multiple servings. Aside from accidentally overeating double or triple the calories, you might be overeating the rest of the day too.
7. Meal replacement shakes are not a long-term solution. A 2011 study showed that meal replacements are poor long-term solutions because maintaining weight loss and healthy eating requires long-term lifestyle changes – something that meal replacements can’t fix (25).
Becoming overly reliant on shakes can leave you not knowing how to make the right choices in times when you don’t have the shakes. Although traditional diets are more complicated, they do help you learn more about portion control and nutrition.
The recommended dosage is often 1-2 shakes per day. More than that is unnecessary. These would replace your normal meals.
The best meal replacement shake for weight loss requires that you are meticulous with the ingredient list and not the package claims.
Choose a product that, per serving, has between 15-30 grams of protein, less than 10 grams of sugar, 3+ grams of fiber, no trans fat, corn syrup or hydrogenated vegetable oils and at least 30% of the daily value for vitamins and minerals.
Are meal replacement shakes good for weight loss? Most meal shakes contain 200–400 calories and a good amount of protein, fiber, and essential vitamins and minerals. For this reason, meal replacement shakes are a convenient way to get a healthy, low-calorie meal on the go
Can you live off of meal replacement shakes? You’re not supposed to replace all your meals with shakes, but instead, drink one for either lunch or dinner and then eat a sensible meal for your other meal. However, you could technically survive on these shakes, as they contain balanced nutrition.
Can you just drink meal replacement shakes and not eat? Each drink is relatively low in calories, and meal replacement companies suggest drinking two shakes per day as meal replacements in conjunction with other nutritious food. You may be able to accelerate weight loss if you only drink shakes, but it’s not a healthy or balanced plan to follow.
Are protein shakes, and meal replacement shakes the same? Meal replacement shakes do exactly what they say: replace a meal. Most are designed for weight loss, and are low in calories, but contain the essential nutrients that your body needs for a complete meal. Protein shakes, on the other hand, do not contain enough nutrients to replace a meal. Instead, they help increase overall protein intake for an individual.
Can kids drink meal replacement shakes? Yes, however solid natural food is always recommended for children and growing teenagers. Ask your doctor first before giving your child a meal replacement shake.
Can meal replacement shake help you gain muscle? Yes, they can. However given that they are low-calorie beverages, they are not the ideal pick for muscle gaining. Instead, you would want to go with a mass gaining shake.
When is the best time to consume a meal replacement shake? Anytime you want to replace a meal is the best time. If they shake contains caffeine, avoid drinking it at dinner because it may interfere with a good night’s sleep.
Are pre-mixed meal replacement shakes better? Not necessarily. More often than not, pre-mixed shakes contain preservatives. However, they tend to be more convenient.
Can you use a protein shake as a meal replacement? Most people use meal replacements as part of a weight-loss plan, and whey protein shakes can work in the same way. Instead of eating a regular meal, you drink a shake made with protein powder, which contains fewer calories than your meal would.
Can you drink coffee and tea with a meal replacement shake? Yes, of course, you can still drink tea and coffee. Just make sure to be careful with the amount of sugar and milk or cream you put in your beverages.
Can you burn ab fat with meal replacement shakes? Yes and no. Studies show that high protein diets are inversely related to abdominal fat. However, if you are not in a caloric deficit, you will not lose any fat, from any area of your body.
Can you consume and expired meal replacement? We don’t recommend using shakes after the expiration date because the nutrition on the label may no longer be accurate, especially if they are being used in replacement of a meal.
How many meal replacement shakes should I take per day? It is recommended to take a maximum of two meal replacement shakes per day and eat at least one solid meal a day. Drinking more than two shakes a day will not hurt you, but after a certain point your body cannot absorb any more nutrients and you will just filter them out through your digestion.
Can I eat meal replacement shake powder? Technically yes, you can but you may not like it very much. Some meal replacement shake powders are designed to be eaten dry, but most are supposed to be mixed with a liquid. Usually, the liquid does not add anything extra to the blend; it just mixes it up and makes it easier to consume.
Should I drink meal replacement shakes if I have nutritional problems (e.g. diabetes, anemia, etc.)? It depends on the specific condition. As with any new supplement, you should always consult your doctor before trying meal replacement shakes, especially if you have pre-existing dietary or metabolic problems. Many meal replacement shakes are made without common allergenic substances such as dairy or soy. Just make sure you research the products thoroughly before buying and talk to your doctor to make sure you can safely consume them.
Can meal replacement shake treat any medical conditions? No, meal replacement shakes are not approved by the FDA for any medical treatments and they are not meant to be used as medicine. Meal replacement shakes are a way to bolster your daily routine with essential nutritional supplements. They are not meant to manage symptoms or serve as a replacement for treatments for any conditions.
Can drinking too many meal replacement shakes harm me? No, in general, meal replacement shakes will not harm you, even if you drink multiple servings a day. Meal shakes with high quantities of fiber can cause constipation or bloating if drank in excess, and drinking too much can make you nauseous, especially if you are not used to taking meal replacement shakes. Some people who have a rare genetic condition called urea cycle disorder can be harmed by ingesting too much protein, but the condition is extremely rare and it is hard to consume the dangerous amount of protein from meal replacement shakes.
What is the best meal replacement shake for diabetics? Since it is very important for diabetics to manage their blood sugar, they should choose a meal replacement shake with a limited amount of sugar. If you are prescribed medication for diabetes (or anything else, for that matter), it’s always a good idea to talk to your doctor first to make sure there aren’t any potential medicine-supplement interactions you should watch out for first.
What is the calorie count in a standard meal replacement shake? Depending on the type of meal replacement shake, calories and range from 90-400 per serving. Diet meal replacement shakes are usually on the lower end and are intended for smaller individuals or those wanted to shed a few extra pounds. In our rankings section, our top meal replacement shakes an average of around 150 calories per serving.
Can a meal replacement shake help you lose weight? Meal replacement shakes are not designed for weight loss, however, they may help the process. This is because meal replacement shakes tend to be lower calorie than a lot of foods. They also help curb appetite and cravings, due to their high protein content and quality ingredients.
With growing numbers of the world population becoming obese, the desire to attain proper body weight and health is on the rise. This has also lead to an increase in the number of weight-loss products and advertisements, most of which are geared towards “get-thin-quick” schemes and other controversial methods of losing weight.
Meal replacement shakes are a portable and convenient option for an on-the-go meal.
They may be an effective way to reduce your calorie intake and lose weight. As you can see, the scientific literature supports the use of meal replacement as an effective and healthy means of dieting. However, it must be used with caution, as it is beneficial only in moderation.
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