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.
With growing obesity trends globally, meal replacement shakes have become a premium.
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 beverage of choice (usually milk or water).
Meal replacement shakes relieve the digestive burden. A 2014 study showed that liquid foods were easier to digest and absorb than solid foods (2).
This can help relieve the digestive burden created by the onslaught of highly inflammatory foods.
High protein shakes 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 (3).
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 (6).
A 2012 study showed that high protein diets were inversely related with abdominal body fat storage (7).
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 (8).
Meal replacements may benefit more men 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.
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).
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).
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).
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.
Meal replacements 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.
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.
Soy meal replacements 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).
Meal replacement shakes may be more nutritious than regular meals. Despite our best efforts, the average 21-century diet is notoriously malnutritious. 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.
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.
Some meal replacement shakes 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.
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.
Soy-based shakes 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).
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.
They 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.
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.
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 require 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.
Q: Are meal replacement shakes good for weight loss?
A: 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
Q: Can you live off of meal replacement?
A: 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.
Q: Can you just drink meal replacement shakes and not eat?
A: 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.
Q: Are protein shakes, and meal replacement shakes the same?
A: 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.
Q: Can kids drink meal replacement shakes?
A: 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.
Q: Can meal replacement shakes help you gain muscle?
A: 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.
Q: When is the best time to consume a meal replacement shake?
A: 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.
Q: Are pre-mixed meal replacement shakes better?
A: Not necessarily. More often than not, pre-mixed shakes contain preservatives. However, they tend to be more convenient.
Q: Can you use a protein shake as a meal replacement?
A: 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.
Q: Can you drink coffee and tea with a meal replacement shake?
A: 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.
Q: Can you burn ab fat with meal replacement shakes?
A: Yes and no. Studies show that high protein diets are inversely related with abdominal fat. However, if you are not in a caloric deficit, you will not lose any fat, from any area of your body.
Q: Can you consume and expired meal replacement?
A: 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.
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, 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.