Everything You Need to Know About Meal Replacement Shakes

Everything You Need to Know About Meal Replacement Shakes

meal replacement shakes featured image

Meal replacement shakes have long been the go-to drinks for bodybuilders, athletes, 9 to 5ers, and dieters. People consume meal replacement shakes for different reasons. For some, it’s to get in extra protein in a convenient and cheap way – with extra nutrients. For others, it’s to shed weight by removing extra calories from their diets.

Meal replacement shakes products are gaining more traction every day, especially among consumers who are keen on the kinds of food they eat and how they can maintain a healthy diet. There’s been more emphasis on dieting as a means of preventing or controlling specific ailments as obesity has been proven to increase the likelihood of developing certain non-communicable diseases.

Let’s take, for example, diabetes mellitus. There has been an increased diagnosis of type 2 diabetes in recent times. As a result, more people now pay serious attention to their blood sugar levels.

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention reports that about 1 in 10 Americans have diabetes, and almost 90% of this number have type 2 diabetes. As a result, more people are giving attention to their blood sugar levels by monitoring what they eat.

Meal replacement shakes manufacturers also target consumers with hectic work schedules, time constraints, and a busy lifestyle. Hence, these products are more prevalent in urban regions. The market offers the people in this category a way to have a convenient high protein breakfast or lunch that helps with weight loss and is nourishing.

What are Meal Replacement Shakes?

Christina Fasulo, a registered nutritionist at Cedars-Sinai, defines meal replacement shakes as “pre-made shakes that contain a combination of carbohydrates, fats, and proteins, and are between 150 to 400 calories.”

Meal replacement shakes could serve as a convenient substitute for whole meals or conventional snacks. They are designed to replace consumers’ breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

There are different brands of these products. The best shakes offer fewer calories than a regular meal. They also boast a combination of beneficial nutrients.

Benefits of Consuming Meal Replacement Shakes

Highly Nutritious

A meal replacement shake is a healthier option than snacks and can be consumed at any time of the day.

Experts say that a healthy diet should include vegetables, whole grains, fresh fruit, dairy products (milk, yogurt, and cheese), oil and fats, and proteins like meat, seafood, eggs, and beans.

Although most meal replacement shakes don’t contain vegetables and fruits, they are usually rich in the nutrients contained in these foods.

A meal replacement shake can offer you:


People who are missing the mark on their daily protein intake can supplement their diet with high protein shakes.

According to dietary recommendations, adults should consume up to 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight every day. This protein requirement helps to support the human body’s biological processes.

The Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends 46 grams of protein per day for adult females and 56 grams for adult males. For those looking to replace a full meal with a shake, it’s best to go for products with up to 20 grams of protein per serving.

If your goal is to gain or maintain muscle mass (which, let’s be honest, it should be), then you’ll need much more protein than this. Studies have shown that 1.6g per kilogram of body weight is the maximum intake for which there is a benefit for gaining muscle.

Other Nutrients

Meal replacement shakes typically contain a lot of micronutrients. An ideal product should offer essential vitamins and minerals such as Vitamin A, B, D, E, calcium, potassium, and iron. So, if you’re short on any of these nutrients, consider supplementing your diet with a shake.

Experts recommend including your ingredients, like spinach and plain Greek yogurt, in premade shake recipes. These ingredients could add extra calcium, Vitamin C, protein, zinc, and Vitamin B complex to your diet.

These nutrients help to prevent diseases and keep the body functioning properly.

Weight loss

According to nutritional studies, meal replacement shakes help with weight loss. A study monitored two groups of people who tried to lose weight in the space of three months.

It was shown that the group that used meal replacement shakes lost about 7.8% of their initial body weight, while the group that didn’t consume meal replacement shakes lost just 1.5% of their weight.

How Do Meal Replacement Shakes Help With Energy Consumption and Weight Loss?

Meal replacement shakes have high protein content but are low in calories. As a result, you get filled up without loading yourself with extra calories.

Calorie intake is essential for maintaining your body weight. Using meal replacement shakes typically results in a reduction in a person’s intake of calories.

According to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, men aged 19 to 30 should consume up to 2,400 to 3,000 calories a day to maintain their weight. Women are to consume between 2,000 to 2,400 calories every day. These values decrease with age because the older you get, the lesser your energy requirements. However, these guidelines should really be caveated to say that an individual’s weight, amount of muscle mass and level of activity is also important in determining their ideal calorie intake. Use this macro calculator to get a more tailored recommendation of how much food you should eat.

Meal replacement shake products are helpful for people who intend to cut down on their calorie consumption and lose some extra pounds without giving up muscle mass. For individuals who seek to manage their appetite, it would be best to go for high protein products as protein is more filling than other macronutrients.

Added Fibre

Fibre is needed for healthy digestion. Without it, you may end up bloating or constipating.

Meal replacement shakes have high fibre content. This can also help you control your appetite because consuming meals with high fibre fills you up quickly. Fibre adds bulk to foods without adding calories – as fibre is indigestible by humans.


Meal replacement shakes are affordable and easy to prepare. You can buy pre-made shakes or make your recipe at home conveniently. Meal replacement shakes are therefore very useful if you keep a busy schedule.

Disadvantages of Consuming Meal Replacement Shakes

They contain artificial ingredients

Most meal replacement shake products are made from artificial ingredients and may contain added sugars. These ingredients help to preserve the product and could improve its nutritional value. However, consuming too many artificial products can be detrimental to your health in the long run.

For instance, meal replacement shakes with too much added sugar shouldn’t be consumed by individuals who intend to lose weight or persons with diabetes risk factors. It’s, therefore, important to read the labels correctly before buying these products.

Not all meal replacement shakes are of good quality

While there are many amazing products, some brands are lacking in quality. You can tell by looking at their nutrient content. A quality meal replacement shake product should have at least 3 grams of fibre and a protein content higher or relatively equal to the shake’s carbohydrate content.

Low calories

As discussed earlier, one of the biggest benefits of consuming shakes is their low-calorie offerings. However, you should note that it can be dangerous to cut out too many calories.

Some meal replacement shakes can only offer 200 calories per serving. If you’re relying on shakes a lot, this can easily result in you consuming far fewer calories than your daily minimum required calorie intake. Being in a calorie deficit that is too large will lead to fast short term weight loss, but there will be many negative side effects like lean mass loss, hormone disruption, cravings, mood issues, low libido, fatigue, tiredness etc. and there is usually a “snapback” where the unsustainable diet ends, and the dieter goes on a binging spree, resulting in them gaining the weight back.

If you’re looking to lose body weight, you can contact a dietitian on how much wholemeal and replacement shakes to be consumed per day.

Note: According to some dietary experts, people should take in as much as 325 to 400 calories per meal – but this could still result in a much too low calorie intake for some people. 4 meals at 400 calories each would only be 1,600 calories per day. For an obese or highly active person, this is likely to result in their calorie deficit being too large.

Things to Look Out For

Meal replacement shakes may contain allergens. Therefore, it’s good you do a cross-check before consuming them.

For instance, if you’re lactose intolerant or allergic to dairy products, you should avoid shakes that contain high milk, cheese, or yogurt. Also, go for protein shakes that are plant-based instead of those containing whey protein (whey protein is a cow milk product).

If you’re looking to lose body weight, avoid shakes that have high sugar and fat content.

FAQs About Meal Replacement Shakes

Is it Okay to Consume Only Meal Replacement Shakes?

Ideally, meal replacement shakes are made to replace a meal, and this can be an easy way to get your required daily nutritional needs. And some products were made to substitute whole meals completely.

However, only a few brands recommend drinking their products alone to meet your dietary requirements. You should make sure your calorie intake will be high enough if you do this. It may be better to use a meal replacement shake to replace one meal, like breakfast, which can be more difficult to get in protein and nutrients for busy people, then focus on whole foods that are nutritious for the other meals.

Speak to your dietitian to know whether or not you can completely replace regular food with shakes.

Can I Use Only Meal Replacement Shakes to Lose Weight?

Yes, meal replacement shakes can be a convenient way to monitor your calorie intake and ultimately shed some body weight.

Most people use these products to meet their weight loss targets or fast-track the process. But it’s important to note that weight loss only happens when you’re in a calorie deficit. If you’re consuming meal replacement shakes but are still consuming too many calories, weight loss will be impossible.

Read more on BarBend’s top rated meal replacement shakes for weight Loss for more information.

How Do You Choose the Best Meal Replacement Shakes?

The best meal replacement shakes have at least 15 grams of protein, a considerable healthy dose of fat, and added sugar in small amounts. Select products with the lowest number of ingredients listed. If you have nutrient preferences, you can go for products rich in these ingredients.

Are Meal Replacement Shakes Sustainable for Long Periods?

The straightforward answer to this is “No!” Although they are rich in nutrients and convenient, they cannot replace regular meals. Healthy diets based on whole foods offer more benefits than you could imagine.

Can Smoothies Substitute for a Meal Replacement Shake?

Smoothies can serve as a meal replacement shake depending on the ingredients you put in them. Since you have control of the ingredients to use, you can design a fibre-rich, nutrient-dense smoothie that can be more fulfilling. Plus, you get more to store up for later.

For example, you can try this recipe:

  • One small banana.
  • A cup of frozen berries.
  • Skimmed milk (1 – 1.5 cups).
  • One scoop chocolate protein powder.
  • A quarter cup of frozen cauliflower rice.
  • One handful of spinach.

You can add a tablespoon of peanut butter and chia seeds each to this chocolate banana shake recipe if you so wish. Blend all the ingredients. You can add some ice or store it in the refrigerator for a more soothing taste.

The shake is rich in vitamins, minerals, protein, fibre, and can keep you full for an extended period.

When Is the Best Time to Drink a Meal Replacement Shake?

Shakes can be taken at any time of the day.

As you already know, you can use meal replacement shakes as temporary substitutes for any meal. They can be made for breakfast and are a good option for students who need to catch an early morning school bus or employees who need to clock in for work early.

They can also be consumed for lunch when you have a short break between working hours. Shakes can also serve for late-night meals. They can be taken during road trips; the list goes on.

Note: If you’re using meal replacement shakes as part of a fitness routine, consider consuming them for breakfast to make the most of their energy-boosting and appetite-control potential.

Can I Take a Meal Replacement Shake If I Am Lactose Intolerant?

This would depend on the content of the product. If you’re lactose intolerant, you should go for brands that use plant-protein ingredients.

Be sure to check the ingredients for rich sources of lactose, like whey protein and other dairy products, and avoid these brands. It’s also best to check with your doctor to know if the ingredients are perfect for you.


Meal replacement shakes could help you meet up your nutritional needs and could be a healthy supplement or short-term alternative to regular food.

Many shakes lack some essential nutrients that you need to go about your day, especially fibre. Therefore, it may not be a good idea to swap all your meals with shakes.

For people with underlying health conditions or those who intend to slow down calorie intake, it’s advisable to consult a medical professional before consuming a meal replacement shake product.

Do you want 7 free workout programs?

Follow me on Instagram and send me a DM. I'll send you a link to get my programs for free.