Meal Replacement Shakes – Good For the Waist or Waste of Money?

By Summer Banks FNS, SPT on Dec 07, 2018
Medically reviewed by Anthony Dugarte M.D.

You can’t step into a grocery store without seeing a meal replacement shakes everywhere. Flavors span the rainbow, from fruit punch to rainbow sherbet and more.

There’s no doubt meal replacement shakes help with calorie control, satiety and increased energy.

But, I bet you want to learn more about the meal replacement shakes and how it could help you lose weight.

what is a meal replacement


What are Meal Replacement Shake?

Meal replacement shakes (MRP) are prepackaged, ready-to-drink (RTD) similar to MyoPlex or homemade beverages designed to replace meals. Typically, one replaces one or more meals to satisfy calorie intake for a given day. However, It’s important to know what is recommended vs what you take in.

While diet should consist mainly of single ingredient or whole foods portioned according to Dietary Guidelines, meal replacement shakes are a viable option. Whether trying to gain or lose weight, make sure your MRPs are consist of similar percentages of macronutrients.

Although they supply calories, most MRPs are lower in saturated fat and overall calories than a full meal. As a result, they are an effective diet cycling strategy when you need to drop pounds or get lean quickly during cutting phases.

Bottom Line – Meal replacement shakes comes premade or you can make from scratch. Remember to look for the best meal replacement shake for weight loss.

Healthy nutrition label


Ingredients in Meal Replacement Shakes

Every MRP is different, but most contain a partial or full spectrum of vitamins, minerals, proteins, carbs, enzymes, antioxidants and essential fatty acids.

Remember, not all MRPs are created equal. Ask yourself, “What is in meal replacement shakes?” Is it a protein shake, weight gain shake, low carb shake or pre-workout shake?

Go a bit further and ask “what’s in a meal replacement?” Check calories and compare to a typical meal you consume. Is it similar, more or less?

There are plant based protein powders and shakes. What are the carbs in meal replacement shakes? If low, may be better later in day as it will not provide much immediate energy.

Does it contain sugar, artificial sweeteners, and other preservatives that add no health benefits? Keep this in mind depending on fitness goals. What is the serving size of the meal replacement shake?

If more than one serving, you must multiply ingredients by this factor if they have done so for you. Don’t inadvertently take in 2x what you thought you were!

Bottom Line – Some meal replacement shakes contain essential vitamins and minerals.

Side Effects

Meal Replacement Shake Side Effects

Meal replacement shakes are typically harmless. They’re an easy way to ensure you receive all the necessary vitamins and minerals depending on what product you choose – I use Isopure low carb for these reasons (and because Amazon will deliver same day!)

According to Prevention, some common side effects from meal replacement shakes can be vitamin excess as it is likely you get everything you need from healthy and balanced diets.

  • Water-soluble vitamins – B and C – unlikely to have issues if taken in excess as they are excreted in urine
  • Fat-soluble vitamins – D, E, A, K – can hang out in our bodies much longer and excess can cause a variety of issues like irritability, nausea, vomiting and diarrhea.

Bottom Line – Side effects from meal replacement shakes are rare, but they could occur. Read the label carefully and allow time for your body to adjust.

Meal Replacement Shakes for Weight Loss

Several companies market meal replacement shakes for weight loss. Remember to consider what you want out of a meal replacement shake. Also, consider what’s on the inside. As WomensHealthMag says, if it contains higher amount of sugar, it may not be the best choice for weight loss.

Bottom Line – Meal replacement shakes for weight loss is an effective strategy. Just remember to check the label first.

popular meal replacement shakes

Some of the Best Meal Replacement Shakes

SlimFast is an example of a popular meal replacement shake for weight loss. It helps you to restrict calories without diminishing proper nutrition.

There’s also organic meal replacement shakes. Orgain and Garden of Life make organic meal replacement shakes.  Both contain vitamins, minerals, prebiotics, enzymes and healthy fats sourced from organically-grown ingredients.

Similar meal replacement shakes include:

Bottom Line – Almased and 18 Shake are considered one of the best meal replacement shakes for weight loss. They offer nutrient-dense low calorie solutions to your weight loss needs.

how many meal replacement shakes

How Many Meal Replacement Shakes Can You Drink Each Day?

The number of meal replacement shakes you drink is based on recommendations from your doctor and your own personal weight loss goals. WebMD suggests using meal replacement shakes for the meal you’re most likely to miss; such as breakfast.

Bottom Line – Drink meal replacement shakes according to your goals and doctor recommendations.

Top-Rated Meal Replacement Shakes

Both men and women can benefit from meal replacement shakes. While brands vary, you’ll notice that they contain essential micro and macronutrients.

Some of the best meal replacement shakes for men include:

Some of the best meal replacement shakes for women include:

Bottom Line – Meal replacement shakes are good for both men and women.

meal replacement shakes weight gain

Shake Diet

Meal Replacement Shake Diet

Using two shakes daily to replace high-calorie meals is a fairly standard meal replacement shake diet. Ideally, the shakes should be high protein, low carb, low fat, contain fiber and essential fatty acids. But, this could change based on your personal fitness goals.

Bottom Line – Meal replacement shake, like 310 Shake, are effective for short term weight loss goals or weight loss maintenance. Replace two meals daily with shakes and enjoy a sensible dinner.


Meal Replacement Products

MRPs are but one of many meal replacement products available to you. Each has its pros and cons. Other similar products include: Meal Replacement Bars, Meal Replacement Drinks, Meal Replacement Smoothies, Meal Replacement Powder, Meal Replacement Juice, Meal Replacement Protein and Meal Replacement Pills.

“Alongside my pre and post workout shakes I usually keep a couple protein bars handy too just in case I get caught out and can’t get a meal in when I would like to,” fitness professional Justin St. Paul told

Bottom Line – MRPs, bars and RTD products are well-known meal replacements. But, there are other meal replacement products to consider.

meal replacement program


Meal Replacement Programs

Well-known weight loss programs incorporate meal replacement shakes into their short and long term diet plans. Some programs advise clients to use MRPs as a quick, convenient, low calorie nutritional alternative to a full meal and weight loss strategy. Weight loss programs offer scientifically based strategies for optimal nutrition, dieting and exercise leading to weight loss.

Some of the top programs using meal replacement shakes include:

Bottom Line – Even well-respected weight loss programs utilize meal replacement shakes within their diet strategy.

Shake Recipes

Homemade Meal Replacement Shakes

You can make your own meal replacement shakes at home. There are no hard and fast rules. Choose your own source of protein, carbs, fiber such as psyllium husk and essential fatty acids.

You can find all these ingredients in bulk at any large online retailer. You can mimic the convenience of store bought MRPs with your groceries.

  • Breakfast Meal Replacement Shakes: Blend a scoop of protein, 1/2 cup of fruit and 8 to 12 ounces of fruit juice.
  • Lunch Shakes: Add 1 1/2 scoops of flavored protein to a blender with 1/2 cup soaked oats or dextrose, 16 ounces of fluid, 1 egg and non-calorie sweetener to taste.
  • Dinner Replacement Shakes: Blend a thin slice of soft tofu with 1 1/2 cups of vegetable broth, a small bunch of raw kale, 1/2 cup of nuts and 1 tablespoon of flaxseed oil.

Bottom Line – Make your own MRPs and save money. The basic recipe is simple, and you can find all the ingredients you need online. Breakfast shakes are a particularly effective technique for dropping pounds.


Meal replacement for weight loss

MRPs vs Other Meal Replacement Products

With the exception of real food, MRPs are neither inferior nor superior to other meal replacement protein products.

Protein shakes and protein powders are very similar in that they often contain a minimal amount of micros and macros, or none at all. Protein shakes and protein powders are just protein that you add to other concoctions, such as homemade shakes and smoothies.

Many whey protein products contain lower carbs, vitamins, minerals and essential fatty acids. But, there are exceptions. MRPs are preferable to other engineered protein shakes if you specifically want a healthy source of protein that can replace all the nutrients of an actual meal.

According to CNN, MRPs “can sometimes be a great way to jump-start weight loss because they are portion-controlled, high in protein and low in sugar”, states Rachel Lustgarten, a registered dietitian at New York City’s Weill Cornell Medical College.

Although MRPs are viable alternatives to real food, they still do not compare to real food. Real whole foods contain vast arrays of nutrients, nutritional compounds and antioxidants in very unique ratios that are crucial to proper absorption.

Bottom Line – Some MRPs are different from protein shakes, meal replacement powders and whey. MRPs constitute a complete meal, whereas some protein shakes, powders and whey serve a specific purpose.

Bottom Line

The Bottom Line on Meal Replacement Shakes

Meal replacement shakes are convenient and possibly help with weight loss and overall health. While there are the best meal replacement shakes out there, you can also save money by making them at home.

About the Author:

Summer Banks has researched over 5000 weight-loss programs, pills, shakes and diet plans. Previously, she managed 15 supplement brands, worked with professionals in the weight loss industry and completed coursework in nutrition at Stanford University.