The Best Meal Replacement Shakes for Weight Loss, Building Muscle, Low-Carb and More

We tried dozens of top meal replacements to land on the best for your individual needs.

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There are a lot of reasons why someone may want to drink their calories in the form of a meal replacement shake. Strength athletes or hard-gainers who need to eat thousands of calories a day may not be able to stomach another bite of solid food. Or, busy gym-goers can drink them to hit their daily macros. Average consumers might just need a quick meal on a busy day to fill them up. This is where meal replacements come into play. Generally, they’re full of protein, carbs, fats, and vitamins to fuel the body with what it needs. Better yet, they’re way more convenient than breaking out the Dutch oven when you’re in a pinch for sustenance. 

When it comes to selecting the best meal replacement shake, it’s important to chose a product based on your personal preferences and nutritional goals. That’s why, after testing many, many products, we’ve landed on a wide selection of meal replacements that suit a variety of needs. 

Best Meal Replacement Shakes

Note: The content on BarBend is meant to be informative in nature, but it shouldn’t take the place of qualified medical advice. If you’re looking to make a significant change to your diet and training regimen or replace a significant percentage of your food with meal replacements, please consult your medical professional first.

Meal Replacement Shake Video Review

Like the meal replacement shakes on this list, our video review is convenient, easy to digest, and loaded with useful stuff. Check it out to gain even more insight into how we tested and picked the best meal replacements on the market.  

[Related: Could Baking Soda Be The Best Workout Supplement You’ve Never Tried?]

Best Meal Replacement

The best meal replacement shake on our list boasts a macro breakdown that favors protein and is lower in fat. It’s made with whole foods and is loaded with vitamins while keeping the calorie count low. 

Kaged Muscle Clean Meal

A lot of companies offering meal replacement shakes and mass gainers can go overboard with calories in an effort to differentiate their products from whey protein powders. Kaged Muscle Clean Meal offers a reasonable calorie count in a macro ratio that mimics what a lifter may eat from a whole food meal. Better yet, Clean Meal is made from whole foods such as quinoa and oats. A three-scoop serving delivers 42 grams of protein, 27 grams of carbs, and seven grams of fat.

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KAGED Muscle Clean Meal
KAGED Muscle Clean Meal
KAGED Muscle Clean Meal

When you're on the go or trying to slam calories, Clean Meal boasts either 270 or 360 calories-worth of nutrition with balanced macros from whole food ingredients. Use code BARBEND10 for 10% off your purchase. 

Who Should Buy Kaged Muscle Clean Meal

  • Those looking for a protein-heavy meal replacement without a bunch of added calories. 
  • People who want to avoid any added sugar.
  • Folks who value getting the additional boost of vitamins.

Who Shouldn’t Buy Kaged Muscle Clean Meal

  • Anyone who wants a more caloric meal replacement; this one has just 240 calories per two scoops and 360 calories per three scoops.
  • Athletes who need a higher-carb meal replacement.

Those looking to avoid sugar can relax, knowing each serving of Clean Meal has a single gram alongside two grams of fiber. It has a quarter of the daily recommended intake of nearly two dozen vitamins and minerals, including Vitamin A, Vitamin C, Vitamin E, Vitamin B6, and Vitamin B12.

[Related: The Best Types Of Supplements For Performance, Weight Loss, and Health]

Best Keto Meal Replacement

The keto craze has reached new heights, and many companies are trying to cash in. We’ve tried many keto-focused meal replacements, but we found HLTH Code’s Complete Meal to be head and shoulders above the rest

HLTH Code Complete Meal

More than half of the calories in HLTH Code’s formula are from fat, with another quarter coming from protein, so dieters who follow a high-fat diet can take this supplement and not worry about exiting ketosis. It also has both omega-3 and omega -6 fats, is free of GMOs, and is made in an FDA-approved facility. Also, while HLTH Code has 13 grams of carbs, only four are net carbs. The other nine come from fiber, which is passed through your body and isn’t digested.

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HLTH Code Complete Meal
HLTH Code Complete Meal
HLTH Code Complete Meal

HLTH Code delivers a 1:1 ratio of fat to protein (27 grams of each), both omega 3 and 6 fatty acids, for a formula that is keto-friendly. Save 15% with code BARBEND.

Who Should Buy HLTH Code Complete Meal

Who Shouldn’t Buy HLTH Code Complete Meal

  • Athletes who want more carbohydrates for performance. 
  • People who aren’t on a keto diet and eat a moderate amount of fat already. 
  • People who want more flavor options. Complete Meal comes in just two. 

Though it’s on the pricier side and comes in just Creamy Vanilla and Chocolate Macadamia, Complete Meal offers a moderate-calorie meal replacement formula that contains a good amount of nutrients and is ideal for high-fat diets like keto. 

[Related: Intermittent Fasting 101: A Guide To Benefits, Muscle Gain, and More]

Best Meal Replacement for Building Muscle

For some athletes, the idea of a meal replacement isn’t to replace food but to act as an additional meal to meet increased calorie and nutrient requirements. We think when it comes to protein Transparent Labs Mass Gainer stands above the rest.

Transparent Labs Mass Gainer

If you’re looking to bulk up, the 53 grams of protein and 114 grams of carbs — derived from tapioca, oat, and sweet potato — will help. Transparent Labs’ Mass Gainer also includes MCTs from coconut and a serving of creatine monohydrate (which can help with strength and power production). It contains no artificial flavors, colors, or sweeteners. Transparent Labs Mass Gainer is a great choice for building muscle mass. Also of note, considering it contains over 100 grams of carbs, Transparent Labs’ formula has a relatively lower sugar count of just 14 grams. 

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Transparent Labs Mass Gainer
Transparent Labs Mass Gainer
Transparent Labs Mass Gainer

With nothing artificial, whey from New Zealand, a good amount of fiber, and little sugar, this mass gainer will satisfy most athletes. It's a clean mass gainer that focuses on simplicity over added bells and whistles. Use code BARBEND10 for 10% off. 

Who Should Buy Transparent Labs Mass Gainer

  • People who want a mass gainer supplement free of artificial flavors, colors, or sweeteners.
  • Athletes looking for a convenient source of extra calories with a specific macronutrient split. This one offers 53 grams of protein, 114 grams of carbs, and just 14 grams of fat (per serving). 
  • Athletes who are also looking for a dose of creatine. Each two-scoop serving offers three grams of creatine. 

Who Shouldn’t Buy Transparent Labs Mass Gainer

  • People who are looking to lean out. Other meal replacements on this list have a lower calorie count — this formula has 760 calories per serving. 
  • Folks looking for something with a more robust micronutrient profile. 
  • Anyone on a keto diet as this formulation sports a lower fat content. 

Transparent Labs’ Mass Gainer comes in four flavors — Chocolate, Cookies N Cream (not gluten-free), Sweet Vanilla, and Chocolate Glaze — and can be bought one, two, or three tubs at a time. At nearly 800-calories per serving, this offers more nutrition than a standard meal. 

[Related: I’m A Professional Powerlifter. Here’s What I Think About Bodybuilding]

Best Low-Carb Meal Replacement

Though a low-carb diet isn’t technically the same as a keto diet, our pick for the Best Keto Meal Replacement certainly fits in well in this category too.  

HLTH Code Complete Meal

Fat isn’t typically as satiating as carbs and protein, and so folks following a low-carb diet can be susceptible to a case of the hangry’s. Complete Meal helps combats this by including nine grams of fiber into their formula. Fiber isn’t absorbed, it simply passes through your system, but it does serve to help you feel more full. Macro-wise, this shake offers 27 grams of fat and protein and over 20 vitamins and minerals to boot.

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HLTH Code Complete Meal
HLTH Code Complete Meal
HLTH Code Complete Meal

Healthy test levels require both ample fats and protein, so formula with more fat (27 grams) may suit men who want to maintain healthier testosterone levels. Also, it contains extras such as iron, calcium, and biotin. Save 15% with code BARBEND.

Who Should Buy HLTH Code Complete Meal

  • Those who want a meal replacement that’s balanced in both fats and protein, but low on carbs.
  • Folks who want a boost of calcium and Iron.
  • People who want a formula with collagen, which can aid in skin and cartilage health.

Who Shouldn’t Buy HLTH Code Complete Meal

  • Vegans and vegetarians. Collagen is an animal product, so this meal replacement probably won’t work for you. 
  • Folks who want more flavor options than vanilla and chocolate, though both taste delicious.
  • Anyone who isn’t on a high-fat, low-carb diet. 

As a bonus: Complete Meal is free of GMOs and artificial ingredients but is chock full of digestive enzymes, probiotics, fiber. It’s also made in an FDA-approved facility for folks hyper-concerned with quality. 

[Related: Best Macros Calculator For Tracking Muscle Gain And Fat Loss]

Best Plant-Based Meal Replacement Shake

For plant-based eaters, it’s important to find a formula that’s in line with their diet and provides essential vitamins and minerals that vegetarians and vegans specifically need. Don’t let the 400-calories serving freak you out — after all, we’re talking about meal replacements, not light snacks.

Ample V

Ample has great macros: 270 grams of protein, 23 grams of carbs (11 grams of fiber), and 25 grams of fat. All that protein, fiber, and fat make it filling (and delicious). It also packs 40 billion CFUs of probiotic bacteria from six different strains, which may be an important part of losing weight and maximizing nutrient absorption. Ample V is made with primarily organic pea protein and offers up vitamin B12, iron, and magnesium — three minerals and vitamins typically found in meat. Ample’s plant-based formula is all-natural, plus it has a big emphasis on gut health, fiber, and fat. 

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Ample
Ample
Ample

Ample has a solid amount of calories and macronutrients, won’t leave you hungry, tastes awesome, and all of this is wrapped up in a plant-friendly formula. 

Who Should Buy Ample V

  • Vegetarians and vegans. This is a plant-based formula.
  • People who limit artificial ingredients. There are no artificial flavors or sweeteners.
  • Anyone who wants to emphasize their digestive health. Very few of these shakes provide this much fiber, prebiotic fiber, and probiotic bacteria.
  • Folks who want to feel full, as the combination of fiber, fat, and protein make for a satiating drink.

Who Shouldn’t Buy Ample V

  • Folks who don’t want a plant-based formula. 
  • People who want many vitamins and minerals in their meal replacement shakes. Ample only provides 25 percent of the recommended daily intake of vitamin D, magnesium, and calcium.
  • Penny pinchers. This shake is pricier per serving. Though on a per calorie basis, it’s pretty reasonable.

Vegans and vegetarians can rejoice — Ample’s plant-based formula is all-natural, plus it has a big emphasis on gut health, fiber, and fat. 

[Related: Nutrition For Bulking: 10 Tips For Intelligent Muscle Gain]

Best Meal Replacement for Weight Loss 

Kaged Muscle Clean Meal has just one gram of sugar and just 240 calories per two-scoop serving, which makes it an ideal meal replacement for those looking to shed a few pounds. 

Kaged Muscle Clean Meal

Look, if you’re dieting, then you most likely want to eat your food, not drink it. That said, there are times where you have no choice — maybe you’re on vacation, a road trip, or out and about with friends. In those cases, reaching for Clean Meal is a good option. It’s caloric enough to keep you full but relatively low-calorie enough that you don’t need to worry about ingesting half your day’s worth of carbs in a single shake. Clean Meal offers 28 grams of protein (or 42 grams for three scoops) — which is substantial — and tastes way better than chicken breast. You can buy it in Snickerdoodle or Vanilla cake. In this case, you can have your cake and eat it too. 

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KAGED Muscle Clean Meal
KAGED Muscle Clean Meal
KAGED Muscle Clean Meal

When you're on the go or trying to slam calories, Clean Meal boasts either 270 or 360 calories-worth of nutrition with balanced macros from whole food ingredients. Use code BARBEND10 for 10% off your purchase. 

Who Should Buy Kaged Muscle Clean Meal

  • Anybody who wants a shake that’s both filling and low calorie.
  • Folks who like a wide variety of potently dosed vitamins and minerals; This has a good 50 percent of most of your micronutrients.
  • People with sensitive stomachs who want a clean, straightforward meal replacement without artificial ingredients. 

Who Shouldn’t Buy Kaged Muscle Clean Meal

  • Those who want to replace a larger meal. This is too low in calories to replace a full 500- to 1,000-calorie meal.
  • Athletes or bodybuilders who need a higher amount of carbs.

Tasty, well-balanced, and filling, Clean Meal is a great choice for those looking to stay trim but still ingest a meal’s worth of food. Oh, and priced at $2.25 per serving, it’s cheaper than anything you could buy on the road. 

[Related: The Lifter’s Guide To Magnesium: What This Nutrient Does For Strength]

Best Meal Replacement for Digestion

Standard protein powders can give folks digestion issues. And when you add more protein and calories to the mix, those problems can amplify. Here’s our pick to alleviate any potential tummy trouble. 

HLTH Code Complete Meal

Our top pick for digestion notably contains probiotics and digestive enzymes. The digestive enzymes can break down the protein ahead of time, so by the time you’re absorbing it, your body has to do less overall work. Also, probiotics are thought to improve your overall gut health. HLTH Code’s formula offers 400 calories, 27 grams of fat and protein, 13 grams of carbs, and nine grams of fiber to help you stay full. It’s packed with over 20 vitamins and minerals, contains grass-fed collagen, and customers rave about its great taste. We know that’s a lot to digest. 

Save 15% with code BARBEND
HLTH Code Complete Meal
HLTH Code Complete Meal
HLTH Code Complete Meal

Healthy test levels require both ample fats and protein, so formula with more fat (27 grams) may suit men who want to maintain healthier testosterone levels. Also, it contains extras such as iron, calcium, and biotin. Save 15% with code BARBEND.

Who Should Buy HLTH Code Complete Meal

  • Men who want to help maintain healthy testosterone with a shake balanced in both fats and protein.
  • Men who want extras such as iron, calcium, and Iron.
  • Folks who want a formula with collagen, which can aid in skin and cartilage health.

Who Shouldn’t Buy HLTH Code Complete Meal

  • We want to state this again. Collagen is an animal product, so this meal replacement won’t be the best pick for vegans and vegetarians. 
  • Folks who want more flavor options than vanilla and chocolate. 

This low-carb formula contains probiotics and digestive enzymes to make it easier to digest. It also tastes great and delivers a filling yet moderate amount of calories. 

[Related: The Real Pros And Cons Of The Bodybuilding Lifestyle]

Best Meal Replacement for Diabetes

It’s imperative to note that people with diabetes should speak to a physician or certified diabetes educator before trying any new supplements. This isn’t medical advice, but 310’s Meal Replacement Shake has a lot of potential benefits for those with diabetes. 

310 Meal Replacement Shake 

People with diabetes tend to prefer shakes with plenty of protein, fiber, and not much saturated fat or cholesterol. 310 Shake fits that bill perfectly. With 15 grams of protein and five grams of fiber, there are just two grams of net carbs per serving and no saturated fat or cholesterol at all. 310 Meal Replacement is also on point with about 30 percent of the recommended daily intake of some two dozen vitamins and minerals. The consumers concerned about the potential effects of sucralose on insulin sensitivity will be glad to learn there are no artificial sweeteners here either.

310 Meal Replacement Shake
310 Meal Replacement Shake
310 Meal Replacement Shake

The 310 Meal Replacement Shakes offer a tri-plex blend of protein to control hunger, promote muscle growth, and has only two grams of net carbs and zero artificial sweeteners.

Who Should Buy 310 Meal Replacement Shake 

  • People who want a shake with protein and fiber to help slow digestion.
  • Anyone after a really low-calorie shake; there are just 90 in a serving.
  • Those who want to avoid artificial sweeteners.

Who Shouldn’t Buy 310 Meal Replacement Shake 

  • Anyone who wants a shake to replace a meal. Let’s be honest; 90 calories isn’t a meal.
  • People who want more carbs. There are just two net carbs in a scoop.

Ok, this isn’t the most robust meal replacement shake, but it does offer decent protein and is a great option for people with diabetes. 

[Related: 3 Ways To Find Your 1-Rep Max (Beginner, Intermediate, and Advanced)]

Best Meal Replacement for Elderly

Older people who need a meal replacement with a bunch of protein and fiber and no saturated fat will be happy to know that 310 Shake clears the bar. It’s 15 grams of protein, five grams of fiber, and just two grams of net carbs per serving.

310 Meal Replacement Shake 

310 Meal Replacement also packs some two dozen vitamins and minerals. The consumers concerned about the potential effects of sucralose on insulin sensitivity will be glad to learn there are no artificial sweeteners here either. If you’re concerned about your nutrient absorption or any other nutrition-related issues as you age, it’s best to share them with a physician. That said, we found 310 Shake to contain many nutrients that tend to be favored by older folks.

310 Meal Replacement Shake
310 Meal Replacement Shake
310 Meal Replacement Shake

The 310 Meal Replacement Shakes offer a tri-plex blend of protein to control hunger, promote muscle growth, and has only two grams of net carbs and zero artificial sweeteners.

Who Should Buy 310 Meal Replacement Shake 

  • People who want a shake packed with protein and fiber.
  • Anyone who wants a really low-calorie shake; just 90 calories in a serving.
  • Those who want to avoid artificial sweeteners.

Who Shouldn’t Buy 310 Meal Replacement Shake 

  • Anyone who wants a shake to replace a full meal’s worth of calories.
  • People who want more carbs, there are just two net carbs in a serving.

Skinny jeans and frosted tips may be out of style if you’re over 50, but proper nutrient absorption is forever cool. 310 delivers 24 vitamins and minerals in great flavors like Horchata!

[Related: Hypertrophy Training Sets And Reps]

Best Vitamin-Rich Meal Replacement Shake

For folks who are more health-conscious, we’ve found a formula that offers up a tremendous amount of vitamins, minerals, and a few valuable extras in Huel’s (that stands for Human Fuel) meal replacement. 

Huel

This vegan powder delivers great macros (with a moderate amount of fat) and 27 vitamins and minerals — including chromium and choline — plus a few extras such as kombucha and acerola cherries (which are excellent sources of B and C vitamins). It also boasts an ample amount of Omega-3 fatty acids, so it’s a pretty robust formula altogether. Huel suits almost everyone except low-carb dieters, and the protein is complete even though it’s plant-based. 

Huel
Huel
Huel

Huel offers up a robust 27-vitamin and mineral formula, as well as a lot of omega-3 fatty acids, for a meal replacment brimming with nutrition. 

Who Should Buy Huel

  • Anyone tired of “meal replacements” that are more like protein shakes; this has carbs and fat, but not too much and not too little.
  • People who want a meal replacement with as many vitamins and minerals as possible, Huel has everything from chromium to choline.
  • Are you looking for Omega-3s? Huel has almost four grams per serving in the form of ALA.
  • Vegans and vegetarians, yes, this pick is perfect for you — Huel is entirely vegan.

Who Shouldn’t Buy Huel

  • Folks who limit artificial sweeteners, as Huel contains sucralose. There’s an unflavored version, but you’ll probably want to add some sweetener — it’s not great.
  • If you’re sensitive to gums, you won’t love the xanthan, acacia, and guar here.

Huel delivers the most amount of vitamins of any pick on this list and is both plant-based and high in protein. Really, this pick can scratch a bunch of different itches. 

[Related: The 3 Most Common Types Of Training Periodization (And When To Use Them)]

Can You Live On Just Meal Replacements?

So can you really replace a meal with powder? It depends on who you ask. There have been quite a few meal replacements out there that have aspired to completely replace food and encourage consumers to live on nothing but their product.

That has now become pretty uncommon, with the argument leaning toward what became one of Soylent’s slogans: it shouldn’t replace every meal, but it can replace any meal.

[Related: The Best Foods And Supplements For Fighting Inflammation]

Is that a good idea? It’s complicated, but there’s pretty decent evidence that meal replacements can be smart for certain consumers. A meta-analysis of six randomized controlled trials, published in the International Journal of Obesity and Related Metabolic Disorders, found that adding one of these products into a low-calorie diet — that part is important — “can safely and effectively produce significant sustainable weight loss and improve weight-related risk factors of disease.” (1)

Like a 2018 randomized controlled trial published in Nutrition & Health, multiple studies have also suggested they can be effective at helping to manage Type 2 diabetes, perhaps by helping with calorie control or blood sugar levels. (2)(3)

That said, there are many ingredients in whole foods that aren’t vitamins or minerals but are still healthful. Meal replacements will often (but not always) have all the essential vitamins and minerals. However, certain antioxidants and phytonutrients are more abundant in whole foods. (An example would be indole-3-carbinol, which may help balance hormones and is found in broccoli.)

So, you should use these shakes as supplements and still eat plenty of real foods in addition to your meal replacement shakes.

How We Decide the Best 

Meal replacement shakes vary enormously concerning the nutrition they provide — and human beings differ significantly concerning the nutrition they need. Athletes might want more carbs. Women might want more biotin. Men might want more Vitamin D. Some folks want a lot of calories. Others want a nutritious snack. Here are the criteria we used when trying to select the best meal replacement for various needs.

woman drinking shake
eldar nurkovic/Shutterstock

[Related: How To Do The Romanian Deadlift For Lower-Body Size And Strength]

Macronutrients

Diets are composed of calories made up of three macronutrients: protein, carbohydrates, and fat. A good meal replacement, unless it’s marketed for an unusual type of diet (e.g., keto), has a balanced combination of the three.

When looking at what makes a diet healthy outside of macronutrients, you’re more or less looking at five components.

Vitamins

Organic molecules that an organism needs for the proper functioning of its metabolism but can’t synthesize on its own. There are thirteen required for human metabolism. 

Minerals

Chemical elements are made in the earth and can’t be made by living organisms. Plants get them from the soil, and animals get them from plants. There are five major minerals for humans (calcium, phosphorus, potassium, sodium, and magnesium), and the rest are called “trace elements.”

Essential fatty acids

Fatty acids that we can’t make ourselves, so we need to consume them. Linked to various health effects such as immunity and mental health, a 2011 study published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that the amount of Omega-6 in Americans’ diet has increased astronomically over the past hundred years. (4) You want your ratio of Omega-3 to Omega-6 to be as close as possible, which is why a lot of people supplement with fish oil.

Fiber

A kind of carbohydrate that the body doesn’t quite digest, fiber is usually categorized as “soluble” or “insoluble,” both of which serve important functions for digestive health. It’s uncommon for a product’s nutrition label to mention what kind of fiber it contains.

Phytochemicals

Compounds found in plants that aren’t considered essential for human survival — and some are poisons — but many (like catechins in tea) are linked to health benefits and lower risks of various diseases.

When you’re assessing the quality of a meal replacement, you’re usually looking for vitamins, minerals, fiber, and, if you’re lucky, Omega-3 fatty acids. While they may contain ingredients with phytochemicals (like the isoflavones in soy), they’re seldom specifically written on the ingredients list. For those kinds of supplements, you may want to look at greens powders.

Before Buying a Meal Replacement

It can be a little daunting to look for products meant to replace a whole meal, not just one macronutrient like a protein shake. Here are a few pointers to keep in mind when hunting for your next meal.

A line of protein shakes
New Africa/Shutterstock

[Related: The 3 Most Effective Workouts Splits For Strength Training]

You’re Not Replacing Your Whole Diet

Don’t even think about living on meal replacements alone; the body needs phytochemicals and enzymes, and antioxidants that you’ll only get from plants. This attitude — that shakes are helpful, but not everything — should help to take the pressure off of finding the absolute perfect option.

Ask About the Calories

When people consume too many calories, they gain weight, but if they don’t eat enough calories, they experience fatigue, nutrient deficiencies, and more. So before you buy the lowest calorie meal replacement on the market because you want to lose weight, ask yourself if it’s enough to keep hunger at bay and lower the odds of you overeating later. For some people, they’ll eat one or two large meals after taking one or two meal replacements, and it works wonders for them. For others, they’ll have 90-calorie shakes and wind up so hungry and unsatisfied that they binge later.

Make Sure It’s Satiating

If you’re trying to bulk up and gain a lot of muscle, this won’t apply to you. But if you want a shake to be satiating, consider not just the calories but also ensure there’s adequate protein, fiber, and fat, all of which are great for satisfying hunger. Slimfast, for example, is very low in protein and fat, so although it’s nutritious, we didn’t find it to be that great a meal replacement. 

Chat With a Doctor

Before making any changes to your diet and supplement regimen, like replacing a meal with powder, be sure to book an appointment with a physician or a registered dietitian to make sure it’s a good option for you.

Wrapping Up

Meal replacements really aren’t just for the bedridden and the elderly. They can support various lifestyles and needs, and let’s be honest: we could all stand to save a few minutes of meal prep. Of all the products we’ve tried, these were the most outstanding in their field, so no matter if you’re looking for nutrition, weight gain, weight loss, or another goal, we’re confident the best meal replacement shakes can be easily picked for you. 

FAQs

Can I only drink meal replacement shakes?

Meal replacement shakes are designed to do what they say: Replace a meal, which can be a convenient way to get nutrition for your specific dietary needs. Some meal replacement shakes were originally designed to serve as a full and complete nutritional substitute for regular food. However, relatively few recommend drinking only their product to meet your full nutritional needs. Speak to your medical professional before you consider switching to a completely meal replacement-based diet.

Can I use meal replacement shakes to lose weight?

Meal replacement shakes can be a convenient and easily measurable way to track calories, macronutrients, and micronutrients. Many people use them to help meet weight loss goals by tracking calories and hitting a calorie deficit. But like it or not, you only lose weight if you’re in a calorie deficit — that’s the main thing to be mindful of.

What is in a meal replacement?

A good meal replacement has a balance of protein, carbohydrates, fats, vitamins, and minerals. Usually the ingredients have whey (made from dairy) for the protein, maltodextrin for the carbs, and vitamins and minerals are added in. Many meal replacements try to be as low in fat as possible, and it’s hard to say where the fat comes from — sunflower oil isn’t uncommon.

How many calories are in a meal replacement?

Some meal replacements are as low as 90 calories, others are as high as 700 calories or more. It’s fair to say that 90-calorie meal replacements aren’t really replacing meals — these sorts of products are typically very low in carbs and fat and wind up closer to nutritious protein shakes than anything approximating the calorie and macronutrient balance of an actual meal.

References

  1. Heymsfield SB, et al. Weight management using a meal replacement strategy: meta and pooling analysis from six studies. Int J Obes Relat Metab Disord. 2003 May;27(5):537-49.
  2. Boonyavarakul A, et al. Effects of meal replacement therapy on metabolic outcomes in Thai patients with type 2 diabetes: A randomized controlled trial. Nutr Health. 2018 Oct 1:260106018800074.
  3. Kempf K, et al. Individualized Meal Replacement Therapy Improves Clinically Relevant Long-Term Glycemic Control in Poorly Controlled Type 2 Diabetes Patients. Nutrients. 2018 Aug 4;10(8).
  4. Blasbalg TL, et al. Changes in consumption of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids in the United States during the 20th century. Am J Clin Nutr. 2011 May;93(5):950-62.