Meal replacement shakes?
Yeah, they’re pretty trendy right now.
But do they really work? And are they really just as healthy as eating a nutritious meal?
Meal replacement supplements are intended to substitute your solid meals, helping you track exact amounts of nutrients and calories you consume.
They usually come in the form of powder to be made into shakes, smoothies and iced drinks. Some meal replacement supplements are medically prescribed and these usually include more than just your required minerals and vitamins.
The top meal replacement brands usually contain about 200 to 250 calories per serving, fortified with lots of added minerals and vitamins. Most even offer low sugar options.
Pro tip: If you’re looking for the best all-in-one daily nutritional supplement, Tim Ferriss recommends this superfood cocktail (12+ servings of fruits & veggies, 70+ whole super food ingredients)
This list ranks the best meal replacement supplements on the market according to product quality, price, and customer satisfaction. After the rankings, we broke down the science behind meal replacement supplements and how they work.
So what’s the best meal replacement shake on the market?
1- ViSalus VI-Shape Nutritional Shake Mix
The all-around nutritional monster of a shake.
This is the ideal dietary supplement not only for meal replacement, but for rapid weight loss and increased energy as well.
It includes a combination of 25 minerals and vitamins making you more active throughout the day and even increasing your agility.
ViSalus meal replacement shakes are also healthy for your heart and are lactose and gluten free.
Also, it is important to note that this product does not contain any aspartame, but is instead sweetened with sucralose which is calorie-free.
2- Vega One All-in-One Nutritional Shake
This supplement is packed with essential nutrients for your body as well as 50% of your daily vitamins and 25% of your daily fiber.
It contains a plant based protein with complete and balanced amino acids. The nutritional shake is made from whole fruits and vegetables which are packed with natural vitamins. It is also dairy and gluten free and comes in a variety of different flavors.
Not the cheapest meal replacement shake on the market, but one of the best as far as product quality.
20 servings per container, 41g per serving. Only 160 calories per serving.
3. Labrada LEAN BODY Meal Replacement
One of the tastiest meal replacement shakes on the market with a delicious chocolate flavor, Labrada Nutrition meal replacement shakes also offer one of the highest protein contents compared to other popular meal replacement brands (35g of protein per serving).
Also included in each serving are 6,000mg of branch chain amino acids (BCAAs), 8,000mg of essential fatty acids (EFAs), and 7,000mg of Glutamine.
Each tub contains 16 servings. Allergen information: Contains milk and soy products.
4- Slim Fast Original Meal Replacement
All cheesy TV commercials aside, Slim Fast is actually one of the best meal replacement shakes on the market.
One of the highest rated and most affordable meal shakes on Amazon.
The tasty chocolate flavored nutritional shake mixes easily with milk or water and controls hunger for over 4 hours in a single serving. Also covers almost 1/3 of your daily recommended intake for essential vitamins and minerals.
8 oz. per serving, 200 calories, 10 g. protein, 4 g. fiber. 34 servings in the tub.
5- Ensure Original Nutrition Powder
Ensure Nutrition Powder is a top recommended brand by doctors to provide balanced and complete nutrition.
It is an excellent source of 26 essential minerals and vitamins and also contains 9 grams of protein per serving. It is gluten free and suitable for those that are lactose intolerant.
Since it comes in a powder form, you can conveniently mix it with your favorite recipes and beverages. It is one of the most convenient and complete sources of general nutrition on the market.
Each serving contains 90 calories, 10g calories from fat, 1g total fat, 0g saturated fat, 0g trans fat, 15mg cholesterol, 7g total carbs, 5g dietary fiber, <1g sugar and 12g protein.
How do meal replacement shakes work?
Meal replacement supplements are prepared products that you take once or twice a day in the form of shakes, bars, or smoothies. They substitute one of your main meals like breakfast, lunch or dinner.
They have the recommended quantity of carbohydrates included in each meal along with fats, proteins, vitamins and minerals.
In addition, meal replacement supplements contain added fiber in order to fulfill your daily recommendation. They also provide a convenience to appease hunger in times when you do not have time to prepare a regular meal.
Meal replacement supplements are primarily used for weight loss. One of the best benefits of meal replacement shakes are that they are loaded with targeted quantities of vitamins and minerals, allowing you to monitor each nutrient that you consume throughout the day.
You don’t have to consume an array of vegetables, whole-grains and fruits to get your daily intake of essential nutrients. Meal replacement supplements are a convenient way to get the recommended vitamins and minerals that you need without worrying about preparing meals, or the cleanup after.
They are also typically high in protein. You can get all the needed vitamins and minerals while consuming only a few grams of fat and a small amount of calories. Almost sounds too good to be true, right?
What are the side effects of meal replacement shakes?
Meal replacement supplements provide around 200 calories for each serving. Drastically cutting your calories down with meal replacement supplements can make you feel tired and fatigued throughout the day if you do not get enough calories to sustain your daily activity levels (you might want to try a nootropic).
Your digestive tract may also suffer by replacing a couple of meals a day with meal replacement supplements.
According to Linus Pauling institute report, women need 26 grams of fiber while men need as much as 38 grams of fiber throughout the day (1).
Meal replacement supplements generally don’t contain much fiber which could make it hard for you to reach your daily fiber intake recommendation. As a result, you may suffer from diarrhea, bowel irregularity or constipation.
Meal replacement supplements could also affect your satiety (2). Because these supplements do not contain much fiber, you do not get the feeling of being full and you do not get the chewing benefit from having a meal.
With a shake, you may consume it quicker than a meal, reducing your satiety and causing you to feel the hunger again shortly after.
Whey protein is the main ingredient of many meal replacement supplements that are not lactose free. People who are lactose intolerant should avoid these particular nutritional shakes as they may suffer stomach discomfort, nausea, cramps and bloating.
Some commercially produced meal replacement drinks contained traces of arsenic and even harmful heavy metals such as cadmium, mercury or lead, according to one study published in 2010 by Consumer Reports (3).
Consuming products with these heavy metal ingredients can result in health problems such as weakness, joint and muscle pain, fatigue, headaches and constipation.
Meal replacement supplements could also cause serious side effects for those that have kidney or liver problems, and they can negatively interact with diabetes medications.
If you are interested in buying a meal replacement supplement, check out our rankings at the top of this guide. We’ve done the research to narrow down the best meal replacement shakes on the market right now.
Thinking about trying a meal replacement shake? Read some customer reviews first, you don’t have to take our word for it.
But after you factor in price, quality, and how well their customers rate the product, it’s not hard to identify the top dogs in the meal replacement supplement industry. Check out our rankings at the top of the page and see which one best fits what you’re looking for.