Protein shakes and meal replacement shakes are not the same.
Protein powders work to provide you with a high-quality protein to help your body recover after working out.
- Designed to help increase daily protein consumption
- Low in calories
- Not packed with carbs and fat (so they don’t contain all of the nutrients your body needs to constitute a complete meal)
Meal replacement shakes do exactly what they say: replace a meal. For instance, instead of eating breakfast, you drink a shake.
- Designed for weight loss
- Low in calories
- Packed with essential nutrients that your body needs for a complete meal (vitamins and minerals, fiber, some carbs, fat, and protein, a good balance of all three macros), but they may also contain ingredients you wish to avoid like added sugars and chemicals.
Continue reading to see why I recommend protein supplementation along with a diet based on clean, organic meats, vegetables, and healthy fats.
Meal replacements and protein shakes can both support your body composition and athletic performance goals, although they do have significant differences in nutritional profile and benefits. A higher amount of protein will help repair muscle tissue damage resulting from high intensity, strenuous workouts. Try to get your protein from eggs and lean meats (chicken, fish, lean beef, etc.). Downing enough protein can be a tough task so supplement your eating with protein shakes to reach your protein requirement for the day.
Meal replacements are intended to be more filling and contain more calories than a protein shake. Although meal replacements are higher in calories than protein shakes, they tend to be lower in calories than actual meals, which can aid in dieting. Whey protein isolates tend to be the lowest calorie protein shakes, with 101 calories per serving, while others may contain about 120 calories. Meal replacement shakes typically contain between 250 and 400 calories.
Protein shakes typically provide about 25 g of protein per serving, while the range of protein in meal replacements differs widely. Meal replacements intended for general health may be lower in protein, with 10 g per shake, while those intended for muscle building and dieting may contain up to 40 g.
A higher amount of protein will help repair muscle tissue damage resulting from high intensity, strenuous workouts. Try to get your protein from eggs and lean meats (chicken, fish, lean beef, etc.). Downing enough protein is a tough task so supplement your eating with protein shakes to reach your protein requirement for the day.
Protein shakes typically have less than 5 g of carbohydrates, as they are not intended to be full meals. Meal replacement shakes tend to contain carbohydrates to make the nutritional profile more like a real meal. Meal replacements beneficial for dieting will contain dietary fiber, a nutrient that helps in digestion and makes you feel full, helping you consume fewer calories throughout the day.
Protein shakes are typically low in fat, with 3 g or fewer, while the fat content in meal replacements varies. Meal replacements that are lower in carbohydrates tend to be higher in fat and may be useful for low-carbohydrate diets. Higher carbohydrate shakes tend to be lower in fat. You may wish to find a meal replacement containing omega-3 fats, to aid in fat loss and muscle gain.
Vitamins and Minerals
Protein shakes tend not to contain any added vitamins and minerals other than those provided by the protein source. For example, shakes made from whey protein, a dairy product, provide calcium. Although not all meal replacements contain added vitamins and minerals, many do.
Shakes vs ‘real’ food
In marketing today, you hear people say, “just eat real food”. However, we travel more, we work differently, we have different needs and our nutrition options have changed over the years. If you are not able to eat ‘real food’ or the real food you are eating isn’t getting you the results that you want, then a shake may be an option. Remember that meal replacement shakes and protein shakes are not the same. The typical meal-replacement powder may contain up to half your day’s intake of carbs. Instead, opt for a scoop of regular protein powder after your workout.
I will always advise my clients to plan their meals, prep their meals and always choose organic, clean protein, vegetables, and healthy fats. Carbs should come from sources like vegetables, some fruits, and legumes. Be in control of your diet – it is 90% of your fitness program, overall health, and body composition!