Why would someone want to “replace” their meals with something else? For a number of reasons actually. Athletes sometimes have trouble filling the high calorie, high protein requirements of their training regime. While in other cases replacing a fast food lunch with a meal replacement shake can provide a wealth of positive long term effects, particularly for people intent on losing weight.
Meeting dietary requirements is what meal replacement shakes are all about. So whether you’re in training or just in a hurry meal replacement shakes can ensure you get the nutrition your body needs.
Below are the 10 best meal replacement shakes for 2020.
1. Vega One All-In-One
With no dangerous trans fats (1) or saturated fats Vega One All-in-One meal replacement is the right choice for vegans or anyone else interested in maintaining a healthy, trim profile. All nutrients are gleaned from vegan friendly organic sources and you’ll find no cholesterol and only 10 grams of carbs per serving. A single All-in-One shake provides 160 calories and about half your daily requirement of vitamins and minerals.
All the protein here is pea and hemp protein and there’s also 6 grams of dietary fiber to make sure things keep moving. You’ll notice a slightly sweet taste and if you have blood sugar issues that might seem concerning. But don’t worry. It’s not refined sugar. It’s the natural sweetener Stevia. If you’re looking for a healthy and delicious way to get the nutrients you need, you can’t go wrong with Vega One.
2. Garden of Life Meal Replacement
Garden of Life is well known for their high quality organic supplements so it only makes sense their meal replacement shake would rate highly on our list. They take great care to ensure the multitude of nutrients provided here are gleaned from uncompromised sources. Each individual serving includes the company’s trademark superfood blend along with an array of vitamins and minerals that essentially negate the need to take a multivitamin.
It’s low in sodium and carbohydrates and there is zero saturated fat. There’s also a robust helping of probiotics and 7 grams of fiber per serving for good measure. Everything that goes into this shake is certified organic and is 100% safe for vegans and vegetarians. There’s a bit of Stevia for flavor but no artificial colors or additives and no pointless fillers that might undermine quality and efficacy.
3. Nature’s Bounty Complete Protein and Vitamin
If you’re feeling sluggish and having a hard time getting out to grab a proper lunch consider Nature’s Bounty Complete Protein and Vitamin Meal Replacement Shake. You get 100% of vitamins C, D and B along with plenty of calcium, folic acid and fiber. There’s a little more cholesterol than some might find optimal but when we say “a little” we mean a little.
All in all there’s 13 vitamins and minerals, along with 15 grams of protein and plenty of probiotics to promote digestive health (2). You’ll feel more energetic, have more protein available to buttress your muscle growth efforts and electrolytes to help replenish your body after a vigorous workout or just on hot summer days. The amino acid profile also one of the most comprehensive you’ll find anywhere.
4. Fit & Lean Fat Burning Meal Replacement
The Fit & Lean Fat Burning Meal Replacement formula is drawn from 28 whole fruits and veggies, including mango, kale, pineapple, carrots and more. It contains a wide array of vitamins and minerals including plenty of vitamin D for strong bones along with vitamins A, C, D, E and K. There’s zero trans fat, zero cholesterol and a generous 10 grams of dietary fiber per serving.
Each scoop contains a modest 140 calories and is rich in green coffee bean and green tea extracts to promote fat burning and elevate your metabolism in a safe, natural way. It’s lactose free, gluten free and made in a Good Manufacturing Processes facility in the US. And just for the record, it also happens to taste better than about 90% of the other meal replacement shakes out there.
5. GNC Total Lean Shake
If you’re looking for a way to enhance the effectiveness of your workouts but don’t have time for all the shopping and food prep necessary to prepare wholesome, nutritious meals GNC Total Lean Shake should be on your shopping list. There’s 25 grams of protein that will help with muscle recovery and promote the growth of new lean muscle.
There’s also 17 grams of carbohydrates per serving, which will help provide the energy you need to avoid hitting performance ceilings. The vitamin list is extensive and includes A, C, E and the B-Complex vitamins and they haven’t forgotten about other important nutrients like zinc, manganese and selenium. There are some artificial ingredients and 20 grams of saturated fat, but the positives will far outweigh the negatives for most people. Especially those engaged in a vigorous workout regimen.
6. Vega Protein Ready to Drink Shake
Vega Protein Ready to Drink Shake gleans its protein from peas and hemp. It’s rich in vitamins A, C, D, K, B6 and B12 along with thiamin, niacin, magnesium and has 4 grams of dietary fiber. If there’s a downside here it’s the inclusion of 7 grams of sugar and 230 mg of sodium in each serving added in an attempt to make it palatable. On the upside it contains no trans fat, no cholesterol and only 5 grams of carbohydrates and there are no artificial colors, flavors or preservatives.
It’s also gluten free, certified vegan and completely free of genetically modified organisms at every step in the manufacturing process. This meal replacement shake is aimed more toward people who typically get a fairly well-rounded diet but need to occasionally fill the gap if they’re too hurried to fix a proper breakfast or lunch.
7. Muscle Milk Meal Replacement
Whereas other meal replacement shakes will put an emphasis on bone strength or the health of your digestive system the Muscle Milk Meal Replacement shake focuses squarely on helping you recover quickly from strenuous workouts and build new, larger, leaner muscles. There’s a robust 34 grams of protein in each serving (2 or 3 times what you’ll find in many other meal replacement shakes). But it’s not just a protein powder.
There’s also lots of calcium and phosphorous and a generous dose of essential amino acids. As well as a wide variety of important vitamins and minerals and 3 grams of dietary fiber. If you’re unhappy with your workout results it’s probably related to your diet. Muscle Milk will help you pump up your nutritional profile.
8. Field Work Nutrition Co. Primo Smoothie
Because of the relatively restrained vitamin content the Primo Smoothie Meal Replacement Shake sometimes doesn’t get the recognition it deserves. It’s actually a highly pure source of protein and essential probiotics that helps you get more from your workouts by processing the food you eat more effectively. A lot of people suffer nutritional deficiencies not because their diet is wanting, but because their digestive system is not working as effectively as it should.
The nutrients are there but the system can’t process them. The Primo Smoothie will help straighten out that issue and at the same time provide you with 20 grams of grass fed protein in every scoop. Not for vegans or vegetarians but everyone else who wants to hit their protein targets more efficiently should give it a try.
9. ViSalus VI-Shape Nutritional Shake
It’s advertised as the nutritional shake that tastes like cake mix, of all things. And that alone might be enough to scare some health conscious people off. But the good news is that the excesses of the marketing department can’t hide the fact that this is a well rounded, nutritious meal replacement for people on the go.
It contains vitamins A, C, D, E and K along with B6 and B12 and iron, magnesium, zinc and calcium. It contains zero trans fats and saturated fats, is low in cholesterol and contains very little sodium. It’s also low in sugar and contains 12 grams of protein per serving. Sure, it contains some artificial flavorings to achieve the cake mix taste but you shouldn’t let that distract you from the many potential benefits.
10. Labrada Lean Body
The last item on our list is the Labrada Lean Body meal replacement shake for workout enthusiasts. Each scoop of LLB contains an impressive 35 grams of protein. Just what you need if you’re working on a stronger, leaner you. It’s not the “purest” meal replacement shake on the market as it contains some artificial flavors and additives, along with some dairy products.
But if you’re not bothered by those things and you’re looking for a high potency, reasonably affordable meal replacement supplement to help you ramp up your workouts, Labrada Lean Body could be just what the diet doctor ordered. Besides the protein it provides a hefty serving of branched chain amino acids to aid in muscle recovery (3) and 21 grams of carbs per serving.
What are Meal Replacement Shakes?
A meal replacement shake is product designed to help people fill nutritional or dietary gaps while at the same time giving them the feeling of being full. If you rely simply on multivitamins to provide necessary nutrients you’re still left with hunger pangs that could drive you to eat foods that will compromise your health. With the meal replacement shake you feel satiated afterward and you have all the vitamins, minerals and protein your body needs to power you through the day without the fat, sodium or sugar.
What are the Benefits Meal Replacement Shakes?
The benefits of meal replacement shakes are many (4) and will appeal to a wide variety of people for different reasons. Those benefits include:
- Providing essential nutrients – One of the most fundamental objects of the meal replacement shake is to help people fill gaps in their dietary profile. Many people with busy lives simply don’t have time to prepare or go out for healthy meals during the day. They substitute instead with snacks or fast food, which are loaded with sugar, salt and saturated fats and don’t provide the nutrient balance people need. Others who engage in strenuous activity or exercise regimens often wind up not consuming sufficient quantities of protein and other nutrients. And still others attempting to lose weight often shortchange themselves from a nutritional standpoint.
- Promotes healthy weight loss – We just touched on this but it deserves a bit of extrapolation. People who want to lose weight often embark on diet strategies that are questionable at best and sometimes leave them desperately lacking in essential nutrients. While it’s common sense that that less you eat the more weight you will lose, your body still needs to meet certain nutritional thresholds or essential functions will begin to suffer. Meal replacement shakes can fill this dangerous nutrient gap. Science also shows (5) that replacing just one meal a day with a meal replacement shake can result in weight loss.
- Encourages healthy portion sizes – People often overeat because the body takes time to process how much they’ve eaten. Once it does it sends “full” signals. But there’s a lag time of 10 – 20 minutes between when you are physically full and when your mind tells you that you’re full. The problem is by then you’ve likely eaten too much. If you eat a modest amount instead and wait about 10 – 20 minutes your mind will catch up with your body and tell you that you are full and should stop eating. Meal replacement shakes can help instill this type of portion control and you’ll be much better off for it.
- Helps stabilize blood sugars – When people overeat it produces an array of different side effects. All of them negative. Among the most vexing and potentially dangerous is roller coaster blood sugar levels (6). After overeating blood sugar levels can skyrocket, making you feel sluggish and confused and prompting frequent urination. Hours later blood sugar levels can tumble creating irritability, indecisiveness and emotional swings. Meal replacement shakes are portioned so that they deliver just the right number of carbs and this prevents your blood sugar levels from rising or falling precipitously. Scientific studies back up this conclusion (7).
- Works better than starvation diets – Starvation diets or diets that are otherwise severely restrictive either in carbs or fat or both tend to produce metabolic anomalies and disorders. Hormone levels can become unbalanced while insulin and leptin levels wind up all over the place. People who eat meal replacement shakes instead of ultra-restrictive diets are able to avoid these odious side effects. They’re also able to lose weight in a healthier, more controlled manner and to keep it off, if they can manage to make meal replacement shakes part of their normal dietary routine.
- They’re affordable and can save you money – Eating healthy is one of the smartest things a person can do if they want to avoid type II diabetes and a range of other long term health issues (8) that could shorten life and make daily living a chore rather than a joy. But buying and preparing healthy meals is expensive. (One of the biggest reasons fast food has become so popular is that it’s often cheaper than eating healthy.) Meal replacement shakes are an affordable way to get the essential nutrients you need without also having to load up on saturated fat, sugar and sodium.
Things to Look for in Meal Replacement Shakes
When shopping for the right meal replacement shake for you there are a number of different things you should look out for, including:
- Protein content – Supplementing your diet with additional protein has a number of benefits. If you are physically active or into working out additional protein will help you build new strong leaner muscles. If you want to lose weight substituting protein for raw calories can help. And if you have recently completed a weight loss program and want to ensure you keep the weight off adding at least 30 grams of protein to your regular diet can help prevent you from regaining weight. As such a good meal replacement shake should include at least 10 grams of protein. More if you lift weights.
- Sugar content – The first meal replacement shakes were often just an assortment of different vitamins mixed with sugar. Over time producers got wise to the negative effects of such a mixture and began putting more effort into their concoctions. Today, any good meal replacement shake is either sugar free, or contains only a gram or 2 of added sugar.
- Fiber content – We mentioned the fiber content in virtually all of the products we profiled above because it’s important for this type of dietary supplement. Fiber is known for its ability to help you feel satiated after consuming the shake and also because it helps slow down digestion (9), which helps you feel full for longer and avoid eating binges.
- Other nutrients – Don’t focus solely on protein, sugar and fiber content. Make sure your meal replacement shake also includes a wealth of other nutrients like B complex vitamins, antioxidants, branched chain amino acids, probiotics and various minerals. You typically get all of these in a well balanced meal so your shake should also provide them for you.
Who Should Consider Meal Replacement Shakes?
Anyone who is struggling to make healthy food choices will benefit from meal replacement shakes, whether they are trying to lose weight or not. Even people with fast metabolisms who are not dangerously overweight are still in danger of developing various health conditions if they don’t consume the proper balance of nutrients. So proper nutrition is not just an issue for the overweight.
People in the habit of skipping meals are another group who will benefit from meal replacement shakes. With the rise of the global economy the 9 to 5 work schedule of our parents and grandparents is little more than a quaint memory to many people. They often skip meals because they need to remain at their desk to conduct business. Or they work from home and roll out of bed directly over to their desk and start working without ever having a decent breakfast.
As we mentioned above people trying to lose weight and/or keep weight off are also good candidates for meal replacement shakes. As are those who work out vigorously and need to make sure their nutrient intake can keep up with the energy they’re expending in the gym.
Are There Any Side Effects to Taking Meal Replacement Shakes?
Meal replacement shakes are sometimes compared to diet pills but the difference is significant. First and foremost because meal replacement shakes do not include caffeine. As such they’re not going to give you the jitters or increase your anxiety levels. In addition, the energy you get from meal replacement shakes will be honest energy, derived from healthy nutrients. Not empty, caffeine driven energy that will ultimately leave you feeling drained. As with any food you will need to be aware of any intolerances you may have and avoid those meal replacement shakes that may produce negative effects. But the shake itself is not going to produce negative side effects in healthy people with no known food tolerance issues.
The Bottom Line
Meal replacement shakes have come a long way in the past decade and are now a healthy alternative to diet pills and vitamin supplements. They’ll help you stay energized and alert, help you get more from your workouts and help you lose weight and prevent lost weight from returning. If you’re looking for a healthy, affordable alternative to fast food meal replacement shakes are it.