Pros and Cons of Meal Replacement Shakes For Bodybuilding

Meal replacement shakes can be beneficial tools for growth, but do the pros outweigh the cons?

While we would all love to create homemade meals that we have prepared with all the necessary ingredients to improve our overall health and see big gains, sometimes life just doesn’t happen like that. Given our busy schedules, it is no surprise that meal replacement shakes have grown in popularity to keep us grinding in the gym and in everyday life. Meal replacement shakes seem like efficient ways for us to load up calories and the essentials to keep moving, like protein shakes, but with all the benefits they possess, their still may be issues we have yet to figure out from meal replacement shakes bodybuilding has to offer.

With so many diets and supplemental products committing to help you lose weight or provide you with the energy you need to keep going strong, there is not one that works for everyone and there is not one that works perfectly, especially that is high protein. Each dietary method has advantages and disadvantages and meal replacement shakes are no different. Portable and convenient options with great taste, they are perfect for those always on the go and can be absorbed easily, similar to protein shakes.

Check out our list of the Best Meal Replacements for great nutritional products!

Natural foods are always the better way to go, however, and you can’t beat a good homecooked meal. Natural foods ensure the body gets all the vital nutrients it needs to keep going, and while meal replacement shakes can be good supplements for a meal, they are not natural and research into the most effective shake is important to not regress with your workouts or daily functioning.

The pros and cons of meal replacement shakes certainly depends on the individual, but as a popular supplement to meal replacement, knowing the facts around these tasty shakes are important to understand for weight and fat loss and muscle growth.

Meal replacement shakes

What Are They?

Meal replacement shakes typically come in bottled products or in powder form that you can mix with whatever desired liquid you choose. They are consumed in place of a regular meal and many people take them because they either help increase or decrease their caloric intake, making this a solid weight management product (1). Many contain protein, fiber, vitamins, and other important ingredients to keep you full and moving at optimal capacity, but it all depends on your diet and intended goals. For bodybuilders, meal replacement shakes can save time and energy when consuming a significant number of calories and meals a day and offer one quick and effective way to do so.

bodybuilding training

Benefits Of Meal Replacement Shakes

Support Weight Management

Meal replacement shakes, like protein shakes, can help those looking to manage their weight effectively because you know what you’re getting (2). Some can be high in protein and fiber which will help keep you full longer and not craving those unhealthy foods. For those looking to decrease their caloric intake, using a meal replacement shake can be a great way to keep track of calories and have a quick boost for energy. While some people may have a harder time-consuming calories with normal food, these can be a solid way to increase caloric intake without using junk food to do so building up fatty acids and extra calories per serving for one meal with enough grams of macronutrients that you need for your body and a strong quality of life for muscle building from a complete and convenient meal.

Great For Busy Schedule

Our lives are full of priorities with jobs, relationships, personal matters, and of course, that much needed workout to keep us gaining muscle and staying healthy. Meal replacement shakes are a fantastic way to fuel our bodies with those much-needed nutrients to support our dietary needs and our busy schedules. As a great on the go option, enjoying a good shake can be just what you need to maintain a healthy lifestyle while offering solid preparation for your day’s workout to make sure you get essential vitamins and minerals, as well as whole foods, into your diet to build muscle mass from real food.

Meal replacement shakes

Contain Solid Ingredients

While meal replacement shakes tackle all the essentials in protein and carb intake, other ingredients provide for more than just the basics. Some of these shakes offer a great source of omega-3 fatty acids which are great for immunity and inflammation (3). For those who take omega-3 supplements, like fish oil, you may already be getting enough to support your overall health, but meal replacement shakes are a source for those lacking this vital nutrient and fatty acids. Many people are also often short of essential nutrients, like vitamin D and magnesium and these can pump you full of these often overlooked nutrients as well per serving form real food with high protein.

Affordable & Convenient

Meal replacement shakes can be affordable options for those needing a quick source of fuel, and while some brands may be slightly more expensive, you won’t break the bank trying to get these nutrients into your body. As a convenient option, you don’t have to buy food and cook it for consumption. A few shakes of the bottle and you are good to go with this great product that is high protein, made from real food.

Potential Drawbacks

Meal replacement shakes

Often Low In Calories

These shakes can be a great option for those looking for weight management, but for athletes and bodybuilders, they do tend to lack the necessary caloric intake. For those who burn a lot of calories during the day, meal replacement shakes may bring you short of what you need. While these can be filling as a snack, you might find yourself getting hungry faster than you would like.

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Require Research

Like anything, it is smart to do research to get the best meal replacement for you. With a highly saturated market, finding the right shake can be difficult. Some may work better for you than others and may contain ingredients you want to have, or ones you want to stay away from. Since some may have different effects for different people, it may take time to search for the best option for you.

Loss Of Nutrients Natural Food Provides

Natural food provides many nutrients that are hard to put into a meal replacement shake. While it is true that many contain solid ingredients to support your overall health, natural food offers more benefits (4) if you have the time to commit to making a healthy meal.

Meal replacement shakes

Miss Out On Great Meals

Some people see food as a means of survival, but others view it as an art. You don’t have to be a world-class chef to make a great meal and while our busy schedules often don’t allow us to commit hours to a meal, you do miss out on the joy of creating something delicious. If you rely on meal replacement shakes, you miss out on the opportunity to learn and teach yourself how to cook healthy options to get those vital nutrients and make healthy choices when it comes to your diet.

Recommended Meal Replacement

HLTH Code Complete Meal Replacement Shake

HLTH Code_Complete Meal Replacement Shake_Product

Calories 400
Protein 27g
Carbs 13g (4g net carbs)
Fat 27g
Sugar 2g
Flavors Chocolate Macadamia, Creamy Vanilla
Best Way To Take Keep in a cool, dry place and add water

HLTH Code Complete Meal is a nutritional sake made with real ingredients to give you a real meal in the simplest way possible. Formulated by a top metabolic scientist, this meal replacement has the right combination of nutrients at the right ratios to make every ingredient count. With 27g of protein and a 1:1 ratio of healthy fats to protein, this meal replacement will keep you full while providing you with the best nutrients possible. Also included are grass-fed collagen, digestive enzymes, probiotics, and fiber to help your gut, and the ideal ratio of omega-3 to omega-6. With a great taste, no GMOs or artificial ingredients, and an awesome taste, HLTH Code is exactly what you need out of a top meal replacement.

Some Ingredients Included
  • Whey Protein Concentrate: Promotes muscle growth and retention by providing essential amino acids to be readily used in the body. It can also protect against oxidative stress.
  • Grass Fed Collagen: Important component of connective tissue and directly effects things like tendons, skin, and other parts of your body.
  • Egg Whites: Have the highest net protein utilization for optimal absorption and can influence muscle growth as well.
  • Medium Chain Triglycerides Powder: A saturated fatty acid that is easier to digest than long-chain triglycerides and provides for a host of benefits including stimulating your metabolism, increasing satiety, and enhancing brain energy.
  • Alpha and Beta Amylase: Enzymes that catalyze hydrolysis of starch into sugars and work to break down the carbohydrate chain into maltose.

Price: $59.95

Click here for the best price

Check out our individual review for HLTH Code Complete Meal Replacement Shake here!

Wrap Up

Meal replacement shakes are great supplements to a meal if your body and schedule call for them. As an affordable and convenient option, they help with weight management while also providing great nutritional benefits to keep you moving forward in your daily life and with your workouts. While they can be a great alternative to your dietary needs, they can’t replace a good homecooked meal. It is important to do research to find the best one for you and a healthy balance of both natural food and meal replacement shakes may be just what you need to see gains in the gym and to live a healthy life.

Let us know what you think in the comments below. Also, be sure to follow Generation Iron on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. 

*Images courtesy of Envato


  1. Treyzon, Leo; Chen, Steve; Hong, Kurt; Yan, Eric; Carpenter, Catherine L.; Thames, Gail; Bowerman, Susan; Wang, He-Jing; Elashoff, Robert; Li, Zhaoping (2008). “A controlled trial of protein enrichment of meal replacements for weight reduction with retention of lean body mass”. (source)
  2. Kulovitz, Michelle; Kravitz, Len. “Do Meal Replacements Deliver Results?”. (source)
  3. Kiecolt-Glaser, Janice K.; Belury, Martha A.; Andridge, Rebecca; Malarkey, William B.; Glaser, Ronald (2011). “Omega-3 Supplementation Lowers Inflammation and Anxiety in Medical Students: A Randomized Controlled Trial”. (source)
  4. Samal, Jay R. K.; Samal, Indira R. (2018). “Protein Supplements: Pros and Cons”. (source)
Austin Letorney is a writer, actor, and fitness enthusiast. As a former rower, he has shifted his focus to sharing his knowledge of the fitness world and strength sports with others.