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, but with all the benefits they possess, their still may be issues we have yet to figure out.
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. 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.
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.
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 a quick and effective way to do so.
Benefits Of Meal Replacement Shakes
Support Weight Management
Meal replacement 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.
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.
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. 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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- 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)
- Kulovitz, Michelle; Kravitz, Len. “Do Meal Replacements Deliver Results?”. (source)
- 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)
- Samal, Jay R. K.; Samal, Indira R. (2018). “Protein Supplements: Pros and Cons”. (source)