Best Protein Meal Replacement: Our Top Picks

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Our food intake is often one of the first things to suffer due to our busy schedules. Fast, convenient food ticks the ‘time saving’ box but is filled with unhealthy calories, leading to unwanted weight gain.

Protein meal replacements are a quick and easy method of fueling the body.

It is here that protein meal replacement products prove useful. They are also a quick and easy method of fueling the body. However, they have the advantage of fulfilling your nutritional needs while keeping your calorie intake low.

This article looks into five of the best protein meal replacement products on the market. It also investigates what to look for when choosing one and analyses the overall pros and cons. Let’s begin!

Best Protein Meal Replacement Product

Picking the best protein meal replacement brands on the market was quite challenging. However, we eventually managed to narrow our list down to five products. Apart from the best overall product, we also selected brands that excelled in a specific category.

Best Overall Protein Meal Replacement

Premier Protein Shake

Few brands have managed to encapsulate the essence of a great protein meal replacement product better than Premier Protein. It offers its shake in 11 delicious flavors, including:

  • Cookies & Cream
  • Cinnamon Roll
  • Chocolate Peanut Butter

With 30 grams of protein in each serving with little sugar, you immediately have a shake that helps you retain muscle mass. Moreover, each serving of Premier Protein’s shake contains 24 vitamins and minerals, including zinc, magnesium, and vitamin D, with an RDA of at least 25% in most cases.

The main downside is the presence of artificial flavors, but with a 4.6-star rating from over 133,000 customer reviews on Amazon, it seems as if this doesn’t present a problem for consumers. Overall, we feel as if Premier Protein offers the #1 protein meal replacement on the market.

Nutrition Info:

  • 160 calories
  • 3g fat
  • 5g carbs
  • 2g fiber
  • 30g protein

Best Vegan Protein Meal Replacement Product

Vega One Organic Chocolate Meal Replacement Protein Powder

Although it is sold as a protein supplement, this meal replacement packs a quality assortment of healthy carbs and fats. This powder comes in Chocolate and French Vanilla flavors in different sizes. The 10-count packet is arguably the most convenient as there’s no need to measure out the powder.

best-vegan-protein-meal-replacement-product

Vega One uses pea protein to make this product, and it contains a reasonable 20g of protein per serving. It also offers eight vitamins and minerals with 50+% of your RDA, not to mention organic greens such as broccoli and spirulina. Add in 500mg of Omega-3 fatty acids from plant-based ingredients and ample fiber, and you have a vegan protein meal replacement powder that’s tough to beat.

Nutrition Info:

  • 150 calories
  • 3.5g fat
  • 12g carbs
  • 6g fiber
  • 20g protein

Best Meal Replacement Protein Powder for Weight Loss

MyProtein Protein Meal Replacement Blend

The MyProtein brand is known for its no-frills approach. Instead, it focuses on providing premium quality products at a far lower price point than its competitors. Its meal replacement powder is available in 500g, 1000g, and 2500g options and is arguably the best value for money product on this list.

best-meal-replacement-protein-powder-for-weight-loss

Each 51g serving contains 18g of protein and surprisingly has just 200 calories despite the presence of ample fats and carbs. This product contains over two dozen vitamins and minerals, and there are five flavors to choose from. Although it has more calories per serving than many of its rivals, users report feeling satisfactorily full after using it. This means you’re less likely to need additional food to make it a meal.

Nutrition Info:

  • 200 calories
  • 6.7g fat
  • 17g carbs
  • 4.1g fiber
  • 18g protein

Best Protein Meal Replacement Shake for Muscle Gain

Labrada Whey Protein Meal Replacement Shakes

This product provides the highest protein content on the list, with 35g per serving. It is designed with weightlifters in mind, so it also contains 6g of BCAAs and glutamine. Its calorie count is low for a mass builder and it’s best used to retain muscle during a cutting phase.

best-protein-meal-replacement-shake-for-muscle-gain

The Labrada range of meal replacement shakes have won various awards for great taste, and there are ten flavors, including Chocolate Peanut Butter and Cinnamon Bun. It also contains a reasonable degree of vitamins and minerals, including iron, copper, and potassium.

Nutrition Info:

  • 290 calories
  • 7g fat
  • 21g carbs
  • 7g fiber
  • 35g protein

Best Ready to Drink Meal Replacement Shakes

SlimFast Advanced Energy Meal Replacement Shakes

Last but not least comes the legendary SlimFast brand. It has made its fortune by providing convenient products to help with weight loss, and these shakes are very much ‘on brand.’ Choose between Rich Chocolate, Mocha Cappuccino, or Caramel Latte flavors.

Apart from containing 20g of protein per serving, SlimFast shakes have just 1g of sugar and 24 vitamins and minerals. The relatively high caffeine content makes it a good option for breakfast, and it is exceptional value for money. If you need sustenance and are in a hurry, you can’t go wrong with a SlimFast shake.

Nutrition Info:

  • 180 calories
  • 9g fat
  • 6g carbs
  • 5g fiber
  • 20g protein

What Is the Difference Between a Protein Shake and a Meal Replacement?

It is easy to confuse the two, but the difference is rather simple. Protein shakes are primarily designed to gain or maintain muscle mass and are generally used by people interested in weight training. Meal replacement shakes contain additional vitamins and minerals and are useful regardless of your exercise goals. Here’s a quick overview to help you understand the two.

Protein ShakeMeal Replacement Shake
Designed as a supplementDesigned to replace 1-2 daily meals
It mainly contains a high percentage of protein and is low in carbsIt contains a reasonable protein percentage but also has carbs, healthy fats, and various vitamins and minerals
Best consumed after a workoutBest consumed at your regular mealtimes
It may help you retain or increase muscle massIt may help you lose weight (barring specific mass building products)
Low calorie countModerate to high-calorie count

The Best Protein Meal Replacements: What to Look for

A quick and easy suggestion is to focus on products with at least 20 grams of protein per serving. However, let’s dig a little deeper into what to consider when searching for high-quality protein meal replacements.

Macronutrients

Three macronutrients comprise the food we consume; protein, fat, and carbohydrates. The best protein meal replacements have a balanced combination of macros. However, what this constitutes depends on your lifestyle and needs. The Institute of Medicine of the National Academies recommends the following macronutrient ranges:

  • 10-35% of calories from proteins
  • 20-35% of calories from fats
  • 45-65% of calories from carbohydrates

As you can see, it is a broad range. Here is a table outlining ballpark figures depending on your goals and lifestyle:

Goal/LifestyleProteinFatCarbohydrate
Weight Gain25%30%45%
Weight Loss30%20%50%
Endurance/Cardio Training25%20%55%
Strength Training35%20%45%

If you want to lose weight, reduce your fat intake but nudge it up slightly if you’re looking to bulk up healthily. You may notice that your protein intake should remain high while you’re losing weight. This is to keep muscle loss to a minimum.

Therefore, analyze the protein meal replacement you’re interested in to see if it provides the right macronutrient ratio for your needs. Also, please remember that one gram of protein or carbohydrates contains approximately four calories. A gram of fat has around nine calories.

Vitamins & Minerals

Vitamins perform hundreds of tasks in the body, and we require them for the proper functioning of our metabolisms and immune systems. We need minerals to keep the heart, muscles, bones, and brain working properly. Unfortunately, the human body produces few vitamins and no essential minerals.

Therefore, we need to include them in our diet. Research tells us that a significant number of people don’t consume enough vitamins or minerals. Gorging on fast food doesn’t help, given its propensity to provide lots of calories but few nutrients.

A good protein meal replacement product will contain at least some of the following:

  • Vitamins A, C, D, E, K, and some of the many B vitamins like niacin, thiamine, and riboflavin
  • Calcium
  • Sodium
  • Magnesium
  • Phosphorus
  • Potassium
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Essential Fatty Acids & Fiber

The body doesn’t create essential fatty acids, so once again, we’re relying on our diet to plug the gap. The ideal ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acids is between 1:1 and 4:1. However, a study published in 2006 found that Western diets have a ratio of between 15:1 and 16.7:1.

Although we need both fatty acids, omega-6 is pro-inflammatory, whereas omega-3 is anti-inflammatory. Therefore, it is no surprise that research links high omega-6 intake with an increased risk of heart disease.

Supplementing with fish oil is an excellent way to increase your omega-3 intake. However, look for protein meal replacement powders capable of helping you in this task. For the record, most health organizations recommend at least 250-500mg of omega-3 each day.

Eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) are considered the most useful forms of omega-3 fats. Your daily allowance should consist of a decent balance of both.

Fiber plays a significant role in digestive health. Therefore, it’s important to increase your intake if it is currently below the RDA. Look for products with 4-7 grams of fiber per serving.

Calories

A lot depends on your weight loss goals when analyzing calorie intake. However, remember that ‘crash’ diets where you significantly restrict your calorie consumption do more harm than good in the long term.

Most of our recommendations contain less than 300 calories a serving. If you find this doesn’t represent a high enough intake, you can look for alternative products. Another option is to add a healthy snack like cottage cheese or a banana or mix the shake with milk (if using a powder).

The most important thing is to feel satiated. Otherwise, you risk consuming high-calorie foods later as hunger pangs take over.

Meal Replacement Protein Powder: What Are the Benefits?

The best protein powder for meal replacement purposes offers the following benefits.

Weight Loss

One of the basic tenets of weight loss is to reduce your calorie intake while increasing calorie expenditure. However, too many people make the mistake of cutting their food intake without replacing nutrients. This process will cause muscle loss, general weakness, and fatigue and increase your risk of developing health problems.

A protein meal replacement can help you manage your calories while ensuring your body gets adequate nutrients. Indeed, research suggests that when obese adults replace 1-2 meals a day with a healthy meal replacement shake, it accelerates weight loss. Consuming such beverages also led to improvements in general health, physical functioning, and mental health in the study.

A high protein intake results in greater satiety, meaning the consumption of fewer calories each day.

The high protein intake results in greater satiety, meaning the consumption of fewer calories each day. Studies also outline how increased protein intake reduces the loss of lean body mass when athletes lose weight.

Using CBD with a meal replacement product may provide even greater benefits. Animal research suggests that CBD’s interaction with CB1 and CB2 receptors in the brain may reduce body weight.

Another study found that CB1 receptor antagonists could reduce appetite and control obesity. Therefore, combining a protein meal replacement shake with a few drops of CBD oil could help increase satiety and provide a boost to your weight loss efforts.

Increased Nutrient Intake

Remember, a significant majority of people are deficient in certain vitamins and minerals. Typically, weight loss diets result in nutrient deficiency. However, a top-quality protein meal replacement contains ample iron, potassium, calcium, vitamin D, and other nutrients normally lacking from our diet.

Replacing Junk Food

For people with a busy lifestyle, a protein meal replacement is a junk food replacement too.

Preparing healthy meals is time-consuming and a major barrier to weight loss. The easy option is to order food for delivery or put a processed ready made meal in the microwave. Unfortunately, plenty of data shows that eating high-sugar, high-salt processed foods activates the brain’s pleasure centers, leading to overeating.

A protein meal replacement is just as quick and easy to consume as junk food but is filled with nutrients. Such items are also significantly lower in calories and keep you fuller for longer.

Protein Meal Replacement Meals: What Are the Downsides?

While there are unquestionably lots of benefits, meal replacement shakes are not a panacea. They are potentially good for weight loss and getting nutrition on the move, but there are some possible issues too.

Misuse

It is easy to view a meal replacement product as a long-term solution. However, even the best brands can’t create a formula to replace a healthy diet consisting of whole foods. The human body also requires antioxidants, enzymes, and phytochemicals, which are challenging to include in a ‘recipe.’

In the long run, excessive consumption of meal replacement shakes will cause more harm than good.

Poor Eating Habits

Subsisting on meal replacement products is a practice more likely to exacerbate poor eating habits than help. If you’re using it as a weight loss aid, please note that keeping the weight off requires a lifestyle change. A failure to do so will ensure your weight loss goal fails.

Unhealthy Ingredients

The market is saturated with brands, and not all of them have your best interests at heart. Some fill their products with unhealthy ingredients like preservatives, artificial flavors, corn syrup, sugar, and partially hydrogenated vegetable oils to cut costs. Certain meal replacements contain more calories from sugar than protein!

Always check the ingredient list. Don’t buy anything that doesn’t have a significant amount of protein, vitamins, minerals, fatty acids, and fiber. Avoid products high in sugar and corn syrup.

Final Thoughts on the Best Protein Meal Replacement

Protein meal replacements may aid you in the achievement of health and wellness goals. They could control appetite and enable you to lose excess weight. However, it is unwise to rely on them solely without regard to other aspects of your lifestyle.

Also, you shouldn’t eliminate whole food from your diet, or else hunger will eventually take over, causing you to gorge on unhealthy food and pile on the pounds. In the meantime, you could feel tired, hungry, miserable, and lose muscle mass and strength.

Therefore, use the products outlined in this article sparingly as part of a healthy diet and exercise regime. Consider adding CBD to the mix if weight loss and appetite control are among your goals. There is evidence that cannabidiol could help reduce food intake and decrease inflammation.

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