The 5 Best Meal Replacement Shakes for Weight Loss (Our 2019 Review)
It’s hard to stay consistent with eating well-balanced meals, especially if you’re trying to lose weight. Meal preparation is a great habit, but it also takes up a lot of time. And sometimes you just don’t have time for a lengthy daily workout.
That’s why you might consider supplementing your diet with a meal replacement shake.
When used occasionally, meal replacement shakes can help you lose weight faster and safer because they are specially formulated to meet your nutrient needs while cutting back on calories.
In this article, we’ll give you an overview of meal replacement shakes, their pros and cons, how to choose the best one for your needs, and our top five recommendations. We will then dive deep into our weight loss shake reviews so you can pick one that is right for you.
Don't have time to read the entire review?
If you're a busy person who doesn't have time to read this entire review, we've simplified everything. Here is a table that provides you with a quick rating of the best meal replacement shakes for weight loss.
What Are Meal Replacement Shakes?
Meal replacement shakes are healthy food products that are prepared in a can, bottle, or in powdered form that can be mixed with milk or water to give your body the same nutrition that a small meal would. People often use meal replacement shakes for weight loss purposes, or to gain weight in a healthy way. This is done by either decreasing or increasing one's caloric intake.
For weight loss, you can replace up to two meals per day with a meal replacement shake to give your body the nutrition it needs while limiting the number of calories you consume. Because meal replacement shakes help maintain your blood sugar level and contain protein and fiber, you will not feel the need to snack between meals after you drink one. This will help prevent you from overeating, and keep your waistline in check.
In fact, one study showed that people who replaced one to two meals each day with a meal replacement shake for three months lost almost six pounds more than people who simply altered their diet to be generally low in calories.
Further, the study noted that at the one-year mark for the participants, significantly fewer people who were drinking the meal replacement shakes had dropped out of the study compared to those on a low-calorie diet. This suggests that this method of healthy eating is more sustainable than cutting calories.
If you are trying to gain weight, you can add a meal replacement shake into your daily diet routine as a snack. Doing this is a healthy way to gain weight because you are giving your body nutrients that it can use through a method that is calorie-dense.
If you were to eat the same number of calories in a snack each day, it would technically be possible to find healthy options—but if you were also aiming for convenience, you would likely end up eating a snack with trans fats and artificial ingredients in it.
Meal replacement shakes can also be consumed to give you a quick and easy concentrated dose of vital micronutrients, or to save you time during your busy day. This is great for people who are on the go and often find themselves grabbing junk food instead of eating whole foods. In order to eat a more balanced diet, packing a meal replacement shake to drink during the day is a much better option than relying on vending machines.
Generally, meal replacement shakes contain between 200 and 400 calories per serving. They also have a variety of nutrients, such as fiber, protein, vitamins, and minerals. They are low in calories and carbohydrates, but high in protein, which creates the ideal midday nourishment option for your body.
The protein and fiber will help keep you full during the day because eating protein can slow down the process of the emptying of the stomach, and reduce levels of ghrelin in your body, which is a hormone that is responsible for stimulating hunger. Meanwhile, the fiber moves slowly through your digestive tract to encourage satiety, and has even been associated with a lower risk of weight gain.
How Are Meal Replacement Shakes Different from Protein Shakes?
The main difference between meal replacement shakes and protein shakes are the ingredients. Typically, a protein shake consists of mostly whey protein, without including the vitamins and minerals that are needed to make a well-rounded meal. This is due to the fact that protein shakes are designed to be taken as a supplement to a balanced meal, not a replacement.
Protein powder also doesn’t include enough carbohydrates or fiber to maintain your energy in the way that a meal can. They typically just have a high protein content (about 25 grams per serving), while meal replacement powders can have varying levels of protein content, ranging from 10 grams to 40 grams per serving.
Protein shakes do usually have amino acids in them to help build your muscles and possibly support weight loss. And when it comes to calories, protein shakes have fewer calories than meal replacement shakes. Protein shakes average about 100-120 calories each, compared to the 200-400 calories in meal replacement shakes.
Having a protein shake allows your body to have amino acids, which can help repair your muscles after a workout. However, meal replacement shakes have a higher fiber content because of the added vitamins and minerals that help create a balanced meal. In order to know which type of shake you should have, you must understand your needs. High-quality meal replacement shakes and protein shakes can help you maintain your energy, fight cravings, keep your metabolism up, and help repair your muscles after a workout.
Pros and Cons of Meal Replacement Shakes
Better alternative to fast food and other unhealthy meals.
For people who are busy, having a meal replacement shake on hand could be a great idea for a quick lunch. They are definitely more nutritious than a burger and fries or anything you would grab from a vending machine, which is what many people do when they're rushed. These shakes don't have the saturated or trans fats that processed foods do.
Better choice than skipping meals.
There are a lot of reasons that you should avoid skipping meals—it is not healthy, doesn't provide you with health benefits, and can have major side effects. When you skip a meal, your blood sugar starts going on a rollercoaster ride.
As your blood sugar drops because your body doesn't have the fuel it needs, you may become weak or dizzy. Skipping meals also puts your body into starvation mode, which decreases your metabolism. Your blood sugar will remain constant when you have a meal replacement shake, and your body will get the nutrition that it needs.
Save time in food prep and calorie counting.
There is very little preparation involved in making a meal replacement shake. You either buy it pre-made or you buy the powder and mix it with milk or water. You know exactly how many calories you are consuming for your meal, which will then make it easy to count your calories for the day.
Convenient for people who are always on the go.
If you don't have much time during the week to meal plan or meal prep, you may find yourself grabbing fast food between meetings. Or maybe you keep a granola bar in your bag.
Breakfast may be an especially big issue if you are always rushed because it is temping to grab a donut with your coffee or a Danish in the employee break room. However, if you can take a meal replacement shake with you on the way out of the house and drink it during your commute, this will help keep you full until lunch.
Provide all the nutrients regular meals may lack.
If you eat a piece of pizza and have a soft drink for lunch, what nutrients are you really providing your body with? Maybe some calcium in the cheese on the pizza, and possibly some vitamins if you put vegetables on top, but not much. Meal replacement shakes give you a wide variety of nutrients that many meals may lack, making them equivalent to a well-rounded meal.
Help you lose weight faster.
When you are counting calories and know exactly what is going into your body—and you stick to a routine—you will start to lose weight quickly. There are not many variables involved once you find a meal replacement shake that works for you, so you can predictably lose weight at the pace that you choose.
Some have unhealthy ingredients.
Meal replacement shakes may contain preservatives, excess sugar, and other potentially harmful ingredients, but every product is different. For example, one shake could have a high amount of sodium, while another doesn't.
This means that if you have issues with your blood pressure, you will want to choose the meal replacement shake with the lower amount of sodium. Other ingredients that you want to look out for include preservatives, excess sugar, and excess carbohydrates.
Don’t help you change unhealthy eating habits.
Just because you are replacing a meal or two with a shake, it doesn't mean it will change your eating habits throughout the day and during the last meal of the day. If you drink two meal replacement shakes each day but are still eating a fast food dinner and snacking on candy bars, the shakes will not provide you with the intended benefits.
Plus, becoming reliant on shakes can leave you clueless about how to make healthy meal choices. Traditional diets are more complicated, but they do help you learn about portion control and proper nutrition.
Not a long-term solution.
Just as you likely wouldn't eat the same meal for the rest of your life, you probably don't want to have a meal replacement shake every day for the rest of your life either. They are a healthy option when you are in a pinch, but you won't want to give up whole foods to drink shakes for an extended period of time.
Can get expensive.
Meal replacement shakes—especially high-quality ones—are expensive. They are not something you can make inexpensively in bulk and spread out throughout the week, only paying pennies per serving.
They are as expensive as eating a small meal out, which also gets expensive if that is what you do every day. This is why the first tip to saving money often has to do with packing lunch at home or making coffee at home instead of stopping by a café each morning.
How to Choose the Best Meal Replacement Shake for Weight Loss
Check the ingredients. A good meal replacement shake should:
Be rich in proteins and low in carbohydrates (2:1 ratio).
You want your meal replacement shake to have a good balance of protein, carbs, and fats. Excess carbs are transformed into sugar, which can potentially be turned into fat. While you do want to have healthy fats in your diet to support optimal health, you don't want brown fat that comes from simple carbohydrates.
Contain between 200–400 calories.
Anything that provides your body with energy has calories, and anything you consume that your body has a use for contains calories so you can have energy. If you consume more calories than your body needs, that extra energy will be converted into fat. If you reduce the number of calories you consume, it will force your body to convert stored fat into energy.
Have a wide variety of vitamins, minerals, and phytochemicals.
Because you are replacing a meal with this shake, you want to make sure that the shake is well-rounded and includes everything that a healthy meal would contain. Vitamins are essential to your body, but your body is unable to produce them, so you have to include them in your diet—which means including them in your meal replacement shakes.
Have a dose of fiber (at least three grams of fiber per serving).
Fiber gives you energy without adding excess calories. Fiber helps keep you full and reduces the breakdown of carbs in your body, which will help you feel fuller longer. Finally, fiber also keeps the digestive system healthy and reduces bloating.
Have essential fatty acids (some omega-3 fatty acids).
Contrary to popular belief, your body needs fats to work at an optimal level. One of the best reasons to include healthy fats in your diet is that they help lower cholesterol and reduce your risk of cardiovascular disease.
Contain less than 10 grams of sugar per serving.
Your liver processes the sugar that you consume. When you have a high level of sugar in your blood, it forces your liver to change that sugar into fat. You should always avoid added sugars in your diet, especially if you are trying to lose weight.
Have no corn syrup and no hydrogenated vegetable oils.
Corn syrup is a very concentrated sugar, and hydrogenated oils are trans fats that lengthen a food's shelf life. Both of these ingredients are harmful to your health, especially if you are trying to lose weight.
Now that you know why you would want to consume meal replacement shakes and what to look for when you are choosing one to buy, let's look at the best options on the market today for weight loss. Here is our best meal replacement shakes for weight loss review.
The 5 Best Meal Replacement Shakes for Weight Loss
This real-food meal replacement shake is the best choice overall. The superfood blend contains only ingredients from real food, and it provides you with 16 essential vitamins and minerals.
Each serving of this meal replacement powder will give you 25 grams of whey protein, 5 grams of branched chain amino acids, 3 grams of healthy fats, and 4 grams of glutamine and glutamic acid, which makes it a complete meal. It also includes probiotics, enzymes, and fiber from sweet potato powder to ensure healthy digestion.
TrueFit meal replacement shakes are ideal for men and women who are on the go. It is a clean source of energy that will keep you satisfied until your next meal. Because it is high in protein and filling, this meal replacement shake will help you meet your weight loss goals.
If you are on a keto diet or trying to limit your carbs, this might be the right option for you. It is made with high-quality ingredients to offer 24 grams of grass-fed protein. It has no artificial ingredients, and is tested by a third-party, independent lab for purity, quality, and potency.
This meal replacement shake uses a time-released protein powder blend that is made up of four different proteins to keep you full for hours. The proteins include whey protein isolate and concentrate, milk protein concentrate, and micellar casein. This is great for weight loss because it will reduce your urge to snack during the day.
The proprietary ProHydrolase® enzyme blend in this meal replacement shake doubles the protein absorption of the powder compared to its competitors, and eliminates the gas and bloating that is often associated with whey supplements.
This classic choice has stood the test of time with consumers, and is certainly one of the best-tasting meal replacement shakes for weight loss. It is part of the SlimFast plan, which offers flexibility and simplicity to your weight loss. This meal replacement shake tastes great and will keep you full for up to four hours. With just 200 calories in each eight-ounce serving, it is an ideal way to give your body energy while you're trying to lose weight.
SlimFast meal replacement powder has 10 grams of protein, 5 grams of fiber, and 24 essential vitamins and minerals to assist your body in burning fat and aiding you in your weight loss efforts. However, you won't feel like you're drinking something that will lead to weight loss results because its award-winning taste is nothing less than indulgent.
If you are a coffee lover, this is the meal replacement shake for you. You can drink it hot or cold to curb your appetite throughout the day, help you burn fat, and keep you energized. It is a great low-calorie breakfast meal replacement or midday pick-me-up.
This product comes in several coffee-house flavors, including vanilla latte, mocha, and caramel. It also has 150 mg of caffeine per serving from a real double-shot of espresso coffee (not artificial flavoring or factory-made stimulants). The slow-releasing proteins will keep you satisfied for hours while providing you with the energy that you need to get you through your work day.
This product will help you boost your metabolism to aid in achieving your weight loss goals by providing a great-tasting coffee that you already love. It is one of the best meal replacement shakes for men and women to be able to grab in the morning on the way to work.
If you follow a vegan diet, this might be the right meal replacement shake for you. It is ideal for a healthy, on-the-go meal for men, women, and children with its 21 grams of organic, plant-based protein. It contains a blend of pea, chia, and brown rice proteins, along with five grams of fiber and three net carbs. This meal replacement shake contains no sugar and is only 150 calories per serving.
This USDA organic product is free from GMOs, gluten, dairy, and artificial ingredients. It is a great option if you want to replace a light meal, but can also be used as a pre- or post-workout shake.
Meal replacement shakes can help you reach your weight loss goals. Choose yours wisely, and don’t be afraid to try different products until you find the best one for you.
That being said, the best option to start with is the RSP TrueFit - Lean Meal Replacement Protein Shake, Gourmet Chocolate Milkshake. This product will keep you full for hours, and contains the vitamins and minerals that your body needs.