As a runner, you may be forced to consume over 5,000 calories a day to keep your weight up and avoid muscle wasting. The problem is that you’ll be eating all day every day and, sometimes, your appetite just isn’t there.
Meal replacement shakes make preparing your body for a run and refueling post-workout easier than ever.
The best meal replacement shake for runners is Beachbody Shakeology shake. It has 160 calories, 17g of protein (for lower body muscle repair), and 18g of carbs (for energy). With 35% of your RDI for most micronutrients, it’s a legitimate meal replacement shake making good use of your daily calories.
Not all meal replacement shakes are a good choice for serious runners like yourself. Keep reading to learn about the ten best meal replacement shakes for runners as of 2020.
Then, we’ll go over a few things you’ll want to think about before choosing the best shake for you!
1. Beachbody Shakeology Shake
The Beachbody Shakeology shake is often categorized as only being a meal replacement shake. However, Shakeology offers you Your Daily Dose of Dense Nutrition.
Due to the dense nutrients found in Shakeology, it makes it a great recovery shake to replenish the nutrients you lose during your run.
It includes 17 g of Protein sourced from whey protein isolate, pea protein, flax seed, and quinoa. This will help with your muscle recovering.
Additionally, after any workout, your body needs nutrients to recover. Shakeology includes stress busters known as adaptogenic herbs and botanicals.
These adaptogenic herbs includes herbs like ashwagandha, reishi, and chaga that can help your body adapt and respond to the effects of stress caused by working out and even emotional stress.
Another benefit you’ll find in Shakeology that you will not find in other meal replacement shakes is probiotics, prebiotics, fiber, and digestive enzymes. These are beneficial because if you’re trying to lose weight these nutrients are hard to get on a reduced calorie diet.
Additionally, having a healthy gut will help ensure that your body absorbs the nutrients that you are taking in.
Finally, like the other shakes you’ll find on this page, you’ll get a good number of vitamins and minerals that will help you reach your RDI.
What’s also important to note is that Shakeology doesn’t compromise their ingredients. Shakeology contains:
- NO Artificial Sweeteners
- NO Artificial Colors
- NO Artificial Flavors
- NO Artificial Preservatives
- And Has a Low Glycemic Index
Again, Shakeology is great for a recovery drink because of all the healthy nutrients your body will be getting.
However, if you need a meal replacement shake before your workout, look for one with more carbohydrates that will provide more energy.
Shakeology comes in several different flavors and even comes in Vegan flavors (entirely plant based ingredients).
Shakeology Whey flavors: Chocolate, Vanilla, Café Latte, Strawberry, Greenberrry
Shakeology Vegan flavors: Chocolate, Vanilla, Café Latte, Tropical Strawberry
- Calories: 160
- Carbohydrates: 18g
- Proteins: 17g
- Fats: 5g
2. SlimFast Advanced Nutrition
There’s no sense in running if you’re not going to properly refuel your body afterward.
So, this nutrient-dense meal replacement shake from SlimFast may be exactly what you need to replenish those nutrients post-run.
Squeezed into every 11 oz. bottle are 24 vitamins and minerals that’ll put your athletic performance into overdrive. That includes 110% of your RDI for vitamin C to help prevent post-race illness and 790mg of potassium to rehydrate the electrolytes you’ve lost through sweat during a long run.
That means more time at the track during the week and fewer muscle cramps that keep you sidelined.
Every 180-calorie bottle of this shake will give you 20g of protein designed purely for muscle repair and recovery. Swig the bottle down as soon as you get home from a run to trigger muscle repair in your quadriceps, hamstrings, and calves.
The faster your body processes the protein, the quicker those microscopic muscle tears heal, and you can pound the streets once more. The sheer amount of protein makes this a solid-post run shake for high-powered speedwork as well.
The most convenient feature of this meal replacement shake is that it’s neatly packaged in easy-to-hold bottles.
Just toss a bottle in the refrigerator the night before your run and get the sweet taste of vanilla cream or creamy chocolate as you’re looking to quench that post-run thirst.
Solid nutrition has never tasted so sweet, and it’s never been so affordable.
- Calories: 180
- Carbohydrates: 7g
- Proteins: 20g
- Fats: 9g
3. Atkins Mocha Latte Protein-Rich Shake
The thought of drinking an Atkins product known for being low-carb is enough to make even the least-experienced runners shudder.
While this meal replacement shake probably won’t fuel your next 3-mile trek through the city, it will come in handy when you’re looking for a healthy snack.
This Atkins meal replacement shake is jam-packed with the micronutrients your body craves. These micros include 30% of your RDI for calcium, exactly what every serious runner needs to train at max capacity.
The calcium will help to keep your leg bones dense and strong enough to prevent debilitating shin splints as you bump up your training regimen with time.
These 170-calorie shakes will be more than enough to give you an energy boost as you’re struggling to stay awake at your desk at work. The high fiber content (5g) and 4g of carbs will let you escape that mid-afternoon slump, especially after an exhausting early morning run.
That energy boost might be what gets you back on the streets at night for a light recovery run.
Flavor-wise, you won’t be disappointed if you have coffee on your mind all day. This meal replacement shake is flavored exactly like a mocha latte with a rich and creamy taste.
Tack on the fact that this shake is gluten-free and digests well, and you’ve got a perfect mid-day snack.
- Calories: 170
- Carbohydrates: 4g
- Proteins: 15g
- Fats: 9g
4. Carnation Breakfast Essentials
Running on an empty stomach seems like a pretty solid way to burn excess body fat. Yet, you might feel absolutely exhausted halfway through your run and end up hobbling back home for a quick pick-me-up.
Stop running on empty and give your body carbs first thing in the morning!
Breakfast Essentials are the quintessential drink that every runner needs before heading out for a run. Loaded with 41g of carbs and a whopping 240 calories, this shake will put your glycogen stores at capacity.
That means greater endurance and less fatigue on your early morning run. There’s no sense starting the day on a calorie deficit and making up for it later, so start strong.
This meal replacement shake will be an absolute game-changer if you wake up first thing in the morning with no appetite whatsoever. Every 8 oz. bottle of Breakfast Essentials includes the same amount of calcium as 6 oz. of yogurt.
You know that forcing yourself to eat yogurt before a morning run only gives you an upset stomach halfway through, so drink your nutrients instead.
Many of us give up all of our favorite indulgences when we start a serious running program. Luckily, the fact that this shake tastes weirdly similar to chocolate milk will make it feel like you’re cheating on your diet.
There’s no need to fall off the wagon with a nutritious drink like this.
- Calories: 240
- Carbohydrates: 41g
- Proteins: 10g
- Fats: 4g
5. Ensure Original Nutrition Shake with Fiber
Low appetite is something that plagues a lot of dedicated runners. That’s because endurance activities like running impact the production of hunger hormones like leptin and ghrelin. While this is great if you’re trying to lose weight, it’s not if you’re looking to maintain your muscle mass.
Thankfully, Ensure is known for being revolutionary for runners desperate to refuel. With about 250 calories per bottle, this meal replacement shake might account for 10% of your daily calories.
The smooth and creamy texture of the five flavors like coffee latte and vanilla fiber makes this drink a simple way to bump your calorie count without forcing nausea or vomiting.
The word “fiber” is enough to make a runner nervous, as fiber takes a long time to digest and can cause GI upset. But if you struggle to keep your fiber intake up, the fact that this shake includes 10% of your RDI for fiber will be a saving grace.
This can keep you feeling full post-run when most runners tend to overeat due to insatiable cravings. Keep your weight stable!
This shake wouldn’t be a meal replacement shake without a solid nutritional value. Every 8 oz. bottle will fuel your body with more than 25% of your RDI for most micronutrients.
Now, you can feel confident replacing your meals, knowing you’re still getting the nutrients your body needs.
- Calories: 250
- Carbohydrates: 41g
- Proteins: 9g
- Fats: 6g
6. Keto Chow Keto Meal Replacement Shake
Running and keto are often two concepts that don’t mesh well together. That’s because the keto diet is designed to strictly be low-carb, which is the exact opposite of what runners need.
Yet, since the keto diet is still making its rounds, we wanted to give our keto runners a solid option.
This shake from Keto Chow is an excellent choice if you’re looking to keep your weight up or commit to a low-intensity running program. By adding your favorite source of fat to this shake (like butter or cream), you can get over 500 calories and 50g of fat per serving.
This is more than enough to prevent muscle wasting, weight loss, and low energy on 60+ minute jogs.
The fine details of this shake are worth pointing out as well. Most will wince at the sound of 846mg of sodium per serving. Yet, you’re probably forgetting the fact that sodium is a much-needed electrolyte.
So, this shake is great after a run to replenish the electrolytes you lost during a 5+ mile run on a hot day through sweat to keep you properly hydrated.
You probably won’t find a keto-friendly runner’s shake like this one. Yet, what’s most notable is the amount of flavors you can choose from.
With 12 flavors (including chocolate peanut butter, strawberry, and cookies and cream) to pick from, you’ll never get bored getting your nutrients.
- Calories: 133
- Carbohydrates: 57g
- Proteins: 03g
- Fats: 05g
7. LyfeFuel All-In-One Daily Essentials Shake
Whether you’re an animal lover or simply a vegan for health reasons, you’re somewhat limited when it comes to meal replacement shakes.
The good news here is that you do have at least one option when it comes to plant-based meal replacement shakes for runners.
This option from LyfeFuel is one of our favorites if you truly crave a plant-based protein source. Infused in every single serving are 25 different superfoods that’ll put your overall health on the forefront.
In particular, the 175% of your RDI for vitamin K can potentially improve your endurance and cardiac output to make those 4-mile tempo runs easy on your heart and lungs.
At just 100 calories per serving, this meal replacement shake serves better as a snack mid-day. Loaded with 27 essential vitamins and minerals and 18g of protein, this shake is a great choice to keep you feeling full as the day drags on.
This reduced appetite will keep you from overeating, putting on excess weight, and putting your body under excess stress on runs.
Aside from being plant-based with delicious chocolate or vanilla chai flavoring, this meal replacement shake is essentially as pure as they get. Each scoop will provide you with a non-GMO, non-soy, and entirely natural supplement that’s easy for your body to digest.
- Calories: 100
- Carbohydrates: 4g
- Proteins: 18g
- Fats: 5g
8. SlimFast Original Meal Replacement Shake
As much as we hate to mention the same brand twice, we can’t help it with the original version of SlimFast.
It’s a bit different from the Advanced Nutrition version in terms of calories and nutritional value, but it’s still worth mentioning whether you’re a distance runner or sprinter.
This SlimFast shake will be a great addition to your diet, whether you’re drinking it as a pre-run supplement or a mid-afternoon snack.
At just 190 calories, it’s exactly what you need to hold off your insatiable appetite for at least 4 hours to keep your weight stable. Tack on the 30g of carbs, and you’ve got a solid source of energy before a 3-mile run or those dreaded HIIT intervals.
This is one of the rare meal replacement beverages that capitalizes on the nutrients your body truly needs.
Every single scoop of this shake will give you 40% of your calcium RDI for strong leg bones and simple recovery and 90% of your vitamin B12 RDI to convert carbs to energy mid-run. These will keep you strong and powerful without risking new endurance.
As if a simple 190-calorie meal replacement shake wasn’t enough, this shake does have a few additional bonuses: The flavors. Choose between creamy milk chocolate, rich chocolate royale, French vanilla, and strawberries & cream. Get all of your nutrients in one tasty mixed shake!
- Calories: 190
- Carbohydrates: 30g
- Proteins: 10g
- Fats: 4g
9. RSP TRUEFIT Protein Powder Meal Replacement Shake
You might be a little reluctant to read this one, considering it’s also called a “protein powder.” But you’ll be pleased to know that there’s a lot more to this shake than a massive 25g of protein. It’s also loaded with micronutrients and macronutrients that every dedicated runner needs.
Every 170-calorie of this RSP TRUEFIT meal replacement shake is chocked full of 14g of carbs and 25g of protein.
That’s exactly what your body needs to boost your performance during a short HIIT session or a short recovery run. The impressive protein content makes this a solid post-run beverage to repair your muscles to help you squeeze in a run in 48 hours or less.
Thankfully, this meal replacement shake also infuses a nutrient known as MCT (Medium-Chain Triglycerides). If you consider yourself an endurance runner, look no further. MCT is known to boost endurance during long runs as well as high energy levels.
Whether you’re taking this 30 minutes before your run or shortly after, it can improve your PRs in just weeks.
If you’re worried about what you put into your body, this is not the shake to be wary of. That’s because it includes 12 fruits and vegetables, absolutely no GMOs or artificial sweeteners, and the whey protein is sourced from grass-fed cows.
It doesn’t get more natural than this shake.
- Calories: 170
- Carbohydrates: 14g
- Proteins: 25g
- Fats: 5g
10. Orgain Organic Plant-Based Protein Powder
Are you tired of buying meal replacement shakes week after week, only to send more and more items to the landfill each week?
Then you’ll dig the fact that this shake is made of sustainable products, sending fewer items to the trash bin and reducing the impact on the environment.
The first thing worth pointing out is that each serving has just 150 calories. So, while that’s a little low for an endurance runner like yourself, you have to look at the macronutrient content.
The 15g of carbs, 21g of protein, and 4g of fat are exactly what your body needs to fuel up for a long run and/or speedwork or repair your muscles post-run.
What you’re probably here for is a clean source of protein, exactly what you’re getting with this shake. It’s loaded with all-natural ingredients like pea protein, brown rice, and chia seeds.
Each of these ingredients is insanely nutrient-dense, will bump your protein intake in just a few calories, and may fuel weight loss due to boosted fiber intake.
The nutritional benefits of this shake are supreme, but you want to be sure that you’re getting a shake that you can gulp down.
This tasty shake mixes well with almond milk in a blender and yogurt, so you can pair it with your favorite snacks for optimal performance.
- Calories: 150
- Carbohydrates: 15g
- Proteins: 21g
- Fats: 4g
11. BOOST Original Complete Nutritional Drink
Don’t assume that our last choice is the worst option out there. In fact, this meal replacement shake by BOOST might be exactly what your current diet needs to keep your energy and glycogen energy stores up while helping you to recover from a hard workout.
We’re talking about the original version of BOOST, which infuses 10g of protein, 41g of carbs, and 240 calories in each serving.
This is a pretty solid macronutrient breakdown if you’re looking to drink this tasty shake 30 to 60 minutes before a long run or begin the muscle repair that comes with a two or 3-mile trek across town.
This meal replacement shake won’t fit into every diet, but it’s definitely as nutrient-dense as they get. Every serving is jam-packed with 27 vitamins and minerals.
That includes 45% of your RDI for vitamin B12, which can help with blood flow to your muscles mid-run. That means a lower risk of muscle cramps that force you to take a brief rest in the middle of your runs.
What’s even better is the fact that you can use this shake however you very well please. You can drink it a few times per day to gain weight and pack on muscle mass, drink it once a day to cut down on insatiable appetites, or just drink it to get your nutrients. Use it how it works for you!
- Calories: 240
- Carbohydrates: 41g
- Proteins: 10g
- Fats: 4g
The Nutritional Considerations for Runners
As a runner, you have unique nutritional needs that have to be accounted for when you invest in meal replacement shakes.
For example, a shake that replaces the nutrients used up by a long-distance runner probably wouldn’t be a great choice for a serious weightlifter.
So, let’s talk about some key nutrients you’ll want to keep an eye out for when buying meal replacement shakes. Then, we’ll discuss what benefits they may hold for you as a runner.
The macronutrients are what fuel your body day-to-day and give you the energy you need to survive a 5-mile run.
Fueling your body properly for a long run or a running event can help you avoid muscle cramps, improve your pace, and aid in muscle recovery.
Here’s a look at how your macronutrient needs will vary as a runner, according to ACE Fitness and the National Academy of Sports Medicine:
- Carbohydrates (55-65%): This macronutrient will help to increase blood glycogen levels within the body, the primary source of energy for long and intense runs.
- Fats (30%): This macronutrient will come in handy when carbohydrate stores are dwindling or when you’re doing a low-intensity training run instead.
- Proteins (20-30%): This macronutrient is most important after a run, helping your muscles repair and recover to remain at peak performance.
There’s no doubt that all three macronutrients are important.
But when it comes to meal replacement shakes for runners, you’ll want to look for shakes that are high in carbs for a pre-workout meal replacement and high in protein for a post-run recovery meal replacement.
Thankfully, one of the major benefits of meal replacement shakes is that they’re loaded with micronutrients like vitamins and minerals.
Since you’re a runner looking for optimal athletic performance, here’s a look at the nutrients you’ll want to keep an eye out for:
- Calcium & Vitamin D: Help to improve bone strength and reduce your risk of developing painful shin splints
- Magnesium: Reduces the risk of muscle cramping and may give you an extra kick of energy mid-run
- Potassium & Sodium (The Electrolytes): Replenish electrolytes lost through sweat and lower the risk of dizziness or muscle cramps on long runs
In reality, every nutrient will play an important role for runners.
But you want to make sure that your meal replacement shakes include at least 30% of your daily recommended intake for most of the important micronutrients. Otherwise, you may just be consuming empty calories or a pure whey protein shake.
There are no set guidelines for caloric requirements because that depends on how much you weigh, your running habits, and other identifying factors.
However, the general rule of thumb is that you’ll burn about 100 calories per mile that you run.
If you’re not looking to lose weight, then meal replacement shakes are a bit of a touchy subject.
You’ll want to choose a meal replacement shake that’ll help replenish the calories burned during your most recent run.
That should also be about equivalent to the meal you’re replacing with the shake in terms of calories and important nutrients.
You wouldn’t want to burn over 500 calories on a 5-mile run and then replenish those lost calories with a 90-calorie shake. This is a surefire way to burn off some much-needed muscle mass and leave you exhausted by day’s end.
Still confused about what calories are and why they’re so important for every human on Earth? Then, take a look at this video that reviews what calories really are and why you need them:
The Perfect Meal Replacement Shake for Runners?
There’s no such thing as a “perfect” meal replacement shake for runners because every runner has their own needs.
Regardless of whether you’re trying to improve your endurance, pack on a few extra pounds, or lose weight, there are a few things you’ll want to consider.
Let’s take a look at some key points to think about before buying meal replacement shakes:
- A 4:1 ratio of carbohydrates to proteins post-run is generally the rule of thumb for optimal muscle and body recovery.
- Fiber typically takes a long time to digest, so be sure to consume fewer than 5g of fiber prior to your run via meal replacement shakes.
- Meal replacement shakes can serve as true meal replacements or highly nutritious appetite-suppressing snacks mid-day.
- You’ll want meal replacement shakes that include proteins, fats, and carbohydrates, though the percentages of your RDI for each will vary (i.e., Never do a no-fat or no-carb diet for health reasons).
- Sugar isn’t the best source of carbs and energy, but it’s hard to find meal replacement shakes that have high carbs without
It’s hard to recommend a specific meal replacement shake for runners because we’re not exactly sure what your goals are.
Either way, you want to make sure that your chosen meal replacement shake is nutrient-dense and gives you the most bank for your buck.
In simple terms: Don’t waste your calories, if you can help it!
Adding meal replacement shakes to your diet is an easy way to refuel your body with the nutrients it desperately needs. However, you want to make sure that your meal replacement shake is a solid choice for runners.
Be sure to choose a shake that’s high in carbs and calories, though fat and protein will also be useful in terms of muscle recovery and a little extra energy.
Micronutrients in the form of vitamins and minerals are important as well to repair the body and keep your athletic performance thriving.
Be sure to choose a shake within your budget that tastes great and will serve your needs!
- Runners World: The 15 Nutrients All Runners Need
- Journal of Athletic Training: Nutrition Concepts for Elite Distance Runners Based on Macronutrient and Energy Expenditure
- NASM: NUTRITION AND THE ENDURANCE ATHLETE – EATING FOR PEAK PERFORMANCE
- ACE Fitness: How to Determine the Best Macronutrient Ratio for Your Goals
- Life Sum: Macros for runners
- Medline Plus: Carbohydrates
- Medline Plus: Fats
- Medline Plus: Proteins
- Healthline: 5 Proven Benefits of BCAAs (Branched-Chain Amino Acids)
- Science Direct: Glycogen
- American Journal of Clinical Nutrition: Vitamin C supplementation reduces the incidence of postrace symptoms of upper-respiratory-tract infection in ultramarathon runners
- WebMD: 6 Quick Ways to Boost Energy
- Journal of Sports Science & Medicine: The Effects of Exercise on Food Intake and Hunger: Relationship with Acylated Ghrelin and Leptin
- Alternative Therapies in Health & Medicine: Oral Consumption of Vitamin K2 for 8 Weeks Associated With Increased Maximal Cardiac Output During Exercise