Protein is highly important for your muscles, and if you’re on the path to building more muscle, you are probably taking protein supplements. However, can protein shakes be used as a meal replacement?
Protein shakes can’t be used as meal replacements. They serve to supplement your body with protein before and after exercise and aid your muscle repair. If you want something that can replace meals, you should consider meal replacement shakes.
If you want to know more about protein shakes and their usage, meal replacement shakes, and their usage and the best times to take these shakes, read on.
What Makes a Good Meal Replacement Shake?
Meal replacement has been under a lot of research in the past decade. Calorie deficit diets have proven to be one of the most effective ways to lose weight, and meal replacements have an important role there.
Of course, they are not absolutely necessary, but they do make the journey easier and healthier, especially in getting enough nutrients in a day.
However, to prevent any issues, various establishments have regulated what constitutes a meal replacement. These agencies have found that if a person trying to lose weight takes meal replacements instead of two solid meals a day, it could help them create a calorie deficit without feeling hungry.
Later on, it could also help with weight maintenance.
But, for anything to qualify as a meal replacement, it has to fill certain requirements.
- For one, the total calorie count of that meal replacement has to be between 200 and 250 calories.
- Then, the protein in the meal replacement has to take up between 25% and 50% of that calorie count — this will help you feel full.
- Fats should take up less than 30% of the calorie count and micronutrients should take up to 30% of that value as well.
In one study, people who had a higher amount of protein in their meal replacements were able to lose weight while keeping their lean mass and they were able to feel less hunger while doing this than the group with lower protein intake.
What Are Protein Shakes?
Protein shakes used to be something that only professional bodybuilders took, but now more and more people are considering the value of these shakes in their daily exercise routines.
Protein is important as it keeps us feeling full and it can help with muscle repair.
A protein shake can be as simple as mixing a certain amount of protein powder with water or other liquids. However, more and more shakes on the market may taste better, but they may also contain more sugar, calories, or artificial ingredients.
All you need is protein from this shake — you can take it before or after exercise and it will boost your muscle growth, make it easier for you to recover, etc.
Most of the shakes that you can buy or make contain whey protein or casein protein. They both serve a specific purpose.
With whey, you will absorb it quickly and you should take it immediately after a workout to help with muscle repair, especially if you exercise several times a day.
However, casein is absorbed slowly. So, you can take it before sleep to repair your muscles overnight. Of course, you can mix both of these proteins together as well.
On the market, you can buy whey in many forms — it’s the most commonly used protein. In the form of concentrate, you’ll be able to find it pretty inexpensively, but it contains the most protein in isolated form.
Hydrosol whey is the most expensive one, but it is the best one because you can absorb it quickly and it is more concentrated. Again, many shakes that you can purchase will have all three forms.
Since neither whey nor casein is vegan, you can choose to take protein from soy, brown rice, pea protein, or other plants.
Soy is the best since it’s a complete protein, so consider that if you are a vegan or a vegetarian.
However, brown rice and pea protein has been combined and has grown in popularity because it’s non- genetically modified and doesn’t effect hormone levels like soy does.
Of course, protein shakes can’t replace real food, so make sure that you take enough protein in your regular meals.
You also need other nutrients to ensure that you are healthy and gain muscle mass without losing out on some important elements. Protein from food is usually tastier as well.
At the same time, most people can’t get the amount of protein they need from their food, so protein shakes can come in handy. This way, you would be taking enough protein without the number of calories that sometimes come with meals high in protein.
Protein shakes are also excellent for people who, for some dietary reason, can’t eat protein-high food. However, protein shakes are only supplements to your overall lifestyle and you should treat them as such.
In general, you’ll want around 1g of protein per kilo (2.2 lbs) of your weight. This is recommended for all people, whether they exercise or not.
If you want to gain muscle and exercise more, a good amount to take is 2g of protein per kilo of weight.
Naturally, don’t consume all of this at once — spread it out. For example, you can take a certain amount with each meal or every few hours.
What Are Meal Replacement Shakes?
On the other hand, meal replacement shakes can and should replace up to two meals in people trying to lose weight and gain muscle mass.
These shakes are different because they usually contain minerals and vitamins, carbs, fiber, more calories, etc. They represent a full meal in a cup. They also have protein, naturally, but less of it.
Meal replacement shakes are designed to suppress hunger and help you feel full for a longer period of time.
One of the most important parts of this is protein. The main role of protein here is to keep you feeling full and for a longer time. It does this because it’s generally digested slowly.
In addition to that, it can also contain fiber. Fiber slows down the speed in which the food travels through your digestive tract and it can make you absorb glucose slower. As you take fiber, you will need to drink more water.
Yet, since meal replacement shakes are normally high in protein, why can’t protein shakes count as meal replacements?
What is the Difference Between Meal Replacement Shakes and Protein Shakes
Both protein shakes and meal replacement shakes contain protein. However, it’s important to note that there are differences between them.
For one, protein shakes contain more protein and, most often, only protein. They serve the purpose of supplementing your diet and helping muscle recovery and growth.
At the same time, meal replacement shakes contain protein, but also fiber, carbs, fat, vitamins, minerals, and more. They have more calories, and they can replace a full meal.
So, while you can’t eat protein shakes instead of a meal — it wouldn’t give you enough nutrients — you can definitely take a meal replacement shake. You can add protein shakes to your diet if you exercise a lot, and take them before or after exercise.
As this article explains in detail, protein shakes can’t replace full meals. However, they can definitely add to your diet and help you exercise more efficiently while recovering at an increased speed.
Protein shakes are mostly useful to people who exercise a lot, especially when it comes to strength training. Of course, anyone can take them, but they can’t help you grow muscle unless you exercise.
- NCBI: Efficacy of a meal replacement diet plan compared to a food-based diet plan after a period of weight loss and weight maintenance: a randomized controlled trial
- Science Direct: Protein shakes
- Science Direct: Soy compared to casein meal replacement shakes with energy-restricted diets for obese women: a randomized controlled trial
- MDPI: Amino Acid Composition of an Organic Brown Rice Protein Concentrate and Isolate Compared to Soy and Whey Concentrates and Isolates
- Human Kinetics: Effect of Resistance Training and Various Sources of Protein Supplementation on Body Fat Mass and Metabolic Profile in Sarcopenic Overweight Older Adult Men: A Pilot Study
- Journal of Clinical Exercise Physiology: Effects of Resistance Exercise and Protein on Body Composition Following Weight Loss
- Canadian Journal of Physiology and Pharmacology: A 13-week low glycemic load diet and lifestyle modification program combining low glycemic load protein shakes and targeted nutraceuticals improved weight loss and cardiometabolic risk factors
- Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition: Protein supplementation in strength and conditioning adepts: knowledge, dietary behavior and practice in Palermo, Italy