Meal Replacement Shakes vs Protein Shakes

Meal Replacement Shakes vs Protein Shakes

There’s been a debate going on in the fitness sphere for a while:

Meal replacement shakes vs. protein shakes––which of the two is better?

Let’s break it down by looking at each of these and their unique benefits and drawbacks.

Table of Contents

Main Takeaways

  • Meal replacement shakes and protein shakes may look the same, but they have differences in terms of nutritional profile and purpose.

  • Meal replacement shakes are used to control your calorie intake. They also have a more balanced nutritional profile.

  • Protein shakes are used to hit your daily protein intake.

Meal Replacement Shakes vs. Protein Shakes Comparison

At first glance, meal replacement and protein shakes might seem identical or even interchangeable. However, they are different and serve unique purposes.

Meal replacement shakes are typically used to control calorie intake, help with weight loss without making drastic changes to one’s diet, and improve the nutritional quality of a person’s diet. 

For example, if your typical lunch is 700 calories and you replace it with a 400-calorie shake, you will save 300 calories, which can help create the necessary deficit for weight loss.

Meal replacement shakes are also fantastic for busy professionals on the go. For example, if someone doesn’t have time to cook and eat a nutritious meal, they can prepare a shake in five minutes and enjoy it on the go.

Additionally, meal replacement shakes have a more balanced nutritional profile. They contain a balanced amount of complex carbs, healthy fats, and high-quality protein, as well as fiber, vitamins, and minerals. In essence, you get all the nutrients you would by eating a balanced meal.

meal replacement shake and protein powder

Now, protein shakes are a bit different. For one, they are geared more toward fitness than health (though getting enough protein is good for your health). Eating enough protein helps you build muscle, provided you also work out, and makes it easier to preserve it as you get older.

As far as timing goes, it’s best to have a protein shake before or after training to supply your body with amino acids to support muscle repair and limit breakdown.

Protein shakes are also mostly made of protein, with almost no carbohydrates or fats, zero fiber, and no vitamins or minerals. This means they are not an effective meal replacement option. So, if you want to have a protein shake instead of a whole meal, consider pairing it with some carbs (e.g., a banana) and healthy fats (e.g., a handful of nuts).

Beyond that, meal replacement and protein shakes are satiating.

Protein powder and meal replacement shake

What Does This Mean For You?

First, including both in your weekly meal plan is a great idea. 

For example, you can have meal replacement shakes during a cut to reduce your calorie intake without changing much about your diet. Saving a few hundred calories from one meal every day can be enough to create the necessary deficit. The advantage is that you would still get all the nutrients you need.

As far as protein shakes go, you can have one as a quick pre-workout snack to limit protein breakdown during training. Have it around an hour before to allow enough time for digestion so you don’t feel nauseous. 

Also, although the ‘anabolic window’ is not as narrow as we previously thought (you don’t have to eat within an hour of finishing a workout, so you don’t lose your gains), it’s still a good idea to get some high-quality protein in the form of a protein shake after a workout.

Click to learn about our vegan meal replacement shakes and here are some additional meal shakes for you that may fit your journey:

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  • Loaded With 27 Essential Vitamins and Minerals
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  • 2X Less Carbs than Ka’Chava & Huel
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  • Plant-based Meal Replacement Shakes
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