Today, people thrive in a world so busy that everyone expects instant results. With this type of need came technologies and products that can help people achieve faster results, or simply make life easier so they can work faster to achieve their goals.
One of these products are meal replacement shakes. In an effort to help people reduce weight for health or aesthetic reasons, meal replacements exist to make it easier to work towards their goal. Meal replacements are available in many forms: bars, bottled drinks, soup, and powder. Powder meal replacements are perhaps one of the most popular as these are made into shakes, or added to a favorite beverage.
Why Do People Choose Meal Replacements?
People who incorporate meal replacements into their daily routines have any of the following reasons:
- To decrease calorie intake and lose weight by replacing one or two full meals.
- To increasing calorie intake and gain weight by supplementing meals.
- To get an additional source of macronutrients and micronutrients for people who have health concerns.
- To shorten meal prep time for people who barely have the time or energy to prepare full meals.
Different goals also call for different meal replacement formulas. People who want to boost their metabolism or sustain high intensity workouts go for formulas with higher protein. People with digestive issues should make sure that there is enough dietary fiber in the formula or that it is free from bowel irritants. Others who are having problems absorbing nutrients due to medical concerns should look into the amounts of vitamins and minerals listed.
Depending on the gender and age group of a person, a normal diet should consist of anywhere between 2000 to 3000 calories. If you plan to lose weight, you ideally bring this number down to 1500 to 2000 calories a day. These calories must also come from a balanced ration from three macro-nutrients. The acceptable ratios are:
- 45 to 65% of calories from carbohydrates
- 20-35% of calories from fats
- 10-35% of calories from proteins
Meal replacements are not meant to replace all solid meals in a day - only one or two meals should ideally be replaced. High quality meal replacements contain 200 calories or less in most cases, contain minimal sugar, and enough protein, fiber, and vitamins to keep you going through the day.
Meal replacements should also not be seen as a standalone nor long-term solution to obesity. To lose or maintain a certain weight takes due effort. These replacements only make it easier for people to stick to a routine or system. A healthy lifestyle, healthy eating habits, and exercise cannot be replaced by any product.
Do Meal Replacements Have a Bad Side?
The answer depends. Meal replacements have risen in popularity over the years and with the help of social media, it is very easy to build an empire out of formulas that work. Aside from that, the US does not currently regulate meal replacements and they are categorized under food supplements, which don’t have therapeutic claims and aren’t required to undergo clinical trials.
These two factors make it easy to see why there is a proliferation of meal replacements that are cheap and very accessible, but that is where things can go wrong. Cheap formulas cannot assure you of quality ingredients. It’s already suspect that most of the cheapest meal replacements available have some of the loftiest claims.
Some formulas contain amounts of nutrients and fiber so little that they don’t impact the body at all. Others will surprisingly go over 300 calories, 22 grams of sugar, and 10 grams of fat per serving, which defeats the purpose of the meal replacement. Some formulas may contain chemical preservatives, hydrogenated vegetable oil, thickeners, fillers, and food coloring that may cause long-term harm when consumed in significant amounts. Sometimes even the source of nutrients may be questionable.
How then can you protect yourself from potentially harmful meal replacements?
- Determine what your ideal and healthy weight goals are.
- Consult with your health practitioner about a meal plan and ask for meal replacement suggestions.
- Research ingredients that should and should not be found in a meal replacement formula, and identify which ingredients may or may not go well with your current health issues, allergies, or lifestyle.
- Do not be fooled by a very low or a very expensive price tag as it is not always indicative of the quality of the ingredients.
- Read the label, nutritional facts and ratios, and claims of each meal replacement. Try to check the company history and look for non-sponsored reviews of each product.
But how do more expensive meal replacements fare against the rest? Let’s take a look at two of the most popular, and some may say most expensive, brand of meal replacements.
A Look at Shakeology
Shakeology is produced by a US-based multinational corporation called Beachbody that also sells other fitness and weight loss products. There is no denying that, at more or less $4 a serving, Shakeology can be a costly way to keep up a meal replacement regimen. But as we have mentioned before, meal replacements should not be used as long-term solutions, but as seasonal aids to your fitness goal.
The price of this meal replacement can be justified by the fact that it underwent trial period and testing to prove its weight loss efficiency. According to its 90-day clinical trial, it can reduce hunger by 58%.
The average weight loss among participants is 9.3 pounds, whereas the biggest recorded weight loss is 24 pounds. The trial also resulted in the decrease of cholesterol and glucose levels among its participants.
Shakeology comes in five flavors and a vegan variant. The most popular flavor is chocolate, which most people prefer. A serving of Shakeology contains 9 grams of sugar, which is still considered low, and 152 milligrams of stevia, a natural plant-based sweetener.
Regular variants contain whey protein isolate, a processed type of protein source in that produces 90% or more proteins. This leaves the product with 10% lactose. Due to this, there is a lactose-intolerant and vegan-friendly choice.
The vegan variant sources its protein from chia seeds, flax seeds, peas, oats, quinoa, and rice. All variants contain nine of the essential amino acids needed by the body, and all variants and flavors do not source ingredients from GMOs. Shakeology claims to be gluten-free, but a closer look at its ingredients reveals barley and wheat-grass. Shakeology is also not Halal-certified.
Moving on to calories, one scoop or serving only gives you 140 calories, which is composed of 1 gram of fat, 4 grams of dietary fiber, and 17 grams of protein. It contains 5 minerals and micro-nutrients: chromium, iron, magnesium, manganese, and molybdenum. It also contains Vitamins A, C, D, E, K, and 7 B vitamins that make up a complex.
Depending on the variant, it may contain cacao, maca root, yacon root, chlorella, spirulina, coconut flower nectar, Acerola cherry, Sacha inchi, pomegranate, Camu-camu, Astragalus root, Goji berry, blueberry, spinach, bilberry, Ashwagandha root, Maitake and Reishi mushroom, Luo Han Guo, amaranth, moringga, oat grass, Himalayan salt, Lactobacillus sporogenes, holy basil, grape seed, rose hip, cinnamon, apple pectin, Kamut grass, green tea, and Ginkgo biloba. It does not contain caffeine, artificial flavors, or artificial sweeteners.
The regular price is $129.95 for 24 packs, or about 30 servings. For Beachbody members, it will cost $99.60 but with a one-time membership fee of $39. The company offers a 30-day money back guarantee given that only 1 pack is opened.
A Look at 18Shake
18 Nutrition is a Los Angeles-based nutrition and fitness company that sells a variety of fitness and weight loss products. Their meal replacement plan is called 18Shake, dubbed as a “luxury meal replacement”. Luxury may be referring to its price of $89.99 per pack, which is equal to 16 servings. This means a serving costs you more than $5. However, if you buy in bundles, you can get discounts. The 18Shake also comes with an e-book that will serve as a guide and recipe book to optimize your use of the meal replacement through different spins on the product.
The e-book is a good idea as 18Shake is not the best-tasting meal replacement there is. With different ideas and recipes that will mask the flavor and allow you to use natural food also low in calories, it makes it easy for users to stick to a meal plan. Since 18Shake only contains 90 calories per serving, it is easy to add fruits or other superfoods without having to think about exceeding a set calorie limit.
18 Nutrition suggests taking 18Shake with their other products such as Sletrokor which is composed of natural laxatives. It also claims that 18Shake is good way to lose weight even without exercise. However, as previously mentioned, it is best to proceed with caution since an active and healthy lifestyle requires exercise to burn calories and boost metabolism.
18Shake comes in four flavors and all are gluten-free and GMO-free, but not for people who are lactose-intolerant. The formula contains Whey Protein Concentrate and Whey Protein Isolate, both of which are sourced from milk. Whey Protein Concentrate is unprocessed whey protein, meaning it contains fat and lactose and about 30-85% protein.
A serving of 18 Shake has 15 grams of protein and 15 grams of fiber. It uses Fibersol-2, a man-made fiber sourced from Digestive Resistant Maltodextrin (DRM). This is not to be confused with Maltodextrin, which can cause bloating, gas, and weight gain. The good thing about Fibersol-2 sourced from DMR is that it does not cause a spike in blood sugar levels. 18 Shake relies on stevia as its main sweetener and a scoop only contains 1 gram of sugar. It also contains 1.5 grams of fat per serving.
The formula contains Vitamins A, C, E, K, and 8 B-vitamins that make a complex. It also contains processed minerals and micronutrients for better absorption and improved function, such as copper chelate, chromium nicotinate, potassium iodide, selenium chelate, zinc citrate, calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, and sodium.
The company offers a 30-day money back guarantee given that only 1 pack is opened and the rest are untouched.
Which is Better?
Shakeology is sold at a higher price than 18Shake, but if we measure by price per servings, Shakeology ends up the more affordable choice.
If we break down each nutrient and the ingredients of the two formulas, we can see that:
For claims and benefits:
For flavor, Shakeology is the better choice.
Meal replacements are a great addition to your fitness plan. There are clinical trials and studies that show that meal replacements can help people lose weight and liquid meal replacements are a good supplement for underweight adults.
Do remember that meal replacements are not meant to be your sole source of nutrition. They are considered food supplements, or aids to nutrition and fitness. You still need to consume at least one healthy meal a day. It is not a remedy for unhealthy habits and a sedentary lifestyle. However, for people who are battling health issues, meal replacements can be beneficial by helping lower both lipid profiles and glucose levels through a controlled introduction of calories.
If you are planning to include meal replacements in your routine, make sure to consult with a health professional who can guide you towards a healthy and educated decision. Do not forget to do your research to find out which meal replacement will work best for you.