By far one of the biggest struggles for most people trying to live a healthy lifestyle, is getting optimal amounts of protein.
It's also one of the most beneficial things you can do, whether your current goal is fat loss, muscle gain, or just overall health.
Because no matter what your goal is, there's a good chance you could benefit from a meal replacement bar or powder. For example...
Do you eat too much ... or fail to eat enough?
Falling short on hitting your protein number for the day?
Or maybe you’re looking to supplement your current diet?
If you can say yes to any of these, you're not alone.
Actually, one of the biggest things that people struggle with in our fast-paced society, is getting all of their meals in every day.
In this article, we’ll explain what meal replacements are, how they can help you meet your fitness goals, and what separates the good meal replacement shakes and bars from the not so good ones.
In the past, meal replacement bars and powders were another way for athletes to get the extra calories and nutrition they needed without eating an entire meal.
This is where we get the term “energy bar” from. They weren’t considered meal replacements at the time.
Many athletes and fitness-minded people still use them this way, but their role has since expanded.
Plus, the types of people using these meal replacement products has expanded as well because we live in a busy world where people are go-go-going all day long.
No longer is it just athletes using meal replacement supplements, but now it’s athletes, regular gym-goers, non-gym-goers ... and more people than ever who are using meal replacements as part of their daily routine!
In many cases, it's so much easier to reach for a meal replacement bar or shake than it is to take thirty minutes or more out of your day to plan, cook, and eat a meal.
Plus, in most cases, reaching for a meal replacement bar or meal replacement powder is usually a lot healthier of an option than fast food when looking for a quick and convenient meal.
Since meal replacement bars and powders can be both convenient and healthy (check labels though, because not all are created the same), it’s easy to see why they have grown in popularity among everyday people.
It’s worth noting though, that there are plenty of other reasons why someone would use these meal replacement bars and powders that have little to do with convenience.
There are other reasons to use meal replacement bars and shakes aside from convenience.
Below are some other reasons why people take meal replacement shakes.
A lot of people don’t consistently eat healthily.... don't have a plan... or just wing it every day, hoping what they're doing is working.
The problem with that is that if you’re not eating with a purpose of helping you reach your goals or looking and feeling the way you want ... you can end up missing out on certain important micronutrients or macronutrients.
A meal replacement bar or protein powder is a great way to replace those unhealthy foods (or fill in when you are skipping meals) with better foods that can help provide the body with what it needs.
And when you use a meal replacement powder or protein bar that tastes good, an added benefit can be that you’re less likely to go back to your old poor eating habits.
Good meal replacement bars and powders are based around protein.
As mentioned above, many people struggle to get all of the nutrients they need every single day.
Protein is the macronutrient that most people struggle to consume enough of every day.
I know some people may read this and think, "I don't want to be a bodybuilder, or get too big and bulky from protein" ... but that's not the case here at all.
See, protein is going to be a key factor in whether or not we earn the results we're striving for...
And I wanted to single this macronutrient out, because consuming enough quality protein is generally something a lot of us struggle with as we work toward our goals.
I wanted to single this macronutrient out because protein plays has an important role in helping someone reach their goals.
Consuming optimal amounts of protein plays a huge role in helping with fatloss muscle growth, helping to control cravings during the day, and even improving overall health and wellness.
I want to note, that many people I have worked with who eat a vegan or vegetarian diet fall short on eating enough protein daily, and in turn, can struggle more to reach their goals.
If this is true for you, this is when a great plant-based meal replacement can help give your body the protein it needs.
I also wanted to point out that I am talking about "optimal" protein intake here. I am not referring to simply meeting the bare minimum amount of protein that your body needs for survival.
But more to set our bodies up in the best position possible to achieve our goals! A good general recommendation for optimal protein intake is 0.8-1.2g of protein per pound of body weight per day!
Other people get the daily nutrition that they need, but they’re consuming too many calories with their food choices.
Using a meal replacement to help stick to the nutrition plan while eliminating the extra calories that can lead to weight gain can be beneficial here.
This can be as simple as using a meal replacement to replace one or two meals with a bar or shake.
Breakfast (because mornings can be chaotic), in the afternoon during a busy day at work, or even as a tasty treat before bed are three of the most popular times.
That’s because meal replacements are easy to eat while at work, and don’t take a lot of effort to bring with you on your commute.
We already mentioned how bars and powders used to exist exclusively in the world of athletes and fitness junkies.
Athletes used to use bars and powders to get the extra nutrients they needed without having to make more food ... or adding in more meals.
Many athletes still do this.
Meal replacement bars and shakes are a great way to get some added protein without adding a ton of calories to your diet.
If you feel like you’ve hit a wall and you’re not progressing physically the way you would want to, meal replacement bars and protein powders could be a great option to further dial in your nutrition and help you keep progressing.
Good meal replacements are generally low in calories, but they’re high in nutritional content.
They can also help you get an optimal amount of protein, which can help with fat loss, not just weight loss.
Remember though, you need calories.
Going super low-calorie, or trying to rely heavily on meal replacement bars and meal replacement powders will not give you the long-term results you want.
A long-term weight loss and weight maintenance plan depends on consuming real food as much as possible, and using meal replacements to supplement in when you can’t get to your meals.
This could mean a meal replacement shake for 1 to 2 meals a day … or even just 1 to 2 meals a week. That will depend on your lifestyle and overall plan.
Either way, it's important to eat real food first, then supplement with meal replacements to fill in where you need them!
If you think meal replacement shakes and bars are the right options for you, you’ll want to make sure that they’re packed with protein.
Some companies sell glorified milkshakes and candy bars by marketing them as meal replacements...
Be careful not to fall for good marketing.
A good meal replacement is going to give you useful protein that your muscles, hair, skin, and other body tissues need to stay healthy.
Meal replacements shouldn’t be packed with empty calories and sugar that can put you over your macros for the day, and potentially get turned into fat.
Also, you'll want to make sure you’re getting a good source of protein ... ideally around 20 grams or more!
There are other elements that differentiate the good meal replacement powders from the not so good ones.
Here’s a short list of what makes good meal replacements better than other options.
Meal replacements are typically supposed to replace meals as a lower calorie option.
That means your meal replacement has to have the nutritional content of a meal.
A good bar or shake won’t waste calories on excess sugar.
Look at the nutritional information and make sure that your bar or powder is giving you the macronutrients your body needs … or very close to it.
Additionally, a quality replacement will have roughly 20 grams of protein or more to help you fulfill your protein needs, and stay in the anabolic state (where your body is primarily burning fats and carbs for fuel and preserving muscle).
If the protein in your meal replacement isn’t highly bioavailable, you're short-changing the advantage and benefits you are getting.
In simple terms, the more bioavailable your protein … the more of that protein your body can ACTUALLY use, and therefore you will get more of the benefit of protein in your plan.
A protein that is less bioavailable is not as beneficial as your body will have a harder time digesting it and using it effectively for repair, recovery, and other processes inside the body.
To help ensure your protein has a high bioavailability, make sure your meal replacement protein powder is a low-temperature processed protein.
This means it has not been exposed to high heats or harsh chemicals during processing, and in turn, is a more bioavailable protein powder.
And since your body will be able to more easily digest and use the protein, it also means that you won’t feel gassy or bloated after drinking it like many proteins can make you feel.
When it comes to supplementing with protein, whey protein has the highest ratio of essential amino acids and branched chain amino acids in a serving. Which these are the amino acids our bodies can not produce on their own, so we must get them through foods and supplements.
Because Whey Protein has the highest ratio of essential amino acids it is typically the best option to use when supplementing with a meal replacement protein powder. It helps give your body the essential nutrients it needs for muscle protein synthesis.
If you are vegan, make sure your vegan protein powder uses a combination of plant-based sources of proteins to help give the essential amino acids your body needs!