There are many reasons you may replace meals with protein shakes on a routine or occasional basis. You may use a shake to nourish your body when you don’t have time to prepare a healthy meal or snack.
You may consume a shake for breakfast each day in order to kick start your metabolism without taking in a lot of calories and carbohydrates.
You may also substitute a shake for other meals on a routine basis as an easy method of calorie control.
Protein powder meal replacement shakes are healthy as long as you use them as supplements to your regular diet. This means that you don’t depend on the shakes alone to stimulate weight loss or to help you reach other health and fitness goals. Your shake is a way to add protein to your diet, and possibly a bit of fiber, without cooking all of your meals or taking in the calories and fat grams that naturally come with a standard meal.
How Many Meals to Replace
Your standard protein shake will not contain all of the vitamins and minerals that your body needs on a daily basis in order to function properly. This means you cannot substitute every meal with a protein shake without putting your health in danger. You do need whole foods to make sure your nutritional needs are met.
There is so much more that your body needs beyond protein.
It is safe to substitute one meal a day, and some people may substitute two meals or include additional shakes as snacks. The more calories you need to consume each day, the more you are likely to safely substitute with shakes.
For example, if you are trying to gain muscle mass you might drink two or more shakes a day along with frequent small meals and snacks throughout the day. You need a lot of calories to build that muscle, so you can consume shakes and whole foods to reach your goals.
On the other hand, if your goal is to lose weight, you will probably only need one shake a day. You may also use shakes as a backup plan for those busy days when healthy meals just are not on the agenda. Since you are restricting rather than increasing calories, you cannot afford to take in a lot of calories through shakes.
Turning Protein Powder into a Full Meal
You can purchase meal replacement shakes that are high in protein content, or you can consume a standard protein shake as it comes out of the package. Another alternative is to dress up your protein shake so that it serves as a nutritional protein meal replacement shake. You do this by adding whole foods that provide nutrients your body needs to function properly.
You may add fresh greens or vegetables, fresh or frozen fruit, nuts, or seeds. You may also consider adding fresh vegetable or fruit juice, yogurt, nonfat milk, almond milk or other healthy liquids. If you want to add fiber to your meal replacement shake, you can also add ground flaxseed, oats and other healthy, high-fiber foods.
Meal Replacement Shakes vs. Protein Powder Shakes
Products labeled as meal replacements contain a variety of nutrients beyond protein. They are designed to supplement the vitamins, minerals, fiber and protein that you would consume if you sat down to a plate of food.
In fact, many of these shakes provide more nutritional substance than the actual meals most people consume today. These products just make eating healthy far more convenient since they are portable and can be consumed anywhere your life takes you.
Protein powder may contain some fiber if you select the right brand, but you won’t get the vitamins and minerals that are contained in a meal replacement shake that is high in protein. It is still safe to replace a meal on occasion with a standard shake made from protein powder, but you also have the option of adding whole foods to increase the nutritional content of the shake. This is not always convenient and may sometimes be impossible if you are consuming the shake because cooking a meal is not an option.
You can also eat fresh fruit, vegetables, yogurt or other healthy foods alongside your protein powder shake if you do not have a meal replacement shake on hand. These are food that you can take with you on the run, and they will add nutritional value to the overall meal. Just make sure to track your total calories if you are concerned with losing weight.
You may also find high-quality protein powders a bit more affordable than prepackaged meal replacement shakes. Some replacement shakes may not have as much protein as a protein powder, and that may not work if you need to load up on protein in order to build and repair muscle mass. There are all factors that you must consider as you browse the meal replacement and protein powder market to see what options are available to you.
If you decide that a protein powder shake is all you need for occasional meal replacements, you can choose prepackaged, individual serving packages. These shakes are limited to fewer brands and flavors than the standard protein powder market, but they are extremely convenient when you are unable to mix up a shake.