Any sensible, experienced person in the health and fitness field knows that there are few definitive answers simply because everyone is extremely different and being healthy isn’t a cookie-cutter, one-size-fits-all way of life. The answer to most things is “it depends”. However, for the majority of people, I feel very strongly that the answer to this question is no, a protein shake should not be used as a meal replacement.
First, and most importantly, let’s discuss physiological needs. Your body NEEDS a certain amount of fats, protein, and dare I say carbohydrates to function. Not only this, but there are loads of micronutrients that are essential to the diet. So much of this cannot be found in protein shakes alone. Therefore, if you’re replacing several meals throughout the week with a protein shake, you’re likely not getting enough nutrients. So while you think you’re on the right track, fueling your body with enough calories, you might be doing your body a disservice. Nutrition is way more complex than the number of calories you consume.
Strive to get your nutrients in with whole foods. Is protein from that venison steak higher quality than that whey protein shake? Absolutely.
Now, you might be thinking, “I know someone who has lost weight by using meal replacement shakes”. Of course you have, so have I. Meal replacement shakes will help you lose weight—you’re not wrong. But anyone could lose weight by replacing their 1,000-calorie takeout lunch with a 250-calorie protein shake consistently. So then why is it not a good idea? IT IS NOT SUSTAINABLE. Unless you could happily drink your lunch for the rest of your life, chances are you won’t stick to it because we can only do things that don’t bring us joy for so long before we crack. You will then go back to your old habits and end up right where you started, 30 pounds overweight looking for a quick fix. And repeat.
This subject gets me HEATED. I feel bad for consumers because most of us honestly don’t know any better and that is not our fault. THIS WAS ME 4 YEARS AGO YOU GUYS. Someone can tell me something a million times, but I learn through trial and error because I. Am. Stubborn. It is so disgusting watching uneducated people open up Herbalife protein shake shops telling you that it is healthy to replace 2 meals a day with their protein shakes. YOU LITERALLY NEED NO CREDENTIALS TO DO THIS. NO EDUCATION. You have to watch out for these MLM schemes because ANYONE can become an affiliate/distributor. You receive marketing guidelines on how to SELL the product. They’re in the business of making money, not improving your health. How sad is it that people are willing to feed on others’ insecurities to make a quick buck? SMH.
Here is another thing, just because it’s protein doesn’t mean it is healthy. I say this because I used to think that anything high in protein was good for me and therefore, I could consume copious amounts of it. Anything you consume that your body doesn’t need, will be stored as fat, even protein. If you’re eating a super high-protein diet, you better be weight training or you’re really not benefiting from it. Carbohydrates and fats are the preferred method of energy in the body, not protein.
Alright, so though you just read a million reasons why protein shakes are not meal replacements, I do think that there is a time and place where protein shakes are a great supplement. In fact, I consume a protein shake every day, and have been for years. Protein powder is a supplement—it supplements your diet and it is great if you’re using it as such, a means to supplement an already nutrient-dense, whole foods diet.
Times when a protein shake is an acceptable meal replacement:
If it’s all you have. They are convenient, there is no denying that.
If it is NOT an everyday occurrence.
If you genuinely enjoy it, don’t replace more than 1 meal daily, and are sure that protein shake is made of quality ingredients.
Tip: Make your own protein shakes. You have no idea what is put into the protein shake unless you make it yourself. I advise against buying powders that are advertised as meal replacements. Instead, buy a simple whey, casein, or soy protein powder and blend it with frozen fruit, liquid of choice, leafy greens, and any other natural nutrient-dense foods.
In summary, protein shake powders advertised as meal replacements are not made of quality ingredients, do not provide your body necessary nutrients it needs to function optimally, and will not lead to a sustainable way of life. Enough with the quick-fix diets that never last. SUSTAINABILITY IS EVERYTHING.
The best, high-quality, affordable protein powder to supplement your diet: Myprotein. Shop my affiliate link here.