Meal replacement shakes can work wonders for your diet – and the best meal replacement shakes can be life changing.
You can use them to give yourself a quick shot of nutrition on the move, ensuring that you never have to miss out on the micro and macro nutrition (vitamins and minerals, and carbs, proteins and fats, respectively) that your body needs to stay healthy. You can use them in lieu of large, calorically intense meals to help in maintaining a caloric deficit for weight loss. You can use them to source the entirety of your dietary intake, at least for short bursts, if you find yourself needing to lose weight quickly (pre-operative periods can often demand this of us).
Whichever way you choose to use them – for any of the above or anything else – you will need to know which meal replacement options to go for. Which are appropriate for muscle building, which for strict weight loss? Which will give you a decent vitamin and mineral profile, which are simply there to boost macronutrient load? Which taste good, which do not; which are suitable for your diet type, be it vegan, gluten-free, low carb, or anything else?
I’ve rounded up some of my top meal replacement shakes for you below, with most categories, needs, and tastes catered for. Any of them will serve you well in your health and nutrition.
What Are Meal Replacement Shakes?
In short, meal replacement shakes are designed to stand in for a meal, giving you a moderate caloric load formed from a mix of carbohydrates, fats, and proteins. They will aim to make you feel full and keep you nominally, healthy whilst restricting calories to below what a regular eating pattern would allow for.
This is to help you maintain a caloric deficit. Caloric deficits are where you eat less than your body burns. They force your body to take the excess energy from pre-existing, endogenous reserves (i.e. your body fat). A deficit of 500 calories per day should lead to a weight loss of roughly 1 lb / 0.5 kg per week. This scales, so that a deficit of 1000 should lead to a weight loss of roughly 2 lb / 1 kg per week but 500 calories is a good place to be at for sustainable weight loss.
As well as controlling calories and macronutrients (carbohydrates, fats, and proteins), meal replacement shakes should also give you a healthy portion of fibre and micronutrients (vitamins and minerals). In this way, your body should be getting everything it needs.
One of their main attractions is that meal replacement shakes are incredibly convenient. They will come either bottled, pre-mixed, or as a powder, for you to mix up with water or your choice of milk. There is no meal prep, no worrying about getting the shopping in, no worrying about storing and transporting your food. Simply mix, drink, and carry on.
It couldn’t be simpler.
Our 10 Best Meal Replacement Shakes
Let’s take a look at the 10 meal replacement shakes that made our shortlist. All of these have been taste tested and the macro and micro nutrient profile scrutinised.
Instant Knockout Complete
Instant Knockout Complete is one of the most effective meal replacement options we found when testing. In fact, we loved it so much we had to put it in top spot. Although this product is very much marketed towards professional athletes and those in combat sports, Instant Knockout Complete is a great all-round meal replacement shake that can be used by anyone.
It is well known that a high protein diet is good for promoting retention and growth of lean muscle and a greater feeling of satiation. So it is great to see that this offering from Instant Knockout is high in protein – with each serving containing 35g of the macro nutrient.
You also get 35g of carbohydrate and 13g of fibre which will provide you with longer lasting energy and promote good digestion respectively.
Everything that goes in to Instant Knockout is plant based and is derived from real food. There are no nasty fillers or proprietary blends and each serving is designed as a ‘complete’ replacement for a meal – hence the name.
Expect to find ingredients such as pea and soy extract for the plant based protein, Golden Flax Seed, Medium Chain Triglycerides for your healthy fats, oat flour, chia seeds and brown rice.
Each serving stands at 400 calories and has 13g of fat, 35g of carbs and 35g of protein. You also get a whole range of vitamins and minerals such as vitamin A, C, D, E and K, vitamin B6 and B12, zinc, iron, calcium, thiamin, magnesium and more.
Simply mix with water or milk (plant based milk mixes really well) and drink. We found Instant Knockout Complete to have a really solid nutritional profile but also kept us feeling properly full as you would expect from a meal. We’d suggest using Instant Knockout Complete once per day but you can use it to replace two meals if you prefer.
At the time of writing you can also claim a free additional fat burning supplement worth £60 when placing your order (using our link below).
PhenQ Meal Shake
PhenQ know a thing or two about fat loss. In fact, their PhenQ fat burners are our top pick when it comes to fat loss supplements. Their meal replacement shakes take much of what is great about their supplements and combine it with a tasty, filling shake.
The Meal Shake by PhenQ is free from sugar, gluten free and has one of the most complete nutritional profiles of all the meal replacement systems we tested. Not only that, but they come in three delicious flavours.
Everything that goes in to the PhenQ shake is natural, with gluten free oat flour there for the complex carbs, 16g of whey protein to give you your protein fix and a vegan micronutrient blend that includes Vitamins C, E, B6, A, K, D and B12 as well as Folic Acid, Niacin and Biotin – it really is one of the most complete shakes when it comes to all-round nutrition.
There were very few shakes we tested that kept us feeling as full as the PhenQ shake and it is an ideal choice for those seeking a low fat, nutritionally complete meal replacement. It works out to just over £2 per meal which is incredible value considering the quality of ingredients used.
We really enjoyed the chocolate and vanilla flavours, but the Strawberry and Cream flavour was not to our taste (it was a little too sweet). You can order individual packs or subscribe and save to save an extra 10%.
You get a 60 day money back guarantee but it’s unlikely you’ll need to use it and the chances are that once you try PhenQ you won’t look back.
Shape Shake 2.0 Meal Replacement Shake
Foodspring launched in 2013 by co-founders Philipp Schrempp and Tobias Schüle, and have become something of a phenomenon in the diet and supplement community since then. Both brought combined expertise in fitness, food and consumer needs to launch their brand, giving their customer base access to expert backed products in both fitness and nutrition.
This is certainly what you get with their Shape Shake 2.0 Meal Replacement Shake.
It makes use of certified organic ingredients and gentle processing methods to ensure that the full nutrient breakdown you would expect reaches each mouthful. It is vitamin rich and incredibly fresh.
They also focus on the origin and environmental impacts of their raw materials. This means that you can drink their shakes in peace, knowing that you’re not damaging the planet or global communities.
Shape Shake 2.0 is the latest take on their meal replacement shakes. It is gluten free, high in good quality whey protein from grass fed New Zealand cattle, high in fibre, low in sugar, and contains ample servings of 24 different vitamins and minerals. All seven flavours work really well (though I would thoroughly recommend going with the cookies and cream – it’s delicious!) and taste natural, free from any synthetic taste.
Each serving contains 60g (roughly 6 tbsp) of Shape Shake 2.0 powder, mixed with 350ml of water or your choice of milk. Replace one or two meals per day with this mixture, remain healthy and energetic, get all the nutrition you could ever need, and lose weight responsibly and efficiently.
MyProtein Meal Replacement Blend
MyProtein are amongst the best budget protein providers going – they are amongst the top supplements companies in the world right now. It’s therefore no surprise that they have come out with a top-notch shake in the form of their Meal Replacement Blend.
First up, the flavours are lovely. I personally prefer the strawberry, though they are all decent versions of what they are aiming at. I generally hate banana flavoured anything that’s not an actual banana, but I still quite liked their banana option!
It all mixes well with water or your choice of milk – I generally stick with water and a few ice cubes. You can blend it down easily, or even just whack it in your shaker if you’re on the move all day. You won’t get any lumps or clumps, either way. Instead, MyProtein’s Meal Replacement Blend gives a silky smooth finish, more like a traditional milkshake than a protein shake.
As with all good meal replacement shakes, MyProtein’s Meal Replacement Blend offers great nutrition and taste. This means that you needn’t starve your body of anything that it needs to stay healthy as you diet. It is packed with vitamins and minerals, including folic acid, chloride, calcium, iron, zinc, and the vitamins A, D, C, E, K, is high in protein, and is completely vegetarian friendly.
Each serving delivers 17 g of high-quality protein. This will increase satiation, keeping you feeling fuller for longer, whilst promoting the retention of lean muscle mass during any caloric deficit. You can keep training and aiming at body recomposition with products like this in your diet.
You also get 4 g of fibre per serving. Once more, this will promote feelings of fullness, lead to longer periods of satiation post-consumption, and will enable you to maintain good digestive health throughout your cut.
This all weighs in at just 200 calories per serving. Take 3-4 servings per day with a decent, well-rounded, nutritious meal or two, and you should be onto a real winner here.
Vegan Shape Shake
The world of plant-based supplementation has come on leaps and bounds over the last decade or so. I remember the old days where all you could get were chalky soya protein shakes, or muddy pea protein, that would make anyone miserable if they drank them regularly. This isn’t the case anymore.
These days, there are some fantastic options for vegans, covering a wide array of dietary and lifestyle needs and goals. The Vegan Shape Shake stands head and shoulders above most, offering one of the best meal replacements going, packed full of good quality protein, all entirely plant-based.
It contains glucomannan, which acts as a great appetite suppressant and allows for longer satiation. You also get three different sources of protein: chickpea, fava beans & linseed. These are all additionally high in fibre, ticking that box, aiding satiation (and keeping you regular).
Fava beans contain all the essential amino acids and more protein than other plant-based protein sources, and have a neutral taste and creamy texture, without any of the bitterness or earthiness that many plant-based proteins can bring.
Chickpea protein, though incomplete, is lovely – chickpeas offer a very neutral taste and creamy texture, which really shows through in the final shake.
Vegan Shape Shake also uses a special mix of various digestive enzymes. These include amylase, protease, galactosidase, lipase and cellulase, all of which are known for their ability to break down food and the macro-nutrients it contains (proteins, fats, and carbs), for better absorption.
You get a choice of five delicious flavours, all of them pretty indulgent considering the healthy micros and macros underpinning them! I personally like the cheesecake flavour the most, though their vanilla is also lovely. Each flavour mixes into a smooth, creamy milkshake, about as far removed from the lumpen, chalky vegan shakes of yesteryear as it’s possible to be!
It’s all completely gluten free, and each serving delivers 220 kcal.
The Protein Works Meal Replacement
I personally really like The Protein Works. I have done for quite some time now, and generally have a bag or two of their whey protein in my kitchen cupboard. Therefore, I was excited to try out their meal replacement line.
Their Diet Meal Replacement is a high protein, nutrient dense, complete meal replacement shake designed to contribute to the shedding of body fat whilst you maintain as much lean muscle mass as possible. As with many of the other items on this list, it is full to bursting with an array of vitamins and minerals to keep you healthy as your food sources are cut down, making it the perfect accompaniment to any decent cut.
It is particularly well suited to athletes. Though low in calories (only 250 kcal per serving), you get a full 20g of complete protein per serving. Those looking to retain hard fought muscle mass in a cutting phase, or even aiming at body recomposition, should take note – this could be the one for you. It is very low in sugar and high in slow releasing carbohydrates and fibre. The proteins themselves are a mix of fast and slow releasing, giving you plenty of instant energy whilst allowing you to feel fuller throughout the day.
It even uses green tea extract as an added extra. Green tea is a well-known fat loss booster, often included in fat burner supplements. It also enhances your energy levels, which can sometimes be a bit lacking during a calorie deficit.
Finally, the flavour and texture is what you would expect from The Protein Works – that is to say, absolutely top-notch. I like their Strawberries and Cream (I get their whey protein powder in this, and it’s a delight), and their mint choc chip (again, another favourite.)
If you’re looking to take care of your muscle mass whilst losing weight, include a couple of The Protein Works’ Diet Meal Replacement alongside a couple of well-rounded meals per day and you should be onto a winner.
PHD Smart Nutrition Breakfast
PhD’s entire branding ethos revolves around the idea that they take the smart path to anything. This is no less true of their Smart Nutrition Breakfast than of anything else they come out with. But what exactly does this mean?
Well, for starters, their formula is designed to give you everything you need, leaving out everything you don’t need. This means that each 60g serving contains 26g of protein and 22g of low sugar carbohydrates from healthy oats. It will also give you plenty of vitamins, minerals (all essential vitamins and minerals including vitamins C and D), healthy lactospore probiotics, and dygesyme digestive enzymes, aiding in overall wellbeing and digestive health. Each serving contains 5g of BCAAs (branched-chain amino acids, a type of protein that works incredibly well in building muscle).
These probiotics will keep your gut healthy, whilst the protein and complex carbs will keep you in feeling fuller for longer. Taken together, you should have complete comfort, satiation, and plenty of energy throughout the day. The protein kick you get from it will help you to recover from hard exercise, making it perfect for anyone looking to build or retain lean muscle mass during their deficit.
PHD’s Smart Nutrition Breakfast also delivers a bit of a natural energy boost with 84mg of caffeine from a natural coffee extract, perking you up when you need it the most (I know I’m useless before my morning coffee, and this takes its place quite nicely).
I also like the idea of a breakfast meal replacement shake. It inspires you to begin the day right, healthily and with energy to spare, whilst also inviting you to eat full, proper meals for lunch and dinner. This will lead to perfect balance, whilst making it easy to open up the caloric deficit you will need to lose weight.
Aside from all of this, you get a decent shake that tastes really nice and mixes well to give you a smooth, velvety drink.
All told, it does indeed sound fairly smart to me.
Sci-MX Diet Meal Replacement
Next up we have another company that pride themselves on finding the smart path wherever they tread – Sci-MX. They started life in 2007, aiming to ‘help nurture, support and inspire the sportsperson in all of us’.
I’ve tried a great many of their products over the years and can personally attest to the fact that they are doing very well in achieving this mission statement. Their shakes, snack bars, and supplements are all fantastically well-designed to help you to achieve a smarter, fitter you.
Sci-MX’s Diet Meal Replacement carries on in this vein. Sci-MX base all of their products on the latest scientific research from the universities and sports research institutes. They treat their production lines like a pharmacy provider would, producing everything under strict pharmaceutical conditions. Everything they do is performed under the watchful gaze of some of the world’s leading experts in their various scientific disciplines.
With this in mind, their Diet Meal Replacement packs a very precise, well-delivered punch. Each serving gives you 205 calories, all incredibly nutritionally well-balanced.
To start off with, those 205 calories give you 25g of protein, which is on the higher side for a meal replacement. This makes it perfect for athletes, those looking to maintain or develop muscle mass during their cut, which is exactly who Sci-MX are aiming for. Though this means that it goes light on carbs and fat, you do get a good dose of fibre, aiding satiation and stomach and digestive health.
In addition, each serving contains at least 30% of your daily vitamin and mineral needs. Drink two to three per day and eat a couple of modest meals and you should be fully covered, whilst being able to keep that much needed caloric deficit.
As part of this, Sci-MX’s Diet Meal Replacement is high in calcium and zinc, which is incredibly important for a weight loss regime. Calcium contributes to normal energy-yielding metabolism, which can often suffer under a calorie deficit. Additionally, zinc supports normal metabolism of fats and carbohydrates. Taken together, you should be processing everything you eat optimally, whilst finding it quite easy to maintain energy levels and seek that deficit without struggling too much.
Almased are a family run business who have a simple, pertinent mantra: Boost the Metabolism, Lose the Fat, Keep the Muscle.
A company after my own heart, in other words.
But do they deliver on this with their meal replacement protein shakes?
Firstly, they ask you not to think of your nutrition in terms of ‘diet’. Rather, it is a lifestyle, with a full lifestyle change needed if you’re too lose weight and keep it off, sustainably and healthily. I agree – though, let’s be honest, if they’re asking you to adopt their shakes as a long term, lifestyle choice, they stand to gain quite a bit.
If you want to make sustainable choices, relearn how to think about and prepare food. Meal Replacement Shakes are generally better short-term choices, for those looking to cut after a bulk, or bring themselves down from an unhealthy weight to a healthy one, with a long-term plan in mind that includes learning to get their nutrition fully from food in a healthy way.
Nevertheless, Almased can be a potent ally if you’re looking to use shakes to get you down a few notches on your belt. Their products are very good. Ingredients are all very high quality, and everything is low-glycaemic, allowing you to maintain healthy blood sugar levels, relatively free from cravings.
They focus their formula around soy protein isolate, which is one of the best quality protein soy sources. It offers a great many health benefits aside from its protein content, and its protein content will allow for muscle retention and satiation. Almased also use skimmed milk yogurt that works hand in hand with the soy as a quality protein source, this time complete. It is also an excellent source of riboflavin and calcium, which are very useful micronutrients to anyone working through a calorie deficit.
Then you have lesser ingredients whose effect is no less potent. Almased use honey enzymes, which assist in digestion and promote fermentation (which they claim is useful for weight loss). It is raw honey, so retains all its natural minerals, vitamins, and natural enzymes. In addition, Almased pack their shakes with a full array of vitamins – vitamins A, E, C, B1, B2, B6, B12, and D3 are all included.
The amino acids included in Almased are isoleucine, lysine, leucine, phenylalanine, methionine, tryptophan, threonine, tyrosine, valine, and histidine. These are all plant-based, are all proven to promote weight loss and muscle retention, and are well-known for improving satiation.
Don’t buy into their guff about basing your lifestyle around drinking their shakes long term. However, do consider buying their products for short term use – they are genuinely impressive!
Shake That Weight Meal Replacement
Shake That Weight’s diet plans begins with a One Week Shake Bundle, designed, so they say, to help you control your dietary intake and reach your weight loss goals. They recommend the VLCD principle (Very Low Calorie Diet), and aim to keep your body health and well throughout a drastic cut with their blend of essential vitamins and minerals.
As ever, I would caution most people against this kind of thinking. You cannot meet your weight loss goals in a single week. If you do indeed shed pounds and pounds of bodyweight in a short amount of time, most of it will be in water, plenty in muscle, and a little in fat. This isn’t ideal, at all – steer clear of it.
This being said, there are some instances when this kind of crash diet can be of use. Well, only really one… namely, if you have a lot of weight to lose with a hard deadline – usually medical based, as in you need to bring your BMI down to be signed off for an operational procedure – then you might want to consider diets like this.
This aside, don’t ever do one. You’ll end up far less healthy than when you started.
Nevertheless, and despite their awful advice, Shake That Weight have a pretty decent product, here. Their shakes are indeed packed with vitamins and minerals. They are low carb, high protein and rich in fibre (though seemingly lacking much by way of healthy fat). Each serving contains slow release calcium casein protein, which helps to reduce hunger pangs whilst fuelling muscle growth or retention (outside of their silly, VLCD plan).
They also taste lovely, with a choice of four smooth, creamy flavours – White Chocolate & Raspberry, Choc Mint, Caramel and Cafe Latte (I’d go with the former two all day – they really are good.)
Don’t buy into their marketing. Don’t stick to their three shakes per day, sub-1000 calorie nonsense. Enjoy a shake or two per day. Eat a well-rounded, healthy meal or two per day. Aim for a calorie deficit of 500-1000, stay consistent and steady, and try to lose around 6 lbs (3 kg) per month. Do that, with Shake That Weight’s Meal Replacement on tap, and you should end up healthier than ever.
What To Look For In a Meal Replacement Shake
There are a few things you should look into when choosing the meal replacement shake that will be right for you – or, indeed, for determining whether any given product is a useful, usable supplement or a load of snake oil.
First up is caloric load. Any given shake should deliver between 200-400 calories. Anything below this won’t give you enough nutrients to count as a meal – even 200 is cutting it fine, unless you’re looking to have 6-7 equivalent meals per day. Anything above 400 will likely be too much to allow you to maintain a comfortable deficit.
Then you need to look at what these calories are made from. To aid satiation, and to help you to maintain muscle mass through a calorie deficit, you will want a high protein content. 10-20 g per serving should do it, more if you’re heavily active.
Fibre will also help with satiation and will contribute to healthy digestion even as you cut out excess food intake. Look for at least 3 g per serving.
Make sure sugar intake is low – carbs should be fibrous and/or complex in the most part. You want fewer than 10g per serving (though obviously this may diminish palatability.)
Finally, you’ll want a healthy amount of fat. Intake will need to be limited as fat is so calorically dense (more than twice as dense as carbs and protein), but your body still needs some to function. 10-15 g of fat per serving should be about right. Aim for those that deliver omega-3 and unsaturated fats, trying to avoid saturated and trans fats where possible.
What To Avoid In Meal Replacement Shakes
Just as there are certain things to make sure your meal replacement shake has and does, so too are there things that are best avoided.
As above, excess sugar and unhealthy fats should be cut from anyone’s diet. Avoid any shake that contains them. There are certain red flags to look out for (other than quantities of each per serving, as mentioned above). If your meal replacement shake tastes like a McDonald’s milkshake, it’s probably full of sugar and/or trans and saturated fats. If it’s overly sweet, again, check that sugar content is below 10g.
You also want to avoid anything that is monodominant in any macronutrient. If it delivers 20g of protein and little else, it isn’t a meal replacement shake – it’s a protein shake. It will have its place in your diet – I drink them every day – but it is a supplement, not a meal. Make sure you have a good balance of carbs, fats, and proteins, with plenty of fibre, as mentioned above.
Also make sure that there are plenty of micronutrients included (vitamins and minerals). At the least, make sure you’re taking multivitamins every day if you’re restricting calories. You will be able to see a full breakdown, alongside a percentage of recommended daily intake, on the packet or bottle.
Make sure you note serving size, too, especially if you’re using a powder or unportioned liquid. It’s very easy to overdo it. Measure everything out according to the packet’s directions, taking in no more or less than recommended.
How Best to Use Meal Replacement Shakes for Weight Loss
If you’re looking to lose weight, you will need a calorie deficit. This means eating between 500-1000 calories fewer than your body needs to maintain its current weight. Meal replacement shakes are a very useful tool in achieving this, limiting caloric intake whilst delivering plenty of good quality, balanced nutrition.
You can use them in a few different ways. I generally recommend swapping a meal or two out per day, taking a shake. This could mean a shake for breakfast and lunch, with a full cooked dinner, plus a couple of healthy snacks throughout the day. This will allow you to maintain balance and keep calories low, whilst being manageable and not being overly draconian.
Alternatively, you may want to replace all meals with shakes. This should only ever be done short term, when you need to crash diet for medical reasons. This could be for a medical procedure, for example. If you have an operation coming up and are obese, you may need to drop plenty of weight beforehand, with the operation taking priority over your diet’s sustainability.
If you take the latter approach, try to take in 4-5 shakes per day, consider supplementing with vitamins and minerals, and always follow your healthcare provider’s advice.