Protein shakes and meal replacement shakes. They both come in a tub, they are both powdered, they must do the same thing right?

Not quite, but It makes sense why people get them confused, especially when so many shakes so often advertise themselves as both.

The purpose of this article is to explain just how different meal replacement shakes (MRS) and protein shakes are and why that difference just may be the ultimate key to reaching your goals.

Meal Replacement Shakes: Quick Healthy Meals

What are they?

Meal replacement shakes are used to well, replace a meal. You drink a meal replacement shake in the place of a meal you would normally eat.

They either come prepackaged in bottles or come in a tub or packet that you add to milk or water and mix yourself. Meal replacement shakes can be used up to twice a day for two meals, but it is not recommended they be used more than that. They are most commonly used for breakfast or lunches as these are the times they prove most convenient.

What problems does a MRS solve?

1. They reduce caloric intake.

The purpose of a meal replacement shake is to reduce calories and promote weight loss. MRS are usually lower in calories than a traditional meal.

2. They provide essential nutrition.

Especially for those looking to lose weight, meal replacement shakes provide a safe and easy way to reduce calories while still getting essential nutrition. Some shakes are better at providing this nutrition than others, which will be addressed later in this article.

3. They are highly convenient.

In a perfect world, everyone would have time to cook delicious healthy meals to ensure they eat a well-balanced diet full of fruits, vegetables, and organic protein. Unfortunately, this is not always the case and you need a quick meal option.


Meal replacement shakes are extremely user-friendly. Simply blend up a shake and it’s ready to go, providing quick healthy meals for those busily bustling about.

4. They can be the first step toward a healthy lifestyle.

Often when people want to lose weight and change bad habits, they don’t know where to start.

Using a meal replacement plan for weight loss is a simple place to start. Meal replacement programs can help people become more aware of what they are consuming.

As they lose weight using the meal replacement, they become even more motivated which drives them to work towards their goals and to implement other healthy habits!

One of our favorite examples of this is IdealShape. Just check out all of their success stories of people transforming their lives!

How does a MRS work?

Meal replacement shakes help individuals lose weight by reducing calories while still providing needed nutrition.

To lose weight, you must burn more calories than you consume. This is called a calorie deficit.

You can do this by either decreasing the amount of calories they consume in food or increasing the calories they burn with exercise or, a combination of the two.

This is why meal replacement shakes may be useful to those trying to lose weight. They provide a simple way to reduce calories in the diet without having to follow a strict meal plan or weekly meal prep.

Meal replacement shakes are a great option for lose looking for quick healthy meals!

Getting adequate nutrition is vital, especially while losing weight. Meal replacement shakes usually have a balance of protein, carbs, and fat as well as added vitamins and minerals.


Most Americans are deficient in several vitamins and minerals. Why? Well, studies have found that overweight/obese individuals are more likely to be deficient in essential vitamins.

Considering 66% of Americans are overweight/obese, you can understand why so many people are deficient.

Other studies have found that those on any type of diet are also lacking in needed vitamins and minerals. This is why it is critical that a MRS should be fortified with vitamins and minerals.

Meal replacement shakes also contain hunger suppressants such as fiber, slow digesting proteins, starches, or branded hunger suppressants like Slendesta.


Fiber is important in any diet. Not only does it help reduce hunger, but it is vital for healthy immunity and digestion. The daily recommended amount of fiber for men is about 35g and 25g for women.

Hunger suppressants are important to consider when choosing a meal replacement shake. If you drink a shake and you’re hungry an hour later, you’re more likely to consume more calories, completely defeating the purpose of a meal replacement. So choose wisely!

Who are MRS for?

Generally, those who are using a meal replacement shake are trying to lose weight, or looking for options for quick and healthy meals rather than the Mcdonald’s hamburger they usually eat.


For the most part, they are NOT for those primarily looking to gain weight or build muscle. A meal replacement shake may help you lose a few extra pounds so those abs are more visible, but I wouldn’t rely on them to get massive biceps.

Those types of results are best achieved with a protein powder supplement which will be explained later.

What should you look for in a MRS?

Not all meal replacement shakes are created equal. Some MRS leave you hungry, lack in nutrition, quality of ingredients or all of the above.

The best MRS have several key qualities:

  • Balance of protein, carbs, and fat:

-10-20g protein

-less than 5g of fat

-moderate amount of carbs

  • Added essential vitamins and minerals.
  • Low in sugar, high in fiber and protein.
  • Have some type of hunger blockers such as fiber or Slendesta.
  • 100-160 calories per serving
  • Are low in artificial preservatives, flavors, colors and other garbage.

Protein shakes: Exercise Supplementation

What is protein?

Let’s begin by defining what exactly protein is.

Basically, every single thing that happens in our bodies is because of proteins. THEY ARE SO IMPORTANT!

Protein is made up of amino acids. Amino acids, for the very reason we just mentioned, are what we call, “the building blocks for life.”  These amino acids are generally categorized into two groups: essential and nonessential.

Essential amino acids are those that our bodies cannot create and so our diets must supply them. Non-essential amino acids our bodies can produce and use.

We use these amino acids in our bodies every day for just about everything. Proteins help make up crucial enzymes, hormones, neurotransmitters, and for building and repairing muscle.

What are the different sources of protein?

There are several different types and sources of dietary protein. Some are plant based while others are animal based. Some are best used before after workouts, others at night.

Why does this matter?

Choosing the right type of protein is critical if you want to reach your goals. Let’s break it down:

1. Whey protein

Probably the most common type of protein used in a protein shake, whey comes from cows milk. When whey is put through a process that removes much of the fat and lactose, you end up with whey concentrate.

If you were to further process the whey, you would end up with whey isolate, which is essentially 100% pure protein. Isolate generally has fewer calories, no fat, and no lactose.


Because whey protein is fast digesting, it is usually best used after a workout to increase the rate of muscle growth and repair.

2. Casein

Casein also comes from cows milk and is a very slow digesting protein. This slower absorption rate supports protein synthesis over long periods of time rather than a short burst of time.

Due to its slow digesting nature, casein is commonly taken before bed to reduce muscle breakdown during sleep.

3. Soy protein

Probably the second most common type of protein used in a protein shake, soy protein comes from the soy plant making it 100% plant based. Like whey, it can be processed to remove most of the fat, fiber, and carbs. Soy protein can also be found in concentrate and isolate forms, making it a fast digesting protein.

Although the FDA recommends 25g of soy protein as part of a healthy diet, there has been some controversy over soy protein. However most research supports that soy protein is safe to consume in moderate amounts and performs equally as well as other types of protein.

Just be aware that soy protein often comes from GMO soy crops and is a cheap protein to produce so you  may not be getting a very high-quality shake.

4. Egg protein

Egg protein powders/ supplements are made with just the white part of the egg. Egg protein is lactose-free, making it a favorable option for those who are lactose intolerant.

Similar to casein, egg protein is slow digesting. When choosing an egg based protein, it is important to remember that the source of the egg (meaning the hen) is important.


 The best egg protein powders come from pastured hens who are fed a natural diet free of harmful additives and antibiotics. The eggs that come from these chickens are also higher in important vitamins such as A, E, B, and D and omega-3 fatty acids.

5. Rice and Pea protein

Rice and pea proteins are 100% plant based, easily digestible, gluten-free, andhypoallergenic.

Even though they are from plant sources, both rice and pea proteins have been found to be complete proteins just like their animal counterparts, meaning it provides all the essential amino acids that our bodies cannot produce.

How much Protein do I need?

Protein powders are a simple and easy way to achieve dietary protein requirements as well as achieve other fitness goals such as increasing and maintaining lean muscle mass.

When an individual is active as opposed to sedentary, there is more muscle breakdown occurring in the body. This means more protein is required to keep up with rebuilding and repair of the muscle.

The amount of protein recommended in the diet generally depends on activity level and type:

  • Average healthy adult: .8g per kg of body weight a day (1 kg=2.2lbs)
  • Endurance activities: 1.0-1.6g per kg a day
  • Strength/power exercises: 1.6-2.0g per kg a day



Bottom line is those who are active typically need more protein than those who are sedentary. Also, the elderly or those recovering from injury also need more protein (about 1-1.3g per kg)

How does protein work in the body?

Protein shakes assist in providing the body with adequate amounts of protein. Once protein is consumed, it is broken down into amino acids.

These amino acids are absorbed by the small intestine and transported to various parts of the body. They are then used to build or repair muscle, converted to energy through a process called gluconeogenesis, or stored as fat.

Like we discussed earlier, different types of protein are digested (absorbed) at different rates.  Concentrate and isolate forms of protein are able to be used quickly by the body, while casein and egg protein are absorbed at a slower rate.

It is important to remember that simply consuming more protein will not magically give you more muscle. Exercise combined with adequate protein intake is required to increase muscle mass.

Another myth is that consuming too much protein leads to kidney and bone damage. Some studies have shown that increased protein intake actually strengthens bones.

Who are protein supplements for?

Although adequate protein intake is important for weight loss and management, protein shakes are not typically used in the same way as meal replacement shake.

Protein shakes can be used in a variety of ways for a variety of goals but don’t provide the same nutrition as a meal replacement shake.

This is because protein shakes generally don’t have a balance of carbs, protein, and fat and are lacking in the RDA of vitamins and minerals.


If you participate in regular exercise and want to increase or maintain your lean muscle mass, a protein supplement is a great way to achieve that. You don’t have to be a bodybuilder or elite athlete to benefit from a protein supplement!

What should you look for?

There are ranges in quality when it comes to choosing a brand of protein shakes. Find companies that have reputable shakes backed by science as well as the following characteristics:

  • 20-30g of protein per serving.
  • Low amounts of carbs, fat, and sugar. The point of a protein shake is to get just that. PROTEIN.
  • Consider the type of protein, keeping in mind if you are allergic to anything, sensitive to gluten, or lactose intolerant.
  • Avoid artificial flavors, colors, preservatives, and sweeteners as much as possible.

What to Remember

In summary:

  • Meal replacement shakes make for great quick healthy meals and protein shakes are going to be your supplementation to build the body of your dreams.
  • Meal replacement shakes should have a balance of protein, carbs, and fat while providing you with essential nutrients.
  • Protein shakes should consist of primarily, if not 100% high-quality protein and are best used with exercise.

Knowledge is a major, if not THE key to success.

 Now that you know the difference between meal replacement shakes and protein shakes, you are equipped with the knowledge to succeed and achieve your goals. Check out our top-rated meal replacement shakes today for more expert advice and discover the best shake for you!