Why are people increasingly adding meal replacement products to their diets?

A diet consisting of proper, nutritious meals with plenty of fruits, vegetables and lean protein will generally be the best way to go about structuring your food intake, especially for weight loss. However, this is easier said than done; it can be very confusing to those just beginning their weight loss journeys, and hard to manage if you have any specific requirements. If you’re busy rushing about doing the hundred-and-one daily things that modern life demands of us, meal replacement products can be a great way to stay on track in a fast and convenient manner.

In today’s marketplace, nutritious, tasty meal replacement bars and shakes are easy to find and can be tailored to pretty much any dietary need and requirement.

What are meal replacements?

Meal replacement products come in many shapes and sizes but are generally bars or drinks. They will be replacements for solid meals with controlled calories, portion sizes and macro- and micro-nutrient values.1 Often, gym-goers and athletes will use high protein shakes or bars, using ingredients like whey or soya, to get their daily protein intake up to appropriate levels.2 Those on calorie restricted, weight loss diets will often have meal replacement drinks that come fortified with a complete range of vitamins and minerals, which would otherwise be hard to consume on such a low-calorie diet. They are a handy, stress-free way to get a meal in that you know will fit with your dietary plan, without having to go through the hassle of preparing it yourself.

How do they work?

Meal replacements are carefully formulated to have their micronutrients (vitamins and minerals), macronutrients (carbs, fat, protein) and overall kilojoule/calorie (energy) content controlled.3 They are usually designed with either weight loss or weight gain in mind. They are incredibly useful, hence their surge in popularity in recent years.

The low-calorie diet

As a weight loss tool, meal replacement products give you all the micronutrients you need, allow for rapid weight loss as you cut a good few hundred calories out of your daily intake (often even up to a thousand) and conserve lean body mass (muscles and organs) by giving you appropriate protein portions.4 Essentially, they try to give you as much protein and as large a volume of micronutrients as possible for the fewest calories.

As with any diet that utilizes an energy deficit, meal replacements allow you to live on fewer calories going in than your body uses in its daily functions. Most people need between 1800-2500 calories per day to maintain their current weight (dependant on body mass and physical demands.) On a low-calorie diet, you will want to be on more like 1000-1500 calories per day. This is usually the equivalent of a full cooked meal and 2-3 meal replacement bars or shakes. A daily deficit of 500 calories will enable you to lose 1lb/week; low-calorie diets typically aim at 2-3lbs/week.5

The high-calorie diet

Athletes and bodybuilders typically need in excess of 3,500 calories per day. Brian Shaw, the world’s strongest man, often eats up to 10,000 calories! For people with demanding lifestyles or physical jobs or those who train regularly, 5-6 meals a day can be normal as they try to achieve these kinds of targets. Obviously, it’s hard to find the time to make and sit and eat this amount of food. People in this situation will usually take a couple of their meals each day in the form of meal replacement products.6As well as this, a typical weight lifter or sprinter will need about 1.5g of protein per kilogram of bodyweight. For Usain Bolt, this means nearly 150g per day. This is a hard goal to consistently meet without relying on a couple of high protein meal replacements every day.7

Therefore, if you have any kind of caloric or nutrient demand above and beyond the normal, meal replacements will be one of your most viable options for hitting your targets.

Why you should consider meal replacement products

If any of the above scenarios sounds familiar to you, you should definitely try using meal replacement products. Meal replacements have truly entered the mainstream, with a proliferation of companies selling products with any range of dietary functions. They will give you a nutritional boost without being too calorically weighty, and they are just about the most convenient way to meet your nutritional demands.

  1. Zelman, K. M. (n.d.). Meal Replacements: Choose Those Bars and Drinks Carefully. Retrieved from
  2. What are ways to get protein on the go? (n.d.). Retrieved from
  3. Willis, O. (2018, May 09). Do meal replacement shakes help you lose weight? Retrieved from
  4. Dowell, M. (2018, October 03). Do Meal Replacement Shakes Really Work? Retrieved from
  5. The best ways to cut calories from your diet. (2018, March 28). Retrieved from
  6. Katherine Zeratsky, R. (2017, August 31). Underweight? Healthy tips for adding pounds. Retrieved from
  7. What are ways to get protein on the go? (n.d.). Retrieved from
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