Meal Replacement Shakes Versus Protein Shakes


It is easy to get confused when you are in the store, looking at what kind of shake you need to help you with your fitness goals. Are meal replacement shakes the same thing as a protein shake?  No, they are not.

Simplistically, a meal replacement shake is for those who are looking to lose weight.  Those looking to gain muscle should use a protein shake.  There are similarities between the two, but formulated with different goals in mind.


There is usually a big difference between the amount of grams of protein per serving between protein shakes and meal replacement shakes.  The average protein shake has about 25 grams of protein when an average meal replacement shake only has 10.  Protein shakes marketed towards body builder can have up to 40 grams per serving.  While protein is necessary for those losing weight, the extra protein has amino acids which help to build muscle.


Meal replacement shakes are intended to replace a meal.  They are usually higher in calorie content because of this.  Protein shakes are intended to be used with regular meals or in-between meals so they usually have less calories in the average serving.

While in a weight loss program, shakes can be used to help cut calories by keeping each serving around 250 to 400 calories.  The protein shakes are usually around 100 to 120 calories.  The goal of a weight loss program is to consume 500 or more calories less than the calories used over the day.


Even when you want to lose weight, a little bit of fat is necessary in one’s diet.  While protein shakes are usually under 3 grams of fat per serving, meal replacement shakes that are low-carb, have more fat per serving.  Those looking to build muscle, want to keep their fat intake to a minimum, so their muscles are not hidden by any extra stored fat.

Additionally, the higher fat in meal replacement shakes can be full of Omega 3 Fatty Acids.  The fatty acids help when it comes to both weight loss and muscle building.


Protein shakes are usually low in carbohydrates, around 5 grams per serving.  Meal replacement shakes will have more because, even on a low carbohydrate diet, some carbs are needed to keep the body healthy.  Dietary fibre can be a form of carbohydrate that can make you feel fuller and aids in digestion.  When feeling fuller, there is a lower need to eat more, therefore reducing calorie intake and helping get closer to a dieter goal.

Other Nutrients

Both protein shakes and meal replacement shakes contain other nutrients to reach their goals, but their needs are very different.  With someone who is using a protein shake, they are hopefully eating a healthy diet and getting most of their nutrition that way.  But a person using a meal replacement shake may not be getting all their needed nutrients from the other meals they do eat.  Most meal replacement shakes try to make up some of the deficit with added vitamins and minerals.  Protein shakes do contain added nutrients but not at the level of the meal replacement shake.

When choosing a shake to add to your daily diet, before you even walk in the store, take the time to determine why you need a shake and what you want it to do for you.  Evaluate your diet of what you are currently consuming and read the labels of the shakes.

There is no point taking a shake that does not do what you are expecting.  Not all shakes, both meal replacement and protein shakes, are created equal.  Read the labels and look at reviews before using your hard earned money on something that may not work for you.   Adding a shake, either as a replacement meal or one to augment your diet and enhance your workout, can be very beneficial to your personal fitness and body goals.

About The Author

Mike is one who's "been there, done that" guy. Working from home for over 10 years, he had gained over 40lbs of excess weight. He came to a realisation that his life can't go on like this anymore and it needed to change. He found CrossFit and started learning about healthy eating. Having lost all his excess body weight in the last 2 years he now regularly takes part in CrossFit competitions.

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