Changing consumer lifestyles have been behind the recent growth of the meal replacement market. Health conscious people have gravitated towards healthier convenient foods. Things they can eat when out of home which aren't full of additives and added sugar. Foods which can help to control weight, increase vitamin and mineral levels and help to target nutritional shortfalls in order to stay healthy.
What's the difference between meal replacements for weight control, a meal replacement shake for weight loss and a diet shake? Those delicious flavours like salted caramel and chocolate mint have a load of added sugars don't they? How do you choose the best meal replacement option for you?
In this blog we're going to take a look at what meal replacement shakes are, how meal replacement shakes work, health claims meal replacement shakes can make, diet shakes, how they differ from protein shakes and give you an brief rundown of common ingredients you should get familiar with.
What are meal replacement shakes?
A meal replacement shake needs to conform to nutritional guidelines regarding protein, essential vitamins and minerals, fibre and fat. The nutrients they provide means if a person were to replace meals with real food with a meal replacement shake they would get their nutritional needs met.
How do meal replacements work?
A meal replacement shake works by helping you to burn more calories than you consume to support weight loss by restricting calories while delivering all the key nutrients you need. The balance of protein, carbohydrate, fat and fibre in a meal replacement is key to regulating digestion.
Most meal replacements are used to replace breakfast, lunch or dinner, generally for a maximum of two meals a day. They work by helping you to achieve and stay in a calorie deficit when used as part of an energy restricted diet. Unless under medical supervision, surviving solely on meal replacements isn't encouraged.
What is the difference between meal replacement shakes and protein shakes?
Meal replacement shakes are designed to replace a full meal and contain quality balanced nutrition, a blend of protein, carbohydrates, fats, vitamins, and minerals in a drinkable format.
Protein shakes are a protein supplement and are used to supplement a diet for the purpose of building and repairing muscles. Protein shakes are generally used to support an active or athletic lifestyle. They don't provide essential vitamins, minerals and nutrients found in a meal replacement shake.
Ready-to-drink meal replacement shakes
Typically come in a plastic bottle and don't need any liquid added before you drink them. Examples of these include plant based Y Food shake and Huel. Shelf life on these varies from 8 -12 months. Opened bottles up to 12 hours.
Powder based meal replacements
Powder based replacements are usually sold in tubs or pouches and need to be blended or shaken with liquid before consuming. Simply mix with water or milk. Usually within 3 hours to consume them at their best. The powder itself can last between 12 and 18 months on average depending on manufacturer.
Taste, texture and calorie content of meal replacement shakes
Flavours and taste also vary hugely when it comes to meal replacements shakes. There is a great choice of tasty flavours with old favourites like vanilla, banana shake, strawberry shake and chocolate shake to much more adventurous flavours like salted caramel, chocolate peanut butter, coconut and white chocolate shakes.
Most meal replacements have the same creamy drinkable format, like a milkshake. This means you drink them more slowly - they're a meal not a drink!- and the protein in them helps to fill you up.Protein and satiety (feeling full) is consider an unapproved health claim, but it is a scientific fact that proteins are the most effective macronutrient at signalling the feeling of fullness.
Calories in a meal replacement can vary from a low calorie meal replacement 'for weight control', ( under 250 calories) to meal replacements with 400+ calories which can be incorporated into a daily regime in place of real food but aren't specifically formulated to support fat loss.
TDR - Low-energy Total Diet Replacement (TDR) programmes
This is where you replace all your meals with a number of formula products such as soups shakes and bars. They provide between 800 and 1200kcal per day and all the key nutrients you need. The goal is weight reduction. TDR programmes can be followed for periods up to three months UNDER SUPERVISION. TDR programmes require regular, qualified counselling individually or in groups while on the diet.
Vegan meal replacement shakes
You may be a person who chooses not to eat animal based produce or you may react to dairy. Vegan meal replacement shakes are plant based, made with plant based protein such as pea protein isolate, brown rice or hemp protein instead of whey protein or animal based protein.
What are the benefits of meal replacements?
Meal Replacements from responsible manufacturers are safe, deliver on nutrition, cost-effective, comply with applicable legislation and have a proven track record of helping people lose excess pounds/kilos and maintain the loss so they remain in a healthy range.
There is increasing evidence regarding the efficacy meal replacements for controlling weight and as a consequence managing the risk of cardiovascular disease and diabetes.In some cases helping to reverse diabetes.
- Convenient - can be mixed and ready to drink in seconds - so making bad food choices when hungry can be avoided
- Fat loss - safe weight loss can range between 1lb and 4lbs per week ( depending on size) and there is evidence that a meal replacement diet plan is more successful at doing this compared to a calorie restricted food-based diet plan.
- Cost Effective - range between £2.50- £4.00 per meal.
- Portable - prep and drink them anywhere
- Meal replacement programs have also shown improvements in blood glucose and insulin levels in participants as well as body weight reduction
- Easy to stick to - meal replacement programs can fit into most daily routines.
Can you lose weight with meal replacement shakes?
Yes, however they aren't a magic bullet. Meal replacement shakes will only help you to shed fat when used with an energy restricted diet which keeps you in a calorie deficit. If the sum your calories from the meal replacement shake and your other meals still equate to more calories than you are burning for energy per day you won't be successful. Exercising regularly should be part of your program.
It’s recommended that you do at least 150 minutes of moderate intensity or 75 minutes of intense exercise per week. Moderate exercise would be brisk walking or gentle cycling. Intense exercise is when you get out of breath like swimming or running.
Do you need to lose weight?
How much a person should weigh isn't an exact science. There is no sure measurement, that includes body mass index (BMI), or others that can tell us what each person needs to weigh to be healthy, only references.
The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence suggests using both the BMI calculators and your waist measurement to see if you fall within a healthy weight range.
Measure your waist
Based on NICE 2022 guidelines, to be a healthy, an adults waist measurement should be less than half of their height. Waist circumference measures fat around your middle. Too much fat around the abdomen is associated with health risks like type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, strokes and heart disease.
Find your BMI
Adjust your calorie intake
According to the NHS, One pound of fat contains 3,500 calories so cutting your calorie intake by 500 calories per day on average, should see a healthy weight loss 1 pound per week. The calorie intake recommended for menopausal women is 1800. To see a healthy weight loss your daily calorie goal should be around 1300 calories per day.
What are meal replacements for weight control?
Governed by European Legislation
Meal replacements for weight control are formulated to comply with specific requirements regarding energy content, fat content and composition, amino acid content, nutrients content and protein content/composition.
The guidelines for meal replacements are governed by European legislation and relevant international and national standards. Meal replacement products are regulated under general food law and are also regulated by EU provisions
Meal replacements for weight control intended for partial replacement of the diet’ are products presented as a replacement for one or two of the main meals of the daily diet. The legal name under which the product is sold should be: ‘Meal replacement for weight control’.
Can make permitted health claims
They are defined within the framework of the Nutrition and Health Claims Regulation as published in Commission Regulation (EU) 2016/1413 of 24 August 2016 amending Regulation (EU) 432/2012 establishing a list of permitted health claims made on foods.
Only the products meeting the criteria defined by the EU regulation can:
- Make a weight loss and/or weight maintenance claim
- Use the term Meal replacement for weight control as legal name
Cause and effect relationship established with weight loss
The European Food Safety Authority found that a cause and effect relationship had been established between the consumption of meal replacements in substitution of regular meals and the maintenance of body weight after weight loss and also between the consumption of meal replacements in substitution of regular meals in the context of energy restricted diets and reduction in body weight.
To sum up meal replacements for weight control
A meal replacement shake for weight control has strict nutritional guidelines it has to adhere to so they can make the claim for weight loss or weight maintenance because it has been accepted by the EFSA that taking them as part of an energy restricted diet produces those results.
What is a diet or weight loss meal replacement shake?
Diet meal replacement shakes are calorie controlled meal replacement shakes. These formula foods are nutritionally balanced with minerals, high quality protein, essential vitamins, fats, fibre and other nutrients. They are formulated to replace meals to facilitate optimal weight loss as part of a calorie controlled diet.
While the legislative framework around meal replacements is set, it is fairly wide and open to interpretation. For example, the protein levels can be anything from 25% - 50% of the energy content of the food. This is quite a high level of variation. At Eve Biology we are aimed to create and deliver a scientifically supported product which would deliver results.
In saying that, if you know how much weight you want or need to lose, how to balance your protein, carbs and fat intake and know which ingredients work for you, they can help you reduce your calorie intake effectively while keeping you feeling full.
How to choose (and use) meal replacement shakes
When it comes to choosing the right meal replacement for you, that depends on your personal goals, the macronutrient balance, and the ingredient profile.
If your goal is to lose weight by using a meal replacement program then meal replacements for weight control, diet shakes and weight loss shakes are the obvious category for a weight loss journey.
These types of replacements tend to have a calorie limit of 250 calories per meal and can help you to maintain a balanced diet while watching calories. If your goal is convenience, time saving or a more balanced nutritional intake, then 400+ calories are an option.
A meal replacement shake can be fortified with additional ingredients to support health goals as well as fat loss, dealing up key vitamins and minerals, fibre, adaptogens, plants and herbs.
These are nutrients that your body requires in large amounts for development and normal growth — which are carbohydrates, fats and proteins - the basic components of every diet. Micronutrients are vitamins and minerals.
If we think of food macronutrients as different shaped objects in a child’s game, trying to fit a round peg into a square hole, if all the food is the same, eg all round pegs, getting them all through the board is easy.Mix them up with square pegs, it slows everything down as you test each one.Getting the balance of macronutrients right so they deliver the right consumer experience as well as nutrient absorption is key to formulating a meal replacement shake. No easy feat!
Common ingredients found in meal replacement shakes
Top Tip - If you're in the EU or the UK when you read ingredients - they are listed in the order from the most dominant ingredient first to the ingredient with the smallest amount listed last.Often this will be protein.
Allergens will always be in BOLD and can include Gluten, Soy, Sesame, Dairy, Whey, Eggs, Nuts, Fish.
The amounts of some ingredients per 100g dictate whether they can be identified as 'low sugar' 'high protein' or 'high fibre' so if you know you need specifics to balance your diet this can help narrow down your choices. The flavour profiles of meal replacement shakes have improved a lot over the last few years. While they are rarely delicious they tend to taste pretty good!<
Popular ingredients you'll see which give a meal replacement shake that delightful creamy drink like constancy - otherwise known as 'mouth feel' and fire up your energy and satisfaction factors.
- Whey protein is a byproduct of cheese production. It is the protein made from from whey, the watery portion of animal milk that separates from the curds when making cheese. It's used in all kinds of protein supplements , shakes and meal replacements.
- Tapioca Flour - popular in meal replacements and shakes. Derived from cassava roots, gluten free, a very pure form of starch and often used to thicken shakes.
- Maltodextrin - a white, starchy powder some meal replacements and shakes have which can help to improve their flavour, thickness, or shelf life.
- Caffeine - often included to stimulate brain function and increase alertness and concentration - like a coffee high
- Sucralose - a zero-calorie sweetener used to provide a satisfying sweet taste.
- Dextrose - the name of a simple sugar made from corn or wheat that’s chemically identical to blood sugar or glucose.
Eve Biology Meal Replacement For Weight Control
Eve Biology meal replacement shakes are not your average meal replacement. Formulated specifically for women over 40, they also target menopause symptoms of brain fog, anxiety, fatigue, bloating, constipation and sleep disruption by helping to restore the balance between the gut, the hormones and the metabolism. 3 flavours, chocolate, vanilla and strawberry.
Made to European Food Safety Authority specifications, low calorie and 100% plant based, the addition of herbal adaptogens Ashwagandha and Ginkgo Biloba, and a prebiotic fibre help to target low oestrogen symptoms.
The specialised fibre has been clinically proven to increase good gut bacteria which in turn supports hormone regulation and lowers glycemic response (high blood sugar is a challenge in menopausal women)and boosts immunity.
Plant Based Protein
Protein plays an important role in our daily wellbeing. Firstly, stored protein is muscle. Stored carbohydrate and fat is fat.Maintaining muscle mass is important – especially as we get older as we natural lose about 1% of muscle mass per year as we age.
When we think of weight loss, we really want to lose fat, not muscle. So, supporting our muscles and muscle mass is key to Eve Biology’s end goal of creating an energised, balanced and vibrant you.
Protein is essential for hormone production for most hormones including oestrogen. Hormone production is what women are struggling with during menopause. Supporting what hormone production you have is key.
Eve Biology have been formulated to be taken for breakfast and lunch with over 100% NRV levels of vitamin K, C, folic acid, iron and zinc based on two shakes per day as well as calcium, vitamin D, vitamins B6 an B12. Each meal replacement shake is 209 calories which leaves a healthy daily calorie goal of 880 for dinner and snacks.
Protein supports intestinal regeneration
Obviously, proteins are used for wound healing and tissue growth. Whilst wound healing created new tissue, scar tissue, regeneration is where old cells are replaced by ones that are exactly the same but younger. While the obvious signs of this are growth of hair and nails, the most important process, which is not visible to us, is in regenerating the intestine, which happens every three to five days. We tend to forget how hostile the digestive tract is. It is there to digest everything in our body, so maintaining this function properly is essential for our general wellbeing and being able to digest and absorb nutrients on a day to day basis.
Slow digesting complex carbohydrates
The ingredients profile of Eve Biology meal replacements has been chosen to work around the needs of women with lower levels of oestrogen which has ruled out some of the more common ingredients found in other shakes. Tapioca flour and maltodextrin can cause sugar spikes, something women in menopause should try to avoid). Caffeine is associated with making menopause symptoms of hot flashes and anxiety worse
This is also the reason why the meal replacements are allergen free. Women in menopause can develop food allergies which includes dairy.
The bottom line
When it comes to choosing the meal replacement, you are spoilt for choice with a lot of options on the market. At the end of the day you need to have some clear benchmarks re your weight loss goals and what your calorie intake needs to be if you choose to embark on a meal replacement shake program.
Your selection also depends on your life stage. High levels of carbohydrates and caffeine may may not work as well for you now as they did before.