Can I replace meals with protein shakes? | Learn: Your Fitness Business Resource

Can I replace meals with protein shakes?

Tyler Spraul is the director of UX and the head trainer for He has his Bachelor of Science degree in pre-medicine and is an NSCA-certified strength and conditioning specialist. He is a former All-American soccer player and still coaches soccer today. In his free time, he enjoys reading, learning, and living the dad life. He has been featured in Shape, Healthline, HuffPost, Women's...

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UPDATED: Aug 25, 2020

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  • Although effective for weight loss, you should not replace all your meals with protein shakes.
  • Protein shakes are intended to supplement the diet plans of athletes, not as meal replacements.
  • If you do choose to use protein shakes as meal replacements, make sure you are at least eating one healthy meal a day in addition to your protein shake regimen.
Replacing your meals with protein shakes may be proven effective for weight loss, but it is not safe to replace all your meals with protein shakes due to the lack of vitamins and nutrients in each serving.

Instead of replacing three meals a day with protein shakes, replace two meals and have one low-calorie meal that includes your daily requirement of essential nutrients.

Rather than replacing meals wholesale, protein shakes are more often used by athletes to supplement their workout diets.

They are great to consume before or after a workout to either increase or replace the nutrients and calories burned during a workout.

Of course, supplementation is only one part of a healthy lifestyle. Exercise is even more important. Go PRO today for access to certified personal trainers, workout plans, and more. 

What Are Meal Replacements?

Meal replacements are a lower-calorie, smaller portion of a meal that may be reduced into the size of a protein drink, a protein bar, or even a wrap or sandwich.

Meal replacements are more or less half the size and calorie intake you would typically consume for a regular meal.

Meal replacements have been proven to help people lose weight, however, the nutrients and calories that are included do not necessarily meet the requirements of a daily percentage.

Why Can’t You Safely Replace All Meals With Protein Drinks?

Depending on the protein drink, the amount of calories you intake from one single protein drink is typically fewer than 400 calories. Consuming 1200 calories a day would be beneficial if you are aiming to lose weight, but you still burn energy by completing everyday activities.

Therefore, although you are consuming 1200 calories, you probably burn at least a quarter of those calories in your everyday activities, if not more.

So the simplest reason, upfront, why you shouldn’t replace all your meals with protein shakes is that protein shakes simply don’t have enough calories, as this video explains:

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Replacing breakfast, lunch, and dinner with a protein shake may be an option for a couple of days a week, but it should not be your plan for seven days a week.

If you replace every meal of every day with a protein drink, the number of nutrients you receive will not be efficient enough to remain healthy.

If you look at the nutrition label for one of your protein packets, you will see that an average protein drink includes around 240 calories, 2 grams of fat, 40 grams of carbohydrates, 25 grams of sugar, and 9 grams of protein.

Although some protein drinks include nutrients and vitamins you receive when you eat fruits and vegetables, you are not getting the natural source of nutrients that are consumed when eating these pertinent foods in your daily diet.

Also, the amount of sugar in protein drinks is too high when you consider what you would normally consume in a healthy, well-balanced meal.

When replacing meals with protein shakes, you replace the nutrients of regular fruits and vegetables in your diet by basically eating one or two bags of candy per day.

The healthy alternative for protein shake meal replacement would be to include more fruits and vegetables in your diet rather than add an extra protein drink.

When Is It Okay to Replace a Meal With a Protein Drink?

Although it is not safe to replace every single meal with protein drinks, you can incorporate protein drinks into your diet in order to contribute to weight loss and protein intake.

Protein shakes are a good addition to your diet, especially for athletes.

If you are an athlete replacing a light meal with a protein shake before practice or a game — that is okay. However, if you are an athlete replacing all of your meals with protein shakes and then exercising twice a day, you are endangering your health.

If you are trying to lose weight, the number of calories you need to intake in your daily percentage must be 500 fewer than you usually consume in order to lose one pound a week.

Therefore, if you typically eat 2,500 calories a day and you eat 2,000 calories the next day, consistently, you will lose one pound a week.

Initially, if you would like to replace your breakfast and lunch with a protein shake, and have a low-calorie dinner that is rich in essential nutrients, that would be a safer alternative.

Or, for example, if you replace breakfast with a protein shake and eat smaller, lower-calorie portions for lunch and dinner, you will more than likely lose weight while continuing to remain healthy.

There are meal plan alternatives that allow you to consume the right amount of daily nutrients and vitamins you need.

And if getting healthy and losing weight is your goal, check out our PRO plan today to see how we can help you stay motivated and focused on a fitness program all year long!

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