There are tons of reasons why people turn to meal replacement drinks.
Unlike fast food, meal replacement shakes contain a wide range of macronutrients, essential vitamins, antioxidants, and whey protein that can help you meet your daily nutritional needs.
Bodybuilders and strength athletes use meal replacement drinks to increase calories, grams of protein, and carbohydrates. While those focusing on weight loss use meal replacement shakes as a low-calorie alternative to a complete meal.
Whatever your reason for seeking out the best meal replacement shakes, we’ve got you covered.
Our team of in-house nutrition experts has reviewed all of the best meal replacement drinks on the market so that you quickly find the right nutritional shake for you.
Top 10 Best Meal Replacement Shakes
- Transparent Labs Mass Gainer
- SlimFast Advanced Nutrition
- IdealShape’s Ideal Shake
- 310 Meal Replacement Shake
- Orgain Organic Meal Powder
Top 6 Best Meal Replacement Shakes
Here at BigBlueTest, we compare and review all of the best meal replacement shakes so that you can make the right choice for yourself.
We test everything from taste, nutritional content, amount of carbs, protein sources, amount of sugar, through to superfood content, and the level of macro and micronutrients.
Let’s get started.
1. Ample K
Top of our best meal replacement shakes list is Ample K.
Ample K is a leading meal replacement powder that is perfect for keto dieters or anyone looking for a low-carb meal replacement drink.
It contains 400 calories per serving, including 13 grams of protein, 5g of MCTs, 10g of fiber, and only 3g of net carbs. These macronutrients are derived from high-quality sources like grass-fed whey protein and coconut oil.
Ample K delivers a wide range of macronutrients, micronutrients, amino acids, antioxidants, and essential vitamins and minerals. It also contains 6 strains of probiotics, which is 4x the volume of probiotics found in yogurt.
Don’t be put off by the 400 calories per serving. Ample K is designed to replace a complete meal completely, and it will keep you full for up to 4 hours. It also takes just 30 seconds to make and will help keep you mentally sharp and increase your weight loss capacity.
Ample K is available in four great-tasting flavors, chocolate, vanilla, berry, and vanilla cinnamon, and one canister lasts for 15 meals.
What’s more, one serving of Ample K is made up of 2 scoops, so if you want to cut the meal replacement drink down to 200 calories, use 1 scoop.
- 400 calories per serving (or take 1 scoop and make it 200 calories)
- Low-carb meal replacement shake that is high in healthy fat and protein
- It contains 20+ superfoods, including premium fats, dietary fiber, antioxidants, probiotics, and electrolytes
2. Huel Powder
Running closely behind Ample K is Huel Powder.
Huel is a high-protein vegan meal replacement shake that contains 26 essential vitamins, minerals, prebiotics, probiotics, phytonutrients, and kombucha.
It is designed to be healthy fast food that replaces a complete meal quickly and affordably so that you can smash your day and stay mentally and physically sharp.
Huel contains 26 vitamins and minerals, 29 grams of protein (plant-based), natural sources of Vitamin B and Vitamin C (derived from kombucha and berries), as well as natural probiotics.
Each Huel shake contains 400 calories, consisting of 38g of carbohydrates, 29g of protein, 13g of fat, 7g of fiber, and 3g of vitamins and minerals.
This micronutrient profile is derived from high-quality sources like oats, peas, rice, flaxseed, coconut, and sunflower.
Huel is available in 6 great flavors and an original flavor that is hugely popular with Huel customers. One bag of Huel lasts for 17 meals.
- 400 calories per serving
- 37:30:30:3 macronutrient ratio (38g of carbohydrates, 29g of protein, 13g of fat, 7g of fiber, and 3g of vitamins and minerals)
- Made from sustainable, vegan-friendly sources like oats, peas, rice, flaxseed, coconut, and sunflower
3. Transparent Labs Mass Gainer
Next on our list of the best meal replacement shakes is Transparent Labs Mass Gainer.
Like other leading mass gainers, Transparent Labs Mass Gainer is packed full of calories and delivers a large hit of macronutrients. This makes it perfect for hard-gainers or bodybuilders that are looking to increase calorie intake on the go dramatically.
Transparent Labs Mass Gainer contains 750 calories in each dietary shake, which comprises 53 grams of protein, 109 grams of carbs, and 12 grams of fat.
The carbohydrates are derived from organic tapioca, oat, and sweet potato, while the protein source is 100% grass-fed whey protein concentrate. The 12 grams of healthy fats are derived from coconut milk.
Transparent Labs Mass Gainer is the perfect meal replacement shake for anyone looking to build muscle and gain weight. It includes zero artificial sweeteners, colors, or preservatives.
One tub contains 16 servings, and there are four great flavors to choose from.
- Perfect meal replacement shake for bodybuilders and hard-gainers
- 750 calories per serving, 53 grams of protein, 109 grams of carbohydrates, 12 grams of healthy fats
- Made from grass-fed whey protein, coconut milk, and carb sources, including organic tapioca, oat, and sweet potato
4. SlimFast Advanced Nutrition
If you are looking to slim down and lose weight, then SlimFast Advanced Nutrition is a much better-suited meal replacement option for you.
It contains just 235 calories per serving and contains 26 grams of protein. It is low in carbs, fats and suitable for those following a calorie-restricted diet.
Like other SlimFast products, it is a great-tasting meal replacement shake that comes in a range of great flavors. These include raspberry crush, chocolate intensity, strawberry and blueberry, mint, and salted caramel.
If you are looking for a higher calorie alternative to a protein powder that will ensure you get enough protein without adding a large number of carbs and added sugar to your diet, SlimFast Advanced nutrition is an excellent option.
It is also packed full of antioxidants, vitamins and minerals, healthy enzymes, and amino acids.
- Perfect meal replacement shake for weight loss
- 235 calories per serving, containing 26 grams of protein
- It contains biotin, chromium, and iron to boost energy levels and to support a healthy metabolism
- Gluten-free and suitable for vegetarians
5. IdealShape’s Ideal Shake
Next on our list of the best meal replacement shakes is IdealShape’s Ideal Shake.
Like SlimFast, IdealShape is a meal replacement containing even fewer calories than other leading brands. In fact, there are just 120 calories in each serving of IdealShape and just 2 grams of sugar.
IdealShape is similar to a protein shake; it contains 11 grams of protein (5g of dietary fiber) per serving, 12 grams of carbs, and just 3 grams of healthy fat. It is designed to control hunger so that you feel fuller for longer, making it less likely that you reach for unhealthy snacks.
IdealShape mixes into a great tasting, creamy smoothie and can replace complete meals one or two times per day.
It comes in a range of great flavors like chocolate, vanilla, and strawberry. There are also 30 servings in each tub of IdealShape, making it excellent value for money.
- Ideal for anyone looking to lose weight and feel fuller for longer
- It contains 120 calories per serving, made up of 11 grams of protein, 12 grams of carbs, and 3 grams of healthy fats
- Replaces 1-2 complete meals per day and contains fewer calories than other meal replacement shakes
6. 310 Meal Replacement Shake
Next on our list of the best meal replacement drinks is the 310 Meal Replacement Shake.
If you are looking for a keto-friendly and paleo-friendly meal replacement shake, 310 offers a brilliant option. It contains a range of immune-supporting superfoods that nourish your body to support overall health.
There are only 110 calories in each serving of the 310 Meal Replacement Shake, made up of 15 grams of protein, 7g of carbs, and 2g of healthy fats.
The protein is derived from easily-digested plant-based protein sources like pumpkin, peas, and brown rice. Making 310 rich in amino acids that help to maintain energy levels throughout the day.
310 Meal Replacement Shake contains a range of superfoods like beetroot, broccoli, ginger, spinach, and turmeric, which help you pack in many of the benefits associated with the best green superfood powders.
It comes in a range of amazing flavors and mixes into a creamy meal replacement drink that can replace a couple of meals per day to ensure you consume fewer calories.
- Perfect for keto-dieters looking for a low-calorie meal replacement shake
- It contains 110 calories per serving, 15 grams of protein, 7g of carbs, and 2g of healthy fats.
- It contains a range of nutrient-rich superfoods like spinach, turmeric, and ginger.
7. Orgain Organic Meal Powder
Orgain offers another leading meal replacement drink that could easily sit higher up our list.
Orgain’s Organic Meal Powder is its flagship product; it is designed as a low-calorie all-in-one meal replacement that is gluten-free and packed full of goodness.
It contains 250 calories per serving, 16 grams of protein, 32 grams of carbs, and 7g of healthy fats. Also, Orgain contains 21 different essential vitamins and minerals and organic vegetables, and grass-fed whey protein.
Orgain offers a super affordable subscription model that costs just $19.49 for 12 shakes. There is also a range of great flavors available, including creamy chocolate fudge, sweet vanilla, cafe mocha, and strawberry and cream.
If you are looking for a clean meal replacement drink that is a great-tasting, low in calories, and well-balanced, Orgain is an affordable, high-quality option.
- Low-calorie, gluten-free meal replacement drink
- It contains 250 calories per serving, 16 grams of protein, 32 grams of carbs, and 7g of healthy fats.
- Includes 21 essential vitamins and minerals, organic fruit & veggies, and grass-fed whey protein
Best Meal Replacement Shakes Buying Guide
Now that we have covered our list of the best meal replacement shakes let’s run through some of the important questions you need to consider before you buy your next meal replacement.
We run through some of the key facts about meal replacement drinks, what sets the best meal replacements apart, and some facts on how meal replacements can replace a nutritious meal.
Let’s get started.
What Are Meal Replacement Shakes?
Meal replacement shakes are powders, milkshakes, and smoothies used to replace a nutritious meal without losing any associated health benefits.
They are calorie-dense, macronutrient rich, and often contain a broad range of essential vitamins and minerals, antioxidants, amino acids, and digestive enzymes. Some of the best meal replacements contain a rich source of superfoods and grass-fed whey protein (1).
There are several reasons why people choose to use meal replacement drinks.
- Weight Loss – the main reason that people choose to use meal replacement powders is that they allow you to restrict and control calories. The sure-fire way to lose weight is to maintain a calorie-controlled diet, which meal replacement drinks support (2).
- Weight Gain – some bodybuilders and hard-gainers use meal replacement drinks to bulk up and add muscle. It can be difficult to consume enough calories in the day to build muscle effectively (3). Some of the best meal replacement shakes are high in protein and nutrient-rich calories.
- Fast & Affordable – when you break it down, meal replacement drinks offer a very affordable way to add a meal to your busy schedule. They are also fast to make and consume, which works great if you are a busy professional.
- Control Macronutrients – it can be difficult to balance macronutrients effectively to lose weight. Meal replacements are specially formulated to include specific macronutrient blends. This makes it easy to replicate a balanced meal (4).
While meal replacements sound great on paper, there are good and bad options like anything in life. Let’s take a look at what goes into the best meal replacement powders. Including what you should look out for.
What Are Good Meal Replacement Shakes?
Finding the best meal replacement shakes isn’t always easy. The fitness and supplement industry is full of advertising and marketing slogans, making it hard to distinguish between real quality and look-a-like products.
Here are some of the things to look out for when you are picking a top meal replacement.
Depending on whether you are a meat-eater, vegetarian, vegan, or keto, you will have different preferences for each meal replacement protein source.
Many of the best meal replacements contain grass-fed whey protein, which is divided from grass-fed cattle. Likewise, the best vegan meal replacements contain high-quality plant-based protein sources from natural sources like pea protein, peanut butter, pumpkin, and brown rice.
The range of protein content in the best meal replacements also varies substantially. If you are looking for a calorie-dense protein shake with 20+ grams of protein, then some of the low-calorie meal replacement shakes won’t be for you.
Each meal replacement contains a different blend of macronutrients. Depending on your weight loss goals and wider dietary requirements, it’s important to consider the right micronutrient profile for you.
Keto-friendly meal replacements are high in healthy fats (MCTs derived from coconut oil), whereas mass gainers contain many carbs.
Generally speaking, if you are looking to lose weight, it’s important to pick a meal replacement that is high in protein and that also contains a healthy blend of carbs and fats (5).
Essential Vitamins & Minerals
Essential vitamins and minerals are vital to supporting a healthy immune system, metabolism, and cognitive performance (6).
We pick a meal replacement that contains a broad range of essential vitamins and minerals, including magnesium, zinc, calcium, potassium, and Vitamin D.
It’s important to include a healthy level of dietary fiber in your daily diet. That’s why we select meal replacement shakes that contain a rich source of dietary fiber within their carb content (7).
Clinical research has shown that adding 30g of dietary fiber into your daily nutrition helps people lose weight, maintain healthy blood sugar levels, and boost insulin resistance (8).
The best meal replacement shakes usually contain more than 5g of dietary fiber per serving.
Essential Fatty Acids
Multiple research studies have shown that multi-chain-triglycerides (MCTs) effectively combat obesity and support weight loss (9).
The best meal replacements contain healthy fats, which support the immune system, metabolism, and promote healthy skin, hair, and bones.
Many of the best meal replacement drinks contain healthy fats (MCTs) derived from coconut water. This means they contain similar health benefits to the best MCT oils.
Can You Live On Meal Replacement Shakes?
The answer to these questions varies considerably based on who you ask.
The consensus is that you should not completely rely on meal replacement shakes to maintain a healthy diet. Instead, use meal replacement shakes to replace some, but not all, meals in the day.
But there is a range of clinical research that confirms meal replacement shakes can support weight loss and combat obesity.
A research report that looked at six randomized controlled trials concluded that meal replacement drinks were effective in “safely and effectively producing significant sustainable weight loss and improved weight-related risk factors of disease” (10).
Similar studies have also shown that meal replacement drinks are more effective in combatting obesity than comparative weight loss programs and diets (11).
That means if you are looking for a way to onboard a healthy balanced mix of macronutrients in a calorie-controlled drink, then meal replacement shakes are perfectly adequate.
Just don’t use them on their own for sustained periods, as you will never be able to replace the nutritional value of a balanced meal fully. For best results, combine meal replacement shakes with a healthy diet and regular exercise.
What You Need To Know About Meal Replacement Shakes
Before you buy your next meal replacement shake, make sure you consider some of these important points.
Healthy Diet & Regular Exercise
No matter how convinced you are about meal replacement shakes, it’s vital that you only replace a certain number of your meals. Meal replacement shakes should not replace your entire diet, as this will lead to deficiencies in your diet.
To ensure you lead a healthy lifestyle that will help you lose weight and maintain a healthy body weight, you need to eat well and exercise (12).
Pick superfoods, whole foods, and high-quality protein sources that ensure you get the right amount of protein and grams of fiber in your diet.
Appetite Suppressant Qualities
If you are bodybuilding, then it won’t make sense for you to suppress your appetite. But if you are drinking meal replacement shakes to help fill you up, then you want to pick a meal replacement that is high in antioxidants, dietary fiber, and amino acids (13).
Our guide on the best appetite suppressants can help determine ways to beat unhealthy cravings.
Finally, pick a meal replacement drink that will help you achieve your target calorie intake for the day. If you have consulted with a dietitian who has advised that you restrict your calories to maintain a low-calorie diet, then pick a low-calorie meal replacement.
If you are struggling to gain weight and are adding a meal replacement shake to your diet to bulk up, then mass gainers are a much better option for you (14).
Best Meal Replacement Shakes FAQ
Here are some answers to the most commonly asked questions about meal replacement shakes before we wrap up.
What is in meal replacement shakes?
Meal replacement shakes contain a mix of macronutrients, micronutrients, essential vitamins and minerals, antioxidants, and amino acids.
These are usually derived from high-quality sources like grass-fed whey protein, plant-based protein sources, superfoods, complex carbs, and healthy fat-sources like coconuts.
How many calories are there in meal replacement drinks?
The amount of calories in a meal replacement shake varies substantially. Low-calorie meal replacements contain anywhere from 100-250 calories, while mass gainers can contain 1,000 calories.
Some top meal replacement brands like Soylent, Huel, and Ample contain around 400 calories per serving.
Are meal replacement shakes safe to drink?
Absolutely. The best meal replacements are made in FDA-approved, GMO-Certified facilities and contain only high-quality ingredients.
This means they do not contain harmful synthetics and are generally allergen-free (soy-free, dairy-free).
Always ensure that alongside meal replacement shakes, you maintain a healthy and varied diet.
Are meal replacement shakes keto-friendly and paleo-friendly?
There are some brilliant keto-friendly meal replacement shakes. Like the best keto supplements, keto-friendly meal replacements are high in healthy fats like fish oil and MCTs.
They are also high in grass-fed whey and plant-based protein sources.
Beat Meal Replacement Shakes Bottom Line
When it comes to finding the best meal replacement shakes, it’s important to have a thorough understanding of their nutritional value.
Meal replacement shakes are designed to replace a balanced meal, providing a rich blend of macronutrients, including high-quality protein sources, carbs, and healthy fats. They are also rich in antioxidants, amino acids, and essential vitamins and minerals.
Our guide has run you through everything you need to know about the best meal replacements, including what to look out for, where to buy, and which brands offer the best products.
Head up to our list of the best meal replacement shakes now to get started; we also offer tons more information on the best health supplements at BigBlueTest.
- Bowerman S. Meal replacements for weight management. Carefully chosen bars and shakes can be valuable. Adv Nurse Pract. 2006;14(8):37-65.
- Fock KM, Khoo J. Diet and exercise in management of obesity and overweight. J Gastroenterol Hepatol. 2013;28 Suppl 4:59-63. doi:10.1111/jgh.12407
- Mozaffarian D, Hao T, Rimm EB, Willett WC, Hu FB. Changes in diet and lifestyle and long-term weight gain in women and men. N Engl J Med. 2011;364(25):2392-2404. doi:10.1056/NEJMoa1014296
- Freire R. Scientific evidence of diets for weight loss: Different macronutrient composition, intermittent fasting, and popular diets. Nutrition. 2020;69:110549. doi:10.1016/j.nut.2019.07.001
- Westerterp-Plantenga MS, Lemmens SG, Westerterp KR. Dietary protein – its role in satiety, energetics, weight loss and health. Br J Nutr. 2012;108 Suppl 2:S105-S112. doi:10.1017/S0007114512002589
- Semba RD. The discovery of the vitamins. Int J Vitam Nutr Res. 2012;82(5):310-315. doi:10.1024/0300-9831/a000124
- Gołąbek KD, Regulska-Ilow B. Dietary support in insulin resistance: An overview of current scientific reports. Adv Clin Exp Med. 2019;28(11):1577-1585. doi:10.17219/acem/109976
- St-Onge MP, Jones PJ. Greater rise in fat oxidation with medium-chain triglyceride consumption relative to long-chain triglyceride is associated with lower initial body weight and greater loss of subcutaneous adipose tissue. Int J Obes Relat Metab Disord. 2003;27(12):1565-1571. doi:10.1038/sj.ijo.0802467
- Heymsfield SB, van Mierlo CA, van der Knaap HC, Heo M, Frier HI. Weight management using a meal replacement strategy: meta and pooling analysis from six studies. Int J Obes Relat Metab Disord. 2003;27(5):537-549. doi:10.1038/sj.ijo.0802258
- Astbury NM, Piernas C, Hartmann-Boyce J, Lapworth S, Aveyard P, Jebb SA. A systematic review and meta-analysis of the effectiveness of meal replacements for weight loss. Obes Rev. 2019;20(4):569-587. doi:10.1111/obr.12816
- Locke A, Schneiderhan J, Zick SM. Diets for Health: Goals and Guidelines. Am Fam Physician. 2018;97(11):721-728.
- Silverstone T. Appetite-suppressant drugs in the management of obesity: the current view. Int J Obes. 1987;11 Suppl 3:135-139.
- Helms ER, Aragon AA, Fitschen PJ. Evidence-based recommendations for natural bodybuilding contest preparation: nutrition and supplementation. J Int Soc Sports Nutr. 2014;11:20. Published 2014 May 12. doi:10.1186/1550-2783-11-20