Meal Replacement vs Protein Shake

Today, protein shakes and meal replacement smoothies are two of the products most widely consumed for health & fitness, however, they are usually confused. 

Meal Replacement vs Protein Shake

Yet, knowing how to distinguish the two is very important, as they have different goals. Protein shakes are for fitness and building strength in tandem with exercise, while meal replacement is more often used for weight loss. 

Meal Replacement vs Protein Shake: Which One Is Better?

Neither a meal replacement shake nor a protein shake is better than the other. Both of these are used for different purposes. 

Calorie intake and a lack of physical activity have caused a great deal of the population in the U.S. to suffer from obesity. These two different drinks can help to facilitate a healthier lifestyle or weight loss, but they help in different ways. 

You could use these beverages to help you adapt to a better diet, by consuming fewer calories through meal replacement shakes. However, alternatively, you could hit the gym and use protein shakes to help you gain muscle, and fill up on healthier calories. 

So many people tend to struggle to make good food choices, often due to increased portions, a lack of time, a need to eat outside of their home, and the availability and convenience of high-energy but less-nutrient-based foods being excessive. 

What Is A Meal Replacement Shake?

protein shake

Meal replacement shakes should not be mixed up with protein shakes, juices, or smoothies. Meal replacement shakes are products that are used to replace meals with fluids that contain useful nutritional content. 

These are most often used for weight loss, weight maintenance, and helping to manage one’s appetite.

Alternatively, protein shakes are often intended to deliver protein and increase the amount of protein in the diet, they are not for replacing meals and are usually instead used as an addition to a workout routine.

What Makes Up Meal Replacement?

Meal replacement shakes contain more nutrients but fewer calories, to replace a meal. They craft a calorie deficit to help better weight management habits. 

Meal replacement shakes often contain more protein, vitamins, and minerals, and fewer fats. They contain the positive and useful nutrients our bodies need but will have fewer calories than we usually ingest when we eat a meal. This means that our bodies are nourished but are not burdened by overly-calorific foods. 

High-protein meal replacement shakes are very often favored, as are high-fiber shakes. 

Protein And Fiber In Meal Replacement Shakes

Since protein and fiber are two of the most present nutrients in meal replacement shakes, let us take a look at just how they work and benefit the body in this way.


  • Protein helps you feel more full. You will feel more full of protein than fats or carbohydrates.
  • Protein is also digested slower than carbs, meaning it is in the GI tract for longer helping you feel more full. 
  • Soy-based food is a great source of good protein, but it is also a source of fiber too. 
  • Plant and animal-based proteins have a similar effect on your appetite.


  • Fiber fills your stomach, which makes your brain think it is time to stop eating, cutting down on your appetite. 
  • Fiber can slow down how long it takes for food to pass to the stomach and the small intestine. It will slow down how fast your stomach absorbs glucose into your bloodstream, which makes you feel more full for a longer period. 
  • To move fiber through your digestive system, you do need to drink more water. So not only does fiber inspire you to get more hydration, but, it also helps fight off hunger as thirst and hunger are often confused with one another.

What is The Difference Between A Meal Replacement And a Protein Shake? 

While these two shakes are quite alike, they are different in their goals and how they are composed on a nutritional level. Protein-based drinks are used for athletic improvement or gaining muscle, while meal replacement is often used for weight management

If you confuse the two, it could mess up your workouts or weight control. 

Let’s look at how you can better understand these two drinks.

Meal Replacement

  • Meal replacement shakes are there to substitute between 1 and 2 meals per day.
  • These beverages are often improved with minerals and vitamins.
  • They provide protein, but less than protein shakes.
  • They are higher in carbs and fiber than protein shakes.
  • They can have more calories than a protein shake but have fewer calories than a meal.

Protein Shakes

  • You add these into your diet alongside meals, not replacing them.
  • They often contain 25 grams of protein in each serving.
  • They are used before or after workouts.
  • Often they will have less than 5 grams of carbs. 
  • They usually do not have any added minerals or vitamins, other than what comes with the source of protein. 


Meal Replacement Shakes Vs Protein Shakes For Weight Loss?

A meal replacement shake is intended for weight loss. They give you nutrition like meals do, but come with fewer calories. Protein shakes are not intended for weight loss and are more targeted toward workouts and athletes.

Does Replacing A Meal With A Protein Shake Help You Lose Weight?

No. Protein shakes are not intended to be used as meal replacements. This is because they help you add bulk, but if the protein consumed is not used, it can turn into fat.

Can I Use Protein Shake As a Meal Replacement?

You should not use protein shakes as meal replacement shakes, especially for weight loss goals, as they can increase weight. Use meal replacement shakes for this.

Is It Better To Have A Meal Replacement Or Protein Shake After A Workout?

Protein shakes are there to be used after workouts to help you build muscle and improve your energy. So, use a protein shake rather than a meal replacement shake.

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