Usually, the protein and meal replacement shakes are considered as the same product when it comes to workout diets. Nevertheless, on close examination of these terms, we can claim that they have differences. Both of them are supplements made of whole foods and natural ingredients, which sometimes also contain fortified and artificial components. The intended purpose of both protein and MR shakes is to support the composition of your body and to provide energy and nutrients to your organs.
Despite of the similar performance goals and same general characteristics, these supplements do have sizable differences in benefits and nutritional qualities. The market of diet supplements is overfilled with different brands, which have various nutritional specifications. Therefore, it is rather complicated to answer the question what is more appropriate to your workout diet or training program — a meal replacement or protein shake.
In any case, when choosing any of these supplements, it is recommended to look at the reviews available online and to consult a physician prior to consumption, because some of the diet products may cause unwanted side effects.
So, the main differences between MR and protein shakes are associated with the following:
The typical content of protein in protein shakes amounts to 25 grams per serving. The meal replacement products provide different protein values. Actually, the meal replacements may have various use purposes, according to which the amount of protein may be different. For example, the MR shakes for general health may have low amount of protein – up to 10 grams. Meanwhile, the content of protein in MR products intended for dieting and muscle building may reach 40 grams. Protein is a key ingredient for muscle building, providing the required amino acids, however, it is also beneficial for losing weight purposes. You may find many studies and researches, which explain how the diets with high level of protein promote losing more fat and weight if compared with other diet programs.
Protein shakes are not intended to have a high caloric content and to be more nourishing as the meal replacements are. Despite the fact that MR products contain larger amount of calories, the complete foods are still higher in calories than MR supplements, which is favorable for dieting. The protein shakes with the lowest caloric content (101 calories) contain whey protein isolate. The average energy value of protein shakes is about 120 calories, while this value in the meal replacements usually varies from 250 to 400.
The fat amount in protein shakes typically does not exceed 3 grams. The MR shakes have different situation. If the carbohydrates content of meal replacements is low, then the fat content is high. Such MR supplements are usually used in the diets with low carbohydrates content. And vice versa, the shakes with higher carbohydrate content have less fat.
Protein shakes are not intended to act as full meals, therefore, the typical carbohydrate content is less than 5 grams. The purpose of MR shakes is to approach to the nutritional value of a complete food, therefore the carbohydrates content is higher. In addition, the MR shakes, which are beneficial for diet purposes, contain dietary fiber, which helps consuming fewer amount of calories due to the improved digestion and filling properties.
Vitamins and Minerals
As a rule, the protein shakes contain no added minerals and vitamins except for those contained in the protein source. E.g., shakes with whey protein are rich in calcium. At the same time, we can’t say the all meal replacement products are fortified with vitamins and minerals, since everything depends on the brand.