Let’s use an example - a guy wanting to build muscle, but has a full-time job mon-fri. A common problem would be not being able to get hold of a fresh meal, with enough calories in throughout the day (that hits their needed macros), and that's where meal replacements are great. It's easy to take a shaker with the powder into work and just add water or milk. They also come in handy for people who struggle to put on size.
Some meal replacements are cheap and cheap for a reason - they are made with more fats (usually not good fats!) and carbs (more sugar than complex carbs), with less protein. That's not what you need. You want a good balance of protein, carbs and fats. Depending on your requirements, the ratios can be different. On average, a good meal replacement shake would have around 30-40g protein, 50-60g carbs and 5-15g fats (good fats!).
As I always say, try your best to get your calories from real food before turning to shakes. However, if you are in the position of not being able to get fresh food, then a shake is the next best thing.
Some people seem to rely on these shakes and neglect real food, and that's a waste of time and money. Yes, the shakes contain protein, carbs and fats, but that's it usually. If you have a fresh, healthy meal containing protein, carbs and fats, it will also contain a lot of other vitamins and minerals (which you don't have in the shakes). Try and stick to whole food where possible, but if you need help with your calorie intake, then go for a shake, but check out the ingredients of them.
There are 'diets' out there that are literally 3 shakes a day, and that's it! That is just insane, a waste of time and money, and a con. If you do that, you may well lose weight, but it’s not going to be mainly fat that you’re losing, and as soon as you start eating food again, the weight will come back. A meal replacement shake 'diet' is not sustainable, so there’s not much point in starting one. Stick to healthy, fresh nutrition, as that is sustainable and does work long term.
Meal replacement shakes can be a great ‘tool’ to use in your diet. If you know you’re going to have a hectic day, then taking a meal replacement can ensure you’re getting nutrients even when you can’t get a whole food meal. Just make sure you do your research and consider the nutritional information before you buy one.
Feel free to check out our ‘Total Muscle Meal’.