Meal Replacement Supplement - Shake, Drink, Bar, Powder
January 12 2016 by
Ray Sahelian, M.D.

Meal replacement shakes, drinks, and bars are becoming more popular. My personal opinion is that I prefer people eat a healthy diet of fruits and vegetables, meats, and fish that the earth provides us. However, for brief periods of time, these products could be helpful in certain people for weigh lifting and body building purposes or for those trying to lose a few extra pounds.

Weight loss with meal replacement
Clinical trials show meal replacement products to be safe when used as part of an overall low-energy diet. In certain people, a partial meal replacement diet with a shake or drink may be a viable alternative strategy to medications for weight maintenance. However, it is best to limit the use of a meal replacement diet to only a few weeks.

J Am Coll Nutr. 2015. The Effect of Protein-Enriched Meal Replacement on Waist Circumference Reduction among Overweight and Obese Chinese with Hyperlipidemia. In China, high-fat diets and excessive energy intake have led to an increasing prevalence of obesity which was previously uncommon. The current study examined the effects of meal replacement (MR) on weight control in overweight or obese Chinese individuals with hyperlipidemia. This first study of protein-enriched partial meal replacement in a free-living Chinese population suggests a new and promising strategy for reducing abdominal obesity in China.

Meal Replacement bars
Once staples of the low-carbohydrate dieter and high performance athlete, meal replacement bars have evolved into a product category fueled by consumer demand for portable meal options that combine balanced nutrition and a wider variety of flavors to suit every palate. Low-carbohydrate food bars accounted for a majority of food bar sales but consumers are now seeking bars with a complete nutritional balance of calories, fat carbohydrates and protein. Other trends making an impact on this category include whole grains, fiber, low sugar and glycemic index. Many food bar manufacturers and formulators have responded to consumer demand with bars that taste almost candy-like, while still providing a balanced amount of protein, carbohydrates and fats, in addition to healthy ingredients like vitamins and minerals. The bar market is fueled by an influx of new companies and products offering myriad varieties, from traditional granola and breakfast bars to high-tech, motivational diet bars and nutrient-packed power bars. Typical bar consumers include children, women, ethnic consumers, young adults, health aficionados and time-trapped business executives.

Int J Food Sci Nutr. 2004. Short-term hunger intensity changes following ingestion of a meal replacement bar for weight control. Meal replacement products for weight loss are popular and safe for most unsupervised consumers desiring to lose weight. Previously we reported that the thickness of meal replacement diet shakes had a direct and significant effect on hunger intensity during the first 2 h and that hunger intensity scores for liquid meal replacements were significantly below baseline for 3 h following consumption (Mattes & Rothacker, 2001) This study uses the same protocol to investigate meal replacement bars designed for overweight consumers. Subjects were prescreened to include only those that normally ate breakfast and liked chocolate. The bar used in this study contained 250 calories (about 30 more than most liquid diet shakes), 4 g dietary fiber, 14 g protein and 8 g fat. Subjects were instructed to consume the entire bar with a glass of water following an overnight fast when they would normally consume their first meal of the day and to assess their hunger on a 1 (not hungry at all) to 9 (as hungry as I have ever felt) scale before consumption, immediately after and hourly for 6 h (only on typical weekdays). Similar assessments were made for the perception of stomach fullness (1=empty, 9=extremely full), strength of the desire to eat (1=no desire, 9=extremely strong) and thirst (1=not at all thirsty, 9=extremely thirsty). One-hundred and eight subjects (23 male and 85 female) completed the study. No gender satiety differences were found. Hunger ratings and desire to eat remained significantly below baseline for 5 h following consumption. Stomach fullness scores were significantly above baseline for 5 h. Thirst scores were significantly below baseline for 3 h. In conclusion, although the meal replacement diet bars contained only 30 additional calories than liquids, they provided an additional 2 h of hunger suppression from baseline that may have an impact on overall weightloss success. These results support superior short-term hunger control with solid meal replacements.

Q. Are meal replacement shakes a good idea? I ask as a (wannabe) recreational bodybuilder, and as someone who is interested in actually being healthy, not just having big muscles. Do meal replacement shakes really adequately nourish the body; for example, I tend to think that some, especially many marketed for bodybuilders, actually contain alot of sugar to make up for calories. So are they adequately nourishing, and are they actually as filling as they should be? What would you suggest a person should look for when selecting a good meal replacement (MRP)?
     A. There are countless different meal replacement products on the market and it is difficult to make a generalization that would apply to all these products, but, as a rule, many of them lack fiber, have too much sugar, and are too calorie dense.

Q. Can a diabetic use meal replacement shake?
     A. As long as the sugar content of the meal replacement shake, drink or, bar is low, a meal replacement diet is a viable strategy for weight reduction in patients with diabetes.

Q. What is the best meal replacement supplement?
     A. This is difficult to say, but as a rule look for a product that does not have too much sugar.

Q. I have a meal replacement bar that says there is creatine in it. Do you think this creatine could be helpful?
     A. Most likely the amount of creatine in the bar is not that high, but if it has more than a quarter of a gram, it could be helpful.

Q. In my meal replacement shake i see there is lipoic acid and coq10. Are these good nutrients?
     A. Yes, these two nutrients are healthy.

Q. Which protein meal replacement shake or diet is preferable, soy or whey?
     A. In one study, soy meal replacement shake or drink, as part of a low-energy diet, is associated with slightly but not significantly greater weight loss over a 12-week period than milk meal replacement use.

Do you have a meal replacement product? Preferably similar if not better than Herbalife's Formula 1?
   Not at this time, I prefer people eat whole foods.