Getting proper nutrition throughout the day is critical to your health. Whether you are doing that through your diet or supplementation, you want to make sure you are consuming the right amount of protein, healthy fats, vitamins, minerals, and carbs (yes, carbs) every day. This is especially true if you are physically active and exercising regularly as the body needs the right nutrition to build muscle. If you are exercising without eating right, you will end up feeling sluggish and will severely limit the gains you make in the gym.
If you are struggling to get all the proper nutrition from your diet, you can add in meal replacement shakes. While meal replacement shakes are not a complete substitute for other kinds of food, they are a perfectly healthy way to “fill in the gaps” or your diet. If you are considering buying a meal replacement shakes, here are some of the ingredients you should look for.
Above all else, your meal replacement shake should include protein. Anywhere from 10 to 30 grams of protein is acceptable. Anything more than 30 grams is probably unnecessary, and anything less than 10 is not enough.
Protein should make up a large part of your overall diet. It helps you build muscle, can be used as an energy source and helps keeps you full for a long time.
In terms of what type of protein you should be looking for in your meal replacement shake, this depends. The two most common types of protein are Whey and Casein. If you are drinking your shake directly after a workout or some other type of exercise, then you are going to want to go with the Whey protein. Why? Because Whey is quickly absorbed into the body and can easily be used as a source for building muscle. On the other hand, if you are drinking your meal replacement shake first thing in the morning, before bed, or during your afternoon lunch, you will probably want to go with Casein protein. Why? Because casein is a slowly absorbed and digested protein that your body can use over an extended period to help keep you full and help your body rejuvenate over time.
Fiber is critical to digestion and should also play a small part in the composition of your meal replacement shake. Anywhere from 3-8 grams of fiber is a reasonable expectation for a quality meal replacement drink.
By consuming more fiber, your digestive system will function better, and that means everything you eat will be processed more efficiently.
Vitamins are an essential part of any meal replacement shake. Your shake should include all the essential vitamins to keep you feeling energized and keep your body running right throughout the day.
Healthy fats, called omegas, are best, but some quality meal replacement shakes only include saturated fats. So long as the number of saturated fats is low (5 grams or less), this is not only fine but probably a good thing because a small percentage of calories from fat has many benefits to your body.
Finally, you want to see essential minerals like calcium and magnesium in your meal replacement drink. Look not only for vitamins but also for minerals!
Meal replacement shakes are great. But, just remember that you want to get as much of your nutrition directly from your diet as possible—and that means eating right, whole foods as often as you can. Other than that, though, meal replacement shakes are a great addition to a healthy diet and can help you go from good to great by filling in your dietary gaps.