Meal Replacement Shakes vs Protein Shakes (Which is Better?)

There are uses for both whey protein shakes and meal replacement shakes.

Shakes are vital to bodybuilding success, but should you go for protein shakes or meal replacement shakes? Get the lowdown on both of these options and decide which is right for you.

What is the Best Shake Option?

The battle begins anew. This time the battle is between meal replacement shakes and protein shakes. Both of these contenders are nutritionally sound. Meal replacement shakes and protein shakes offer different benefits based on your dietary needs, but which one is best for you?

Shakes Instead of a Meal

Meal replacement shakes are classified as dietary supplements. There are different versions on the market and the most popular brands come loaded with vitamins, minerals, fiber and protein. Ensure, Atkins Advantage, and EAS Myoplex are three popular replacement shakes on the market. The nutritional content of each shake will be examined and you can decide which one is right for you.

Meal replacement shakes are a real alternative to protein shakes.

Meal replacement shakes or protein shakes?

Ensure Complete

This replacement shake targets four areas of health. It’s designed to support muscles, the heart, bones, and the immune system. Each serving of Ensure Complete comes with 13 grams of protein, omega-3’s, 51 grams of carbohydrates and 3 grams of probiotic fiber. It also contains 26 different vitamins and minerals and 350 calories per serving. The high probiotic fiber content helps keep your digestive tract healthy, the omega-3’s promote a healthy heart and the protein helps build and maintain lean mass.

Atkins Advantage

These meal replacement shakes are designed by the creators of the popular low-carb Atkins diet. They are low in calories, carbohydrates and relatively high in protein. Each serving contains 15 different vitamins and minerals. The calorie count is low at 160 and the protein content is high at 15 grams. It has only 2 grams of carbohydrates contained in each serving. It also contains 3 grams of fiber. It’s specifically geared toward people who are dieting and will help you feel full longer due to the high fiber and protein content.

EAS Myoplex

EAS Myoplex offers shakes that are more geared towards athletes. These shakes offer 42 grams of protein per serving, which is great for bodybuilders and athletes who place high demands on their muscles. In addition to the high protein content, each shake contains 23 vitamins and minerals, 3 grams of fiber, 300 calories and 21 grams of carbohydrates. Although these shakes are relatively high in calories, the high protein content makes them great for athletes who want to prevent muscle wasting that can sometimes occur when dieting or when going for long periods of time without eating.

Protein Shakes

Protein shakes are also classified as a dietary supplement. They come in the form of whey, casein or plant-based proteins. While meal replacement shakes have lots of fiber, carbohydrates and vitamins and minerals, protein shakes are usually high in protein, with a low fiber and low carbohydrate content.

Whey Protein

Whey protein is one of the proteins found in milk. It digests quickly (at a rate of 8 – 10 grams of protein per hour), which makes it the perfect drink to consume after workouts. A typical serving of whey protein has a calorie count of 120 and a protein count of 20. There are usually less than 3 grams of carbohydrates and no fiber. Of course, this nutritional profile varies depending upon which brand you buy, but the primary benefit of whey protein is to supply the body with amino acids quickly.

Casein Protein

Casein protein is also found in milk, but in contrast to whey protein it digests slowly. While whey digests at a rate of 8-10 grams per hours, it can take up to five hours for casein protein to be fully digested. The nutritional profile mimics whey protein in fiber, carbohydrate and protein content. The main difference is that it takes longer to digest which makes it a perfect drink to take before bed or when you will have to wait a long time in between meals.

Plant Based Proteins

Plant-based proteins can come from soy, rice, and peas. These proteins are a great option for those who lead a vegetarian lifestyle or have allergies to milk. In general, plant-based proteins contain less protein per serving than milk based protein, but there are many varieties on the market and you can choose the one with the highest protein content. One additional benefit from choosing a plant-based protein is that they can have a higher fiber content. The one downfall is that carbohydrate content might be slightly higher, averaging around 7 grams of carbohydrates per serving.

Choosing the Right Shake

Meal replacement shakes and protein shakes are dietary supplements that can both be used to your advantage. Meal replacement shakes are good when you are looking for something that closely mimics a complete meal due to their high fiber, carbohydrate and protein content, and the vast array of vitamins and minerals that they offer. Protein shakes are the optimal form of nutrition after workouts and just before bed. As always, it’s you who decides who wins the gym showdown.

About the author


Hello, I'm Mark. I'm a bodybuilding champion and have been active in the industry for over 10 years. I created this website to provide fellow bodybuilders with useful information to help them achieve their dream physique.