Why Should I Use Meal Replacement Shakes?
There are countless meal replacement shake mixes. Then you pile on hundreds of bars out there and it can get out of control. It can very confusing to know what is the right one for you. Just because it tastes good doesn’t mean that it is either good or bad for you. In fact, you can get fat off of some of these meal replacements. We are going to discuss some ways you can figure out how beneficial a shake or bar may actually be and what are some options out there that you can take.
Why Meal Replacements?
In order for us to eat as healthy as we need to, we have to split out our portions over the course of the day instead of the standard 3 meals. We should be eating 6 meals a day.
Why 6 meals?
Well it takes your body about 3 hours to digest all of the food and to get the proper nutrients out of it, such as amino acids that help to build muscle tissue. When those nutrients can’t be fed on any more, then your body will
start feeding off your water weight and muscle. Your fat actually diminishes less during starvation compared to those other two sources. This is a defense mechanism your body has to survive during this starvation phase. This is why you see people lose weight, but actually become more fat. They have a higher percentage of body fat compared to muscle. To put it simply, they are a skinny fat people.
A skinny fat person is worse than a muscly fat person. The reason why, is the mere existence of muscle causes your metabolism to speed up to maintain your additional lean mass. So even when you are done working out and just sitting around blinking and breathing, you are burning more calories. Over the course of a year you could burn 10-20 pounds more of fat simply because of additional lean mass. No joke.
Not only does food help to preserve lean mass or muscle for men and women, but that consistent amount of food with nutrients helps to pick up your metabolic rate as well. If you are eating small portions (200-500 calories depending on your body composition) and a combo of lean proteins, complex carbs, and periodically essential fats, then you are creating a raging inferno gobbling up calories instead of storing them as fat.
No only do 3 meals spread out over the day kills your metabolism, but often people get hungry enough that they binge. Your body can only take a certain amount of calories and the rest will just be stored as fat even if it is some sort of healthy food like chicken or fruit.
So now we see why 6 meals are important, but not very practical compared to 3 meals. This is where the importance of a meal replacement comes in.
Meal replacements are intended to take those midday meals that are often hard to find the time to cook. You are obviously busy with work, family activities, and countless other responsibilites. Meal replacements are basically a balanced amount of lean protein, complex carbs, and essential fats grounded up into a powder to eat. That is the goal anyway.
Meal replacements are intended to be consumed 1-2 times a day and at the max 3 times a day. You want to avoid meal replacement diets that include all bars or liquid. There are always going to be more nutrients you get directly from the food when you eat it organically or as you would find it out in nature. Nutrients are wittled away as foods are frozened, processed, cooked, packaged, and covered in preservatives. Meal replacements should merely be there to fill in the gaps, not to make up the majority of your nutrition plan.
How do I know if a nutrition bar or shake is right for me?
So you have to find the best meal replacement shakes or meal repalcement bars for you. Each person should have different daily consumption for calories according to their body type and current composition (fat vs. lean mass). Once you have figured out how to measure body fat with the best method, then you will have a true estimate of just how fat or lean you really are. Most importantly you can use the Katch-McArdle formula to figure out your daily caloric consumption. We keep the full formula for the Know My Body Guide, but here is a rough ballpark you can use to guage how many calories you should eat daily.
According to exercise physiologists William McArdle and Frank Katch, the caloric maintenance level for men is between 2700-2900 calories daily, while for women it is 2000-2100 calories daily. This is the amount that you need to eat in order to maintain your current body composition.
If you are looking to cut fat, then you would be best serve to eat 15-20% of that caloric maintenance level:
- Men should eat 2200-2700 calories/day
- Women should eat 1400-1800 calories/day
For muscle gain it is the exact opposite. You should increase your caloric intake by 15-20%:
- Men should eat 3200-4000 calories/day
- Women should eat 2200-2500 calories/day
For some of you this may seem like a lot and some this may not seem like much. As you progress and see your results you can be able to tab it better. Again we use the Katch-McArdle formula in the Know My Body Guide to find an exact number of calories based on your level of daily activity and body fat percentage.
So being I am 27 year old male and based on my body composition I know that I should consume about 2400 calories daily. If you are a woman, let’s just say you should consume 1600 calories a day if you are trying to cut fat.
Macronutrient levels are simply your balance nutrition plan consisting of the right number of fats, carbs, and protein. There are a lot of ideas on what is the right macronutrient ratio that people should have and the truth is that there is no silver bullet. You have to find out the right daily caloric intake based on your progress. If you are reaching your goals by either cutting fat or gaining muscle, then you know you are on the rigth track, otherwise you will have to make some changes. That may mean dropping your daily calories from a 15% deficit to 20% deficit or zig-zagging your calories between your maintenance level and the deficit level. You might have to work out more often or with more intensity. The same goes for gaining muscle.
One commonly used macronutrient level is 50% carbs, 30% protein, and 20% fat. This might not be the right one for you to start off with. You may need a higher protien filled diet depending on how carb sensitive you are or what your goals are.
Next we need to figure out how many grams exist in each one of the major macronutrient areas so we can better read those nutrition labels.
1 g of carb = 4 calories
1 g of protein = 4 calories
1 g of fat = 9 calories
Notice how fats are more dense. They are still important, mainly the essential fats like poly and mono saturated. You just have to be careful how many grams you are eating.
Let’s do an example with a male that should eat a caloric deficit of 2400 calories daily.
Remember that we said that carbohydrates will represent 50% of the calories, 30% of protien, and 20% from fat:
2400 X .5 = 1200 calories of carbs
2400 X .3 = 720 calories of protein
2400 X .2 = 480 calories of fat
Now remember every 4 calories of carbs and protein equal 1 gram and every 9 calories of fat equals 1 gram:
1200 calories of carbs/4 = 300 grams of carbs a day
720 calories of protein/4 = 180 grams of protein a day
480 calories of fats/9 = 53 grams of fat a day
So let’s break that down one step further to each individual meal. We know that we should have 6 meals a day. Let’s divide the daily total by 6 and that should give us a rough estimate of what this male should have each meal:
300 grams of carbs/6 = 50 grams of carbs per meal
180 grams of protein/6 = 30 grams of protein per meal
53 grams of fats/6 = 9 grams of fats per meal
So now you have a rough idea of how many calories and grams this male should be looking for in a meal replacement. You want the meal replacement to hit these numbers. You don’t want to heavily exceed them, but it is better to exceed than to underachieve. You can also make up those calories with milk, juices, etc. Calories can always be burned through exercise and nutrients are vital to maintaining your energy to workout 30-45 minutes daily.
Let’s do the same formula for a female needing 1600 calories daily:
1600 X .5 = 800 calories of carbs
1600 X .3 = 480 calories of protein
1600 X .2 = 320 calories of fat
Now remember every 4 calories of carbs and protein equal 1 gram and every 9 calories of fat equals 1 gram:
800 calories of carbs/4 = 200 grams of carbs a day
480 calories of protein/4 = 120 grams of protein a day
320 calories of fats/9 = 36 grams of fat a day
So let’s break that down one step further to each individual meal. We know that we should have 6 meals a day. Let’s divide the daily total by 6 and that should give us a rough estimate of what this female should have each meal:
200 grams of carbs/6 = 33 grams of carbs per meal
120 grams of protein/6 = 20 grams of protein per meal
36 grams of fats/6 = 6 grams of fats per meal
Use this formula to figure out if a meal replacement bar or shake is really in your sweet spot. Again more is better than less. Also make sure to find bars or drinks that have little or no sugar. Often those “healthy” meal replacements are deceiving and actually have a high level of sugar. Some also may have too high of calories for you compared to what your body type may call for in a meal.
There are a few meal replacement meals that I personally use that I get a lot of use out of. Myoplex is a high quality protein supplement. It is high in protein (42 grams) and is probably more for the person trying to build lean mass or is carb sensitive.
I also use the Pure Protein Ready to Drink Shakes and the Atkins Ready To Drink Shakes as well. They have less carbs and sugars compared to other protein shakes. For someone like me that easily gets fat, these two are great options.
I also use Beachbody’s Shakeology. It is one of the best drinks out there to boost energy. There are so many nutrients in it. It has a delicate combination of antioxidants, phytonutrients, enzymes, prebiotics, protein and many rare ingredients – including adaptogens, camu-camu, and sacha inchi – giving you the essential nutrients you can’t get from an ordinary diet. I will try to have one Shakeology and one other muscle shake a day and then include four meals with natural foods.
I would recommend doing one shake of Shakeology and one Pure Protein shake or bar daily. Emphasize mypolex to gain lean muscle, and use Shakeology to get necessary nutrients to help sustain energy and maintain lean mass.
I usually drink my Shakeology drink first thing in the morning before work and then I will have my other shake in the middle of the day in meal 4 usually.
If you start eating like this, it will make all of the difference in the world in your physique and overall energy. You will not only look great, but enjoy your workouts that much more. Obviously you have a better chance of being consistent when you enjoy it. If you are busy person, you have no excuse being that meal replacements can be ready in a matter of seconds.