Meal Replacements
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Meal Replacements

What is a meal replacement?

A meal replacement is a product designed to replace the nutritional intake of a solid food. They are products in powder form, which are reconstituted by adding water or another liquid, such as milk or juices. They have a very appetising taste and can be taken at any time.

Why take a meal replacement?

The need to maintain a hectic pace of life is the main reason. Normally, most working people find it quite difficult to eat their respective meals frequently, eating only 1 or 2 main meals completely. This poses a health risk in the long term, as micronutrients necessary for proper nutrition are subtracted.

What should a meal replacement provide?

To complete a balanced diet, both in terms of macro- and micro-nutrients, a meal replacement must provide an adequate amount of both, in proportion to what a solid meal should provide, within a regular calorie framework, i.e. a total nutrient intake whose calorie count is set within the person's nutritional guidelines and produces a caloric surplus by counting all meals taken during the day.



Table of contents

What are macronutrients?

Macronutrients are chemical substances that produce energy and which are obtained from food. The three macronutrients are: carbohydrates, lipids and proteins.

The diet should be made up of these three components according to the requirements of each individual, as well as their objectives regarding body weight (increase, maintain or reduce) and, finally, the type of physical activity they plan to do.


Protein is an essential macronutrient for human life. It is so important that without it or without the amino acids that make it up, we could not continue living. Thus, protein consists of amino acid chains which will perform essential functions in our bodies. Some of these processes include: regenerating tissues, producing cell energy, synthesizing neurotransmitters, metabolizing macronutrients, preserving organs like the heart, liver and kidneys.

There is a group of amino acids called "essential amino acids" that cannot be synthesized by our bodies. This means that we have to take them from the external supply of proteins. This type of proteins are known as "complete proteins" because they provide the whole amino acid spectrum, both essential and non-essential. This sources usually come from animal products. Those that come from vegetables tend to lack or have a very low proportion of one or more of these essential amino acids.

Those who do any kind of physical activity more than 3 times per week will need a higher supply than the rest of the population.


Carbohydrates are substances in charge of providing energy. This energy can be taken in different ways. Our bodies will store it as muscle glycogen, filling the deposits located in the muscles, or as hepatic glycogen. These are limited energy reserves and it will be necessary to increase their intake when performing demanding activities.

The body uses glucose, which are what amino acids are to protein. When the body does not have enough, it will let other macronutrients do the job, which is also the case with protein. This is due to the fact that our bodies have resources that can produce glucose from amino acids in the absence of carbohydrates. But when this process takes place we are limiting their functionality, which ends up being very inefficient.

The brain, kidneys and muscle tissue all need glucose in order to function. Although they could use other substrate, but with different conditions, such as the ketosis (the production of ketone bodies).

Carbohydrates are mainly divided into two groups according to their molecular structure: simple and complex. The simple type is made up of glucose units that will be metabolized almost instantly, quickly discharging glucose to the bloodstream. On the other hand, complex carbs have a structure that is made up of glucose chains which supply energy progressively. The pancreas will have to release insulin in order to keep the blood sugar levels balanced. Simple carbohydrates produce a fast glucose increase in the blood stream, which is measured with the glycemic index.

Fiber is another type of carbohydrate. It plays an important role in preserving the health of the intestinal tract. It is an undigestible substance that goes through the digestive system, getting rid of waste products. Fiber lowers the risk of suffering certain pathologies such as obesity, cholesterol or heart problems.


Fats or lipids are the group that provide fatty acids. In this group, there are other elements called "essential fatty acids". Like essential amino acids, the body cannot synthesize them, which is why we need to get them from the diet. There are two types of fat: saturated and unsaturated. The essential Omega 3 and 6 fatty acids belong to the ensaturated fats group.

Fats perform important functions in our bodies:

  • Energy source
  • Supporting the proper functioning of the brain and nervous system
  • Preserving the health of the skin and other tissues
  • Vital support to preserve the cell membrane integrity
  • Transporting fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E and K
  • Hormone synthesis

What are micronutrients?

It is a group made up of vitamins and minerals which are obtained from macronutrients. But unlike them, we just need small quantities of them. They are essential for the proper functioning of the body, since they are involved in practically every chemical reaction such as: regulating the metabolism, heart rate, preserving the cell and bone... Lacking one of these micronutrients can trigger many problems that can result in high-risk pathologies.

Vitamins are divided in two subgroups: fat-soluble and water-soluble vitamins: B, C, D, E, K.

In the mineral group we can find: magnesium, phosphorus, sodium, potassium, iron, copper, iodine, zinc and fluoride.

Benefits of meal replacements

Their main benefit is the extra nutrient supply that will help us stay healthy by a macronutrient and micronutrient balance. Thanks to their format, they are very easy to take and transport so that you can take them at any time anywhere. There is no way to skip a meal now.

Choosing your meal replacement

According to what we have previously explained, we may need a product of this kind due to our circumstances and specially if we want to achieve a specific goal. Then, said product will need to have:

  • Complete proteins, that is, proteins from animal products, such as whey.
  • Carbohydrates, mostly complex ones such as oat flour and maltodextrins.
  • Fiber supply
  • Enriched with vitamins and minerals

Meal replacement brands

There are plenty of brands that sell meal replacements, such as:

Meal replacement proteins

Those who follow a weight-control diet usually look for meal-replacement shakes that are rich in proteins but low in carbs and fats. These shakes help to calm the appetite between meals, preserving our muscle mass and losing weight healthily.

Some examples of meal replacement products are:

  • Evodiet: Perfect for weight control diets. Less than 5g of carbs per shake.
  • Ultra Loss by BiotechUSA: One of the best meal replacement shakes due to its low carb and sugar content. Specially for women.
  • Adipo Block Detox by Prisma Natural: A protein shake with detoxifying properties.

Meal replacement shakes

If you are looking for affordable meal replacement shakes, one interesting choice may be to create our own recipes. One starting point could be:

To make our shakes even more nutritious we can add some fruit (banana, apple, strawberries...), nuts (walnuts, almonds, peanuts...), vegetable fiber (psyllium husk, flax seeds), etc.

Meal replacement sachets

There are meal replacement products available that imitate our day to day meal but which are meant to be a "lighter" version. They have been specially designed for those want to lose weight in a healthy way.

For example, there are meal replacement sachets to make puddings, soups, omelettes, custards, etc.

These alternative food sachets have less calories than the original meal and usually a higher protein content.