Lose weight, maintain muscle or just save time with the best meal replacement shakes
Whatever goals you have when it comes to health and fitness, it’s essential to support them with your diet. If you can do that purely through a balanced diet without supplements or meal replacements, so much the better, but for some people, meal replacements are a quick and easy way to help achieve their goals – especially if they’re trying to lose weight.
No one would suggest replacing all your meals with shakes, but subbing them in for one or two meals over a short period can be an effective way to lose a few pounds here and there. In the long term, they can still be useful as a convenient option for a healthy meal in double-quick time.
Before you stock your cupboards with meal replacement shakes, though, it’s important to work out which one is right for you. We’re here to help you do just that.
Best meal replacement shakes: At a glance
|Best shake for weight loss||MyProtein Meal Replacement (~£22)||Check price at MyProtein|
|Best value shake||SlimFast Meal Replacement Shake (~£8)||Check price at Boots|
|Best shake for convenience||Huel (~£52)||Check price at Huel|
|Best vegan meal-replacement||The Protein Works Vegan Shake (~£40)||Check price at Protein Works|
|Best high-calorie meal replacement||Optimum Nutrition Serious Mass (~£40)||Check price at Optimum Nutrition|
How to choose the best meal replacement shake for you
Why would I want a meal replacement shake?
The most common reason people use meal replacement shakes is to help them lose weight. By swapping out a regular meal for a low-calorie drink, they reduce their overall calorie intake. This puts them in a better position to create a calorie deficit each day and lose weight.
If this is your aim with a shake, you will want one that’s low in calories, but also relatively high in protein and fibre compared to other nutrients, as this will help you feel full until your next proper meal. Some of these shakes come as part of a full programme to help you lose weight, with snacks and recipes for your other meals provided, along with support from others on the plan.
Another reason to use a meal replacement shake is for simple convenience. It’s faster and easier than cooking a meal from scratch, but healthier than getting a takeaway or eating a ready meal. Some people also use these shakes because they have a low impact on the environment compared to some elements of the food industry. Meal replacement shakes used for this purpose don’t need to be low in calories; instead, you want them to provide all the nutrients that your body would normally get from your diet in the right proportions.
Certain people also use meal replacement shakes when they are looking to build lean muscle. In this case, the shake won’t necessarily be very low in calories but will have a high amount of protein at a rough ratio of 1:1 with carbs.
How many calories are in a meal replacement shake?
Shakes used for weight loss tend to contain about 150 to 250 calories per serving, and more if they’re mixed with milk instead of water. Shakes used to help build lean muscle or to replace meals for convenience rather than weight loss purposes will have more calories – around 350 to 500 per serving.
What other nutritional information should I look out for?
Once you’ve found a shake with the right amount of calories, check out the protein and carbohydrate content. Generally, meal replacement shakes will have 15 to 20g of protein and 30 to 40g of carbs, although shakes focussed on building lean muscle will have more protein.
Once you’ve checked out the protein, look at the fibre content; more fibre is good for your guts and will help you feel fuller for longer. Look for 4 to 7g of fibre in a serving as a minimum.
Vitamins and minerals are also important as you can quickly end up deficient in one or more of these if you’re consistently replacing real food with shakes. Check what vitamins and minerals are in the shake and also how large a percentage of your recommended intake of them this covers. You need to make sure you’re getting enough.
Are there meal replacement shakes for vegans?
Absolutely. These will substitute animal sources of protein such as whey for plant-based sources like pea, rice and soy.
What flavours are available?
The flavour of a meal replacement shake is important because we don’t just eat food to hit our nutritional requirements, but to enjoy it. Standard flavours include chocolate, vanilla and strawberry, but it doesn’t take much looking to dig up some more exotic options.
How much do meal replacement shakes cost?
When buying a tub of meal replacement powder, it’s important to check the serving size as well as the total amount of powder you’re getting: what can look like a cheap product might end up being more expensive than expected if you go through tubs rapidly due to a large serving size.
Generally, you can expect to pay between £10 and £25 for most tubs or sacks of powder, although there are some good cheaper options. Buy pre-mixed drinks and they will usually cost you £1 to £2 apiece.
The best meal replacement shakes to buy in 2023
1. MyProtein Meal Replacement: Best shake for weight loss
Price when reviewed: £22 (1kg) | Check price at MyProtein
This shake keeps its carb and calorie counts low, with 17g and 200kcal per 51g serving. That makes it a great pick for anyone using meal replacement drinks as an aid to weight loss. Despite the low carbs and calories, you can be sure that this meal replacement shake will fill you up, thanks to the 18g of protein and 4.1g of fibre you get in a serving.
MyProtein’s low-cal shake also earns high marks for flavour, with each of the five options available – banana, chocolate, salted caramel, strawberry and vanilla – being tasty and easy to mix. This latter point is important as it means you won’t be troubled by the texture of your shake.
Each flavour packs a boatload of vital vitamins and minerals, including over half of your recommended daily intake of iron.
Key specs – Serving size: 51g; Calories per serving: 200kcal; Protein per serving: 18g; Carbs per serving: 17g
2. SlimFast Meal Replacement Powder Shake: Best value shake for weight loss
Price when reviewed: £8 (365g) | Check price at Boots
SlimFast shakes have been on shop shelves in some form or another since the 1980s, and they offer the best value option for those looking to grab a low-calorie meal replacement.
The tubs of powder are just one part of the SlimFast lineup, which includes a full plan to help you hit your weight loss goals, recipes for healthy meals, and other products such as bars and ready-mixed drinks.
Each serving contains 230 calories, including 15g of protein and 4g of fibre so you won’t go hungry waiting for your next meal. There’s a range of six flavours to pick from – we’ve linked to vanilla and chocolate here.
Key specs – Serving size: 36.5g; Calories per serving: 230kcal; Protein per serving: 15g; Carbs per serving: 38g
3. Huel: Best shake for convenience
Price when reviewed: £52 (3.42kg) | Check price at Huel
Huel is a portmanteau of “human fuel”, which perhaps isn’t the most inspiring way to think of your next meal – but it’s a very accurate description of the product. It’s designed to be as nutritionally complete as possible, providing all the nutrients, vitamins and minerals your body needs in the perfect amounts.
Huel isn’t a low-calorie meal replacement shake – although there are only 400 calories in a 100g serving – but one you should turn to when you need some food quickly. It is also vegan, containing a blend of pea and rice protein rather than whey, and each serving contains a chunky 7.7g of fibre.
Key specs – Serving size: 100g; Calories per serving: 400kcal; Protein per serving: 29.5g; Carbs per serving: 37g
4. abnormal.: Best personalised meal replacement shake
Price when reviewed: £60 for 30 meals | Check price at abnormal.
This new meal delivery service asks you to fill out a quick lifestyle questionnaire and then uses that information to create a nutritionally complete meal tailored to your requirements. It’s a pretty neat idea, and well-executed, making it faster to find a meal replacement shake that lines up with your specific goals.
The questions include how much exercise you do, whether you spend a lot of time in the sun and how often you skip meals, all on top of standard questions like whether you’re a vegan or have any allergies. Finally, you pick from the four flavours available and you are then sent your personalised meals in recyclable paper sachets – no scooping from a tub here, thankfully.
You can try seven Abnormal meals for free at the moment, so it’s worth giving a go even if you aren’t sure you want to commit to a full plan just yet. The shakes themselves also mix easily and the vanilla and chocolate vegan powders we tried tasted good enough to recommend.
Key specs – Serving size: Varies; Calories per serving: Varies Protein per serving: Varies; Carbs per serving: Varies
5. The Protein Works Vegan Meal Replacement: Best vegan meal replacement shake
Price when reviewed: £40 (1kg) | Check price at Amazon
Five different plant-based protein sources are used in this vegan shake – soy, pea, brown rice, white hemp and sunflower – to ensure you get all the amino acids you need in your diet. All the essential vitamins and minerals required are also thrown into the mix, including those that can be harder to get from a plant-based diet, including B12 and calcium.
The calorie count in each shake is low at 221kcal per serving, so this can be used as a weight-loss product, with the chunky 10.4g of fibre in each portion helping to ensure you stay full between meals.
Key specs – Serving size: 65g; Calories per serving: 221kcal; Protein per serving: 19.5g; Carbs per serving: 22g
6. Huel Bar: Best snack replacement bar
Price when reviewed: £62 (36 bars) | Check price at Huel
One of the options above should cover exactly what you want from a meal replacement shake, but what about the time between meals? Even if you’re sticking to the very healthiest of diets at breakfast, lunch and dinner you can come unstuck if you’re chowing down on biscuits, crisps and chocolate bars at snack o’clock.
Avoid that fate by stocking up on Huel bars, which provide a nutritionally complete snack that’s pretty much guaranteed to keep hunger at bay until your next meal thanks to the satiating 12g of protein and 5g of fibre in each bar. The bars also contain all 26 essential vitamins and minerals and fit with pretty much any dietary preference, being vegan, gluten-free and lactose-free.
The bars come in four flavours – chocolate, salted caramel, chocolate orange and coffee caramel – and each of them contains exactly 200 calories, making it very easy to add them to your daily total if you’re counting calories.
Key specs – Serving size: 49g; Calories per serving: 200kcal; Protein per serving: 12g; Carbs per serving: 18g
7. Optimum Nutrition Serious Mass: Best high-calorie meal replacement shake
Price when reviewed: £40 (2.73kg) | Check price at Optimum Nutrition
It’s fair to say that Optimum Nutrition isn’t throwing around the word ‘serious’ willy-niilly where this powder is concerned, because you have to be very serious about the amount of calories you want in your shake if you’re using it. Each serving contains a monster 1,250 calories, and you’re also getting 50g of protein and 252g of carbs.
This is a shake that’s designed for adding weight fast, then, and absolutely one you want to use in conjunction with a rigorous gym routine to ensure you’re adding weight in the form of muscle rather than fat. The powder also contains a range of vitamins and minerals, but it’s not a nutritionally complete meal replacement shake like you get from Huel or Sakuro, because it’s meant to be used by gym goers alongside their normal meals when they’re looking to add bulk.
The shake comes in a wide range of flavours and once you’ve found one you like it’s worth opting for a huge tub of the stuff, because with a serving size of 334g you will be going through it quickly.
Key specs – Serving size: 334g; Calories per serving: 1,250; Protein per serving: 50g; Carbs per serving: 252g